The Eucharist and the Mode of Christ’s Flesh

Before High-Church Institutionalism roasted Nicholas Ridley at the stake, he was engaged in a number of eucharistic disputes.  He said, in short, that all sides agreed that Christ was “present” at the Eucharist.  The point, though, was how he was present.   Ridley hit the nail on the head.   All sides, even the most dualistic Baptist, will agree with the “real presence of Christ.”  For the Christian, when is Christ not present?  The point of dispute, though, is the mode of Christ’s presence (this was why the debate between Ligon Duncan and Keith Mathison was so frustrating; Duncan might have been correct that Calvin never said it that way, but still…).

Is Christ present in the bread and wine in such a way that wee are consuming his hemaglobins?  This raises a deeper question:  is Christ consubstantial with our humanity?  Most traditions (correctly) say yes.  Does this consubstantial humanity reside in the consecrated bread and wine?  Note how the High Churchman answers:   supposedly the bread and wine represent, among other things, the human nature of Christ.  Let’s consider what a human nature entails (and keep in mind, when Christ offered the first Eucharist, he did so with his pre-glorified humanity.  This means that whatever the phrase “This is my body” entails, it can only refer to the pre-glorified humanity.   Can a human nature exist outside a person?  Classical Christology, with its doctrine of anhypostasia, says no.   Natures do not exist outside of hypostases.  So, when I see the Lord’s Supper, if the bread and wine represent the humanity of Christ, is the hypostasis of Christ present?  It must be, on this reading, because of the doctrine of an/enhypostasia.  But if this is the case, what of the fact that multiple Suppers are being celebrated at the moment?  Does this mean that there are multiple hypostases of Christ?  The conclusion appears inevitable.  But dear reader, is this not Nestorianism in its most crass form?

On the other hand, if the human nature fully shares in the divine, with a real communication of attributes from the divine to the human, then we lose any real sense of a true humanity of Christ.


2 comments on “The Eucharist and the Mode of Christ’s Flesh

  1. This means that whatever the phrase “This is my body” entails, it can only refer to the pre-glorified humanity.

    He was also fully God?

    • Yes, but Jesus wasn’t saying the bread signified his divine nature. All traditions acknowledge that point. If we want to be really technical and Chalcedonian about it, we shouuld say that it signifies his “pre-glorified” person.

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