St. Silouan the Athonite Mission Parish

Sermons

Is Transusbantiation Sacramental Monophysitism?
by Fr Roberto Ubertino 

“Transusbantiation is the change over the whole substance of bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and the whole substance of wine into the substance of His blood. This change is brought about through the efficacy of the word of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit. However, the outward characteristic of bread and wine, that is the Eucharistic species remain unaltered.” (Catholic Catechism)

Transusbantiation is a dogma of the Latin Church defined at the Council of Trent in 1543. At that time the protestant reformation and the Catholic counterreformation had taken place and the Latin Church had become very distant and alienated from its oriental sisters churches and from the Fathers who had “confected” the early Eucharist Liturgies. The Latin Church tried to respond to a interior crisis by using Aristotelian philosophy rather than the Fathers experience and description of the Liturgy.

 

Can an orthodox approach to the mystery of the Eucharist be expressed in terms of Transusbantiation?

 

Is the doctrine of Transusbantiation in fact a monophysitic Christology? The fundamental problem lies in that the human mind has difficulty grasping how something of this world can continue to exist once God assumes it into Himself.

 

Strict monophysitism and docetism, all say that the logos took the “appearance” of a man, but somehow the human flesh, and human life, were somewhat absorbed into the Divinity, they only had the “outward characteristics of man”.

 

In the doctrine of Transusbantiation we have the “outward characteristics” of bread and wine. How can that be? If God can only act out of His Logos, the creation of the world, the incarnation and the sacraments all must equally come to be in the same Logos, the same “logic”.

 

If we assume that Revelation is never changing and God acts always according to this Logos, than we see that when God became flesh and human both God and man never ceased to be, but rather without confusion, division, one nature not doing violence to the other, both Divine and Human nature in the person of Christ.

 

Could we not therefore contemplate the “change” in the mystery of the Eucharist in this same way?

 

In Orthodox Liturgical experience it is not the words of institution that “change” the elements. After the words of institution the priest lifts the gifts of simple bread and wine and offers them to God on behalf of all. Bread and wine are not just “accidentals”; they constitute part of the Churches’ offering. They are the offering of humanity, the new humanity in Christ to the Father.

 

It is following this act of offering of simple bread and wine that the Holy Spirit is invoked on the community and than specifically on the bread and wine, to be changed by the Holy Spirit. The word is Metavalon – “which means to project” into the very Kingdom. Another ancient word used is “to manifest”. Meaning that the Holy Spirit manifest in the bread and the wine the future kingdom – Christ all in all. This change is not a deletion of creation (like in Appolinarism) but rather a bringing to completion – “telion” – bringing the end in the now, the end point of all creation – to bear God, made present for us.

 

This accomplished without doing away, the person or creation. The bread and wine that are changed need to continue to be bread and wine to be in the “logic” (Logos) of the incarnation, and to be truly the Body and Blood of Christ for us.

 

In them we find ourselves and the whole created universe healed and reconciled and transfigured. Brought to their perfect end, not done away with or just appearing to be still of our world. In truth this is bread and wine and in truth the Body and Blood of Emmanuel – Christ, God with us all in all.

 

Both present on the Holy Table constitute the Eucharist of the Church.

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