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Vol I No. 1
History & Theology

Anglican, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox views on the Real Presence - a debate

by sinetortus

A mild uproar breaks out !

After the posting of  Anglican understandings of the Eucharist,

a Reflection with choral Music a debate broke out

of which the opening posts follow below

From Messrs Liam Warner, Drew Keane and Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff

(The original webcast that provoked them can still be heard via this link:

https://soundcloud.com/user-140188366/corpus-christi-reflection-on-anglican-understandings-of-the-eucharist  )

 

Pictured above

(Above left to right: Saint Robert Bellarmine S.J.  Born 4 October, 1542, Montepulciano, Italy Died 17 September, 1621, Rome, Beatified 13 May 1923 by Pope Pius XI Canonized 29 June 1930 by Pope Pius XI;  The Revd. Richard Hooker, (25 March, 1554 – 2 November 1600) Master of the Temple, Anglican Theologian, author of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity; Metropolitan Philaret (Vassily Mikhailovich Drozdov) born December 26, 1782, served as Metropolitan of Moscow from 1821 to 1867 and was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1995.

Aside from the questions surrounding what Roman Catholics and Anglicans believe, the further question arose as to what the Eastern Orthodox believe in regard to transubstantiation and how that relates to the the Anglican perspective which is, in turn, of some significance for the Roman position given their recognition of the Orthodox churches as such.

 

Mr. Liam Warner wrote to Canon Alistair thus:

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Dear Alistair,

As regards the Eastern doctrine, to which you advert in your very thorough sermon (during which I noted some jolly tweeting of birds in the background), I wonder whether the Orthodox present themselves differently nowadays than they have in the past. I am thinking of the famous Confession of Dositheus from the Synod of Jerusalem (1672), whose 17th decree runs as follows.

We believe the All-holy Mystery of the Sacred Eucharist, which we have enumerated above, fourth in order, to be that which our Lord delivered in the night in which He gave Himself up for the life of the world. For taking bread, and blessing, He gave to His Holy Disciples and Apostles, saying: “Take, eat; This is My Body.” {Matthew 26:26} And taking the chalice, and giving thanks, He said: “Drink you all of It; This is My Blood, which for you is being poured out, for the remission of sins.” {Matthew 26:28} In the celebration of this we believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present. He is not present typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, nor by a bare presence, as some of the Fathers have said concerning Baptism, or by impanation, so that the Divinity of the Word is united to the set forth bread of the Eucharist hypostatically, as the followers of Luther most ignorantly and wretchedly suppose. But [he is present] truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin, was baptized in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sits at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world. {John 6:51}

Further [we believe] that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, there no longer remains the substance of the bread and of the wine, but the Body Itself and the Blood of the Lord, under the species and form of bread and wine; that is to say, under the accidents of the bread.

Further, that the all-pure Body Itself, and Blood of the Lord is imparted, and enters into the mouths and stomachs of the communicants, whether pious or impious. Nevertheless, they convey to the pious and worthy remission of sins and life eternal; but to the impious and unworthy involve condemnation and eternal punishment….

Further, that in every part, or the smallest division of the transmuted bread and wine there is not a part of the Body and Blood of the Lord — for to say so were blasphemous and wicked — but the entire whole Lord Christ substantially, that is, with His Soul and Divinity, or perfect God and perfect man. So that though there may be many celebrations in the world at one and the same hour, there are not many Christs, or Bodies of Christ, but it is one and the same Christ that is truly and really present; and His one Body and His Blood is in all the several Churches of the Faithful; and this not because the Body of the Lord that is in the Heavens descends upon the Altars; but because the bread of the Prothesis* set forth in all the several Churches, being changed and transubstantiated, becomes, and is, after consecration, one and the same with That in the Heavens. For it is one Body of the Lord in many places, and not many; and therefore this Mystery is the greatest, and is spoken of as wonderful, and comprehensible by faith only, and not by the sophistries of man’s wisdom; whose vain and foolish curiosity in divine things our pious and God-delivered religion rejects.

Further, that the Body Itself of the Lord and the Blood That are in the Mystery of the Eucharist ought to be honored in the highest manner, and adored with latria. For one is the adoration of the Holy Trinity, and of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Further, that it is a true and propitiatory Sacrifice offered for all Orthodox, living and dead; and for the benefit of all, as is set forth expressly in the prayers of the Mystery delivered to the Church by the Apostles, in accordance with the command they received of the Lord.

Further, we believe that by the word “transubstantiation” the manner is not explained, by which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord, — for that is altogether incomprehensible and impossible, except by God Himself, and those who imagine to do so are involved in ignorance and impiety, — but that the bread and the wine are after the consecration, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, nor by the communication or the presence of the Divinity alone of the Only-begotten, transmuted into the Body and Blood of the Lord; neither is any accident of the bread, or of the wine, by any conversion or alteration, changed into any accident of the Body and Blood of Christ, but truly, and really, and substantially, doth the bread become the true Body Itself of the Lord, and the wine the Blood Itself of the Lord, as is said above.

(I have taken the English from here: http://www.crivoice.org/creeddositheus.html.The Greek original can be found here at page 427 and following: https://archive.org/details/TheCreedsOfChristendomV2/page/n447/mode/2up.)

Now it is sometimes difficult to tell what is of binding force in the Orthodox world—sometimes one hears that only the seven councils are considered obligatory; sometimes everything including the Palamite councils to this Jerusalem Synod to the responses to the encyclicals of Pius IX and Leo XIII.

My own experience is that many Anglophone Orthodox  are of the latter opinion, including Met. Ware (who is neither sour nor polemical), but really one would have to consult the Orthodox to be sure.

That is what leapt to mind as I was listening—you surely have other information.

Yours,

Liam

 

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To which Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff responded:

Dear Liam

I take the Orthodox position to be manifestly realist and at times they have been willing to frame it in terms that seem highly redolent of the language used to express the Western understanding of transubstantiation,  but even when they do so,  they then throw in a massive caveat which I take to leave their position such as to be compatible with what I articulated in regard to the Anglican position — the text you quote contains just such a passage :

Further, we believe that by the word “transubstantiation” the manner is not explained, by which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord, — for that is altogether incomprehensible and impossible, except by God Himself, and those who imagine to do so are involved in ignorance and impiety,

I see no way to diminish the comprehensive sweep of that apophatic qualification to their use of the word μετουσίωσις, where — as with the Anglican view I was attempting to set out, there is a great reticence in regard to what can be required as de fide about the how as distinct from the what.

Much as one sees again here

    1. How are we to understand the word transubstantiation?

In the exposition of the faith by the Eastern Patriarchs, it is said that the word transubstantiation is not to be taken to define the manner in which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord; for this none can understand but God; but only thus much is signified, that the bread truly, really, and substantially becomes the very true Body of the Lord, and the wine the very Blood of the Lord. In like manner John Damascene, treating of the Holy and Immaculate Mysteries of the Lord, writes thus: “It is truly that Body, united with Godhead, which had its origin from the Holy Virgin; not as though that Body which ascended came down from heaven, but because the bread and wine themselves are changed into the Body and Blood of God. But if thou seekest after the manner how this is, let it suffice thee to be told that it is by the Holy Ghost; in like manner as, by the same Holy Ghost, the Lord formed flesh to himself, and in himself, from the Mother of God; nor know I aught more than this, that the Word of God is true, powerful, and almighty, but its manner of operation unsearchable.”

(J. Damasc. Theol. lib. iv. cap. 13, § 7.)

Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church by St. Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow (1830)

I gather that some suppose that the catechism of St. Philaret above, may be the first to make a specific distinction between the Eastern and Western description of transubstantiation and it is interesting that Philaret says that transubstantiation is not a reference to the change itself—since none can possibly understand exactly how/when this takes place—but that it is merely a reference to our Lord being “truly, really, and substantially” present in the Eucharist – which is very redolent of the Anglican view.  In other words, it is not a reference to metaphysics  (such as that of Aristotle, for example), but is speaking to the reality of a change, albeit as change beyond our comprehension. In other words we can know there to be change but not what it is fully in this life for that to be true,

Then again, the matter is transformed by the fact that only the one side (Rome)  has dogmatically ruled on the question,  making it hard to draw a true comparison between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox viewpoints,  since an ultimately undefined position such as I take the Orthodox one to be (in consequence of not being the subject of definitive definition) must have a more defuse character.

The Roman Church, as a matter of history, dogmatically ruled upon a number of issues under contention with the Reformers  that had previously been left undefined, if not as frank mystery—thus such a position as that of transubstantiation could be widely held, but was certainly not officially defined as the Council of Trent later left matters, (and it is that explanation that has since been known as the definitive account of Transubstantiation for the Roman Church) nor therefore was it required to be believed before Trent upon pain of damnation, which is how things remain to this day for the Roman Catholic Church.

By contrast, while the Orthodox Church has at various times used the word transubstantiation it would not necessarily seem to have had a stable meaning and has tended to be used in contradistinction to views attributed to the more radical Reformers. As such, this term and use has never risen to the level of mandatory dogma, nor has it been ecumenically, which is to say universally, mandated as required of faith.

So I still would say that the Orthodox are short of full affirmation of Transubstantiation in the Roman sense, but clearly affirm eucharistic realism of a kind able to accommodate Anglican views.

But I do think this is an interesting area for further exploration and I would be interested to look up what if anything the Anglican – Orthodox ecumenical dialogues have said on this.

With regard to the birds adding their chorus of approval to my original remarks, I can only pay tribute to your acute hearing and would in no sense suppose that this was akin to St Francis charming them out of the trees or, as I have heard tell of your own powers of rhetoric that they are such as can charm potatoes out of the ground….

With many thanks and all good wishes

Alistair

 

He then followed up with a further note:

__________________________

Dear Liam

Just to add to my last — I was recalling and have now found, Timothy Bishop Kallistos Ware’s comments which seem apropos here,

which is also helpful as also the further commentary below,

With renewed good wishes and thanks

Alistair

From The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware

“As the words of the Epiclesis make abundantly plain, the Orthodox Church believes that after the consecration the bread and wine become in very truth the Body and Blood of Christ: they are not mere symbols, but the reality. But while Orthodoxy has always insisted on the REALITY of the change, it has never attempted to explain the MANNER of the change: the Eucharistic Prayer in the Liturgy simply uses the nuetral term metaballo, to ‘turn about’, to ‘change’, to ‘alter’.

“It is true that in the seventeenth century not only individual Orthodox writers, but Orthodox councils such as that of Jerusalem in 1672, made use of the Latin term ‘transubstantiation’ (in Greek, metousiosis), together with the Scholastic distinction between substance and accidents. But at the same time the Fathers of Jerusalem were careful to add that the use of these terms does not constitute an explanation of the manner of the change, since this is a mystery and must always remain incomprehensible.

“Yet despite this disclaimer, many Orthodox felt that Jerusalem had committed itself too unreservedly to the terminology of Latin Scholasticism, and it is significant that when in 1838 the Russian Church issued a translation of the Acts of Jerusalem, while retaining the word transubstantiation, it carefully paraphrased the rest of the passage in such a way that the technical terms substance and accidents were not employed.

“Today a few Orthodox writers still use the word transubstantiation, but they insist on two points: first, there are many other words which can with equal legitimacy be used to describe the consecration, and, among them all, the term transubstantiation enjoys no unique or decisive authority; secondly, its use does not commit theologians to the acceptance of Aristotelian philosophical concepts.” (page 283-284)

Then further with a slightly different view there is the following opinion:

“Roman and Orthodox teach that by the words spoken in the Holy Eucharist the species of bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so that although these species have the outward qualities of bread and wine, essentially they are the Body and Blood of Christ.”

(from the book Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism (1972)  by the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aksum, Methodios Fouyas  page 187, where a footnote to this passage refers to Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat 22; John of Damascus, De Fide Orth 4:13; John Chrysostom, Hom 82:4 in Matt as well as the Council of Trent, Session 13)

Then further on, after quoting an Anglican writer who opined that,  “Orthodox theologians do not adhere to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation…” Fouyas responds:

“This is not quite accurate, because the Orthodox Church does not reject the word ‘Transubstantiation,’ but it does not attach to it the materialistic meaning which is given by the Latins. The Orthodox Church uses the word ‘Transubstantiation’ not to define the manner in which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and the Blood of the Lord, but only to insist on the fact that the Bread truly, really, and substantially becomes the very Body of the Lord and the wine the very Blood of the Lord. In this sense it is interpreted by St. John of Damascus [Holy and Immaculate Mysteries, Cap 13:7].”

(Fouyas, page 188-189, where a footnote refers also to the Orthodox Councils of Jerusalem [1672] and of Constantinople [1727])

Fouyas next provides several words used by the Orthodox to describe the change in the elements, writing that:

“In the same manner the majority of the Orthodox theologians used, for the idea of Transubstantiation, a Greek term drawn from the teaching of the ancient Greek Fathers; the terms used include Metousiosis, Metabole, Trope, Metapoiesis, etc, or the Slavonic Presushchestvlenie, equivalent of the Greek Metousiosis. The Slavonic word Sushchestvo corresponds not to substantia, but to ousia (essentia).” (Fouyas, page 189)

Fouyas then concludes on the word Transubstantiation that:

“The difference between Orthodox and Romans is this: the latter used this word to mean the special theory according to which the change is made, but the Orthodox used it to mean the FACT of the change, according to the Patristic conception.” (Fouyas, page 189)

 

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At this point another party, Drew Keane,

writing from St Andrew’s, entered the discussion and wrote the following

Dear Alistair,

This is a fascinating conversation.

The way in which authority operates in the Eastern Orthodox Churches is a tricky business from a Western perspective, as you’ve rightly pointed out. They do not share “the Latin genius for law and order” as Alexander Souter so aptly put it.

There’s also a kind of slipperiness in the discourse regarding “in the eucharist” and “in the sacramental signs.” Some use these as entirely interchangeable, others do not, and plenty of participants in these discussions either aren’t sure which they mean or haven’t thought about a potential difference

But, I suspect that the formulation of the doctrine expressed here would not be acceptable to Hooker without further qualification, particularly I think, surrounding the nature of the objective change effected by the consecration, the continuing substantial presence of the signs (in line with Article XXVIII), and whether Christ can be adored through the adoration of the sacramental signs.

The invocation in the prayer of consecration is

“grant that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.”

In this the bread and wine are set apart as sacramental signs to the end that for those who duly use them, that is take them with faith in remembrance of Christ’s passion, they are the means whereby they really, after a spiritual manner, eat his body and drink his blood. The setting apart (consecration) constitutes a real, objective change, namely making ordinary bread and wine into sacramental signs, so that any other use of them to any other ends is sacrilege and incurs divine wrath. Thus, Hooker maintains, we can appropriately call the consecrated bread and wine the body and blood of Christ not because the substance of bread and wine have been replaced or annihilated (which “overthroweth the nature of a sacrament”) but because,

“The bread and cup are his body and blood because they are causes instrumental upon the receipt whereof the participation of his body and blood ensueth. For that which produceth any certain effect is not vainly nor improperly said to be that very effect whereunto it tendeth. Every cause is in the effect which groweth from it.”

Hooker would of course also accept Article XIX

“the wicked and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as S. Augustine saith) the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing.”

I.e., the unfaithful eat and drink the sacramental signs set apart as the means whereby the faithful partake of Christ, but in doing so without lively faith, curse themselves.

So, while I think the Orthodox position as characterized here (leaving to one side the question of whether this particular articulation of the mystery can be said to be binding on all within that communion) does draw nearer to a position in line with the Articles and Prayer Book as well as Hooker than the Tridentine dogma, particularly insofar as it rejects attempts to explain the mode or manner whereby a real, substantial partaking in Christ’s body and blood is effected through the eucharist (to explain away the mystery, as it were), nevertheless, there remain key differences that would render elusive the absolute harmonization of the 1672 pronouncement of the Synod of Jerusalem and the Anglican formularies or preeminent seventeenth century divines.

With warmest regards,

Drew

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Mr. Warner, in the meantime also wrote further, saying:

 

Dear Alistair,

Thank you for your response and I wanted to make one further remark that I was thinking of last night.

The two passages we were considering are these:

Further, we believe that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, there no longer remains the substance of the bread and of the wine, but the Body Itself and the Blood of the Lord, under the species and form of bread and wine; that is to say, under the accidents of the bread.

And

Further, we believe that by the word “transubstantiation” the manner is not explained, by which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord, — for that is altogether incomprehensible and impossible, except by God Himself, and those who imagine to do so are involved in ignorance and impiety,

— but that the bread and the wine are after the consecration, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, nor by the communication or the presence of the Divinity alone of the Only-begotten, transmuted into the Body and Blood of the Lord; neither is any accident of the bread, or of the wine, by any conversion or alteration, changed into any accident of the Body and Blood of Christ, but truly, and really, and substantially, doth the bread become the true Body Itself of the Lord, and the wine the Blood Itself of the Lord, as is said above.

I find it impossible to convince myself that the second quotation deprives the first quotation of its meaning in the way that you have suggested. The assertion, almost verbatim from Trent, is that the substances of the bread and wine are wholly transformed into those of the Body and Blood of Christ, while their accidents remain, which is no more and no less than the doctrine of transubstantiation. The Non-jurors construed it in the same way:

As to their Patriarchal Lordships’ sentiment, maintaining the Bread and Wine in the Holy Eucharist being changed after Consecration into the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour, nothing of the elements remaining excepting the bare accidents void of substance, we can by no means agree with their Lordships’ doctrine : such a corporal Presence, which they call Transubstantiation, having no foundation in Scripture, and being by implication, and sometimes plainly, denied by the most celebrated Fathers of the Primitive Church.

It seems then that those wily old Orthodox gentlemen did not see any flagrant contradiction in affirming both that we must not peer impiously into the manner of the sacramental change and that it is necessary to confess that the accidents of bread and wine remain while their substances do not. This is why I am fond of insisting strenuously, perhaps in an offensive and ethnic way, that transubstantiation is not an explanation of the manner of the conversion; or, that if it be an explanation, Hookerism is equally an explanation.

We even find Trent making similarly pious qualifications in Ch. I of its decree on the Eucharist:

For neither are these things mutually repugnant, that our Saviour Himself always sitteth at the right hand of the Father in heaven, according to the natural mode of existing, and that, nevertheless, He be, in many other places, sacramentally present to us in his own substance, by a manner of existing, which, though we can scarcely express it in words, yet can we, by the understanding illuminated by faith, conceive, and we ought most firmly to believe, to be possible unto God

Philaret’s quotation of John Damascene, which you include above, confirms this view, to my mind. He says,

if thou seekest after the manner how this is, let it suffice thee to be told that it is by the Holy Ghost; in like manner as, by the same Holy Ghost, the Lord formed flesh to himself, and in himself, from the Mother of God.”

If we, with Our Lady, inquire how God is to born after the flesh from a virgin mother, we are told to keep quiet—the mysterious power of God the Holy Ghost is explanation enough. But this is not at all the same as saying, that we must be reticent about what the product of this mysterious operation is. Indeed we would be heretics did we do so. We must confess that product of this action is none but the God-man Himself, in all the rigor of the conciliar decrees, even as we are ordered not to inquire into the manner of its production. The parallel with the Eucharist is exact: we must confess, says the synod, that the elements are truly, really and substantially converted into the Body and Blood of Christ, and that the substances of bread and wine altogether cease to be, leaving only their accidents, while at the same time being satisfied that this is achieved by the power of the Holy Ghost.

A footnote in ARCIC’s document “Eucharistic Doctrine” makes the same insistence:

The word transubstantiation is commonly used in the Roman Catholic Church to indicate that God acting in the eucharist effects a change in the inner reality of the elements. The term should be seen as affirming the fact of Christ’s presence and of the mysterious and radical change which takes place. In contemporary Roman Catholic theology it is not understood as explaining how the change takes place.

I hope you will excuse the fact that the copying and pasting here has made this look like a ransom note composed of letters clipped out of magazines, but until soon I remain

Yours sincerely,

Liam

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Which is where things stand for now, pending a further posting and potentially helpful input from an actual member of an Eastern Orthodox church — which would be desirable given that it is always preferable to have someone speak about their own church and its views rather than merely hear from others about them !

 

A M-R