Monday, March 23, 2009

The CCC on the singularity of the Real Presence

"'Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us,' is present in many ways to his Church [(multipliciter est Ecclesiae Suae praesens)]: in his word, in his Church's prayer, 'where two or three are gathered together in my name,' in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But 'he is present . . . most especially [(maxime)] in the Eucharistic species.'
"The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharist is unique [(singularis)]. . . . 'This presence is called "real"--by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.'"

Catechism of the Catholic Church ##1373-1374. The Latin of that last sentence is more forceful still: "'Quae quidem praesentia "realis" dicitur non per exclusionem, quasi aliae "reales" non sint, sed per excellentiam, quia est substantialis, qua nimirum totus atque integer Christus, Deus et homo, fit praesens'" (boldface mine). Cf. "We recognize that the words and symbolic actions of the eucharist are experienced by very many Christians as a most powerful means of grace, a grace which shines forth clearly in their lives. Nevertheless, it is our experience that the grace of God is not restricted to any particular form of eucharistic liturgy; the reality of God's presence may be known in worship that retains none of the traditional elements that are central to the life of many churches. 35. In 1928, at a time when parliament and the religious life of our nation were rent with strife on the nature of the Real Presence, London Yearly Meeting wrestled to understand its own experience and expressed it in these words: 'In silence, without rite or symbol, we have known the Spirit of Christ so convincingly present in our quiet meetings that his grace dispels our faithlessness, our unwillingness, our fears, and sets our hearts aflame with the joy of adoration. We have thus felt the power of the Spirit renewing and recreating our love and friendship for all our fellows. This is our eucharist and our communion.' . . . 36. . . . a form of worship sincerely dependent on God, but not necessarily including the words and actions usually recognized as eucharistic, may equally serve as a channel for this power and grace" (To Lima with love: the response of the Religious Society of Friends in Great Britain to the World Council of Churches document Baptism, eucharist and ministry (London: Quaker Home Service for London Yearly Meeting, 1987): 9-10). Do Quakers speak any more forcefully than this? Do they make it sufficiently clear that the presence to which they testify is singular in precisely the sense given above? That it is the true, real, and substantial presence of the whole Christ (totus Christus), "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity" (and not, for example, "just" some "Spirit of Christ")? I don't know. It's an honest question.

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