Thursday 18 January 2007

The eucharistic event

“The eucharistic event, as a movement from absence to presence, is as such a movement from chaos to order, darkness to light, death to life. It is an inventive, ordering event on the same plane as the act of creation, though its actual results are largely withheld from our view.”

—Douglas Farrow, Ascension and Ecclesia: On the Significance of the Doctrine of the Ascension for Ecclesiology and Christian Cosmology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), p. 5.


Anonymous said...

I haven't read the book, the quote lacks a context, and it is full of richly suggestive and intertextual language, but do we have here a statement about transubstantiation? If so, it perhaps highlights the principal problem Protestants (if it is true that Refomation objections about the "sacrifice" of the Mass have recently been somewhat allayed) have (or should have!) with Roman eucharistic theology. To put it in Derridean terms, it is the problem of presence.

Lutherans, of course, but also Calvinists have no problem with the "real presence" as such, indeed they too insist on it. Even the ex opere operato, certainly for Luther, and I think for Calvin too, (as Jüngel puts it for Luther) "when rightly understood, could not be offensive" ("rightly understood", however, meaning according to the word spoken, by God alone as the acting subject, by the priest only as witness, which, of course, raises another point of dispute between Protestants and Romans, viz. that concerning the priesthood and eucharistic presidency).

But the biggest problem is the problem of presence as immediacy (in its extreme form, presence as substance). Calvinists will insist on a dialectical, dynamic and, paradoxically, apophatic understanding of presence, which Calvin's pneumatological and Sursum Corda theology of the eucharist tries to secure. In an interesting essay "Corpus Verum: On the Ecclesial Recovery of Real Presence in John Calvin's Doctrine of the Eucharist" (in James K. A. Smith and James H. Olthuis, eds., Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition [2005]), Nathan R. Kerr further notes Calvin's "ecclesial construal of real presence", which he explains (somewhat turgidly!): "ontic absence translates into the ontological space for temporal and communal embodiment, in which the believer that apprehends Christ's body through the reception of faith participates by actively becoming what she receives."

I wonder if Jean-Luc Marion's concept of the "icon", as opposed to the "idol" (which claims presence and immediacy), might be a helpful talking point between Catholic and Reformed on the real presence.

Halden said...

Kim, I believe Farrow has become Catholic himself since the publication of this book, if that information intersts you.

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