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Friday, May 05, 2006

Quo vadis?

In this thread, Lito extends a charitable hand to many modern Evangelicals who have turned their backs to the Eucharist. He assures me:

 We are saved by what Christ has done and not on whatever is going on inside us. We are indeed not saved by proper understanding of every doctrine. If the evangelical is repeating the very words of Jesus on the elements - then the evangelical is receiving the body/blood of Jesus even if he believes it is just symbolic. Why? Because the Supper belongs to God not to us - it is he who makes it effective in our lives. It's validity is not dependent on the recipient or the administrator.

Two concerns I have: where does this misunderstanding come from and where will it lead them?

I suspect that this comes from the encroachment of the Enlightenment and rationalism into the Christian faith. Why? Because the usual objection I read or hear about the real presence of Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist is that it is mere superstition. Sadly, that's exactly what atheists say about the existence of God. That is also what Evangelicals object to about the necessity of water baptism, blessing with oil, and, in general, the Christian notion of sacraments: physical acts or objects which are signs as well as channels of God's grace. Never mind that the Bible is filled with examples of sacraments used precisely as sacraments.

The second concern is just as important: where is this going? Sacraments have been taking a beating since the Enlightenment and it just keeps getting worse. We already see how the sacraments of the Eucharist and baptism have been discarded one after another. I have to wonder if this will get worse. Yet this is precisely why a proper understanding of the Eucharist is crucial, because the Lord himself is our greatest sacrament, and the Lord's Supper is precisely the greatest expression of the mystery of his Incarnation: the Son of Man who is also the Son of God. So I wouldn't be so relaxed about Catholics or Protestants who have abandoned a right understanding of the Eucharist where the Incarnation is extended to the bread and wine.

It is true that the power of God does not require our understanding or even awareness of his action. Whether or not the priest properly understands it, the consecration is valid as long as the words used are as prescribed by Christ and repeated by St. Paul. Whether or not the recipient believes in the real presence of Christ, the host he receives is the real deal. But this too is a good reason to strive for a correct understanding. Not discerning the mystery of the body of Christ present in the Eucharist trivializes it and causes the recipient to partake of it unworthily. This is entirely to his own ruin, something which we would want to avoid for anyone.

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