The exact mechanism of Christ’s Presence (or not!) in the Eucharistic elements of consecrated bread and wine appears to me to be approached in a way that nothing else is.
How is Christ present where you are now? How is Christ present when two or more are gathered in His Name? Exact mechanism please – as you seek to do, and demand that others do, with the bread and wine…
Look, I can’t even tell you, in a vague way, how it works that I punch keys on this laptop and you, wherever you are, whenever you are, can read what I’ve written! If I cannot explain something as simple as that, how do I hope to explain Christ’s Presence? Or the Incarnation? Or God’s action generally?
I can use some models, some metaphors, some stories, some inadequate signposts that might point approximately to the reality. But, I want to live in the reality – more than I want to think about it.
My friend, the Ven Dr Peter Carrell, encourages “virtualism” as a being a “middle way” between real presence and receptionism. Peter’s post is here. It is based on three posts on another site: here, here, and here. And those posts are based on one in a wonderful series on Anglican Eucharistic Theology.
A lot of the discussion is founded on a misunderstanding of the actual teaching of the Real Presence. That misunderstanding is found on all three sites. All three sites refer to
The bread and the wine therefore do not become the body and blood of Christ in substance (as if they were being identified with the natural body and blood of Christ on the cross) but in spiritual power, virtue and effect. This means that through consecration the bread and wine are endowed with spiritual power or virtue which make them the sacramental body and blood of Christ, but not the natural body and blood of Christ.
It is a misrepresentation to suggest that the Real Presence (often going by the term “transubstantiation”) means the bread becomes “the natural body of Christ on the cross” and the wine becomes “the natural blood of Christ on the cross”. Formal teaching, rather, has that Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharistic species means that the whole Risen and Glorified Christ is present under the appearance of bread and wine. Let me stress again: the Risen and Glorified Christ is fully present under the appearance of bread; the Risen and Glorified Christ is fully present under the appearance of wine [see, for example, here and here (1374)].
That is not to say that aberrations, mis- and false interpretations are not taught, believed, and expressed by many, both Roman Catholic and Anglican (and others). Only recently, I was in a discussion where someone insisted that the wine MUST be red because it’s blood – my immediate response was that, hence, using WHITE bread would be a gross error! We should be using brown bread (LOL!). [Some, of course, in their practice, and based on this bioliteralism, maintain the redness of the liquid but not its wineness – that is another story for another time!]
I return to where I began: what is this obsession with the nature of Christ’s presence and action in the Sacrament that the same people simply do not begin to apply, for example, to Christ’s presence and action in the Word? When was the last time you heard a debate about the nature of the sound waves coming from someone reading Christ’s words from the Bible in English…
I conclude this particular post with the words from A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (page 541):
Praise and glory to you creator Spirit of God;
you make our bread Christ’s body
to heal and reconcile
and to make us the body of Christ.
You make our wine Christ’s living sacrificial blood
to redeem the world.
You are truth.
You come like the wind of heaven, unseen, unbidden.
Like the dawn
you illuminate the world around us;
you grant us a new beginning every day.
You warm and comfort us.
You give us courage and fir
and strength beyond our every day resources.
Be with us Holy Spirit in all we say or think,
in all we do this and every day.
This series is continued with a post on transubstantiation.