…is a polemic on Eucharistic theology at 8:20 in the morning.
First of all, I must remind readers that the situation concerning the Eucharistic presence of Christ among those not in communion with Rome is not as clear-cut as polemical misrepresentations suggest. The Lutherans affirm the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, however their understanding varies from the notion of transubstantiation–an idea which requires a working understanding of scholastic Thomistic philosophy to comprehend. (The simplest explanation I can offer is that the substance changes but the form/accident remains.)
Secondly, and as a consequence, it is wrong to suggest that all Protestants are memorialists, meaning that they cannot see the celebration of the Lord’s Supper as being anything but a symbolic memorial of the past event. However, the dominant strand of non-Catholic Christianity in our country is so memorialist to the point that it is “correct,” from a polemical standpoint, to tarnish all Protestants with the same brush.
At the same time, I think there is a challenge posed by any polemical attacks on Catholics that suggest, as the one of the Thirty-Nine Articles said, “the Sacrament was not meant to be carried about… or worshiped.” In this sense, those who affirm that Christ is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine do have to be wary of a tendency to localize the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic act to the point of neglecting the other ways by which the Church has understood Christ to be present in the celebration of the Eucharist. One understanding is that the Church itself or the gathered community, as the Body of Christ, is the very manifestation of that presence in the world. As Augustine bluntly put it, “there you are in the Body… and in the Blood.”
So as we continue to reflect upon the “Bread of Life” discourse in John’s Gospel, we must remember that it is by God’s grace and gathering that we are brought together to partake of Christ and to be transformed by him.
The last word today I leave to Queen Elizabeth I of England:
Christ was the Word that spake it.
He took the bread and brake it;
And what his words did make it
That I believe and take it.