Wednesday, July 02, 2008

In the Eucharist, the Fundamental Reality of the Bread and Wine are Transformed, Regardless of What Remains of their Superficial Appearance

What's Really Real: In the Eucharist, the Fundamental Basis of Being is What is at Stake

The questions of transubstantiation and the Real Presence have been a stumbling block for many throughout history. On the other hand, the faithful through the ages have constantly demonstrated a longing, desire, and hunger for full communion with Jesus, the totality of our being, body and spirit, being joined as one with His Body and Spirit, as in the Eucharist. Modern science tells us that such a thing is an absurdity, an irrational myth, and a scientific impossibility -- something that an enlightened people should finally do away with. Cardinal Ratzinger explores this question further --

On Transubstantiation

Has the teaching about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic gifts not long been refuted, rendered obsolete, by science? . . . First, the word “substance” was used by the Church precisely to avoid the naïveté associated with what we can touch or measure.

In the twelfth century, the mystery of the Eucharist was on the point of being torn apart by two groups, who each in its own way failed to grasp the heart of it.

There were those filled with the thought: Jesus is really there. But “reality” for them was simply physical, bodily. Consequently, they arrived at the conclusion: In the Eucharist, we chew on the flesh of the Lord; but therein they were under the sway of a serious misapprehension. For Jesus has risen. We do not eat flesh, as cannibals would do.

That is why others quite rightly opposed them, arguing against such primitive “realism.” But they, too, had fallen into the same fundamental error of regarding only what is material, tangible, visible as reality. They said: Since Christ cannot be there in a body we can bite on, the Eucharist can only be a symbol of Christ; the bread can only signify the body, but not be the body.

A dispute such as that has helped the Church to develop a more profound understanding of reality.

After wrestling with the difficulty, the insight was made explicit: “Reality” is not just what we can measure. It is not only “quantums,” quantifiable entities, that are real; on the contrary, these are always only manifestations of the hidden mystery of true being. But here, where Christ meets us, we have to do with this true being. This is what was being expressed with the word “substance.” This does not refer to the quantums, but to the profound and fundamental basis of being.

Jesus is not there like a piece of meat, not in the realm of what can be measured and quantified. Anyone who conceives of reality as being like that is deceiving himself about it and about himself. He is living his life all wrong.

That is why this is no [mere] scholarly dispute, but something that affects us ourselves: How should we relate to reality? What is “real”? What should we be like, so as to correspond to what is true?

Concerning the Eucharist, it is said to us: The substance is transformed, that is to say, the fundamental basis of its being. That is what is at stake, and not the superficial category, to which everything we can measure or touch belongs. . . .

What has always mattered to the Church is that a real transformation takes place here. Something genuinely happens in the Eucharist. There is something new there that was not before. . . . Whenever the Body of Christ, that is, the risen and bodily Christ, comes, he is greater than the bread – other, not of the same order. . . . The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different. . . .

--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Eucharistie – Mitte der Kirche (Munich, 1978) (republished in God is Near Us (2003))

No comments: