Monday, January 10, 2022

A horizontal aspect to transsubstantiation

The Eucharist has the vertical dimension of our union with Christ and a horizontal dimension of our union with our fellow Christians. The doctrine of transsubstantiation ensures the vertical dimension in an obvious way. But yesterday, while at a Thomistic Institute retreat on the Eucharist, I was struck by the way that transsubstantiation also deeply enhances the horizontal dimension of the Eucharist as a common meal.

Normally, in a common meal we eat together. Sometimes we eat portions cut from one loaf or carved from one animal, and that makes the meal even more unifying. But according to transsubstantiation, in the Eucharist we have a common meal where miraculously we each eat not just a portion of the same food, but the numerically very same portion: the whole of Christ. That is as deep a unity as we can have in eating.

Consider how there is less unity on the main alternatives to transsubstantiation:

  • On symbolic views, we eat and drink different portions of bread and wine with the same symbolism.

  • On consubstantiation, we eat the same Christ along with different portions of bread and wine.

  • On Leibnizian views (where the bread and wine becomes a part of Christ), we eat different parts of the same Christ.

The transsubstantiation view has as much substantial unity in what is eaten as is logically possible. (Though there is some accidental disunity, in that the accidents—shape, color, position—are different for different communicants.)

14 comments:

scott said...

On this approach, it seems like there are further ways to gain unity that are missing but possible. The way people eat is still different, for example. People kneel at different spots and at different times. Imagine an account of the Eucharist on which God miraculously changes the spot and time a person is in so that they not only eat the very same part but do so at the very same spot-Golgotha-at the very same time-at the moment when Jesus was crucified. Would that achieve greater horizontal unity? And would that be possible for God to do? Would there be some disadvantage to that?

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

If we truly eat thé very same portion, namely thé whole of Christ then what role does thé wine play.
Isn't thé blood of Christ part of thé whole of Christ?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Scott:

Sure, I am not claiming that we have the greatest logically possible unity.

Walter:

Catholics think that Christ is wholly contained under the species (or appearances) of bread and wholly contained under the species of wine. While there is good symbolic reason for receiving under both species, reception under either one is complete. That, and practicalities, is why after the Council of Trent, Latin-rite Catholic laypeople only received under the species of bread, until after Vatican II reception under both species was restored (and now is again typically suspended due to the pandemic).

Walter Van den Acker said...

Alex

In every mass I have ever attended, it was always States that the bread is thé body of Christ while the wine is thé blood of Christ, and it is de Aldo claimed that those are Christ's own words.












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Walter Van den Acker said...

Just to correct the typos in my previous pos.


In every mass I have ever attended, it was always stated that the bread is the body of Christ while the wine is the blood of Christ, and it is also claimed that those are Christ's own words.
So, there is, at the very least, a huge ambiguity in the ritual.

Philotheological said...

I vouch for Dr. Pruss’ reply to you. The ambiguity exists but the main idea is still there. Through the words of consecration, the bread accident is really turned to the body of Christ (in a representative manner) but it is also the blood (in a non-representative manner). The wine accident really does turn to the the blood of Christ (in a representative manner) and the body of Christ (in a non-representative manner). Here, my use of “representative” has the accidents as its referent.
We are corporeal creatures so it is fitting that we have physically differentiated representations for different referents. God himself, however, is not to be differentiated in an absolute respect (because he’s simple).

Walter Van den Acker said...

Philotheological

Even if I accept for the sake of the argument the utterly incoherent claim that a triune god can be simple, this is not about God, it is about Christ. God does not have a body. Christ does.

Philotheological said...

I assumed you are Catholic because of your claim that you went to Masses. If that is a wrong assumption then correct me. The doctrine of divine simplicity is claimed by Vatican I and the Fourth Lateran Council and various church fathers so I think a Catholic should accept it.
My claim concerning divine simplicity was a side note in the case that you think the Eucharist (Christ) being represented in different manners leads to the idea of God being composed of parts.

Philotheological said...

I was reflecting on what I wrote, and I realized I didn’t clarify what I mean by God being simple. Perhaps you mistook me saying God being simple as in the sense of him being simple to understand—this is not what I meant and neither is it the doctrine of divine simplicity. When I said that God is simple, I mean that God is not composed of parts.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Philthoelogical

I was born and raised a Catholic, but I am no longer a Catholic. One of the many reasons for that is that nobody should accept logical contradictions, no matter how many church fathers or councils claim otherwise. There is simply no way in which a triune god can be simple.
But that is not my point. My point is that it is absurd to claim that hat Christ is wholly contained under the species (or appearances) of bread and wholly contained under the species of wine when Christ himself says otherwise. Christ did not say, "This bread is wholly me and so is this wine." He said that the bread is his body while the wine is his blood.

Philotheological said...

Walter Van den Acker

Your understanding of logical contradiction is wrong. A logical contradiction is saying, “A and not A” in an indexically rigid manner. Your disjunctive attack against what I said would be more defensible if you claimed the Trinity is metaphysically impossible with the additional claim that God is simple.
The atheist could grant that Jesus could do miracles logically because there are no logical contradictions there; in other words, one is not claiming that Jesus could do miracles and also that Jesus couldn't do miracles. But an atheist wouldn’t grant that Jesus can actually do miracles metaphysically because it goes against their naturalistic worldview, say.

In regards to your comment about the Eucharist more specifically: Christ does not need to add the qualifier, “wholly” to his words of consecration for me to understand that he means “wholly.” When the Bible uses “flesh,” for example, it has multiple meanings: it could be in reference to physical flesh (like his or mine) or it could be in reference to living in sin (which is spiritual). If “flesh” doesn’t need to have precise and explicit qualifications, so too with the words of consecration. Your argument is an argument from ignorance, which is a logical fallacy.
Here’s my reply to your claim, “Christ himself says otherwise,” which is a wrongheaded claim. Your claim is that Christ explicitly or implicitly denied himself being wholly in the bread and wine. But this is not so. Christ did not deny it. At most, he merely left out the quantifier “wholly.” You claiming that Christ denied himself being wholly in the accidents needs proof. You haven’t provided any proof for such. You are, thus, committing yourself to the fallacy of unwarranted assumption.
With that said, I do hope that you return to the Church of Jesus—the Catholic Church.

Philotheological said...

Walter Van den Acker

Your understanding of logical contradiction is wrong. A logical contradiction is saying, “A and not A” in an indexically rigid manner. Your disjunctive attack against what I said would be more defensible if you claimed the Trinity is metaphysically impossible with the additional claim that God is simple.
The atheist could grant that Jesus could do miracles logically because there are no logical contradictions there; in other words, one is not claiming that Jesus could do miracles and also that Jesus couldn't do miracles. But an atheist wouldn’t grant that Jesus can actually do miracles metaphysically because it goes against their naturalistic worldview, say.

In regards to your comment about the Eucharist more specifically: Christ does not need to add the qualifier, “wholly” to his words of consecration for me to understand that he means “wholly.” When the Bible uses “flesh,” for example, it has multiple meanings: it could be in reference to physical flesh (like his or mine) or it could be in reference to living in sin (which is spiritual). If “flesh” doesn’t need to have precise and explicit qualifications, so too with the words of consecration. Your argument is an argument from ignorance, which is a logical fallacy.
Here’s my reply to your claim, “Christ himself says otherwise,” which is a wrongheaded claim. Your claim is that Christ explicitly or implicitly denied himself being wholly in the bread and wine. But this is not so. Christ did not deny it. At most, he merely left out the quantifier “wholly.” You claiming that Christ denied himself being wholly in the accidents needs proof. You haven’t provided any proof for such. You are, thus, committing yourself to the fallacy of unwarranted assumption.
With that said, I do hope that you return to the Church of Jesus—the Catholic Church.

Walter Van den Acker said...

Philotheological

Thé Trinitylogiczlly contradicts divine simplivitu because it literally says 3 is not 3. It's worse, actually, because it is claimed that 3 is 3 but at thé same time it isn't.
Now thé Trinity is not the topic here, so I don't want to detail this discussion and I won't say anything more on it here.
Christ would not have needed the Qualifier 'wholly' if he had simply talked about thé bread, but by adding the wine, he implied that the bread was not the whole story.
Thé only unwarranted assumption here is thé claim by thé Catholic church that the bread as Well as thé wine wholly. Represent Christ.
So, I am afraid there is zero chance that I Will ever return to the Catholic Church.