Incarnation & Transubstantiation are Formally Analogous

Transubstantiation stymies us in the same way, and for the same reason, as the Incarnation. In both cases, God takes embodiment in a finite creaturely vessel. The Logos takes the form of man and of bread (and likewise of Church, and Word – but tace re them for the nonce). These forms remain what they were. Jesus the man is still a man – Good News for us, since only qua man could he make strictly human reparation to God for the sins of Man, thus healing the cosmic wounds particularly inflicted by men – and the bread is still just as bready as ever – again, good, or we could not eat him, and so partake his Body and its sacrificial redemption of all our predicaments. The human nature is not driven out of the man by the divine nature, and the breadiness of the bread is not driven out by the divinity of it. On the contrary, they are each perfected. When God becomes man, a man – and, so, Man in general – becomes the God, so that men (can) become gods. Likewise, when God becomes bread, the bread becomes the supersubstantial Bread of Heaven: it becomes the God, who is the manna that feeds the angels, and the other members of God’s Body. Us.

We are what we eat, deo gracias.

In both cases, the soma remains soma; and, so, as soma, divine participant and influence in this world – a solid, as heavy as any stone, and so therefore scandalous to any who would pass by.

The true question is this: why should either Incarnation or Transubstantiation so scandalize us? Is it not only, merely, that these Incorporations of the divine into his creation are difficult for us to comprehend?

Should our comprehension be the measure of what is real? It is an absurd suggestion. Consider women: what man understands them, really? Not a one. Yet, there are those women, as real to us – nay, far more real, important, and portentous, indeed crushing in their cruciality to our lives – as any stone, or a fortiori any such evanescent indefinite thing as success, or a dollar, or a mountain climbed. I don’t mean to suggest that women are especially incomprehensible in any absolute sense, only to admit and reckon that they are at bottom incomprehensible to men.

Perhaps men are just as incomprehensible to women; I could not know.

Perhaps all creatures are incomprehensible to each other. Perhaps the only way that they can well and truly know each other, and then love each other, well and truly, is by way of a prior apprehension of who and what they are to and in and for God.

Our comprehension is *not* the measure of what is real. It is the other way round. The real is what it is. Our comprehension struggles with it. Do we comprehend the real? It is to laugh.

How then might we conceivably determine it?

We do not even understand ourselves.

OK: the Creator of all things incorporates himself into his creation. How in God’s name could it be otherwise? What, exactly, is the problem here?

12 thoughts on “Incarnation & Transubstantiation are Formally Analogous

  1. Pingback: Incarnation & Transubstantiation are Formally Analogous | @the_arv

  2. I seem to remember a Protestant member writing on this site. How do they react to this? I see the weekly Mass as the continual crucifixion of the Lord, instead of his action being the Singular event of the cosmos.

    • Well, I suppose we shall have to see how a Protestant responds to this. None of it is antagonistic to Protestants, certes. Our brothers in Christ are of course welcome, and hail fellow, well met. Let us all resort together to the bar, and to some substance or other somehow or other somatic, and enthusiastic, and spiritous. There shall we hash it out, in friendship. What else is there, among us mere men, at last?

      What, indeed is the point of war – which is in the final analysis always religious – other than arrival at some transcendent agreement with each other?

      So, let us then agree, and forswear war.

      I do not doubt that my merely, simply catholic perspective can find some way to accommodate theirs (for so, has it ever done); nor even that they will in the end object to the accommodation, but rather rejoice thereat. Indeed, I feel quite sure that we shall all in that final eventual accommodation, of which all worldly precedent accommodations and agreements are but foreshadows, welcome one another, as true brothers in Christ, and so join together wholeheartedly, as sons and uncles and cousins of the Principal, in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

      God forbid that I should abjure a brother in Christ. God forbid that he should abjure me. For, Christ is all in all (already, and whether or not we know it); so is he all in us, both.

      I take note of two things.

      First, that transubstantiation involves and includes all lesser and less radical notions of the Real Presence – consubstantiation, memorialization, and so forth. If transubstantiation is true, then so are all those other less daring doctrines of the Real Presence. If transubstantiation is not true, then all those other doctrines have rather a tougher time than they might have had. Transubstantiation is the most far-reaching doctrine of the Mass on offer. It is therefore as it were the sine qua non and guarantee of all the others. In what, after all, might consubstantiation consist, if not first in and by transubstantiation?

      Once take the first step down and away from the awful reproach and challenge of transubstantiation, and you shall find yourself sliding down quickly to a merely pro forma Zwinglian memorialism. I.e., to mere innuminous profane mundanity, akin to the rites we Americans more or less blithely partake on the Glorious 4th, or on Memorial Day, or Veterans Day.

      Second, that the weekly iteration of the Mass does not mean that the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is not the Singular event of the cosmos. On the contrary; it goes the other way: if the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is the Singular event of the cosmos – which, of course, it is – then all the cosmos depends upon it, participates it, and enacts it somehow or other in variations, willy nilly, and at every nonce. The weekly, indeed momentary reiteration of the Mass is then only and no more than the peculiarly intense crudescence and manifestation here and there in the world of the basic procedure of creaturely existence everywhere evident.

      The act of the Mass is not different from the act of existence, except qualitatively.

    • Not sure what he would mean by “the continual crucifixion of the Lord” (I have most often heard it proposed as the “re-sacrificing” or “re-crucifying”). If all of time is present to God, then the Lord’s crucifixion would be continually present to God, wouldn’t it? The Mass, as the doctrine goes, is making present that Singular event – either bringing its participants to the Singular event or the Singular event to its participants. You could liken it to a wormhole of sorts. So, I would take exception to the Protestant’s characterization as “instead of” – there is no contradiction between the Mass making present the Singular even of the cosmos and that event being the Singular Event of the cosmos. If I make present to you my car keys every week, they still remain my car keys, and I am not continually recreating car keys.

      Now, if he does not believe that such a thing is possible through offering the Mass, that is different.

      • Yes. Every performance of the Toccata & Fugue in D Minor participates the Toccata & Fugue in D Minor.

        “Participant” is the key term. Each Mass participates the crucifixion (not to mention the Wedding Feast of the Lamb) in the Platonico-Augustinian sense, wherein each actual event is a concrete instantiation of a formal configuration of Forms eternally and originally and eminently present in the Logos of God. The crucifixion of the Logos at Golgotha under Pontius Pilate was the palmary concrete instantiation in our world’s history of a sacrifice that takes place prior to the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), which is therefore presupposed in the concrete actuality of the world, and which then must be a forecondition of that concrete actuality.

        Eternity is right now. So while the analogy to a worm hole is helpful in that it gives us permission to think of disparate worldly events as somehow immediately adjacent to each other, the closeness of eternity to each event is even closer than immediate adjacency. You don’t need to travel through a portal to get from Eternity and the Forms eminently present in the eternal Logos down to this moment on Earth. This moment on Earth is where eternity is happening. The distance between the two is 0.

    • Catholics don’t believe that Christ dies again at any Mass. After the bread and the wine transubstantiate, we receive his glorified flesh and his glorified blood. That’s partly what the priest consecrates the bread before he consecrates the wine. He does that to remind us that blood flowed from his body while he stayed on the cross. The priest pours water into the wine because water flowed from his pierced side. So, although the bread and the wine do change, the Mass represents some events that happened to Our Blessed Lord.

      I’m linking this note to the parts of a two-part scientific article about an eighth-century Eucharistic miracle. In fact, the only Eucharistic miracles I know of have taken place in Catholic places.

      It’s important to remember the difference between transubstantiation and what Lutherans call “consubstantiation.” Lutherans believe that although Christ becomes sacramentally present at their services, they bread and the wine stay there with Him. But Catholics disagree with them on that point.

  3. When one ponders the Catholic/Protestant schism, it is hard not to fault high IQ Catholics to some degree for their relative coyness in regard to the extraordinary claim of transubstantiation. There is a literalness in transubstantiation that very few Catholics articulate with layman sensitivity. In a sense, transubstantiation is more “radical” than “by faith alone.” And yet, for the latter to be true. so must the former? Is this not, in fact, the case? Both are true where “they” are true?

    • Aye.

      What are the most extraordinary claims about the Most High, from any side? How could they fail to be true of the Most High? How indeed could he fail so far to transcend such claims, as to render them presumptuous?

      Consider the latter day Muslim argument of al Ghazali, that God is beyond logic; that, indeed, God’s illogical Act is the ultimate source of all logic. How could it be otherwise? God Bless al Ghaazali!

      Note however – note well – that if God is the source of logic, then is he himself Logic, simpliciter. Which brings us back to the Christian dispensation, and away from the Mohammedan, in which the ways of God are utterly inscrutable.

      • Kristor…

        I wasn’t disagreeing with the truth of transubstantiation. I was only questioning the legitimacy of the schism and high IQ Catholics’ accountability in exacerbating this schism especially by way of a coyness in articulating the literal reality of transubstantiation.

        Otherwise, it seems that a belief in transubstantiation can be “by faith alone” in our modern reality. And of course, to a modern, transubstantiation would be a more extra-ordinary claim than just “by faith alone.” As such, high IQ Catholics are most responsible in explaining this phenomenon to the modern. But alas, there is a truth throughout — of transubstantiation, by faith alone and modernism — and perhaps a recklessly phony schism tagging along?

        High IQ Christians just must be the ones to untangle this debacle.

      • Thordaddy, I could make sense out of most of that. I don’t think Catholic intellectuals have ever been coy in explaining the doctrine of Transubstantiation. They might not have done a good enough job at explaining it, but not for lack of trying.

        The explanations on offer either for the Incarnation or Transubstantiation do not demonstrate that they happen. They rather only explain what the doctrines can be properly taken to mean. The theology of the Incarnation tells us what we should properly mean by saying that Jesus is the Son of God. It does not tell us that he is in fact the Son of God. Likewise, the theology of Transubstantiation tells us what we should properly mean by saying that a bit of bread is Jesus. It does not tell us that a given bit of bread is in fact Jesus.

        Belief that the events indicated by the doctrines actually happen is and must be by faith alone. Even an empirical recognition of their effects – in the miracles of Jesus and his Apostles, in the Eucharistic miracles, and in the transformed lives of Christians – does not show what has in them happened, precisely because in both Incarnation and Transubstantiation the manifest form actually taken by the divine ingress is routine stuff of the sort we encounter all the time: bread, wine, a human body. It would be reasonable to react to the miracles and personal transformations by simple amazement and confusion, rather than by an adduction of those extraordinary effects to divine ingress.

        The leap from “Whoa, that’s some weird stuff happening there” to “surely this man is the Son of God, and this bread is his Body” is – well, it is categorical. It is the leap of faith.

        No idea what you meant with that stuff about a phony schism.

    • I suppose this depends on what you mean by “high IQ Catholics.” Some might take you to mean the “high IQ Catholics” who find a way to utter the Creed without taking a word of it literally. I assume you are not talking about them, but those who approach the question through a philosophical framework that was originally developed independently of Christianity, and which required some mutual shoehorning to get the the framework and the then-corpus of Christian belief into alignment.

  4. Pingback: Incarnation & Transubstantiation are Formally Analogous | Reaction Times


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