Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bread and Body "inseparably united"?

6th Century icon confessing the
Two Natures of our Blessed Lord

by Larry Beane

FC SD VIII: 37 (what follows is the text from McCain, first edition, emphasis added) :
Many eminent ancient teachers, such as Justin, Cyprian, Augustine, Leo, Gelasius, Chrysostom, and others use this comparison [Gleichnis, similitudine; Tappert translates this as "analogy", Triglot renders it as "simile"] about the words of Christ's testament, "This is My body." Just as in Christ two distinct, unchanged natures are inseparably united [unzertrennlich vereinigt, inseparabiliter... unitae], so [also, ita] in the Holy Supper the two substances - the natural bread and Christ's true natural body - are present together here on earth in the appointed administration of the Sacrament.
Tappert's translation reads: "indivisibly united."

Does this mean the authors of the Formula are accepting the "indivisible" or " inseparable" union part of the analogy between the Personal Union and the Sacramental Union? If so, then the bread and body - and the wine and blood - can no more be separated one from another by some passage of time or by a liturgical landmark than the human and divine natures can be separated in our Lord.


  1. I've always loved the analogy of two natures. I know we say we don't teach consubstantiation, but this sounds a lot like it. Luther certainly felt comfortable with scholastic philosophy but did not rest his doctrine upon it. We can see this is the sacramental union language and in the doctrine of ubiquity. (*I've read Sasse's excellent book).

    Luther must have read Ambrose's works on the sacraments. He certainly is familiar with the patristic texts in "This is My Body". I advise all pastors to read Ambrose's sermons to catechumens on the sacraments.

    Lastly, did you notice the last phrase there in FC, SC, art. vii, sec. 37? " the appointed administration of the Sacrament."

    Matt P.

  2. Dear Matt:

    The problem with consubstantiation is the same as the problem with transubstantiation - it is an attempt to go farther than Scripture for the sake of slaking the thirst of reason.

    Consubstantiation is like an Oreo cookie. An Oreo is truly both chocolate and creme filling (not "cream," mind you...). It is a "both/and" situation. And yet, there is no change that happens. It is simply a side-by-side placement of two substances. In this sense, there is no "Oreotic Union." Some may opt to eat only the filling and discard the chocolate, while others will eat the chocolate wafers and trash the creme.

    This is not possible in Holy Communion (division of the element from the divine) any more than we can divide the human and the divine in the Baby Jesus (is His spleen divine, but His gall bladder human?).

    Consubstantiation posits that the consecrated bread has flecks of the Body of Christ in it, as if the bread were a mere vehicle for the body (which some interpret as the meaning behind Luther's "in, with, and under" language - which is actually clarified in FC SD VII:35.

    As far as Paragraph 37 goes: "In the appointed administration of the sacrament" is a polemic addressed against Roman abuses - clearly not what we're talking about in Lutheran churches, but rather what is addressed in the marginal note of the last of the Catalog of Testimonies entries, the citation of St. John Chrysostom. (See Piepkorn, the Church, Vol. 1, p. 175).

    At least I would hope that no-one in our communion would consider the common practice of reserving the reliquiae against the next communion as a "papistic expiatory sacrifice of the sacrificial Mass."

    This places those who believe that the Lord's Presence leaves the elements in the uncomfortable position of either 1) denying the Formula of Concord, or 2) being willing to consider the putting away of consecrated elements as, prima facie, a "papistic expiatory sacrifice of the sacrificial Mass." O crepite!

    No, fortunately for us "poor miserable sinners," we don't have to apply logic to the Lord's Supper to deduce transubstantiation, consubstantiation, receptionism, or the latter's evil twin "Elvis-has-left-the-building-ism."

    "This IS My body. This IS My blood." Which is the proof text for FC VII:37's "indivisibly united" (in other words, Elvis never leaves the building).

    Unless, of course, we want to be quatenus sophists and say: "Of course they are 'indivisibly united,' except for when we decide they aren't."

    "Is" means "is." "Indivisible" means "indivisible." It's really not all that complicated, is it?

  3. Fr Hollywood,

    We aren't disagreeing about trans, con, or any other late medieval scholastic philosophical explanation. It is simply the application of Aristotle's categories of being to explain how such a presence could take place. Additionally, medieval theologians from the late 11th century to the 16th century certainly did not have the same explanations of what trans-, or consubstantiation were. (See Gary Macy's book and numerous articles on the topic.) Medieval eucharistic theology is one of my favorite academic topics. My RC priest Jesuit professor always told me that it was consubstantiation whether we used that term or not. Frankly, I don't care as long as we believe Christ's words.

    It always fascinated me how Luther rested his doctrine on these clear words yet also could "out-scholasticize" the scholastics. His discussion in On Babylonian Captivity to the Great Confession is masterful.

    I also absolutely agree that Christ's physical presence is what He says it is. Period. It doesn't disappear, but is received through oral and spiritual reception. As our Lord commands us to "eat and drink" in memory of me. Sadly, we have not always practiced this perfectly. Perhaps we never will this side of heaven.

    If I have time (ha ha) I will do a little research on Lutheran uses of tabernacles or possibly even monstrances. The example that you cited earlier from the Brandenburg Order was actually quite fascinating. I know someone who has a great knowledge of Lutheran liturgical orders and might be able to shed some light on this subject. He also has many of the sources.

    I also understand the historical context of "administration of the sacrament" dealt with the papist purposeful retention of consecrated bread/body for veneration outside of the divine service. Why did the Lutherans oppose this veneration outside of the divine service? How long did they purposefully retain consecrated elements in order to commune those not present? The Brandenburg order seemed to indicate not very long. They didn't even leave time for the tabernacle or peanut butter jar.


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