Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Eucharistic mystery

Cranmer begs the indulgence of his Communicants over the next few days; it is a rather busy period. On this Maundy Thursday, let us recall the meaning and purpose of the Eucharist.

For Calvin, the institution of the Supper was Christ’s ‘seal’ of his sermon in John 6, and he termed it a ‘mystical union’. Calvin believed that there is a real ‘spiritual’ reception of the body and blood of Christ in the supper. The sacrament is a real means of grace - a channel by which Christ communicates himself. Luther and Calvin agreed that communion with a present Christ who actually feeds believers with his body and blood is what makes the sacrament. The question between them was the manner in which Christ’s body exists and is given to believers. Calvin held that, while Christ is bodily in heaven, distance is overcome by the Holy Spirit, who vivifies believers with Christ’s flesh. Thus the Supper is a true communion with Christ, who feeds believers with his body and blood. Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper appears to be a median position between the views of Luther and Zwingli, but it is in fact an independent position. Rejecting both Zwingli’s ‘memorialism’ and Luther’s ‘monstrous notion of ubiquity’, he held that there is a real reception of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper, but in a spiritual manner. With Zwingli, Calvin held that after the ascension Christ retained a real body which is located in heaven:

Nothing should be taken from Christ’s ‘heavenly glory’, as happens when he is brought under the corruptible elements of this world, or bound to any earthly creatures… Nothing inappropriate to human nature (should) be ascribed to his body, as happens when it is said either to be infinite or to be put in a number of places at once.

Calvin rejected the doctrine of the absorption of Christ’s humanity by his divinity, and any weakening of the idea of a local presence of the flesh of Christ in heaven. The Supper is a true communion with Christ, who feeds believers with his body and blood.

…in the sacred Supper, we acknowledge a miracle which surpasses both the limits of nature and the measure of our sense… But we must have done with all inventions inconsistent with the explanation lately given, such as the ubiquity of the body, the secret inclosing under the symbol of bread, and the substantial presence on earth.

Calvin held that the essence of Christ’s body was its power. In itself it is of little value since it ‘had its origin from earth, and underwent death’, but the Holy Spirit, who gave Christ a body, communicates his power to believers so that they receive the whole Christ in communion. The difference from Luther here is not great, for he held that the ‘right hand of God’ to which Christ ascended meant God’s power, and that power is everywhere. The real difference lay in the present existence of Christ’s body. Both agreed that there is deep mystery here which can be accepted though not understood:

If anyone should ask me how this (partaking of the whole Christ) takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare… I rather experience than understand it.

Blessings upon all Communicants.


Anonymous Voyager said...

That is a very interesting posting Your Grace, would be good to read more on such aspects.

5 April 2007 at 13:36  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Voyager,

His Grace thanks you for your kind comments, but notes that the posts which attract the most interest are not limited to matters of theology.

On the subject of this post, His Grace is most amused to read this on the website of The Scotsman:

Holy Thursday is the day the Church commemorates Christ's founding of the priesthood with his apostles and institution of the mass.

Impeccable theological, historical, ecclesiological and liturgical impartiality...

5 April 2007 at 14:23  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Does a failure to call it Maundy Thursday betray the limitations of the journalists grasp on Protestant culture in addition to a poor grasp of Christian history ?

Or does The Pope need to visit Leonardo's painting for the journalist to grasp the full significance ?

5 April 2007 at 15:43  
Blogger dearieme said...

That's all very well, old fruit, but can you cure Parkinson's?

5 April 2007 at 17:24  
Anonymous The recusant said...

Although the term Holy Thursday tends to be preferred to Maundy Thursday these days in the RCC and is the start of the Paschal Triduum, in Latin “new commandment” is mandatum novum (the first word is also the origin of mandate). In Roman Catholic churches the anthem “Mandatum novum do vobis” (“a new commandment I give to you”, the start of verse 13:34 in St John’s gospel) would be sung on Maundy Thursday, in particular following the royal ceremony of washing feet and giving alms. As a result, the ceremony became known as mandatum. The Old French version of that word is mandé and over time it became corrupted into maundy. The lack of its use I suspect is therefore more to do with journalists 'dummying down' news copy rather than trying to explain the finer points of Christian culture to the modern and largely unreceptive audience.

5 April 2007 at 18:17  
Blogger tim said...

Hmmm...I reckon in the context of an address by the Pope, Reuters is correctly reporting what the *Roman Catholic Church* believes.

But the reporter wrote "the Church," rather than "the Roman Catholic Church." They're not coextensive.

6 April 2007 at 04:45  
Anonymous Observer said...

That's all very well, old fruit, but can you cure Parkinson's?

I knew you had a problem dearieme, but thanks for sharing the diagnosis. May your medication relieve the suffering

6 April 2007 at 07:08  
Anonymous The recusant said...

You do seem to quantify to correctness of any statement by how far it varies from the RCC, however once again, if you wish to know authoritatively what the RCC teaches consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), there is even an online version.
I would have thought His Holiness Pope Benedict XVIs comments would have pleased you as he seems to be reminding sections of the Priesthood that “Priests should recognise the faults in their own lives and seek purity from God.” A timely reminder if ever there was one in light of the scandals of recent years.
CCC Pt1, Sec 2, Ch3, Art9
748 "Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart-felt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that, by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature, it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church."135 These words open the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. By choosing this starting point, the Council demonstrates that the article of faith about the Church depends entirely on the articles concerning Christ Jesus. The Church has no other light than Christ's; according to a favorite image of the Church Fathers, the Church is like the moon, all its light reflected from the sun.
749 The article concerning the Church also depends entirely on the article about the Holy Spirit, which immediately precedes it. "Indeed, having shown that the Spirit is the source and giver of all holiness, we now confess that it is he who has endowed the Church with holiness."136 The Church is, in a phrase used by the Fathers, the place "where the Spirit flourishes."137
750 To believe that the Church is "holy" and "catholic," and that she is "one" and "apostolic" (as the Nicene Creed adds), is inseparable from belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the Apostles' Creed we profess "one Holy Church" (Credo . . . Ecclesiam), and not to believe in the Church, so as not to confuse God with his works and to attribute clearly to God's goodness all the gifts he has bestowed on his Church.138
Alternatively you could ‘recon’ what you want, who can argue against that.

6 April 2007 at 08:32  
Blogger dearieme said...

”Priests should recognise the faults in their own lives and seek purity from God.” Particularly relevant in Glasgow at the moment, it would seem.

7 April 2007 at 20:04  
Anonymous Observer said...

Yes Dearime, you state a fact from a newspaper but only that fact rather than hundreds of others. Your intellectual limitations seem to prevent you from expanding beyond tabloid headline approaches to discussion. You mentioned your affliction with Parkinson's and proceed to depict yourself as a sufferer in every posting

8 April 2007 at 08:02  

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