I know that the title is provocative, but please understand that I am serious in this question. At this point, I believe that it is very difficult for Roman Catholics who hold to Transubstantiation (is there any other kind of Roman Catholic!) to find harmony with a basic principle in the Definition of Chalcedon. In other words, I believe that Catholics are at odds with some essential elements of orthodox Christology.
Having said that, it may be that I am misunderstanding things (this would not be a first). So I write this post with the intention of informing my audience of a very intriguing issue, giving them a better look at Chalcedonian Christology, and giving an opportunity to Catholics to give an answer to this issue (if there are any that happen by—and there usually are).
I am going to explain the issue and I want all of you to hang with me through some deep waters. I will try to navigate you to a point where you understand why I believe (tentatively) that Catholics deny Chalcedon because of their view of Mass.
Orthodoxy has historically claimed that Christ is fully God and fully man. This is not an arbitrary pronouncement or belief, but is one that is central to an understanding of the Gospel.
Short history lesson.
After Nicea (A.D. 325), the central theological issue that presented itself to the Church was this: Now that Christ was understood to be fully God, of the same substance with the Father, how did his humanity relate to his deity.
There were three initial responses that helped shape orthodoxy as it prepared for Chalcedon (A.D. 451).
1. Nestorianism: The belief that Christ’s human nature and divine nature were separate to the degree that they each possessed their own personhood. Christ could sometimes act from his human person and sometimes his divine person.
2. Eutychianism: The belief that Christ’s humanity was assumed into his deity. This mixture of human and divine commingled to the degree that the humanity virtually disappeared as a drop of water might be lost in the ocean. This created a mixture of sorts between the human and divine.
3. Apollinarianism: The belief that Christ’s human spirit and soul were replaced with the divine spirit and soul. As some people called it, Christ was “God in a bod.”
The problem with Nestorianism is that we are introduced to two persons, not one Christ. The second person of the Trinity cannot be divided into two separate consciousnesses each possessing their own attributes and acting in accordance with a distinct will.
The problem with Eutychianism is that the new entity created by the commingling of natures could not represent man to God. Reason? Because the new entity is neither human nor divine, but a new sort of “humine.” Since humanity needed to be represented by one of its own, Christ’s new nature could not qualify.
The problem with Apollinarianism is that Christ was lacking a human soul and spirit. Without these two essential components to the human constitution, Christ could not represent humanity. Humanity does not only need their material body represented, but their entire constitution, body, soul, and/or spirit.
Chalcedon stepped in and condemned each of the options above opting for a person who possess two complete natures, human and divine. These natures do not separate and cannot be commingled, mixed, or confused. In this, Christ’s natures are complete and do not share or communicate their attributes. Christ’s humanity cannot mix with his deity and thereby take on divine characteristics.
Here is the relavant statement in the Chalcedonian Definition:
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin . . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence . . .
Okay, I am getting there . . .
The Roman Catholic view of Mass (or the Lord’s supper) is that a miraculous event occurs as the bread and wine offered actually turn into the real body and blood of Christ. The substance of each change while the accidents (that which is seen and tasted) stay the same. This is known as “transubstantiation” because the “substance” “trans”-forms into Christ’s actual body and blood.
Transubstantiation meet Chalcedon.
The problem, if you have not already begun to see, is that Christ’s body cannot be really present since it would inevitably have to be at countless millions of places at one time. Humanity cannot be in more than one place at one time. Christ’s humanity is only present in one locale at any one moment according to Chalcedon. Why? Because the attributes of deity cannot be communicated to Christ’s humanity. Christ’s human body (that which is supposed to be present at every Mass all over the world) does not and cannot possess omnipresence.
Tomorrow’s Theological Word of the Day will be “extra Calvinisticum” (I am prophetic!), which says this:
The belief among Calvinists that Christ’s humanity is not infinite or omnipresent and therefore can only be at one place at one time, even after the ascension. This, according to adherents, is the historic view as espoused by the Chalcedonian definition since, according to the definition, Christ’s human nature cannot share attributes with the divine nature. The implications would be at odds with the Roman Catholic view of Transubstantiation as well as the Lutheran view of Consubstantiation, both of which believe that Christ’s human nature can be at more than one place at one time during the sacrament of mass or the Lord’s Supper. The “extra” has to do with the belief among Calvinists that while Christ’s humanity was finite, there was a sense in which Christ was still infinite, holding the world together. In other words, finite could not contain the infinite (finitum non capax infiniti).
Therefore, it would seem that Roman Catholics would have to either redefine Chalcedon to fit their view of Transubstantiation, or else redefine their view of Transubstantiation. Neither of which is really possible.
These are the questions I have for my Catholic friends: Can Christ’s humanity be at more than one place at one time? If so, how does this happen sinse there cannot be a communication of the attributes of each nature? How do you square your view of Transubstantiation with Chalcedon?
If one were to say that Chalcedon only has implication for Christ while he was on earth, but post-resurrection his attributes can be communicated, how does he then now serve as the pioneer of humanity and how does he intercede for us as a high priest?