This post deserves to be pulled from the archives and kicked around for a bit. I let it fall by the wayside, and I’m still wanting to work through this subject.
Essentially, my question was ‘why is the idea of real presence in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper a necessary doctrine?’. Christ’s language when he institutes the Supper is clearly metaphorical and so, I ask, what compels us to argue that Christ is ‘actually’ there (whether physically through transubstantiantion, or spiritually through…who knows what)?
Further, referring to Joshua 24:25 – 27, I asked the following:
Are not metaphors, signs, and memorials powerful and efficacious in themselves? Does claiming that Joshua’s stone did or didn’t have ears in any way weaken or strengthen the power of that symbol to convict and condemn a backsliding Israel? Is it even a relevant point of discussion?
I received several responses from friends named Matt, the meat of which follow:
“[T]he thesis of the post seems a bit silly. Why the real presence? Why the crucifixion? Seems a bit over the top, n’est pas? A bit gauche if you ask me. But it’s not about what we think makes sense to us, it’s about what is. The gospel is foolishness to the wise of the world.
To deal a bit more directly with the question, it is a recreation of the incarnation. In the Eucharist, we become like our Blessed Mother. We are overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and we receive Christ into our being, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. If Our Lady had received only the Spirit of Christ, there would be no incarnation, no resurrection, and no salvation for the world.
Thus, if we do not receive Totus Christus the same is true. We will have no incarnation, no resurrection, and no salvation.
Besides which, to say we can ‘feed on Christ’ in a spiritual way without receiving Him physically is to say that the Spirit and Body of Christ are somehow separable, which is the basis for pretty much every heresy the Martyrs of the Early Church died to fight against. All of those heresies in some way cut against the notion that Christ was inseparably and entirely God and Man.
Finally, the witness of the Early Church from as far back as the late first century is perfectly clear in teaching that the Eucharist is the corporeal Body and Blood of our Lord, so fiercely that one Early Father, who’s name escapes me at present, said that anyone who does not believe this doctrine is not worthy of the name Christian. There is absolutely unanimous consent amongst the Fathers on this topic.
I guess it seems like a sort of myopic view to ask why something that was believed by all Christians everywhere for 1500 years and is still believed by the vast majority of Christians worldwide needs to be true. Why’s the sky blue for crying out loud?” –Matt Yonke
And from another Matt entirely…
“I think the fundamental issue Christ the Mediator. No man has seen God, no one knows the Father save the Son. But for Christ the Mediator, the sacrifice to the Father part of the Cross is unemphasized (though still important) and the Incarnation itself, and Christ pouring Himself out to us is emphasized. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” It is of vital importance that that Light which was the Life of men has been manifested, and we sense Him. And it is important that He is a man because our fellowship with God is a fellowship with the Man Jesus Christ.
But if the Sacrament is not Christ, first, we are not rightly Christians but Spiritians, or Yahvists. Christ was present for them, but He is not a mediator here and now for you and I. We have access to God through another, the Spirit, and not Christ. We may be, by the Spirit, lifted up to communion with the Father and Christ, but Christ is not Himself a mediator. But the Scriptural doctrine is we need contact with Christ Himself to approach God. It is through the veil of His Flesh that we enter into the Holy of Holies.
Similarly, Christ for us, Christ the Mediator, not only brings us into the Presence of the Father, but cleanses us from our sins. Not from the consequences of our sins–God’s wrath–but from our sins themselves. It is by being in the Light, as the Father is in the Light, that we are saved. It is when we are in the Light–that is in the Presence of Jesus–that the Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from sin. Our sin is removed (not the consequences of sin, but the sin itself) when we are in the presence of Jesus. And again, if it is not when we are in the presence of Jesus, but merely of the Spirit that sin is removed (not that the presence of the Spirit does not remove sin), we are not rightly Christians, but Spiritians. We are physical and Jesus is physical. His blood is physical and His flesh is physical. We are in the presence of Him, of His flesh and His blood, when He is physically present. To have our sins removed (and not merely their consequence) we must be physically sprinkled with the physical blood of Jesus. We must be sanctified by eating the Flesh of the True Pascal Lamb. As the Levites were made holy by eating the Old Covenant sacrifices, so we are made Holy by eating Christ.
Again, our unity with the Father and the Spirit is not only by through and in Christ, but our unity with one another is through Christ alone. But the Apostle Paul tells us that our unity is through the Bread alone. “For we being many are one body and one bread because we partake of that one bread.” Pastor Wilson rightly pointed out Sunday that there are only two tables in I Corinthians, the table of demons, and the table of Christ. So we eat of the same table wherever we receive the Sacrament. But he failed to note that the Apostle does not merely link the tables by the host, but also by the Food. “For we being many are one body and one bread because we partake of the one bread.” It is the unity of the bread that unites all Christians. It is because you and I partake of the same one bread that we are both united.
And if we look at the gospel narrative there is a bit more than we typically suppose. In instituting the Lord’s Supper, Christ is instituting the new Passover. Christ seated at the table is the new lamb, the bread and the wine the new Matza and cup of blessing. But all the old types find their realization in Christ. The new Adam is Christ. The new Abel is Christ. The new Seth is Christ. etc. But the new Matza and cup are similarly Christ. But they are the Bread and Wine of the Sacrament. Therefore the Bread and Wine are Christ.
Likewise the Manna is a symbol of the Sacrament. But the Old Testemant signs are not signs of signs, but of Christ, our king and our God. Therefore the Sacrament is Christ.
Or to make my last point clearer:
“The significance of the bread and wine (which is enormous, certainly) is fulfillment of the Passover meal and an establishment of this new covenant”
But the Old Covenant signs are not signs of signs, signs of emptiness, of signs of the True Form, of Christ. The Passover meal is fulfilled in the Lord’s Supper, but that means all parts of the Supper are Christ–everything in the Old Covenant finds it’s fullfilment in Christ–and so the Bread and the Wine, the fulfillment of the Passover, are Christ. – Matt Petersen
I am working up a response to these two helpful remarks. In the meantime, don’t feel obligated to wait for me. And for fun (if ‘fun’ is the right word), see if you can work Joshua 24:25-27 into your thoughts.
On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord. “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”