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The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the Christian doctrine that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist, not merely symbolically or metaphorically, but in a true, real and substantial way.
There are a number of Christian denominations that teach that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, including Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Church of the East, the Moravian Church, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Methodism, Irvingism and Reformed Christianity. The differences in the teachings of these Churches primarily concern "the mode of Christ's presence in the Lord’s Supper".
The Real Presence is rejected or interpreted in light of "remembrance" (per certain translations of the New Testament) by other Protestants, including General Baptists, Anabaptists, the Plymouth Brethren, some non-denominational Christian churches, as well as those identifying with liberal Christianity, segments of the Restoration Movement, and Jehovah's Witnesses.
Efforts at mutual understanding of the range of beliefs by these Churches led in the 1980s to consultations on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry by the World Council of Churches.
The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has been believed since very ancient times. Early Christian writers referred to the Eucharistic elements as Jesus's body and the blood. The short document known as the Teachings of the Apostles or Didache, which may be the earliest Christian document outside of the New Testament to speak of the Eucharist, says, "Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, 'Give not that which is holy to the dogs'."
Ignatius of Antioch, writing in about AD 106 to the Roman Christians, says: "I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life."
Writing to the Christians of Smyrna in the same year, he warned them to "stand aloof from such heretics", because, among other reasons, "they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again."
In about 150, Justin Martyr, referring to the Eucharist, wrote: "Not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."
In about AD 200, Tertullian wrote: "Having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, This is my body, that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body. An empty thing, or phantom, is incapable of a figure. If, however, (as Marcion might say) He pretended the bread was His body, because He lacked the truth of bodily substance, it follows that He must have given bread for us."
The Apostolic Constitutions (compiled c. 380) says: "Let the bishop give the oblation, saying, The body of Christ; and let him that receiveth say, Amen. And let the deacon take the cup; and when he gives it, say, The blood of Christ, the cup of life; and let him that drinketh say, Amen."
Ambrose of Milan (died 397) wrote:
Perhaps you will say, "I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ?" ...Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed. ...For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? ...Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which was crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: "This Is My Body." Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.
Other fourth-century Christian writers say that in the Eucharist there occurs a "change", "transelementation", "transformation", "transposing", "alteration" of the bread into the body of Christ.
Augustine declares that the bread consecrated in the Eucharist actually "becomes" (in Latin, fit) the Body of Christ: "The faithful know what I'm talking about; they know Christ in the breaking of bread. It isn't every loaf of bread, you see, but the one receiving Christ's blessing, that becomes the body of Christ."
In the 9th century, Charles the Bald posed two unclearly formulated questions: whether the faithful receive the body of Christ in mystery or in truth and whether the body is the same that was born of Mary and suffered on the cross. Ratramnus understood "in truth" to mean simply "what is perceptible to the senses", "plain unvarnished reality" (rei manifestae demonstratio), and declared that the consecration leaves the bread and wine unchanged in their outward appearance and thus, insofar as these are signs of the body and blood of Christ hidden under the veil of the signs, the faithful receive the body of Christ not in veritate, but in figura, in mysterio, in virtute (figure, mystery, power). Ratramnus opposed Capharnaitic tendencies but in no way betrayed a symbolist understanding such as that of 11th-century Berengarius. Radbertus, on the other hand, developed the realism of the Gallican and Roman liturgy and the Ambrosian theology of the identity of the sacramental and historical body of the Lord. The dispute ended with Radbertus's letter to Frudiger, in which he stressed further the identity of the sacramental and historical body of Christ, but met the opposing view to the extent of emphasizing the spiritual nature of the sacramental body. Friedrich Kempf comments: "Since Paschasius had identified the Eucharistic and the historical body of the Lord without more precisely explaining the Eucharistic species, his teaching could and probably did promote a grossly materialistic 'Capharnaitic' interpretation".
The question of the nature of the Eucharist became virulent for a second time in the Western Church in the 11th century, when Berengar of Tours denied that any material change in the elements was needed to explain the Eucharistic presence. This caused a controversy which led to the explicit clarification of the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist.
In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council used the word transubstantiated in its profession of faith, when speaking of the change that takes place in the Eucharist.
It was only later in the 13th century that Aristotelian metaphysics was accepted and a philosophical elaboration in line with that metaphysics was developed, which found classic formulation in the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It was only then that Scholasticism cast Christian theology in the terms of Aristotelianism. The metaphysical aspects of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist were firstly described since the time of the Latin juvenile treatise titled De venerabili sacramento altaris (On the reverend sacrament of the altar).
During the later medieval period, the question was debated within the Western Church. Following the Protestant Reformation, it became a central topic of division amongst the various emerging confessions. The Lutheran doctrine of the real presence, known as the "sacramental union", was formulated in the Augsburg Confession of 1530. Luther decidedly supported this doctrine, publishing The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ—Against the Fanatics in 1526. Saying that "bread and body are two distinct substances", he declared that "out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a 'sacramental union'".
Thus, the main theological division in this question, turned out to be not between Catholicism and Protestantism, but within Protestantism, especially between Luther and Zwingli, who discussed the question at the Marburg Colloquy of 1529 but who failed to come to an agreement. Zwingli's view became associated with the term Memorialism, suggesting an understanding of the Eucharist held purely "in memory of" Christ. While this accurately describes the position of the Anabaptists and derived traditions, it is not the position held by Zwingli himself, who affirmed that Christ is truly (in substance), though not naturally (physically) present in the sacrament.
The position of the Church of England on this matter (the real presence) is clear and highlighted in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion:
The supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves; but rather is a Sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to those who rightly and with faith, receive the same, the bread that we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of scripture, overthroweth the nature of the Sacrament and hath given occasion to many superstitions. The Body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the Supper, only after an Heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped.— Articles of Religion No.28 "The Lord's Supper": Book of Common Prayer 1662
The Council of Trent, held 1545–1563 in reaction to the Protestant Reformation and initiating the Catholic Counter-Reformation, promulgated the view of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist as true, real, and substantial, and declared that, "by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance (substantia) of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation". The Scholastic, Aristotelian philosophy of substance was not included in the Council's definitive teaching, but rather the more general idea of "substance" that had predated Thomas Aquinas.
Eastern Orthodoxy did not become involved in the dispute prior to the 17th century. It became virulent in 1629, when Cyril Lucaris denied the doctrine of transubstantiation, using the Greek translation metousiosis for the concept. To counter the teaching of Lucaris, Metropolitan Petro Mohyla of Kiev drew up in Latin an Orthodox Confession in defense of transubstantiation. This Confession was approved by all the Greek-speaking Patriarchs (those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) in 1643, and again by the 1672 Synod of Jerusalem (also referred to as the Council of Bethlehem).
Main article: Eucharist in the Catholic Church
The Catholic Church declares that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is true, real, and substantial. By saying Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, it excludes any understanding of the presence as merely that of a sign or figure. By stating that his presence in the Eucharist is real, it defines it as objective and independent of the thoughts and feelings of the participants, whether they have faith or not: lack of faith may make reception of the sacrament fruitless for holiness, but it does not make his presence unreal. In the third place, the Catholic Church describes the presence of Christ in the Eucharist as substantial, that is, involving the underlying substance, not the appearances of bread and wine. These maintain all their physical properties as before: unlike what happens when the appearance of something or somebody is altered but the basic reality remains the same, it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that in the Eucharist the appearance is quite unchanged, but the basic reality has become the body and blood of Christ.
The change from bread and wine to a presence of Christ that is true, real, and substantial is called transubstantiation. The Catholic Church does not consider the term "transubstantiation" an explanation of the change: it declares that the change by which the signs of bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ occurs "in a way surpassing understanding".
One hymn of the Church, "Ave Verum Corpus", greets Christ in the Eucharist as follows (in translation from the original Latin): "Hail, true body, born of Mary Virgin, and which truly suffered and was immolated on the cross for mankind!"
The Catholic Church also holds that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is entire: it does not see what is really in the Eucharist as a lifeless corpse and mere blood, but as the whole Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity; nor does it see the persisting outward appearances of bread and wine and their properties (such as weight and nutritional value) as a mere illusion, but objectively existing as before and unchanged.
In the view of the Catholic Church, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is of an order different from the presence of Christ in the other sacraments: in the other sacraments he is present by his power rather than by the reality of his body and blood, the basis of the description of his presence as "real".
The Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, as well as the Churches of the East, believe that in the Eucharist the bread and wine are objectively changed and become in a real sense the Body and Blood of Christ. The theologians Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger state that:
While the Orthodox Church has often employed the term transubstantiation, Kallistos Ware claims the term "enjoys no unique or decisive authority" in the Orthodox Church. Nor does its use in the Orthodox Church "commit theologians to the acceptance of Aristotelian philosophical concepts". ...Ware also notes that while the Orthodox have always "insisted on the reality of the change" from bread and wine into the body and the blood of Christ at the consecration of the elements, the Orthodox have "never attempted to explain the manner of the change."
The Greek term metousiosis (μετουσίωσις) is sometimes used by Eastern Orthodox Christians to describe the change since this term "is not bound up with the scholastic theory of substance and accidents", but it does not have official status as "a dogma of the Orthodox Communion. Similarly, Coptic Orthodox Christians "are fearful of using philosophical terms concerning the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, preferring uncritical appeals to biblical passages like 1 Cor. 10.16; 11.23–29 or the discourse in John 6.26–58."
While the Roman Catholic Church believes that the change "takes place at the words of institution or consecration", the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that the "change takes place anywhere between the Proskomedia (the Liturgy of Preparation)" and "the Epiklesis ('calling down'), or invocation of the Holy Spirit 'upon us and upon these gifts here set forth'". Therefore, it teaches that "the gifts should be treated with reverence throughout the entirety of the service. We don't know the exact time in which the change takes place, and this is left to mystery."
The words of the Coptic liturgy are representative of the faith of Oriental Orthodoxy: "I believe, I believe, I believe and profess to the last breath that this is the body and the blood of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, which he took from our Lady, the holy and immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of God."
The Eastern Orthodox Church's Synod of Jerusalem declared: "We believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, ... but truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin Mary, was baptised in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sitteth at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which, as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world."
Main article: Eucharist in the Lutheran Church
Lutherans believe in the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, that the body and blood of Christ are "truly and substantially present in, with and under the forms" of the consecrated bread and wine (the elements), so that communicants orally eat and drink the holy body and blood of Christ Himself as well as the bread and wine (cf. Augsburg Confession, Article 10) in this Sacrament. The Lutheran doctrine of the real presence is more accurately and formally known as "the Sacramental Union." It has been inaccurately called "consubstantiation", a term which is specifically rejected by most Lutheran churches and theologians since it creates confusion about the actual doctrine, and it subjects the doctrine to the control of an abiblical philosophical concept in the same manner as, in their view, does the term "transubstantiation".
For Lutherans, there is no Sacrament unless the elements are used according to Christ's institution (consecration, distribution, and reception). This was first articulated in the Wittenberg Concord of 1536 in the formula: Nihil habet rationem sacramenti extra usum a Christo institutum ("Nothing has the character of a sacrament apart from the use instituted by Christ"). Some Lutherans use this formula as their rationale for opposing in the church the reservation of the consecrated elements, private Masses, the practice of Corpus Christi, and the belief that the reliquæ (what remains of the consecrated elements after all have communed in the worship service) are still sacramentally united to the Body and Blood of Christ. This interpretation is not universal among Lutherans. The consecrated elements are treated with reverence; and, in some Lutheran churches, are reserved as in Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican practice. The external Eucharistic adoration is usually not practiced by most Lutherans except for bowing, genuflecting, and kneeling to receive the Eucharist from the Words of Institution and elevation to reception of the holy meal. The reliquæ traditionally are consumed by the celebrant after the people have communed, except that a small amount may be reserved for delivery to those too ill or infirm to attend the service. In this case, the consecrated elements are to be delivered quickly, preserving the connection between the communion of the ill person and that of the congregation gathered in public Divine Service.
Lutherans use the terms "in, with and under the forms of consecrated bread and wine" and "Sacramental Union" to distinguish their understanding of the Eucharist from those of the Reformed and other traditions.
Main article: Anglican eucharistic theology
Anglicans prefer a view of objective presence that maintains a definitive change, but allows how that change occurs to remain a mystery. Likewise, Methodists postulate a par excellence presence as being a "Holy Mystery". Anglicans generally and officially believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but the specific forms of that belief range from a corporeal presence (real objective presence), sometimes even with Eucharistic adoration (mainly high church Anglo-Catholics), to belief in a pneumatic presence (mainly low church Reformed Anglicans).
In Anglican theology, a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. In the Eucharist, the outward and visible sign is that of bread and wine, while the inward and spiritual grace is that of the Body and Blood of Christ. The classic Anglican aphorism with regard to the debate on the Eucharist is the poem by John Donne (1572–1631): "He was the Word that spake it; He took the bread and brake it; And what that Word did make it; I do believe and take it" (Divine Poems. On the Sacrament).
During the English Reformation the doctrine of the Church of England was strongly influenced by Continental Reformed theologians whom Cranmer had invited to England to aid with the reforms. Among these were Martin Bucer, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Bernardino Ochino, Paul Fagius, and Jan Łaski. John Calvin was also urged to come to England by Cranmer, but declined, saying that he was too involved in the Swiss reforms. Consequently, early on, the Church of England has a strong Reformed, if not particularly Calvinistic influence. The view of the real presence, as taught in the Thirty-Nine Articles therefore bears much resemblance to the doctrine of the pneumatic presence of Christ in the Eucharist, held by Bucer, Martyr and Calvin.
The Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion contends that:
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith" (Article XXVIII).
For many Anglicans, whose mysticism is intensely incarnational, it is extremely important that God has used the mundane and temporal as a means of giving people the transcendent and eternal. Some have extended this view to include the idea of a presence that is in the realm of spirit and eternity, and not to be about corporeal-fleshiness.
During the Oxford Movement of the 19th century, Tractarians advanced a belief in the real objective presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but maintained that the details of how He is present remain mystery of faith, a view also held by the Orthodox Church and Methodist Church. Indeed, one of the oldest Anglo-Catholic devotional societies, the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, was founded largely to promote belief in the real objective presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
From some Anglican perspectives, the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist does not imply that Jesus Christ is present materially or locally. This is in accord with the standard Roman Catholic view as expressed, for instance by St. Thomas Aquinas, who, while saying that the whole Christ is present in the sacrament, also said that this presence was not "as in a place". Real does not mean material: the lack of the latter does not imply the absence of the former. The Eucharist is not intrinsic to Christ as a body part is to a body, but extrinsic as his instrument to convey Divine Grace. Some Anglicans see this understanding as compatible with different theories of Christ's presence—a corporeal presence, consubstantation, or pneumatic presence—without getting involved in the mechanics of "change" or trying to explain a mystery of God's own doing.
Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians participating in the first Anglican—Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC I) declared that they had "reached substantial agreement on the doctrine of the Eucharist". This claim was accepted by the 1988 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops (Resolution 8), but firmly questioned in the Official Roman Catholic Response to the Final Report of ARCIC I of 1991.
The followers of John Wesley have typically affirmed that the sacrament of Holy Communion is an instrumental Means of Grace through which the real presence of Christ is communicated to the believer, but have otherwise allowed the details to remain a mystery. In particular, Methodists reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (see "Article XVIII" of the Articles of Religion); the Primitive Methodist Church, in its Discipline also rejects the Lollardist doctrine of consubstantiation. In 2004, the United Methodist Church affirmed its view of the sacrament and its belief in the real presence in an official document entitled This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion Archived 6 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Of particular note here is the church's unequivocal recognition of the anamnesis as more than just a memorial but, rather, a re-presentation of Christ Jesus and His Love.
In conformity with The Sunday Service of the Methodists, Methodism's first liturgical text, in congregations of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Bethel Methodist Church, Congregational Methodist Church, Evangelical Methodist Church, Evangelical Wesleyan Church, First Bible Holiness Church, First Congregational Methodist Church, Free Methodist Church, Lumber River Conference of the Holiness Methodist Church, Metropolitan Church Association, Pilgrim Holiness Church, among many other Methodist connexions, the presider says the following when delivering the Eucharistic elements to each of the faithful (which is reflective of the Methodist teachings of the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Supper being a sacramental means of grace):
The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy soul and body unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on Him in thy heart, by faith with thanksgiving.
The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy soul and body unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.
This affirmation of real presence is also illustrated in the language of the United Methodist Eucharistic Liturgy where, in the epiclesis of the Great Thanksgiving, the celebrating minister prays over the elements:
Methodists assert that Jesus is truly present, and that the means of His presence is a "Holy Mystery". The communion hymn Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast, by Methodist divine Charles Wesley, includes the following stanza and is often sung during Methodist services of worship in which the Lord's Supper is celebrated:
The distinctive feature of the Methodist doctrine of the real presence is that the way Christ manifests His presence in the Eucharist is a sacred mystery—the focus is that Christ is truly present in the sacrament. The Discipline of the Free Methodist Church thus teaches:
The Lord's Supper is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death. To those who rightly, worthily, and with faith receive it, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. The supper is also a sign of the love and unity that Christians have among themselves. Christ, according to his promise, is really present in the sacrament. –Discipline, Free Methodist Church
Many within the Holiness Pentecostal tradition, which is largely Wesleyan–Arminian in theology as are the Methodist Churches, also affirm this understanding of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Nicolaus Zinzendorf, a bishop of the Moravian Church, stated that Holy Communion is the "most intimate of all connection with the person of the Saviour." The Moravian Church adheres to a view known as the "sacramental presence", teaching that in the sacrament of Holy Communion:
Christ gives his body and blood according to his promise to all who partake of the elements. When we eat and drink the bread and the wine of the Supper with expectant faith, we thereby have communion with the body and blood of our Lord and receive the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. In this sense, the bread and wine are rightly said to be Christ's body and blood which he gives to his disciples.
Main article: Lord's Supper in Reformed theology
Those in the Reformed tradition (inclusive of Continental Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Reformed Anglican/Reformed Episcopal and Reformed Baptist churches), particularly those following John Calvin, hold that the reality of Christ's body and blood do not come corporally (physically) to the elements, but that "the Spirit truly unites things separated in space" (Calvin). This view is known as the real spiritual presence, spiritual presence, or pneumatic presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper.
Following a phrase of Saint Augustine, the Calvinist view is that "no one bears away from this Sacrament more than is gathered with the vessel of faith". "The flesh and blood of Christ are no less truly given to the unworthy than to God's elect believers", Calvin said; but those who partake by faith receive benefit from Christ, and the unbelieving are condemned by partaking. By faith (not a mere mental apprehension), and in the Holy Spirit, the partaker beholds God incarnate, and in the same sense touches him with hands, so that by eating and drinking of bread and wine Christ's presence penetrates to the heart of the believer more nearly than food swallowed with the mouth can enter in.
This view holds that the elements may be disposed of without ceremony, as they are not changed in an objective physical sense and, as such, the meal directs attention toward Christ's "bodily" resurrection and return. Actual practices of disposing of leftover elements vary widely.
The Reformed doctrine of Holy Communion (The Lord's Supper, The Eucharist) is the belief in the Real Presence (pneumatic) in the sacrament and that it is a Holy Mystery. Reformed theology has traditionally taught that Jesus' body is seated in heaven at the right hand of God; therefore his body is not physically present in the elements, nor do the elements turn into his body in a physical or any objective sense. However, Reformed theology has also historically taught that when the Holy Communion is received, not only the Spirit, but also the true body and blood of Jesus Christ are received through the Spirit, but these are only received by those partakers who eat worthily (i.e., repentantly) with faith. The Holy Spirit unites the Christian with Jesus though they are separated by a great distance. See, e.g., Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 29; Belgic Confession, Article 35.
The Congregationalist theologian Alfred Ernest Garvie explicated the Congregationalist belief regarding the pneumatic presence in The Holy Catholic Church from the Congregational Point of View:
He is really present at the Lord's Supper without any such limitation to the element unless we are prepared to maintain that the material is more real than the spiritual. It is the whole Christ who presents Himself to faith, so that the believer has communion with Him.
The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, in which Reformed Baptists believe, affirms the Lord's Supper to be a means of "spiritual nourishment and growth", stating:
The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and showing to all the world the sacrifice of himself in his death, confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other.
In 1997, three denominations which historically held to a Reformed view of the supper: the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (representative of the Continental Reformed, Congregationalist and Presbyterian traditions) signed A Formula of Agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a document which stressed that: "The theological diversity within our common confession provides both the complementarity needed for a full and adequate witness to the gospel (mutual affirmation) and the corrective reminder that every theological approach is a partial and incomplete witness to the Gospel (mutual admonition) (A Common Calling, page 66)." Hence, in seeking to come to consensus about the real presence (see open communion), the churches have affirmed the real spiritual presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper:
In the Lord's Supper the risen Christ imparts himself in body and blood, given up for all, through his word of promise with bread and wine; ... we proclaim the death of Christ through which God has reconciled the world with himself. We proclaim the presence of the risen Lord in our midst. Rejoicing that the Lord has come to us, we await his future coming in glory . ...Both of our communions, we maintain, need to grow in appreciation of our diverse eucharistic traditions, finding mutual enrichment in them. At the same time both need to grow toward a further deepening of our common experience and expression of the mystery of our Lord's Supper.— A Formula for Agreement
Edward Irving, who founded the Irvingian Churches, such as the New Apostolic Church, taught the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; "Irving insisted on the real presence of the humiliated humanity of Christ in the Lord's Supper." The Catholic Apostolic Church has thus held to "the doctrine of the real presence of Christ with regard to the elements in the communion service." The Catechism of the New Apostolic Church, the largest of the Irvingian denominations, teaches:
Rather, the body and blood of Christ are truly present (real presence). Through the words of consecration spoken by an Apostle or a priestly minister commissioned by him, the substance of the body and blood of Christ is joined to the substance of the bread and wine.
The outward form (accidence) of the elements of Holy Communion is not changed by this act. Just as the Man Jesus was visible during His life on earth, so also the bread and wine are visible in Holy Communion. After their consecration, however, the elements of Holy Communion constitute a dual substance–like the two natures of Jesus Christ–namely that of bread and wine and that of the body and blood of Christ. The Son of God is then truly present in the elements of Holy Communion: in His divinity and in His humanity.
However, as regards the elements of Communion it is not the case that the bread alone corresponds to the body of Christ and that the wine alone corresponds to the blood of Christ. Rather, the body and blood of Christ is completely present in each of the two elements, both the bread and the wine.
Main article: Theology of Huldrych Zwingli § Eucharist
Further information: Anabaptist theology § Lord's Supper
Huldrych Zwingli, a Swiss Reformer, taught:
We believe that Christ is truly present in the Lord's Supper; yea, we believe that there is no communion without the presence of Christ. (Christum credimus vere esse in coena, immo non credimus esse Domini coenam nisi Christus adsit). This is the proof: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. How much more is He present where the whole congregation is assembled to His honour! But that His body is literally eaten is far from the truth and the nature of faith. It is contrary to the truth, because He Himself says: I am no more in the world, and the flesh profiteth nothing, that is to eat, as the Jews then believed and the Papists still believe. It is contrary to the nature of faith, I mean the holy and true faith, because faith embraces love, fear of God, and reverence, which abhors such carnal and gross eating, as much as any one would shrink from eating his beloved son. ... We believe that the true body of Christ is eaten in the communion in a sacramental and spiritual manner by the religious, believing and pious heart, as also Chrysostom taught.
Those who adhere to the Zwinglian view, do so at Jesus's words about doing this in "remembrance" rather than any transformation or any physical presence. Rather, Christ is really present at the thanksgiving, and in the memory. Zwingli's words that the "true body of Christ is eaten in a sacramental and "spiritual manner" is understood in a way where the physical objects and actions are the spiritual reminder of what Jesus had done, that He has instituted. This comes from the belief that the historical understanding of the Early Church taught that sacraments are done in "contemplation of faith" as the " proclamation of salvation and the strengthening of faith in the hearts of believers". General Baptists, Anabaptists, the Plymouth Brethren, some non-denominational Churches see Communion (also called the Lord's Supper or the Lord's Table) as signifying the body and blood of Jesus, a memorial of the Last Supper and the Passion with symbolic and meaningful elements, which is done by the ordinance of Jesus. This view is known as Memorialism or the Zwinglian view, as it was taught by Zwingli, a Swiss Reformer. Those who hold to the memorial understanding deny the strong sense of Transubstantiation as articulated by Lanfranc in the 11th century, arguing more akin to Berengarius who was a symbolist. It is pointed out that while early Church Fathers used the language of real presence, this is not similar to a hard understanding of Transubstantiation. Rather, interpreting in the context of other early Church Father writings, those who emphasize the symbolic nature of the Eucharist, point out the symbolic language used by Tertullian, Cyprian, and others, noting a differentiation between the "real presence of Christ" being used to mean a bodily presence. Further it is understood that the dispute arose much later, in the 9th and 11th centuries, about the nature of the Eucharist.
Anabaptists affirm that communion is a memorial and locate the presence of Jesus not in the elements themselves, but teach that the "mystery of communion with the living Christ in his Supper comes into being by the power of the Spirit, dwelling in and working through the collected members of Christ’s Body". As such, in celebrations of the Eucharist, "Anabaptist congregations looked to the living Christ in their hearts and in their midst, who transformed members and elements together into a mysterious communion, creating his Body in many members, ground like grains and crushed like grapes, into one bread and one drink."
Many Christian churches holding to a doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (for example, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Moravian, Anglican, Methodist, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Irvingian) reserve to ordained clergy the function of consecrating the Eucharist, but not necessarily that of distributing the elements to communicants. Others do not speak of ordination but still reserve these functions to leaders who are given titles such as pastor, elder and deacon.
It is important to note at this point that there is major agreement among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, the Reformed, and the Particular Baptists that Christ is truly present in the Lord's Supper. They all go beyond the view of the Supper as a bare sign or memorial ... The debate among Catholics, Lutherans, and Reformed people is one that focuses on the mode of Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper. At the bottom, this debate is not so much sacramental as it is christological. [sic]
In the eighteenth century, the Moravians consistently promoted the Lutheran doctrine of the real presence, which they described as a "sacramental presence."
Anglicans and Orthodox do not attempt to define how [Christ is present], but simply accept the mystery of his presence.
For Anglicans and Methodists the reality of the presence of Jesus as received through the sacramental elements is not in question. Real presence is simply accepted as being true, its mysterious nature being affirmed and even lauded in official statements like This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion.
The Westminster Confession emphatically declares that Christ is truly present in the elements and is truly received by those partaking, 'yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually' (chap. 31, par. 7). The insistence is that while Christ's presence is not physical in nature it is no less a real and vital presence, as if it were a physical presence. ... Those of us in the Reformed tradition are under strong obligation to honour the notion of the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper.
That is, as the practice of the ancient Assyrian Church of the East indicates clearly, not all churches who hold a high doctrine of Christ's real presence have reserved the Eucharist historically. Further, a lack of reserving the Eucharist in the Assyrian Church of the East has not been a factor in entering recently into a situation of shared Eucharist with the Chaldean Church.
The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members ... memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His Second Coming.
We believe the Scriptures teach that Christian baptism is the immersion in water of a believer, into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost; to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, with its effect, in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life; that it is prerequisite ... to the Lord's Supper, in which the members of the church, by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; preceded always by solemn self-examination.
The Greek term corresponding to transubstation is metousiosis, which, however is not bound up with the scholastic theory of substance and accidents. It was accepted by the Synod of Bethlehem, 1672, during the reaction against the Calvinizing movement of the Patriarch Cyril Lucaris, but it was never accepted formally by the Russian Church, and it is not a dogma of the Orthodox Communion.
But it does not care to dwell much on the scholastic theories of 'transubstantiation'.
At the same time, the Latins interpret the Sacraments in a legal and philosophical way. Hence, in the Eucharist, using the right material things (bread and wine) and pronouncing the correct formula, changes their substance (transubstantiation) into the Body and Blood of Christ. The visible elements or this and all Sacraments are merely "signs" of the presence of God. The Orthodox call the Eucharist "the mystical Supper." What the priest and the faithful consume is mysteriously the Body and Blood of Christ. We receive Him under the forms of bread and wine, because it would be wholly repugnant to eat "real" human flesh and drink "real" human blood.
The Copts are fearful of using philosophical terms concerning the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, preferring uncritical appeals to biblical passages like 1 Cor. 10.16; 11.23–29 or the discourse in John 6.26–58.
In other words, Roman Catholics believe that transubstantiation is the 'change' that occurs in the 'whole substance' of the bread and wine set apart for the Eucharistic mystery. This is a change that takes place at the words of institution or consecration (i.e. 'This is My Body,' etc.). There's some Scholastic language here, of course, but that's the basic gist. In the Orthodox tradition, you will find it taught variously that this change takes place anywhere between the Proskomedia (the Liturgy of Preparation)—which is now a separate service prior to both Orthros and the Divine Liturgy on a typical Sunday, though traditionally it is done during Orthros—and the Epiklesis ('calling down'), or invocation of the Holy Spirit 'upon us and upon these gifts here set forth' (as in Chrysostom's liturgy). As such, the gifts should be treated with reverence throughout the entirety of the service. We don't know the exact time in which the change takes place, and this is left to mystery. As Orthodox Christians, we must be careful to balance and nuance our claims, especially with regards to the Latins or 'the West.' The last thing we want to do is oversimplify matters to the extent of seeming deceptive or—perhaps worse—misinformed. After all, this is typically what gets thrown our way from those unfamiliar with Orthodoxy (beyond literature), often justly putting us on the 'defensive' (an important distinction from 'triumphalism') in response to such misrepresentations.
As Confessional Lutherans we believe in baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper, and infant baptism.
Lutherans have always emphasized that Christ's true body and blood are really present 'in, with, and under' the bread and wine and that Christ's true body and blood are received by all who receive the elements, either to their blessing or to their condemnation…Lutherans emphasize that although the presence of Christ in the Sacrament is a supernatural presence, which is beyond our understanding and explanations, it is a real, substantial presence. Jesus simply says, 'This is my body. This is my blood,' and Lutherans confess this when they say, 'The bread and wine we receive are Christ's body and blood.' They also combine the words 'in and under' from the Catechism and the word 'with' from the Formula of Concord into the expression 'Christ's body and blood are received in, with, and under the bread and wine.'
Although some Lutherans have used the term 'consbstantiation' [sic] and it might possibly be understood correctly (e.g., the bread & wine, body & blood coexist with each other in the Lord's Supper), most Lutherans reject the term because of the false connotation it contains...either that the body and blood, bread and wine come together to form one substance in the Lord's Supper or that the body and blood are present in a natural manner like the bread and the wine. Lutherans believe that the bread and the wine are present in a natural manner in the Lord's Supper and Christ's true body and blood are present in an illocal, supernatural manner.
We reject transubstantiation because the Bible teaches that the bread and the wine are still present in the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 11:27–28). We do not worship the elements because Jesus commands us to eat and to drink the bread and the wine. He does not command us to worship them.
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Many folk tale enthusiasts remained vicarious participants in a vague supernaturalism; Anglo-Catholics wanted not Wonderland but heaven, and they sought it through their sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Though they stopped short of transubstantiation, Anglo-Catholics insisted that the consecrated bread and wine contained the "Real Objective Presence" of God.
How the bread and wine of the Eucharist become the Body and Blood of Christ after a special, sacramental and heavenly manner and still remain bread and wine, and how our Lord is really present (real as being the presence of a reality), is a mystery which no human mind can satisfactorily explain. It is a mystery of the same order as how the divine Logos could take upon himself human nature and become man without ceasing to be divine. It is a mystery of the Faith, and we were never promised that all the mysteries would be solved in this life. The plain man (and some not so plain) is wisest in sticking to the oft-quoted lines ascribed to Queen Elizabeth, but probably written by John Donne: "Christ was the Word that spake it; He took the bread and brake it; And what the Word did make it, That I believe and take it." The mysteries of the Eucharist are three: The mystery of identification, the mystery of conversion, the mystery of presence. The first and primary mystery is that of identification; the other two are inferences from it. The ancient Fathers were free from Eucharistic controversy because they took their stand on the first and primary mystery—that of identification—and accepted our Lord's words, " This is my Body," " This is my Blood," as the pledge of the blessings which this Sacrament conveys. We have since the early Middle Ages lost their peace because we have insisted on trying to explain unexplainable mysteries. But let it be repeated, Anglo-Catholics are not committed to the doctrine of Transubstantiation; they are committed to the doctrine of the Real Presence.
Advocates of the pneumatic presence might point to the efficacy of the Holy Spirit as somehow applying the virtues or power of the body of Christ to the faithful. Some within this camp might emphasize an instrumental manner by which the Holy Spirit uses the elements as a means of communicating the efficacy of the body of Christ. This view might be best associated with John Calvin. Others within this camp focus on a parallelism by which as the mouth feeds on the consecrated elements so does the heart feed on the body of Christ. This seems to be the emphasis of the Anglican divine Thomas Cranmer.
Instances of this service, and also of carrying the Blessed Sacrament in procession, are brought up to arouse the prejudice of party spirit that is opposed to belief in the Real Objective Presence. It is, therefore, my judgment, poor as it may be, that it would be wise to cease these two forms of devotion. We cannot claim for Benediction that it was a pre-Reformation service, to which we have inherited a right, and there is no legal ground on which to stand in favor of its introduction.
We reject the doctrine of transubstantiation: that is, that the substance of bread and wine are changed into the very body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper. We likewise reject that doctrine which affirms the physical presence of Christ's body and blood to be by, with and under the elements of bread and wine (consubstantiation).
Holy Communion, of course, is a central act of worship for all Christians, and it should come as no surprise that it was also highly esteemed in the Moravian Church. Zinzendorf referred to it as the "most intimate of all connection with the person of the Saviour." The real presence of Christ was thankfully received, though, typically, the Moravians refrained from delving too much into the precise way the Savior was sacramentally present