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Do Catholics Deny Chalcedon in their View of Mass?

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.

Component #1:

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 . . .

Component #2

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?

170 Responses to “Do Catholics Deny Chalcedon in their View of Mass?”

  1. Great post Michael!

    I think you are right.

    You know Calvin mounted this argument contra Roman Catholicism. He was countered with the charge of Nestorianism, based on his view of the spiritual presence of Christ in the observance of the Supper.

    But the charge of Nestorianism was clearly bogus. Calvin’s spiritual presence simply requires the omnipresence of the divine nature of Christ. And affirming the omnipresence of the divine nature of Christ merely requires a distinguishing of the two natures not a separation. Chalcedon, of course, carefully and beautifully affirms a distinction of natures (thus avoiding Eutychianism) while condemning separation (thus avoiding Nestorianism).

  2. C Michael Patton August 27, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks Jay. Hopefully we can see how some can reconcile this. I have asked many Catholics before and it normally does not register as something they have thought about. Or some will refer to the communicatio idiomatum which only refers to the communication of the natures to the person, not the communication between natures.

  3. “following the holy fathers”. This was the formula of all the councils from the beginning. Not very much of “scripture says”. Because can scripture really tell you definitively whether Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Apollinarianism or orthodoxy is correct? I’m dubious. For example, since scripture doesn’t define the concept of a person, it’s a bit hard to form a biblical argument about it.

    Now who’s to say that humanity can’t be in more that one place at one time? The bible doesn’t say that. The bible doesn’t say this is an attribute of deity. Maybe you could argue being _everywhere_ at once is an attribute of deity, but that isn’t what we are dealing with here, and besides which, you’d have to prove that too. And furthermore, since men are to be partakers of the divine nature, who’s to say that attributes that happen to be exclusive to God right now, must all remain so?

    In any case, my body can be in thousands of places at once. I leave skin cells in every keyboard I use. Part of me is at home now, and bits of me are at work. My spirit is not in those place at once, but do you seriously wish to argue that Christ can’t be spiritually in many places at once? Haven’t you then robbed Christ of his deity in order to restrict him to your preconceived notion of humanity? Or do you want to split Christ into two persons, one of which can be everywhere present spiritually, but the other must stay in heaven?

    I didn’t see Christ’s body obeying the normal rules of humanity when on earth. He seemed to materialise in places, and then dematerialise. Not very human like. If he can do that, who’s to say he can’t materialise in two places at once? I for one look forward to having three way “conference calls” in heaven, with no telephone required.

    I think there are elements of Nestorianism and other heresies lurking in protestant thought even now. You want to split Christ into the human and the divine, and allow only one of them to do certain stuff. If Christ is one person, human and divine, then he can do everything God does, without checking his humanity in the cloakroom on the way.

  4. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 2:00 am

    Peter,

    you said: “I didn’t see Christ’s body obeying the normal rules of humanity when on earth. He seemed to materialise in places, and then dematerialise. Not very human like.”

    In what places to you see Christ doing this? From what I can see, Christ was very human in his actions. Nevertheless, how do you deal with the dictates of Chalcedon that Christ did not have an intermindleing between his divine nature and human nature? Do you understand why they made such pronouncements? Do you see why Christ had to be fully man? Do you see why they would say that he could not communicate his divine attributes from his divine nature to his human nature?

  5. Peter makes a good point: Christ’s body is not the same body as it was pre-resurrection. Given the characteristics we can see in his post-resurrection body, I’m not sure your argument holds. It plainly shows some supernatural attributes (unrecognisability, walking through solid objects), yet we don’t claim that he is not human because of them.

  6. David Di Giacomo August 28, 2008 at 7:37 am

    I agree with Peter and Damian. Christ is fully and completely human, yet because he is the Son of God (and after his resurrection, the Son of God in a glorified human body) he does stuff we can’t do. He walks on water. He somehow walks right through a mob who have cornered him on a cliff and are ready to throw him off. He is transfigured before the very eyes of his disciples, and the appearance of his face changes. He later chooses whether or not people can recognize him, and when. He appears to his disciples in a sealed room with locked doors. He literally ascends into the heavens by rising bodily into the cloud. Clearly, he is doing stuff with his own phsyical body that we can’t do. Does this make him less human? It is my understanding that Christianity has always taught the exact opposite: that he was and is the first fully realized human being on the planet, more human than any of us are or have ever been, and he is showing us, by his resurrection and everything else he does, what we have to look forward to if we endure till the end.

    So who is to say that he cannot be in many places at once? Who is to say that the bread and the wine do not literally become his body and blood on the grounds that this would deny his humanity? Who are we to ascertain what the limits of a non-fallen human nature really are? How can we fathom such mysteries? I don’t know that Christ has really given us that man answers, only tantalizing hints of what awaits us as we are conformed more and more to his image.

    (In the interests of full disclosure, I am not Roman Catholic; I am, however, seriously, seriously, very seriously considering becoming Orthodox; the Orthodox church holds similar views concerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, without seeking to define the process by which this is accomplished as the RC do in their doctine of transubstantiation. And there is no church in the world that holds the seven ecumenical councils, including that of Chalcedon, in such high regard as the Orthodox Church!)

  7. At each Mass, after the consecration, the priest elevates the consecrated elements and intones: “Let us proclaim this mystery of faith.” How the elements become the body and blood of Christ cannot be known it is a mystery of faith. It’s just like Christ’s conception or his resurrection — how exactly did it happen? Man’s intellect doesn’t have the capabilities to precisely describe it or understand it, that’s why it is a mystery of faith.

    However, I believe St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica addressed some of the issues you raise in the post. In Question 76 of the 3rd part he argues that the substance of Christ’s body and blood are present in the Holy Sacrament, but they are not present in dimensions or quantity. This means that Christ doesn’t become less complete each time a priest consecrates a host.

    Also in it’s definition of transubstantiation the Church realizes that it is the substance of the host that changes, not its physical aspects. Christ’s body and blood has to be seen through the eyes of faith — no amount of physical examination or scientific analysis will find Christ in the host.

    It seems to me Protestants are trying to dissect this issue on a purely physical level or applying earthly concepts to heavenly realities. It can’t be done.

    ChadS

  8. Let me post another quote from St. Thomas Aquinas, this one from Question 75, Third Part.

    Objection 3. Further, no body can be in several places at the one time. For this does not even belong to an angel; since for the same reason it could be everywhere. But Christ’s is a true body, and it is in heaven. Consequently, it seems that it is not in very truth in the sacrament of the altar, but only as in a sign.

    Reply to Objection 3. Christ’s body is not in this sacrament in the same way as a body is in a place, which by its dimensions is commensurate with the place; but in a special manner which is proper to this sacrament. Hence we say that Christ’s body is upon many altars, not as in different places, but “sacramentally”: and thereby we do not understand that Christ is there only as in a sign, although a sacrament is a kind of sign; but that Christ’s body is here after a fashion proper to this sacrament, as stated above.

    ChadS

  9. CMP:

    Damian makes a good point. The scriptural evidence about Christ’s risen body indicates that it has certain characteristics and abilities well beyond those of ordinary human bodies, including his own before his death. That’s why St. Paul calls it a “spiritual” body, even though we must also affirm its humanity on pain of denying that the Incarnation, in Chalcedon’s sense, still holds. At the very least, this means that one cannot draw easy conclusions about how his risen body can or cannot be present on earth.

    Re its presence in the Eucharist, St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest expositor of “transubstantiation,” actually denies that Christ’s risen body is locally present in the consecrated elements. Instead he says: “Christ’s body is in this sacrament not after the proper manner of dimensive quantity, but rather after the manner of substance.” What does “after the manner of substance” mean? Well, to understand that even to a limited extent, you need to understand a good deal of Greek metaphysics, and neither of us has time to get into all that right now. But one point should be stressed here. The consecrated elements are “one substance,” namely the Incarnate Word himself, in a way very similar to, if not precisely identical with, how the divine and human natures of the Incarnate Word, interrelated as Chalcedon taught, form that one substance or hypostasis which is God the Son himself.

    Chalcedonian Christology has it that Jesus Christ is “one substance” in “two natures,” the natures being closely united without intermingling with or annihilating each other. That one substance or hypostasis is of course a divine person, God the Son, who has existed from all eternity. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus Christ isn’t a man. All it means is that his being a man does not make the hypostasis or substance with which he is self-identical into a human hypostasis or substance. In that respect, he is unlike other men. Christ was and remains human, but not “after the manner of substance.” I suggest that the case is similar with the bread and wine which, according to the Catholic tradition, become at the Eucharist “the body, blood, soul, and divinity” of Jesus Christ.

    All the standard “physical” properties of bread and wine remain in the consecrated elements, but they are no longer the physical substances or hypostases of bread and wine. They are now identical with the substance of Jesus Christ himself, the divine person who was and remains incarnate as a man, albeit with a body whose properties transcend our own in many ways. But their “transubstantiation” into that substance or hypostasis no more annihilates their physical properties than Christ’s being a divine substance or hypostasis annihilates his humanity. All it means is that he incorporates those physical elements into his risen body, thus making them identical with himself qua substance. Thus, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, he does something to which the ordinary process of “eating” is a faint analogue. And then of course we literally eat the elements in our turn, taking his substance into our own without in any way damaging or dispersing his.

    Of course this process is mysterious. The dogma of “transubstantiation” does not explain the mystery so much as state it. But it’s no more mysterious than Chalcedonian Christology. In fact, what’s involved is quite similar to what Chalcedon taught is involved with the Incarnation itself. It’s mysterious not only to the same degree, but in the same way, as that in which Chalcedonian Christology is mysterious.

    One consequence of this is that we must affirm a communicatio idiomata, a certain “communication of properties,” in both the Incarnation and the Eucharist. E.g. we not only can but ought to affirm that “God died on the Cross.” That doesn’t mean that divinity literally ceased to exist on the Cross; what it means is that, in and through the Incarnate Son of God’s death on the Cross, God was undergoing and thus doing something for us. That once-for-all act is mysteriously extended across time and space to the offering of the Eucharist itself by the Lord’s priests. Moreover we not only can but ought to affirm, as did the Council of Ephesus did twenty years before Chalcedon, that Mary is the Mother of God. That doesn’t mean that divinity literally began to exist in Mary’s womb. It means that, by assuming human nature from and in Mary, God the Son entered the world just as we do, and thus God acquired a mother. So, contrary to what you assert, there not only can be “a communication of the attributes of each nature,” but we ought to affirm as much, precisely for Chalcedonian reasons.

    As a regular Catholic blogger, I often find myself confronted with arguments that the body of Catholic dogma is inconsistent with itself in this-or-that respect. Since I don’t want to invite more such arguments, I shall not now cite any examples other than yours. I mention my experience only so as to cite the lesson I’ve learned from it: invariably, I find that the critic has simply misunderstood at least one of the doctrines in question. In isolated cases, that would not be at all strange. What I do find strange is the apparent frequency of the belief that the Catholic Church, despite her nearly two thousand years of teaching, dogmatizing, and theological reflection, somehow keeps missing the rather elementary points of logic that would expose her doctrinal inconsistency. I would gently urge you to be very careful before you adopt a stance which entails something so unlikely.

    Best,
    Mike

  10. Michael, I’m afraid that your argument fails for two reasons.

    First, while the Chalcedonian definition insists upon the unity of the divine and human natures in the one person of Jesus Christ, it does not tell us anything about the powers and properties of resurrection bodies or whether heaven is properly understood as a “place” or whatever. It has certainly been a common opinion in the West that heaven is a “place” that is spatially located someplace other than here, yet in the East strong voices have asserted just the opposite. John of Damascus writes:

    “Christ sits in the body at the right hand of God the Father, but we do not hold that the right hand of the Father is actual place. For how could He that is uncircumscribed have a right hand limited by place? But we understand the right hand of the Father to be the glory and honor of the Godhead in which the Son of God, Who existed as God before the ages, and is of like essence to the Father, and in the end became flesh, has a seat in the body, His flesh sharing in the glory. For He along with His flesh is adored with one adoration by all creation.”

    Martin Luther agreed with the Damascene on this point, and I suspect so would many Catholic theologians today.

    Second, within the Catholic Church there are many construals and interpretations of the dogma of transubstantiation, but everyone agrees that the Christ is NOT present in the Eucharist in a spatial way. This was the whole point of Aquinas’s separation of substance and accident, to allow for a presence that is real and substantial yet uncircumscribable. Christ is physically and spatially located only in heaven; in the Eucharist he is present in the dimensionless and mysterious mode of substance:

    “Christ’s body is not in this sacrament in the normal way an extended body exists, but rather just as if it were purely and simply substance. Now every body that is in a place is in place precisely as it is an extended body, that is, it corresponds to the place that contains it according to its dimensions. It follows then that Christ’s body is in this sacrament not as in a place, but purely in the way that substance is, in the way that substance is contained by the dimensions. It is to the substance of the bread that the substance of Christ’s body succeeds in this sacrament. Hence, as the substance of the bread was not under its dimensions in the way an extended body is in a place, but in the way which is proper to substance to be under dimensions, so likewise the body of Christ is not under the dimensions of the bread locally” (ST 3a.76.5).

    For a contemporary Catholic discussion of this question, see Herbert McCabe, “Eucharistic Change.”

  11. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Chad, so Christ’s body is there but only sacramentally? Not really there? Love Aquinas, but I don’t think he touches on the issue.

  12. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Others, you all are not dealing with the issues of Chalcedon. Do you think that Chalcedon only had to do with Christ’s pre-resurrected body? I don’t think you could make such an argument.

    As to Christ “walking through walls” walking on water, etc. this is not something unique to Christ and has nothing to do, in my opinion, with a communication of attributes or an extra quota of human attributes. Besides all of the redemptive problems that this would cause, one can just say that it was a miracle of God that accomplished his walking on water or through crowds. Even Philip was transported from one place to another by the Holy Spirit, but this did not mean his body had the attribute of levitation.

    What I hear you all saying concerns me because you are saying that Christ did not really have to be human. This is the entire issue of Chalcedon. If Christ is not human, but some Eutychian agglomeration (which is what I hear some of you saying), we are in trouble.

  13. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Thanks Fr.

    That is helpful, but, from what I can see, does not really touch the issue at hand.

    First, Chalcedon, in my opinion, does deal with Christ post-resurrection. To deal with this question by saying that post-resurrection bodies inherit the attribute of omnipresence is problematic with regard to redemption. Redemption is not redeeming humanity into a foreign entity, but a redemption from sin where humanity as it is is restored. Otherwise, why resurrect the same bodies? Post resurrection bodies will be fully human. The only difference is that they will be without sin. Omnipresence is a property of God, not creation. It cannot be communicated to creation anymore than omnipotence or aseity.

    Second, the separation between substance and accident does not solve the problem in any way since it is precisely the “substance” in transubstantiation that causes the conflict with Chalcedon, not the accident.

  14. CMP:

    You write: What I hear you all saying concerns me because you are saying that Christ did not really have to be human.

    I do not deny Christ’s full humanity. I just deny that his full humanity is precisely what you believe it to be, and I’ve given a substantive argument as to why. I also deny that my position is what you think it is.

    Do you think that Chalcedon only had to do with Christ’s pre-resurrected body? I don’t think you could make such an argument.

    Since my answer to your question is “no,” I’m not making the argument you say couldn’t be made.

    As to Christ “walking through walls” walking on water, etc. this is not something unique to Christ and has nothing to do, in my opinion, with a communication of attributes or an extra quota of human attributes. Besides all of the redemptive problems that this would cause, one can just say that it was a miracle of God that accomplished his walking on water or through crowds. Even Philip was transported from one place to another by the Holy Spirit, but this did not mean his body had the attribute of levitation.

    There’s a lot of misunderstanding in that, which needs sorting out.

    First, it is true that some of the miraculous things Christ did with his body are not unique to him. Indeed we should affirm that they are not, since we too will have risen bodies like his on the Last Day. But it doesn’t follow that his ability to do such things didn’t come from any communicatio idiomata. The ability of any man to do such things comes from God, and Christ is God. Hence they come from him. It is, I suppose, logically possible that such things could occur without the Incarnation, but that is not in fact how things are. In the actual world, the Incarnation is that Great Miracle from which all others flow, either directly or through intermediate causes.

    Second, I don’t know what “redemptive problems” you’re trying to saddle the doctrine of communicatio idiomata with. We all agree here that Christ assumed human nature, but was not a human person but rather a divine person. That’s just what Chalcedon affirmed; if you deny that, as the Nestorians did, then you either don’t understand or don’t accept Chalcedon. Therefore, we were redeemed by a divine person who assumed human nature without ceasing to be divine by nature. The doctrine of communicatio idiomata is simply a logical consequence of that. It means that we must attribute to Jesus Christ, who was and is a man but not a human person, the properties of that divine hypostasis with which he is identical. Why do you have a problem with that?

    Best,
    Mike

  15. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Mike, you are misunderstanding. As I said before, I do not deny the communicatio idiomata, but it does not apply here in my opinion since it only deals with the communication of the natures to the person of Christ, not between natures. This is what the extra Calvinisticum deals with. That the person of Christ is omnipresent (and in some sense always has been) is not debated. What is at issue is that the body of Christ cannot be omnipresent since this would necessitate a communication of attributes between natures.

    Redemptively, if Christ is something different now, some sort of super human with all sorts of new attributes that have been communicated to his humanity, 1) he does not, in my thoughts, represent us as a High Priest and 2) he does not represent a restored humanity, but a recreated humanity.

    Concerning the “spiritual” body of the resurrection, this has to do with the disposition of the body, not the substance. The disposition is without sin and therefore spiritual. (I don’t remember who brought that up.)

  16. Michael,

    Yes Christ is present sacramentally. Like Mike L and Fr. Alvin pointed out Aquinas was making a distinction between the substance and accidents.

    Yes, Aquinas does seem to have a bearing on this whole discussion since you claim that Christ can’t be present in the sacrament without somehow doing damage to his body. All three of us Catholics and the seeking-Orthodox poster have made similar points regarding Chalcedon’s definition and the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.

    ChadS

  17. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 9:44 am

    I was not saying that Aquinas himself does not have bearing, but that his arguments don’t really solve the issue since it is the substance that causes the conflict, not the accidents.

    Anyway, if you are satisfied with it, that is cool. You may be seeing something that I am not. But at this point, I cannot have integrity in my thinking and not recognize a serious conflict between Christ’s real presence and Chalcedon.

  18. Michael, the same Fathers who formulated the Chalcedonian definition also believed and confessed the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the risen Christ. They certainly did not understand themselves as calling into question the eucharistic faith of the Church. I suggest that you are misapplying the Chalcedonian dogma.

    Catholics and Orthodox confess together that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. At no point do they deny the full humanity of Christ; quite the contrary, the purpose of the eucharistic transformation is to enable the baptized to participate in Christ’s risen humanity: “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” At no point do they separate the divine and human natures of Christ: the flesh of Christ we receive in the Eucharist is salvific and life-giving precisely because it is the flesh of the God-Man. Cyril of Alexandria is instructive here. He argues for the unity of the divine and human natures of Christ on the basis of the eucharistic faith of the Church (see his 3rd letter to Nestorius).

    All is mystery here. The Incarnation is mystery. We cannot understand how it is possible that Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine. The Eucharist is mystery. We cannot understand how bread and wine can become the flesh and blood of the Savior. But we do not deny these revealed truths simply because our logic fails us. Instead we affirm both and seek to understand how they are connected in the economy of salvation.

  19. CMP:

    I see that we keep misunderstanding each other. Let me stress, however, that such a fact does not pose a problem for the Catholic Church. It poses only a problem of communication between individuals.

    You write:

    I do not deny the communicatio idiomata, but it does not apply here in my opinion since it only deals with the communication of the natures to the person of Christ, not between natures. This is what the extra Calvinisticum deals with. That the person of Christ is omnipresent (and in some sense always has been) is not debated. What is at issue is that the body of Christ cannot be omnipresent since this would necessitate a communication of attributes between natures.

    I still think you’re misunderstanding the import of the doctrine of communicatio idiomata. If Christ is a man, which he is, then whatever he does as Christ he also does as a man. That Christ-as-man is not also, according to Chalcedon, a human person is irrelevant. That he does tremendous things as a man does not mean that his human nature is annihilated; it means that his human nature is elevated. He destines us for the same ourselves. That’s why he said that “You are gods” (John 10:34), and that’s why 2 Peter says that we are to become “partakers of the divine nature” (1:4).

    Your misunderstanding here arises from the assumption that what is “natural” in human nature cannot, without ceasing to be human nature, be elevated and augmented to a very great extent by being joined to the divine nature in the person of Christ. That assumption is false. I see now why you make it though:

    Redemptively, if Christ is something different now, some sort of super human with all sorts of new attributes that have been communicated to his humanity, 1) he does not, in my thoughts, represent us as a High Priest and 2) he does not represent a restored humanity, but a recreated humanity.

    Christ represents and intercedes for us as “high priest” in the very ways that the Letter to the Hebrews talks about. You have offered no argument that those ways are logically incompatible with his humanity’s elevation, augmentation, and glorification in the Incarnation and the Resurrection. In fact, they are not only compatible but mutually implicated. For it is precisely in virtue of his humanity’s elevation by his divinity that he does what he has done and still does for us in the Redemption. Those who definitively accept him as their savior will become like him and, indeed, are already becoming like him.

    Concerning the “spiritual” body of the resurrection, this has to do with the disposition of the body, not the substance. The disposition is without sin and therefore spiritual.

    That involves is a conceptual error. If ‘spiritual’ simply meant ‘without sin’, then no spirit could be sinful, which is contrary to the fact of Satan and his demons. Rather, when Paul spoke of the risen body as “spiritual,” he meant “supernatural,” i.e. beyond mere nature. That is obviously true of Christ’s risen body, and will be true of ours. In turn, that reality derives ultimately from the divine Son’s assumption of human nature. Therefore, it does have to do with the “substance” of Christ. The substance of Christ is his person or hypostasis, which is divine. And it is that Person which elevates human nature, thus destining our bodies to become like his risen body.

    Best,
    Mike

  20. Michael,

    That’s cool. I respect your desire for consistency in your thoughts and outlook.

    I just read some quote from one of the early Church saints (it was either Ambrose or Athanasius, can’t remember) but he said if God is powerful enough to bring matter into existence out of nothing through speaking a word then surely Christ can be present in the Eucharist.

    At some point on my journey to the Catholic Church after believing that communion was nothing more than a symbol I came to the realization I was trying to put God in a box of my own making by saying what he can and can’t do. Who was I to claim he wasn’t present in the Eucharist? I realized I was nobody to make such a claim.

    Okay, hardly a definitive argument one way or the other but that’s where I’m coming from too.

    ChadS

  21. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 10:12 am

    “Michael, the same Fathers who formulated the Chalcedonian definition also believed and confessed the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the risen Christ. They certainly did not understand themselves as calling into question the Eucharistic faith of the Church. I suggest that you are misapplying the Chalcedonian dogma.”

    Maybe so, but that is certainly not a point to which everyone would concede. As well, conflicts arise as doctrine is articulated and one often finds that systematizing these issues because problematic only after an essential point have been brought to the table of church history. In my opinion, the early church believed a very simplistic view of the Lord’s table, not necessarily defining what it means. In other words, I don’t see transubstantiation. Therefore, I don’t find much weight in your statement here.

    Please understand that I am not saying that Catholics, Orthodox, or Lutherans explicit deny Chalcedon (of course not!), but that the conflict that is created by the real presence, in my opinion creates a dilemma where both Chalcedon and real presence (in the Catholic sense) cannot be affirmed with integrity.

    While I certainly respect the idea of mystery, I don’t see this qualifying since “mysteries” do not involve contraditions, but paradox. What I see here is a contradiction.

    Btw, thanks for engaging in this. At the very least it serves to remove any Christological cobwebs!

  22. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Mike, as I read your arguements I cannot help but wonder how it escapes that charge of Eutychianism or Monphysitism. (But that is the point of my original post!).

    Anyway, thanks for the engagement. I am not sure we can get too much further, but it gives us food for thought.

  23. CMP writes: “Maybe so, but that is certainly not a point to which everyone would concede. As well, conflicts arise as doctrine is articulated and one often finds that systematizing these issues because problematic only after an essential point have been brought to the table of church history. In my opinion, the early church believed a very simplistic view of the Lord’s table, not necessarily defining what it means. In other words, I don’t see transubstantiation. Therefore, I don’t find much weight in your statement here.”

    Michael,

    I think one thing that should be taken into consideration when reading the Church Fathers is that just because they didn’t use the sophisticated theologically precise terminology 21st century man prefers that they were any less clear about what they meant. So what seems like symbolic and somewhat less precise language was probably very clear to their hearers.

    The preciseness of language might not have been necessary since there were no serious doctrinal challenges to the real presence in the earliest centuries. Remember, afterall, that the only reason we have Chalcedon and the other councils was because groups like the Nestorians, Arians, Apollinarians etc. arose to challenge orthodox thinking and were able to lead large parts of Christendom astray.

    It wasn’t until the Council of Trent and the challenge from the Reformation that the Church finally defined transubstantiation and much of that theology in the language we know and seem to prefer today.

    Anyhow, to me the Church Fathers seem quite clear enough.

    ChadS

  24. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Exactly. We are all going to read these things through our theological lenses. I would just say that the best we can do is say that until the controvery arose, the doctrine remained unarticulated. Therefore, assuming either of our theologies into what they believed about the eucharist would be going beyond our abilities.

    Now, having said that, Chalcedon plays its role in helping us understand why the Reformers rejected what they believed to be a later development of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. And that is really the point of this post.

  25. “All it means is that he incorporates those physical elements into his risen body, thus making them identical with himself qua substance.”

    I need some clarification of terms.

    The substance of Christ, as I understand it, is not the person of Christ, nor His body; the substance of Christ is the very substance of God. So if the bread takes on the same substance as Christ, it becomes fully God, in the same way that Christ is fully God, yet it would not (by that) share Christ’s person or body.

    Because of that (mis?)understanding, I’m hindered in accepting that it might be possible that “substance” could explain how the bread could truly be Christ’s body.

    In other words: it seems to me that using “substance” to explain the doctrine of transubstantiation misses the point.

    Unless, of course, the substance of Christ is _different_ from the substance of Christ’s body. Could that be?

  26. David Di Giacomo August 28, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Mr. Patton,

    Why should we accept the claim that the Reformers, hundreds and hundreds of years after the facts, had a better grip on what went on in the minds of the Apostles and Church Fathers than all those who went before them? Why should we accept their doctrinal authority? Where did they get their ideas? If from the Holy Spirit, then why were they unable to come to any agreement? If from the Holy Spirit, then why, centuries after the Reformation, is there more and more disunity, rather than less?

    You’re right that we all read things through theological lenses. The question is which pair of spectacles is the more reliable. Increasingly, I am thinking that the older pair are much better than these new-fangled ones with which I was raised. And I suspect that you may be misreading Chalcedon because you are not wearing the same spectacles as those who were actually there, and who passed their lenses on to their successors.

  27. “Why should we accept the claim that the Reformers, hundreds and hundreds of years after the facts, had a better grip on what went on in the minds of the Apostles and Church Fathers than all those who went before them?”

    There’s a false claim here. The modern doctrine of the essence and accidents, and hence the modern understanding of transubstantiation, was developed by St. Aquinas, not by the Church Fathers. Until it was developed to that level of detail, there was little room for controversy (although I certainly see that the controversy has since expanded FAR beyond that).

  28. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    David, I think your statement is great and needs much consideration. But it all comes down to one’s view of the development of doctrine. Is the old the best or just a seed form of the best? http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/ParchmentandPen/files/Michael-Patton/An%20Emerging%20Understanding%20of%20Orthodox.pdf

  29. Maybe so, but that is certainly not a point to which everyone would concede. As well, conflicts arise as doctrine is articulated and one often finds that systematizing these issues because problematic only after an essential point have been brought to the table of church history. In my opinion, the early church believed a very simplistic view of the Lord’s table, not necessarily defining what it means. In other words, I don’t see transubstantiation. Therefore, I don’t find much weight in your statement here. Please understand that I am not saying that Catholics, Orthodox, or Lutherans explicit deny Chalcedon (of course not!), but that the conflict that is created by the real presence, in my opinion creates a dilemma where both Chalcedon and real presence (in the Catholic sense) cannot be affirmed with integrity.

    Michael, may I engage and challenge you further on this point. While it is certainly true that one does not find the Thomistic theory of transubstantiation in the early Church Fathers, one does find a common understanding of the eucharistic real identity, or what Francis Hall called the dogma of real identificationm (see my essay “Eating Christ.” What one doesn’t find in the Church Fathers is anything closely resembling a Calvinist understanding of real presence. The closest one comes, perhaps, is St Augustine; but even he is stronger on the real presence/identity than Calvin. This therefore places you in the awkward position of maintaining that Calvin’s “correction” of the simplistic views of the Church Fathers in fact represents an authentic development in eucharistic doctrine, despite the absence of patristic support for Calvin’s eucharistic teaching and despite the fact that the very large majority of Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and at least some Anglicans) disagree emphatically with it.

    One might, of course, assert that Calvin’s teaching faithfully represents the teaching of Scripture, from which the early Church quickly departed (2nd century?); but if the Fathers got the Supper so wrong so quickly, why trust their judgments expressed at Chalcedon or any of the other ecumenical councils?

  30. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    I am certianly not denying that many in the early church believed in some sort of “real presence.” What I am saying is that it was a primitive form of something that would later be better articulated by the various positions.

    “Though the trend was to see the communion elements as the actual body and blood of Christ, there is another strain as well that used symbolic vocabulary to refer to the elements of the Lord’s Supper. Serapion (died 211 AD) refers to the elements as “a likeness.” Eusebius of Caesarea (died c. 339 AD) on the one hand declares, “We are continually fed with the Savior’s body, we continually participate in the lamb’s blood,” but on the other states that Christians daily commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice “with the symbols of his body and saving blood,” and that he instructed his disciples to make “the image of his own body,” and to employ bread as its symbol. The Apostolical Constitutions (compiled c. 380 AD) use words such as “antitypes” and “symbols” to describe the elements, though they speak of communion as the body of Christ and the blood of Christ.

    Other Fathers who mix Real Presence vocabulary with symbolic terms include Cyril of Jerusalem (died 444),10 Gregory of Nazianzus (died 389), and Macarius of Egypt (died c. 390 AD). Athanasius clearly distinguishes the visible bread and wine from the spiritual nourishment they convey. The symbolic language did not point to absent realities, but were accepted as signs of realities which were present but apprehended by faith.

    While St. Augustine (died 430) can be quoted to support various views of the Lord’s Supper, he apparently accepted the widespread realism theory of his time, though in some passages he clearly describes the Lord’s Supper as a spiritual eating and drinking.”

    My point is that there is certianly room for historical ambiguity as to what it meant. This is why, I believe, that Chalcedon did not see an apparent conflict with their pronouncements and the eucharist.

  31. Michael, I have to challenge your reading of the Church Fathers. It is certainly true that many (most?) of the Church Fathers employed the language of symbol to speak of the eucharistic real presence, such usage cannot be interpreted along Calvinist lines. Cyril of Jerusalem provides a good example of a theologian who can employ both symbolic and realistic language in speaking of the eucharistic presence. But there can be no mistaking Cyril: the elements are truly transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

    Adolf Harnack explains how it was possible for the early Fathers to employ the language of symbol: “What we now-a-days understand by symbol is a thing which is not that which it represents; at that time [i.e., the patristic age] symbol denoted a thing which, in some kind of way, really is what it signifies.”

    J. N. D. Kelly agrees:

    “Occasionally these writers use language which has been held to imply that, for all its realist sound, their use of the terms ‘body’ and ‘blood’ may after all be merely symbolical. Tertullian, for example, refers [Against Marcion, 3, 19; 4, 40] to the bread as ‘a figure’ (figura) of Christ’s body, and once speaks [ibid., 1, 14] of ‘the bread by which He represents (repraesentat) His very body.’ Yet we should be cautious about interpreting such expressions in a modern fashion. According to the ancient modes of thought a mysterious relationship existed between the thing symbolized and its symbol, figure or type; the symbol in some sense was the thing symbolized. Again, the verb repraesentare, in Tertullian’s vocabulary, [ibid., 4, 22; On Monogamy, 10] retained its original significance of ‘to make present’ … he is trying, with the aid of the concept of figura, to rationalize to himself the apparent contradiction between (a) the dogma that the elements are now Christ’s body and blood, and (b) the empirical fact that for sensation they remain bread and wine” (Early Christian Doctrines, p. 212).

    “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (p. 440).

    (Darwell Stone’s History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist is necessary reading here.)

    Hence I cannot accept your claim of “historical ambiguity.” The Council of Chalcedon cannot be understood or accepted apart from the Council of Ephesus, which approved the eucharistic theology of Cyril of Alexandria as expressed in his 3rd letter to Nestorius. Moreover, the fathers of the seventh ecumenical council, II Nicaea, rejected the claim of the iconoclasts that the Eucharist is to be understood as a symbol of the Body and Blood: the bread and wine, the council fathers declares, are not icons or images of Christ; they *are* Christ.

    Whatever else the Church Fathers may have been, it may be safely said that, with regards to the Eucharist, they were NOT Calvinists. Hence I have to question your invocation of the Council of Chalcedon against the consensual teaching of the Church Fathers on the eucharistic presence. The real question is not whether the Catholic position on transubstantiation accords with the Chalcedonian definition. The real question is whether the views of Calvin and the other non-Lutheran reformers on the Eucharist can find significant support at all in the teachings of the Church Fathers.

  32. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    My point is that their is abiguity in defining what this meant. But there is also historic ambiguity in the sense that it was not settled and not univerally accepted by all Christians everywhere. As well, the ambiguity has to do with the issue of importance.

    In the end, my point is that the dictates of Chalcedon, which historically take precidence, in my opinion, over anyone’s opinions about the eucharist, are violated by Transubstantiation (and Consubstantiation). Therefore, from what I see, the two are not reconcilable. In this sense, it seems that the Roman Catholic church is at odds with Chalcedon on this central Christological issue.

    Hope that makes sense. Just want to stay with the original post (although this is a highly relavent discussion depending on how much weight one gives to tradition—which I give much to).

  33. Michael:

    I am a forner, very active, Catholic. Today, I am a moderate Cqlvinist, not as Calvinist as you, but respectful of your writing. I am Jesuit
    educated which will be obvious by my response to you regarding the Catholic position on transubstantiiation and the question dealt with at
    Chalcedon with regard to the person of Christ. This is my first blog response, so bear with me as this is new to me. I am now an Evangelical
    Christian joining with five others to found a new church in my home town of Santa Rosa, Ca..

    As an active and well educated Roman Catholic, I long ago rejected the concept of transubstantiation. I believe eucharist is a wonderful
    part of a worship celebration and we often celebrated just the eucharist apart from Mass when we met in our homes during Charismatic
    Renewal times. Most of the churches I have attended on this side celebrate it on the first Sunday of each month and it has deep meaning
    for me, but as a symboliic act recalling the instructions of Jesus at the last supper representing his broken body and poured out blood on our
    behalf. Most of my Catholic friends, at least those who were educated agreed with that position.

    The Mass re-enacts the sacrifice of Christ. It is, at heart, a sacrifiicial rite. That is Catholic doctrine and one of many reasons why I am no
    longer a Catholic. What you and your readers need to understand, though, is that is NO united and uniiversa catholic Catholic church, today.
    People are too educated to accept that. Many remain Catholic, but disagree with the Vatican and generally ingnore most of what comes
    out of the Vatican as theological nonsence and yet stay because of their love of the traditions (small t) and fellowship that being a
    Roman Catholic means as important in their lives. I did just for many years. I struggled with what I saw as hyprocrisy in the celibate
    clergy who were not living as celibates. The very concept of dogmatic celibacy requirements flies in the face of Schripture, but the
    magesterium hold onto to that faulity theolpgy even in the liight of the tragic lives of good men and woman struggling with their
    sexuatity, trying unsuccessfully to live within rules that ignore the way God created them. I could go on, but my only point was to try
    to illustrate that people great meaning in being Catholic without researching some of the theologiy, taught to trust their priests and
    living safely, they think, within a coccon provided by them. It is very much like growing up Jewish, bathed in the strong culture that is
    so hard to break. I tried and tried to break away only to discover that I was held in a bondage and I eventually had a very dramatic
    encounter in Christ that showed me the strength and leave.

    I treasure much of my history therel. It was sort of like growing up in one of the grouips in Pennsylvania who showed us all so much
    in forgiving a man who shot so many of their children and a teacher and in their forgiveness inviting the killer’s wife and children to join
    their services for their dead. Catholicsim does great things in this world and does terrible things in this world, just like all other
    denominations. My Evangelical Christiians will be shocked to see so many Catholics in heaven. But, the denomination is wrong in its
    teaching on the two subjects you raised in your article.

    Peter M.
    l

  34. CMP:

    In the end, my point is that the dictates of Chalcedon, which historically take precidence, in my opinion, over anyone’s opinions about the eucharist. Therefore, from what I see, the two are not reconcilable. In this sense, it seems that the Roman Catholic church is at odds with Chalcedon on this central Christological issue.

    If you read my first comment in this thread, you obviously didn’t take its last paragraph seriously. You should.

    Your replies to me have boiled down to claiming that my arguments land me in Eutychianism or Monophysitism. I’ve never thought they did, nor have you offered a careful analysis showing that they do. So I see no need to modify them.

    Best,
    Mike

  35. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Mike, thanks for the comments.

    All I can do is refer you back to the original post. I am certianly trying to understand, but the answers given thus far do not harmonize the issue for me. If they do for you, that is great, but I cannot hold to a position or an opinion just because someone says that I misunderstand, but are unable to show me how.

    Believe me, I might be ignorant and unable to see how it harmonizes due to my ignorance. But, for the most part, I am usually able to wrestle with these types of theological issues with some degree of intellegence. I am not on a witch hunt and I don’t think that this issue damns Catholics to hell. I just think that they are not in agreement with this point of Chalcedon. But, never fear, I am in disagreement with one point of Nicea (minor point).

  36. C Michael Patton August 28, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Peter, thanks for the comments. What do you, as a Jesuit educated former Catholic have to say about the relationship we have been talking about between Chalcedon and Transubstantiation. Are the reconcilable?

  37. Michael, I’ll conclude with this final comment. In your article you write the following:

    “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.”

    In fact, the Council of Chalcedon does NOT say that “Christ’s humanity is only present in one locale at any one moment.” You have drawn this inference from the Chalcedonian definition, but it is an inference that the council fathers did not in fact make.

    It’s important for everyone to actually read the text of the Chalcedonian definition. It simply does not say what you say it says. It does not address the question of bodily presence in the Eucharist. It does not address the nature of resurrection bodies. It does not address whether heaven is rightly described as a “place.”

    In fact, not only did the Chalcedonian fathers not draw the inference that you have drawn, but they would have rejected this inference, because it would have meant a repudiation of the christology of Cyril of Alexandria, which the majority of the fathers embraced (see Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy by John McGuckin). It would also have meant both a repudiation of the Eastern understanding of theosis and a repudiation of the consensual eucharistic teaching of the Church.

    If you are going to invoke Chalcedon as an authority, then you need to read it within its historical context. You need to exegete the conciliar text just as carefully as a biblical scholar exegetes the biblical text. You cannot make the dogma say more than it says.

    You may, of course, draw your own inferences from the dogma, as any theologian might, but you need to make it clear that these are YOUR inferences and not the clear and explicit teaching of the Chalcedonian fathers.

    Does the traditional doctrine of transubstantiation violate the Chalcedonian dogma? It certainly does not do so literally, because the dogma does not address the question of eucharistic presence and the relation between Christ’s eucharistic body and his natural body in heaven.

    Finally, have you correctly understood and stated the traditional Catholic teaching on transubstantiation? I do not believe you have. You assert, for example, that according to Chalcedon the risen body of Christ cannot possess omnipresence. But the Catholic Church does not claim that Christ’s glorified body is omnipresent. Luther asserted this, of course, but Aquinas did not. You need to read carefully the sections of the Summa Theologica devoted to the eucharistic presence. If you do so, you will learn that transubstantiation cannot be said to violate even your Calvinist interpretation of Chalcedon, precisely because Aquinas is as insistent as you are that Christ is locally and dimensively present only in heaven. Christ’s body does not move from heaven to the altars of the Church. There is no bodily movement whatsoever. At no point can one say that Christ’s body is dimensively present in two or more places at once. That’s not how transubstantiation works. Christ’s risen body never leaves heaven. It’s not as if the glorified body of Jesus suddenly acquires the supernatural ability to replicate itself in a million places simultaneously; rather we should think of these million places, through the eucharistic conversion, being lifted into the one place of heaven. It’s as if space gets folded back upon itself–but of course not literally. This is the whole point in asserting that the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the substance of the Body and Blood. Perhaps transubstantiation requires that we alter our understanding of space and time, but it does not require us to alter our understanding of finite human bodies–at least so I read Aquinas.

    In his book The Hidden Manna Fr James O’Connor invites us to imagine “what it would be like not to have the Sacred Host or the Precious Blood pass into our mouths but rather to have us be enabled to pass directly into them. To have us pass, that is, through what remains of the bread and wine, viz., their appearances. Were we able to do this, we should find that, having passed through the appearances, we would be standing with Christ in heaven itself, at the Father’s right hand. And not only would we be standing there, but everyone who, anywhere in the world, was capable of doing the same thing would be standing there with us united in Christ. This would be so because the Eucharistic appearances are themselves the boundary between the visible and invisible orders of creation, the horizon at which earthly time and the everlasting aeon of the blessed touch. The appearances are the window whose far side holds ‘what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Cor 2:9).”

    Thank you for a civil and gracious conversation, Michael.

  38. C Michael Patton August 29, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Fr.

    Thanks again for for continued perseverance in this. Unfortunately, you produce a simple argument from silence that does not satisfy me. There are a lot of things that Chalcedon did not address specifically, but this does not give us the ability to loop-hole our doctrine if the implications of such are not available. In this case, I believe that what I have said is at least reasonable and should give those who believe in real presence pause, not only because it seems to conflict with the original intent of Chalcedon, but because of the seeming acrobats you have demonstrated (admirably) that one must go through to reconcile.

    From you assumptions, I could hold that Christ post-resurrection body has inherited attributes that mirror deity, but are not actually communicated from deity. This simply denies the intent of Chalcedon and the important—indeed central—redemptive purpose that they had in mind.

    Anyway, I do appreciate your comments and your attempts to research this.

    Just so you understand, it is not that I am unwilling to see your point or concede the opposite of what the proposition of this blog supports. I have had similar discussion with Catholics about their nuanced views of Purgatory and said to myself “I get it now…maybe I don’t agree…but I get it.” Such has never been the case here. I neither get it or agree.

    In the end, I hold the tentative position that Transubstantiation conflicts with Chalcedon. While I believe this is serious, I do admire much of Catholic Christology and consider those Catholics who are truly devoted to Christ to be brothers and sisters.

    God bless you my friend.

  39. “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.”

    There’s only one Christ. To say that Christ has to split and shed his human nature every time he wishes to exercise his divine nature is not only Nestorian, but contrary to the Christ we find in the gospels. While his human nature may be distinct in that we can recognise its existence, and its not swallowed up by his deity, neither can we have a Christ who sometimes sheds his body to do God stuff (and presumably, God would duck out, while he does human stuff). Everything Christ does, has to include both natures along for the ride. If Christ is omnipresent as God, we can’t say that it is Christ sans his human nature. We pray to Christ as Creator, but he doesn’t toss off his human nature so he can hear them as God.

    If Christ has to have all the human limitations, how am I going to meet him? There’ll be a line in heaven a billion long (maybe), I might have to be there a million years before he gets to say hello. Unless you think we only get to meet the divine Christ since he has the power of omnipresence, and he keeps the human Jesus tucked away in the closet.

    The minute we start into these discussions of what the divine Christ can do vs what the human Christ can do, it is Nestorian, period.

    The rest of the debate seems to have degraded into a debate about the nature of the post-resurrection body, whether it is physical or spiritual. See JW literature for good arguments why it is spiritual. See anti-JW literature for reasons why it is physical. But orthodoxy is that it is much more than our current physical bodies, it is transformed… and yet it is still physical and still our original body. Yes this is another mystery, almost the size of the incarnation. But the bible doesn’t teach that the post resurrection body is nothing more than our current body. It is more. On the last day “We will all be changed” as St Paul said. If the post resurrection body was the same, no change would be required.

    Anyway, I think Dolly Parton has made a ruling that we’ll be able to do super-human stuff post-resurrection. I don’t want to argue with Dolly, do YOU?

  40. When we believe in Christ, are we identified in his divine body post resurrection? Are we identified in his crucified body at the cross then buriel then resurrection? Is it symbolic or is it actual so that when Christ is on the cross dying or is it a mystery? As the Church, are we a group of people united in Christ’s divine body (because of the Mind of Christ) or are we a group united in Christ’s incarnate crucified body (because He is our Passover)? Is it symbolic or actual?

    It doesn’t sound like it connects yet, I admit. Depending on how the questions are answered I think they have some bearing on the bread and cup.

    I’m just trying to get some clarity. I’ve been reading up on eucharistic traditions and perspectives and the whole topic is very interesting (and confusing when you read ockham).

  41. Chalcedon is a confession of the 5th century and can hardly be called the “early church.” It’s well into the imperial Byzantine era, and we have lots of literature from that time. The fact is that 5th century eucharistic literature (Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, etc) does not sound in the least bit Calvinistic. So when you talk about what what “denies the intent of Chalcedon,” where exactly are you getting this “intent” from? Interpreting the words stripped out of their historical context, using Calvin’s Institutes as a guide? I think the best way to get at the “intent” is to read late 4th and 5th C literature, in which case it is impossible to conclude that what was intended was a christology that precludes the presence of Christ’s body and blood on the altar…or were the architects of Chalcedon unaware of what they were affirming?

    Here’s a general rule: If you say that a certain doctrinal formulation excludes another doctrine held by the person or persons that formulated the first doctrine, you’re interpreting it wrong.

    You may as well argue that the doctrine of justification formulated by Martin Luther excludes baptismal regeneration. Oh right, Calvinists do claim that.

  42. Michael,

    I’m still not sure you’ve really engaged Thomas Aquinas’ views on the subject. You have dismissed them, as I recall, as being somewhat irrelevant to the matter at hand.

    But it seems to me that, as Fr. Kimel has pointed out, Thomas is similarly concerned with maintaining an orthodox Christology. He believes that bi- or multi-location is impossible while maintaining the identity of an individual (and what worth would Communion be if you were not encountering the real individual Who Is Christ!). So, as a consequences, he believes it is impossible for Christ to multi-locate because He is fully human.

    He doesn’t accept the Lutheran idea, at least as I have heard it presented, about the omnipresence of Christ’s body, which Thomas would see, I think, as tantamount to Monophysitism. This seems to be precisely your criticism of the Catholic view.

    Thomas thus believed that Christ was NOT locally present in the Eucharist (and this is a view upheld in recent Magisterial documents, where Paul VI accepts the non-local presence of Christ in the Eucharist). Indeed, recent scholarship on the developments of the doctrine of transubstantiation has shown that it was an attempt to mediate between the Eucharist as symbolic and the Eucharist as a “fleshly” eating of Christ. And it may be interesting to note, in this vein, that Luther criticized transubstantiation for NOT being “FLESHLY” enough!

    Now, you can argue that Christ’s non-local but substantial presence is incoherent, or you can argue that this idea betrays the Real Presence (both of which I would dispute, of course), but you cannot argue that Thomas Aquinas’ views betray Chalcedonian orthodoxy–that Christ’s human body is TRULY human. Indeed, Lutherans have called Thomas a semi-Calvinist for this very reason.

    One final point: would you be interested in seeing Reformed writers who accept the Nestorian charge against certain construals of Calvinist views of the Eucharist?–Reformed writers who accept that, in order to encounter Christ in the Eucharist, we must (somehow) encounter his humanity?

  43. This has been a great discussion that I have read with real interest! Thank you, guys! Those far more studied than I have very capably defended the Catholic position, so I will try not to repeat their words.

    Having said that, I do think there is a point which, thus far, has been somewhat ignored as it pertains to the Transubstantiation/Chalcedon issue. This point has to do with the meaning of mystery.

    CMP writes candidly and succinctly: “While I certainly respect the idea of mystery, I don’t see this qualifying since “mysteries” do not involve contraditions, but paradox. What I see here is a contradiction.”

    First, a paradox is, by definition, a true statement (or statements) which leads to a perceived contradiction, or conversely a contradiction that reveals truth. Paradox and contradiction are, in fact, integrally related. So, to say that “ ‘mysteries’ do not involve contradictions, but paradox” is, therefore, inaccurate.

    It is obvious that “Mysteries” such as the Incarnation, the Trinity, the hypostatic union, and transubstantiation all require one to accept apparent contradictions on the basis of faith. This is precisely how we can accept the central gospel message that Lord, the Almightly, became human and died on a cross and rose again. This truth is fraught with contradiction and though the Fathers and councils have done their very best to clearly articulate this mystery, there still remains certain aspects of it which defy our senses and natural reason and, thus, are based primarly on faith. Therefore, we remain informed by faith, or as St. Augustine puts it, we believe that we may understand.

    Now, I fully realize, especially within the context of this blog and in the tradition of Aquinas, that the intellectual pursuit of Truth is of utmost importance. We must not abandon reason for blind faith, and yet there are those things which simply remain mysterious and mystical. And while intellect, logic, and reason and faith are all interdependent, we know, as Christians, that there are things we accept and believe as true by faith though tacit and paradoxical.

    Enter the perceived conflict and apparent correlations between the doctrine of Transubstantiation and the dictates of the council of Chalcedon:

    Among the available documents from the council of Chalcedon, we have the expository letter of Pope Saint Leo to Flavian. In it, Leo very well presents the case for mystery and truth within the context of perceived contradiction regarding the two natures of Christ. He writes:

    “He took on the form of a servant without the defilement of sin, thereby enhancing the human and not diminishing the divine. For that self-emptying whereby the Invisible rendered himself visible, and the Creator and Lord of all things chose to join the ranks of mortals, spelled no failure of power: it was an act of merciful favour. . . So without leaving his Father’s glory behind, the Son of God comes down from his heavenly throne and enters the depths of our world, born in an unprecedented order by an unprecedented kind of birth. In an unprecedented order, because one who is invisible at his own level was made visible at ours. The ungraspable willed to be grasped. Whilst remaining pre-existent, he begins to exist in time. The Lord of the universe veiled his measureless majesty and took on a servant’s form. The God who knew no suffering did not despise becoming a suffering man, and, deathless as he is, to be subject to the laws of death.”

    It is notable that while the definition of Chalcedon and the corollary dogmatic letter of Leo clearly defend the apostolic doctrine of the hypostatic union, they do so fully recognizing the foundation of faith to which the apparent contradictions implicit to the doctrine must concede.

    Likewise, we understand Transubstantiation on the basis of faith, fully realizing the difficulties that faith often allows. We believe that when Christ, the Paschal and Eternal Lamb, says we must eat his flesh and drink his blood, that He can actually make that happen and that He alone has the words of eternal life. Yes, we have named this mystery and the Church has done its very best to explain it, but it remains by all accounts just as mysterious as the hypostatic union or the Trinity.

    We understand the dictates of Chalcedon affirming the 2 natures of Christ, in light of the faith of the early church, not isolated from it. We accept Chalcedon as a Eucharistic people, in the Christian tradition exposed by the words of Justin and Augustine:

    “We do not consume the Eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilate of its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of His own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.” (Justin Martyr, First Apology)

    “Christ bore Himself in His hands, when He offered His body saying: “this is my body.” (Enarr. in Ps. 33 Sermo 1, 10)

  44. Kevin D. Johnson August 29, 2008 at 11:08 am

    A good remedy to Fr. Kimel’s outrageous claims that the Fathers cannot be seen at all endorsing a Reformed or “Calvinist” view of the nature of the Sacraments regarding the bread and wine is found in Daniel Waterland’s A Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist.

    At the very least, Fr. Kimel should be open and honest about the fact that Anglican divines since the Reformation have disagreed with and presented reasonable alternatives to his own prejudiced reading of the Fathers.

  45. Truth Unites... and Divides August 29, 2008 at 11:11 am

    CMP: “But, never fear, I am in disagreement with one point of Nicea (minor point).”

    If I may ask, what is that one minor point of disagreement which you have with the Nicene Creed?

  46. C Michael Patton August 29, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    TaUD,

    The language of procession or the “eternal begotteness.”

  47. CMP:

    I wouldn’t call that a “minor” point. It actually concerned, directly, the very issue with Arius that the Council had been called to deal with. Presumably you wouldn’t want to agree with Arius. So what, exactly, is the problem?

    I’m sure that’s a question calling for a new post rather than an extension of this combox into a deep matter that your original post did not address.

    Best,
    Mike

  48. C Michael Patton August 29, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Mike, it is a minor point since I don’t reject the principles, I just think it was bad wording and actually birth from an immature polemic. Most exegetical scholars today (esp. NT) reject his. It is a Greek thing.

  49. I for one am curious about how it was bad wording, since the concept seems pretty central to Orthodoxy.

  50. So wait a minute, your chief criticism of RCC doctrine is that it’s not consistent with [your interpretation of] Chalcedon, but you take issue with Nicea? I don’t even know where to begin.

    Who are the “most exegetical scholars” that reject the Nicene Creed?

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    […] care for the “eternally begotten” or “proceeding” language in the Nicene Creed, but is riding that Chalcedon horse hard.  This is why I stopped reading theology. Posted by: […]

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