After becoming an Anglican I started to learn
more about Eucharistic theology. Though I previously held to Calvin’s pneumatic
view of the Eucharist I have since come to a new understanding. After reading
the Bible, the Church Fathers and a whole host of articles on the subject, I have
come to believe that although
Christ's body and blood are not physically present in the Eucharist, they are
really and objectively so, because at the consecration the elements of bread
and wine take on the real significance of Christ's body and blood which thus
becomes sacramentally present.
complicated I know, and it might help if I was to say that my belief (called
transignification) is based around the concept of “presence” as being dividable
into two distinct parts (“Personal” presence and “Local” presence). The oft
used analogy is:
“One can be locally present, as when riding a
bus, but one’s thoughts can be far away, making one personally not present.”
So for me during the Eucharist Christ is “locally”
present in Heaven, yet He is “personally” present in the consecrated elements.
But why am I telling you this? Well recently
I read a book by Edward Schillebeeckx, who is fast becoming one of my favourite
theologians, entitled “The Eucharist”. Schillebeeckx
(a Roman Catholic) realised that times have changed since the days of Trent and
it’s affirmation of transubstantiation. We no longer view the world in terms of
“substances” and “species”, and such Aristotelian based ideas have long been
discredited by modern science. As such Schillebeeckx works from the position
that transubstantiation, while advanced and learned for its time, has become
outdated and primitive. Ergo the Church is in dire need of an understanding of
the Real Presence free from such mistaken metaphysics – yet one which has
historical basis amongst the early church.
From such a bold opening the author goes on
to promote the Eucharist’s sacramentality, rather than focusing on the material
change of the bread and wine (as one would expect from a Roman Catholic
theologian). He instead affirms the idea of the Eucharist as being a meal where
the fellowship and unity of the church are major themes, much like our reformed
understanding of the “Lord’s Supper”. This idea of a meal as the encapsulation
of the fellowship and unity of Christians is what Schillebeeckx describes as
the “sacramental context” of the Eucharist.
It is at
this point that he acknowledges the presence of Christ, not just in the
Eucharist, but at every service and time “three or more are gathered together”
in Christ’s name. Yet because of the sacramental context of the Eucharist Christ
is present in a special way. The author explains this by looking at “signs” which he claims “work” not because of a
change of attitude on our part but because of a real sacramental (though not
To help readers understand this he asks us to
imagine a piece of coloured cloth, before asking at what point that coloured
cloth “becomes” a flag.
that term “becomes” signify a change? Schillebeeckx says that yes it does,
really and truly, though not materially - meaning that it is simply a change of
Transignification revolves around our understanding
of reality, and presence and no one explains it better than Schillebeeckx, and
I would really encourage you to read his works on the subject.
If you have an interest in Eucharistic
theology then this is the book for you, short and sweet though offering some
complex ideas in a simplistic way; “The Eucharist” is really Schillebeeckx’s
In the first section of the Book we find an
excellent explanation of the Tridentine view and how it was formulated (this
part alone makes the book worth getting!), and also a glance at how the
doctrine and philosophy of the Eucharistic change are actually two separate entities,
detachable from each other.
The majestic second part is an impassioned
attempt at reconciling the congregation with the celebration, not as mere
spectators at a show but as necessary components of a greater movement. He
promotes the giving nature of the sacrament wherein Christ gives Himself to the
congregation and the congregation give themselves to Him, with both combining
in a perfect expression of unity within the Eucharist.
Overall the two sections combine to create an
all inclusive, modern understanding of this most mystical of Sacraments and I
cannot praise it highly enough and sure for only £5 on Amazon it’s a bargain!
Fraternity… what does that word mean? For
me “fraternity” reminds me of the Orange Institution and the bonds of
friendship which I enjoy amongst its members, and I truly believe that the
Church could learn from the many different groups and associations present
within our communities.
relating to a club or group the term fraternitymay recall one of humanity’s
great mottos, the rallying cry of the French Revolution: “Liberty, Fraternity,
Equality.” Although it is often forgotten “fraternity”, along with equality and
liberty, was one of the highest ideals and concerns of our forefathers.
also prompt us to think of the American school clubs where alcohol and
debauchery are seemingly rampant, or the more “mature” orders and brotherhoods
such as the Hibernians, Elks, OddFellows and Masons as well as service clubs
and victim associations.
The ideal of
fraternity is also extolled in the sporting world, especially where teamwork is
required. How many of us have heard that well used cliché “There’s no I in
Team”? It is true though, for a team to be successful each part must come
together and work as one, in fraternity and teamwork, with all as equals rather
than as a group of individuals.
Think of the
England football team. Wayne Rooney is a great player, great goal scorer, yet
he cannot win a game by himself. The defence have to defend, the midfielders
have to get the ball forward and Rooney has to work with the other strikers to
capitalise on the chances they get at goal. Each man must play his part, focus
on what he is good at and focus on helping the team rather than simply himself,
otherwise the match is lost.
it comes to sports, fraternity also exists in “single” sports and not just
teams. For example a friend’s son (Alan) is an Olympic Rower (men’s single
skuller) from Coleraine. Single’s rowing
may not strike you as a stirring battle of wits, yet that is exactly what it
is. The race is man vs. man, with no team to support you. At the starting line
the rower has to make sure he gets away fast, during the race he needs to push
hard at the right time to overtake his opponent, yet he must also take it slow
at the right time so that he has enough energy for a final push if necessary.
It is a battle of fitness, technique and strategy and is often the result of
months (indeed years) of physical training and mental preparation. Yet though
that desire to win is all consuming during the race, at the end the winners and
losers will often stand and congratulate each other, shaking hands with an obvious
bond of friendship.
Why do they do
It is because a
competitor is trained in their individual sport not only to compete with their
opponent but also to respect them? Is it because when engaged in a race that tests
them to their limits, they may come away exhausted, maybe even beaten, but
nevertheless still possess an enormous respect for their opponent?
It’s not hard to
spot the fellowship that exists between competitive rowers, indeed that
fellowship can be seen amongst many other competitive and demanding sports,
wherein there exists a kind of fraternity, that only individuals such as these “Olympians”
As I said at the
beginning fraternity always makes me think of the Orange Institution. The “orange”
is a “brotherhood composed of Christian men, striving to promote Christian
values and the reformed faith” and in truth we fail in that. Many of my “brethren”
don’t know Christ, many have rejected the churches, and many have hatred rather
than love in their hearts, yet many others have a true and sincere love for Christ,
and a longing for a revival of Christian witness in this land, as well as love
and respect for their fellow man. True there are divisions within our Order and
different views on almost every issue but one thing remains... fraternity.
that we are united together as one in a fraternity, where all ranks and social
standing are wiped away by that simple word... “brother”... unites us, because
we know that working together in respect and understanding is to be cherished
more than any individual achievement or goal.
But there can
never be a fraternity as important or as significant as the Church and the Communion
of Saints. Okay the Church is not exclusively male (thank goodness) so it might
be better to think of the Church as both a Fraternity and indeed a Sorority,
made up of both brothers and sisters who participate in Christian witness. No
matter how we think of it, the Church is all about teamwork and participation
for the benefit of all, and not just the individual. After all there can be no
such thing as a one-person church.
Now I’m not for
an instant saying that salvation is a corporate matter, or that it somehow
depends upon your friends or family. Instead I’m talking about that group we
are placed into when we are saved, call it the “elect”, or the “saved” or even
just the “true Church”.
exists as a corporate body, a body of believers in Christ, united by and
through Christ. That’s what defines the New testament Church, where individuals
came together not to find personal glory or honour but to join together as “One”.
There was no room for the glory seeker, or the self serving individual, for no
one man or woman had been given all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, no one
individual could make a church by themselves.
The same is true
today, for we are not all endowed with the ability to make great sermons, or
heal the sick, or discern the Will of God. Instead a church is only as strong
as its members and their respective gifts in combination.
But what we have
lost (in my opinion) is that sense of family within the Church and its
membership... that sense of brotherhood and sisterhood that once was a hallmark
of Christianity. To get it back I believe we have to look at and learn from
outside the confines of Christendom, be it sports, the military or even the
Masons or Orangemen because for many the church has become a cold house, where
only the “chosen few” are welcome...
We need to get
out there once again (as the early Christians did), extending the right hand of
fellowship to one and all, so that we can show that there is no common bond
like the bond that is found amongst Christians.
I'm a young sinner saved by Grace wandering like Bunyan's Pilgrim on the oft dangerous road towards that Celestial City where my Master reigns. Though young I like Christian have met Mr. Worldly Wiseman and Mr. Legality but have now reached the place of Deliverance... but the road ahead is long and the afflictions will be great so keep me in your prayers!