Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Receptionism, Consecrationism & Realism
I'm still working out my theology of the Eucharist, and I'm hoping your comments will help me clarify my thoughts.
Receptionism is the Protestant view that only the faith of the recipient enables the bread and wine to be the body and blood of Christ. As such, I am not a receptionist. I think the faith of the recipient is wonderful, but I think the bread and wine are the body & blood of Christ regardless of what the recipient may think or feel or believe.
Consecrationism is the Catholic view that the bishop or priest sets apart (consecrates) the bread and wine from common use to become the body and blood of Christ. As the celebrant prays the prayer of consecration, specifically at the epiclesis, the bread and wine are mysteriously, sacramentally, really changed into the body and blood of Christ. After the celebration, the bread and wine are still sacramentally the body and blood of Christ, and as such may be reserved for communion visitation (for the sick and shut-in, etc). Likewise, all reserved sacrament is to be eaten because it has been consecrated, and to throw it away would be sacrilege. As such, I am not a consecrationist, because I cannot follow its implications, which, for all its talk of mystery, strike me as superstitiously thin and overly simplistic.
Realism (or virtualism, as it is sometimes called), the theology of the real presense of Christ in the Eucharist, is the Reformational Catholic view that the bread and wine are mysteriously and spiritually - yet really - the body and blood of Christ. It does not depend on the faith of the recipient or the consecration of the priest. The Holy Spirit and the Lord Christ Himself make it so in the ritual action of the liturgy. I'm reminded of the passage, "for wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of you." I think this is especially true when the Eucharist is celebrated. We commune with the body of Christ, which is present both in the bread and wine and in the gathered saints. As with receptionism, after the liturgy, any remaining bread and wine are just bread and wine again; they are only the body and blood of Christ during the ritual action of the liturgy. And even then, of course, they are still bread and wine. This is a both/and position, not a false dichotomy of either/or. However, as a eucharistic realist, I would be less inclined to call the sacrament a means of grace, but rather Grace Himself - less inclined to call it a sign or a symbol, but rather the body and blood of Christ.
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