Eucharistic theories

April 13, 2009

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Four years ago, poor-blogger left a comment on this blog asking what I think about various theories used to explain the miracle of the Holy Eucharist (e.g. transubstantiation). Maybe it’s about time to answer that question.

As a Celtic Catholic and as me, I simply can not elevate a theory to the level of doctrine. All I can say for sure is all I can know for sure: God performs a mighty miracle with the bread and wine, with me, with the congregation. A mighty miracle he does, a mighty miracle I receive. I know that Jesus is right when he says, “This is my Body, my Blood.” I just don’t know how it works. He never said. The Holy Spirit never inspired the undivided Church with an explanation. It is tempting (and, maybe, humanly necessary) to create tantalizing and plausible-sounding theories to explain the mechanics of the miracle. But they must always be acknowledged to be mere human theories. My long thinking on the subject leads me to say that they are in fact analogies. They are not Truth; they are attempts to picture and explain the Truth. The Truth itself is simply that God performs a mighty miracle.

Concerning the theory or analogy of transubstantiation itself, it worries me in one way. It says that in transforming the bread and wine, God changes their substance, their real nature, to the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ. The substance of earthly food is removed. Eek! This means that to transform the species of bread and wine, God must destroy them. I believe that all theology must hang together, and must relate to salvation. Is it true, then, that to save me, to transform me, to heal me, God must destroy me? Must he remove my human nature, my Sean nature? If the Holy Eucharist has salvific meaning to me, it must be, among other things, a picture of how God creates in me the image of his Son. If he needs to destroy and replace, I don’t see that it helps me much. If I’m destroyed, I’m gone. Frankly, I want God to work with my haman-ness, my Sean-ness. I want him to transform me, not replace me. I want him to transform the bread and wine, not destroy it. And glory be, he does! He does in a way I can never imagine or articulate.

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