Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"in a manner that follows upon the Incarnation"

     "The Eucharist continues the Incarnation, but there are important differences between the two mysteries.  In the Incarnation, when the Word became flesh, the divine nature did not transubstantiate the human nature.  It did not take the place of the human being.  To say that it did would fall into a monophysite interpretation of the mystery.  To understand the Incarnation as a transubstantiation would imply that the human nature ceased to be but only appeared to be when united with the divine.  Instead, the human substance, soul and body, is integrally present in the Incarnation.  In this respect, the human substance in the Incarnation is different from the substance of bread in the Eucharist.  The human substance, soul and body, remains intact, but the substance of the bread does not.
     "Indeed, it is the very material and bodily quality of the Incarnation that calls for Transubstantiation in the Eucharist.  If Christ is to be present in the sacrament, he must be present in his divine and human natures; if his human nature is to be present, it must be present in both soul and body.  And if his body is to be present, the bread cannot be.  The one thing cannot be two material substances, both bread and a human body, not even the glorified human body of Christ.  If it is the one it cannot be the other.  The two bodily natures exclude one another, and it is the bodily presence of Christ that is specifically emphasized in the words of consecration.  The body of Christ is not with the bread but takes the place of the bread in the change we call Transubstantiation.  If we deny this change, we deny the bodily presence of the glorified Christ, and hence we deny the presence of Christ.  Without Transubstantiation the sacramental presence of Christ would not occur.
     "In the Eucharist, therefore, it is the radical worldliness of the Incarnation, its materiality, that calls for Transubstantiation in the Eucharist.  It is the incarnate divinity, the Word made flesh and not simply the divine nature, that is present in the Eucharist.  If I may use the terms, the body of Christ, because it is material, 'displaces' or 'dislodges' the bread.  Whatever matter may be, it takes place, it is located.  Through Transubstantiation, the bodily presence of the transcendent divinity, in the person of the Son, takes its place among us in a manner that follows upon the Incarnation, and it does so by replacing the substance of bread and wine."

Robert Sokolowski, "The Eucharist and transubstantiation" (1997), in Christian faith and human understanding:  studies on the Eucharist, Trinity, and the human person (Washington, D.C.:  The Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 106-107 (95-112).  I first encountered this in Communio:  the international Catholic review 24, no. 4 (Winter 1997):  867-880.  On pp. 100-101 Sokolowski names a few of the "other presences of Christ".

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