Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Christ's sacrifice and presentism

After it took place, Christ's sacrifice had never ceased to be a part of reality. But Christ's sacrifice did not continue to be always a part of the present. (Christ's sacrifice is present during the Mass, but there have been times, since Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, during which no Mass was being celebrated.) Hence, the present and reality are not coextensive.

Whether this contradicts presentism depends on what one makes of the imprecise predicates "is a part of reality" and "is a part of the present".


Heath White said...

Not strictly on topic but do you have a theory behind

Christ's sacrifice is present during the Mass ?

I'd be interested to hear it.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Or: we are present to Christ's sacrifice during the Mass.

The Catechism says that the Mass is called "[t]he Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church's offering."

Malachi 1:11 talks of a sacrifice around the world apparently being offered all over the world in Messianic times. But the only sacrifice in New Testament times is that of Christ on the cross. Thus, Christ's sacrifice on the cross must be present all over the world in Messianic times.

There are more and less metaphysical ways of reading this. I suspect I am in the minority for liking a very metaphysical reading.

Heath White said...

I'm aware of the various arguments from authority. I was looking for a plausible-ish metaphysical reading. How can an event in the past be present? Or is the event gappy in time? What defines "the event"? Can human beings decide when the Crucifixion occurs (by deciding to hold Mass)? Etc.

I'm not being skeptical here, just curious.

Alexander R Pruss said...

The most metaphysical interpretation is that spacetime curves back on itself, so that those present at Mass are really also present on Calvary. I think there is nothing incoherent with this, though I doubt presentists can say it. I have defended a similar view of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist in my piece in the Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (now in paperback).

A gappy event interpretation seems possible, too: we are present at the same event as the one on Calvary, because that event--Christ's willing sacrifice for us--occurs at different times, with temporal gaps. What unites this as one event is Christ's single intention for the sacrifice. A challenge for this view is that Christ's sacrifice seems to have been completed when he said "It is finished." But we can perhaps read that as "It is consummated." And a marriage typically continues after it is consummated.

The least metaphysical interpretation takes Christ's gift of himself in the Eucharist to represent the sacrifice of Calvary. To avoid concerns about two sacrifices, one then has to lay an emphasis of how a single intention of Christ's to give himself for us lies at the root of both Calvary and the sacrifice of the altar, and then this becomes more like the gappy event interpretation.

As far as I know, none of these interpretations is required or forbidden by the magisterium, but I have not studied this much.

Jonathan D. Jacobs said...

I'm sure I'm missing something obvious, but why should I believe the first claim?