Monday, June 27, 2011

If the whole Christ is present under both species of the Eucharist, why do we say "The Body of Christ" and "The Blood of Christ"?


When we recognize as dogma that “Christ whole and entire is under the species of bread, and under any part whatsoever of that species; likewise the whole (Christ) is under the species of wine, and under the parts thereof” (Council of Trent, session XIII, chapter III), such that the body and blood of Christ are present both in the Host and in the Chalice, we may wonder why it is that the priest calls one species the body of Christ and the other the blood of Christ. Since we receive the whole Christ (body and blood, soul and divinity) when we receive communion, why does the priest not distribute communion with the words, “The body and the blood of Christ”?
As we consider the manner by which Jesus is present, whole and entire, under both Eucharistic species, we will come to appreciate the custom of the Church. Moreover, we shall see that what may seem to be a purely speculative question of theology bears great importance on the Catholic understanding of how the Mass is a sacrifice.

The teaching of the Council of Trent
“And this faith has ever been in the Church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, the veritable Body of our Lord, and His veritable Blood, together with His soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine; but the Body indeed under the species of bread, and the Blood under the species of wine, by the force of the words; but the body itself under the species of wine, and the blood under the species of bread, and the soul under both, by the force of that natural connection and concomitancy whereby the parts of Christ our Lord, who hath now risen from the dead, to die no more, are united together; and the divinity, furthermore, on account of the admirable hypostatical union thereof with His body and soul.” (Council of Trent, session XIII, chapter III)
What is particularly noteworthy about the definition from Trent is that the body of our Lord is present in the Host “by the force of the words” (ex vi verborum) while the blood of Christ is present therein “by the force of natural connection and concomitancy” (per concomitantiam). In other words, because the body and blood of Christ (together with his soul) are united in his proper mode of existence which is now in heaven, so too they are united in the Blessed Sacrament. By the power of the words of consecration, the bread is substantially changed to the body of Christ and the wine is substantially changed into the blood of Christ, but by virtue of the fact that (now in heaven) Christ’s body and blood in their proper species are united to one another and together are united also to his human soul, so too in their sacramental species they are likewise united.
What this means is that the Eucharist is very much a heavenly reality, insofar as the presence of Christ in heaven is determinative for the presence of Christ in the Sacrament. Precisely because he is now living and glorified in heaven, so too our Savior’s body and blood in the Holy Eucharist are united and are living and glorified.
Finally, by virtue of the hypostatic union there is a supernatural concomitance which causes the divinity of Christ also to be united to his body and blood in the Eucharistic species.
However, when the priest consecrates the elements and when he distributes communion, he does not speak of the Eucharist according to real concomitance, but rather according to the force of the words of consecration. Hence, since in the Host only the body of Christ is present ex vi verborum, the liturgy refers to the Host simply as “The body of Christ” and not as “The body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ” (though, of course, the whole Christ is present in the Sacred Host). Again, since in the Chalice only the blood of Christ is present ex vi verborum, the liturgy refers to the Chalice simply as “The blood of Christ” and not as “The body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ” (though, again, the whole Christ is present in the Precious Blood).
A speculative question from St. Thomas Aquinas
In Summa Theologica III, q.81, a.4, the Angel of the Schools asks a question which may at first seem to be wild speculation: Whether, if this Sacrament had been reserved in a pyx, or consecrated at the moment of Christ’s death by one of the apostles, Christ himself would have died there? In other words, if the Eucharist had been reserved from Holy Thursday, what could we say about the Real Presence of Christ in this Sacrament? Would he have been living? Would his body and blood both be present in the Host? Would his soul be present therein? Would he be glorified? And, finally, would his divinity be present in that Host?
Considering that the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, because it is a sacramental presence, is logically dependent upon our Savior’s presence in his proper species (i.e. in his natural mode of existence); it is clear that, if we desire to know the manner in which Christ would have been present in a Host reserved on Good Friday, we must look to how Christ existed in his proper body on that day.
St. Thomas, establishing the principles which would later be confirmed by the Council of Trent, concludes that Christ would have been dead in the Host just as he was dead on the Cross that day. Moreover, as the soul of Christ was separated from his body and blood, so too would it be separated from the Sacrament. Again, as the blood of Christ poured forth from his body upon the Cross, so too would the body and blood of Christ be separated in the Sacrament. And, as we would now expect, since our Savior had not yet been glorified in his proper species, neither would his Real Presence in the Host be glorified. Still, as the lifeless body and blood of Christ were not deprived of the hypostatic union by death, our Lord would have been present in the Host in his divinity. The Host would have only been the body (ex vi verborum) and the divinity of Christ (per concomitantiam), not his blood or soul.
We can quickly realize that the Angelic Doctor’s question is no mere speculative exercise, but is in fact a pedagogical tool for teaching the difference between the force of real concomitance and the force of the words of consecration.
How the Mass is a sacrifice
As we have written in a previous article, the recognition of the fact that the Host is the Sacrament of Christ’s body while the Chalice is the Sacrament of Christ’s blood is no mere speculative game. Rather, this is essential to understanding the manner in which the Mass is a sacrifice.
Indeed, it seems quite likely that one of the principle reasons why so many Catholics today do not believe in the sacrificial nature of the Mass is that they do not understand what the Church means when she says that the Mass is a sacrifice. It is not uncommon to hear false explanations given by even well meaning would-be conservatives – possibly the most popular of these misconceptions is the idea that the Mass becomes a sacrifice at the moment in which the priest receives both species of the Eucharist (or, alternatively, when he fractures the Host).
However, when we recognize that the Host is the Sacrament of the body of Christ and the Chalice is the Sacrament of our Lord’s blood, we quickly understand what it is that makes the Mass to be a sacrifice. As our Savior’s body and blood were separated in their proper species upon the Cross (for his blood poured forth from his sacred body), so too the Lord’s body and blood are sacramentally separated upon the altar.
The living and glorified body of Christ, substantially present in the Host, is a sacrament of the Savior’s dead and lifeless body as it hung upon the Cross. Likewise, the living and glorified blood of Christ, substantially present in the Chalice, is a sacrament of the Lords’ dead and lifeless blood which poured forth from his body as it hung upon the Cross. [this is the central thesis of the excellent book of Abbot Anscar Vonier, A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist]
This is what makes the Mass to be a sacrifice: It is a sacramental sacrifice. And, just as the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a real presence, so too the sacramental sacrifice of the Mass is a real and a true sacrifice – it is one with the sacrifice of the Cross.

17 comments:

Jack said...

\\Since we receive the whole Christ (body and blood, soul and divinity) when we receive communion, why does the priest not distribute communion with the words, “The body and the blood of Christ”?\\

As a matter of fact, the priest DOES do so in the Byzantine and other classical Eastern liturgies, where Communion is given under both kinds as a matter of course.

Remember, the Roman Church is NOT the totality of the Catholic Church, or even the standard by which the others are judged. ALL are equally Catholic.

Ross Warnell said...

You say the Council of Trent declared that the body of our Lord is present in the Host “by the force of the words” (ex vi verborum). So, how is the Priest different from just another Shaman? The person with the special powers says the right formula and God is called forth. I do believe we need a better Eucharistic Theology!

Ross Warnell
Smithville, Missouri

VetusMores said...

Part of the problem stems, I suspect, from the fact that we teach that we receive our Lord under "both" species instead of under "each" species, thereby contributing to (or reinforcing) the notion that the bread is the Body, and the wine is the Blood, so receiving "only" one is somehow incomplete.

This kind of imprecision is why the new, more accurate translation of Mass was done in the first place: to clear up theological misunderstandings and guide the faithful down the right path. While I think it's wonderful that we're able to receive under both species, maybe it was a bit of a mistake if the result is that so many faithful believe their Communion somehow incomplete if they don't receive both.

Reginaldus said...

Jack, Your comment makes a good point ... however, it is really too bad that your extreme sensitivity to the East/West divide blinds you to the obvious theological point.

In any Rite (of East or West), the priest consecrates with the specification of Body and Blood ... "This is my body" ... "This is the cup/chalice of my blood".
So the theology and the praxis hold for the whole Catholic Church is the same.

Reginaldus said...

@Ross, If you cannot see the difference between the ex opere operato power of the Sacraments and the black-magic of a shaman, then you lack Faith ... and this post is written for Catholics, not as an apologetic argument to convince protestants.
In any case the difference is obvious ... the shaman is of satan or men, but the priest is of Christ who is the Lord and God of heaven and earth!

yan said...

Hello Fr.,

It had never previously occurred to me that the body and blood received in the sacrament were lifeless. Neither had it ever occurred to me that the sacrament depended for the completeness of the presence of Christ under each of the species upon His glorification.

Question: If the presence of the complete Christ depends upon the glorification of Christ, why does not this glorification give life to what would otherwise be His lifeless body, as His Spirit gives to our lifeless bodies at baptism?

Question: WHY is the real presence of Christ as a sacramental presence logically dependent upon His presence in His proper species at a particular moment? No doubt I am revealing great ignorance here, but why cannot Christ simply be entirely present because He wills it to be so, as a miracle?

Thank you so much Fr., I really appreciate your work!

Regards,
yan

Alessandro said...

I hope I can expand Reginaldus' reasoning on the difference between magic and the "in persona Christi" theology. The main difference is set on three elements: (1) Whence the power comes from; (2) What makes the rites effective; (3) What it is destined for.

In the case of magic, the shaman claims to possess innate powers and is trained to perform the rites correctly to release that power. The power is a gift to control the natural elements, and the rites themselves when performed are effective by themselves.

In the case of sacraments, the priest is conferred a special grace by the Church, the latter being instructed to do so by Christ himself. The rites don't release any power from the person of the priest, but from the person of Jesus through the material action of the priest (which is the meaning of "in persona Christi"). The priest has no power at all by himself, but the hands are words of the priest are borrowed by Christ in virtue of the Holy Orders the priest has received. Also, all prayers are oriented to God and are never set down as direct commands to the matter. The priest doesn't say: "Bread turn into Christ's Body". On the contrary, he asks God to listen to his prayer in the name of Jesus and for the spiritual (not material!) benefit of the faithful.

In conclusion, the priest is no magician: Christ is the power behind the sacraments, not some impersonal power within the hands of a shaman-like figure; also, the benefit is spiritual rather then material; finally, they're not in the form of direct orders, but in a euchological, prayer-like style, as God is the ultimate authority deciding whether the sacrament is correctly performed by a legitimate performer.

In Christ,
Alessandro

Ross Warnell said...

Do I believe in the Real Presence? You bet I do. What I am trying ot say is say is too much print is wasted on what happens to the bread and not nearly enough about the transformation of the gathered assembly into the Real Presence of Jesus in the world.

Ross Warnell
Smithville, MO

Chatto said...

Jack - won't the priest in the Eastern Rites say "The Body and Blood of Christ" at Communion because you receive them both at the same time? I was a Russian liturgy recently, wherein both species were given at the same time by means of a golden spoon. As Fr. R points out, this doesn't affect the meaning of this article.

Also, it's worth bearing in mind that Fr. R is a Latin Rite priest, and so will draw on his experience in that Rite, and it's attendant writers like St. Thomas. Nothing in that implies that Fr. R is ignorant of the other half of our church. Want to address the balance? Find a priest in one of the Eastern Rites to write a blog (I suggest calling it 'Eastern Writes') and they can talk about Divine Liturgies and the work of St. Gregory Palamas to their (and your, and indeed our) heart's content.

Brad said...

My Mormon mom goes to Mass with me when she visits and is very docile. She was with me this past Sunday and was of course deluged with all the references to Body and Blood, including a Corpus Christi procession afterward. She had some sweet and telling questions about the species, etc afterward. I just laughed inside and thought: mauahahaha, He's got you now!

Anonymous said...

I wish we had received a sermon like this on Sunday, but the Deacon gave the "homily" and reinforced the mistaken notion that unless you receive both, you do not receive the whole.

I really grow weary of this.

Veronica

Chatto said...

Hi Father, another quick question. Is it simply a practical matter that the Host is displayed for Adoration, and not the Precious Blood? If a way could be found to display It for Adoration, would that be proper? Perhaps something like the phial of Blood in the basilica in Bruges?

Reginaldus said...

TO ALL: This weekend I will try to get caught up on comments from the week.
[I have been away from a computer for the last several days]

Thank you for your patience!

Reginaldus said...

@Ross,
About that which we love, the Church never tires of writing.
Hence, while you see the many tracts and spiritual/theological reflections on Christ's greatest gift of himself in the Eucharist to be "too much print" and a mere "waste" ... the Church, because she loves the Eucharist and loves Christ present therein, sees these writings as expressions of love.

Most troubling of all is your opposition of the Real Presence and the Mystical Body (the Church) ... as though devotion to the Real Presence necessitates failing to think of the Church and the salvation of the world.

Reginaldus said...

Alessandro,
Nicely put!

Reginaldus said...

Chatto,
It is indeed mostly a practical matter that we adore the Host ... as you point out, it is difficult to preserve the Precious Blood, as the accidents tend to corrupt.

However, I would point out one other thing: When St. Thomas discusses the fittingness of bread for the matter of the Eucharist, he states that it is better than meat (i.e. it was more fitting for Jesus to use bread than to use meat at the Last Supper).
The objection is that meat would more closely call to mind that the Eucharist is Christ's own flesh.
But St. Thomas responds that bread lasts longer than meat (esp unleavened bread) and thus the use of bread directs the Church to reserve the Sacrament for adoration.

Hence, there is a logical (though not absolute) connection between the Host and Eucharistic Adoration.

Peace to you!

Mark of the Vineyard said...

"However, I would point out one other thing: When St. Thomas discusses the fittingness of bread for the matter of the Eucharist, he states that it is better than meat (i.e. it was more fitting for Jesus to use bread than to use meat at the Last Supper).
The objection is that meat would more closely call to mind that the Eucharist is Christ's own flesh.
But St. Thomas responds that bread lasts longer than meat (esp unleavened bread) and thus the use of bread directs the Church to reserve the Sacrament for adoration."

Does St. Thomas not address the matter of continuity of worship as well? IMHO, the fittingness of bread is that it provides continuity with OT worship.

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