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Theological Reflections on the Eucharist
Translated by Maria D'Ambrosio
Translation revised by Thomas B. Fowler and Joaquin Redondo
English text copyright© 1997 by the Xavier Zubiri Foundation of North America
Use unrestricted if credit is given to source
Spanish text: "Reflexiones teológicas sobre la Eucaristía"
(Estudios Eclesiásticos, No. 56, 1981)
This is the text of the first conference to his seminar of 1981-1982, delivered
at the Auditorium of the Deusto University, Spain, Oct. 1st, 1980,
on the solemn occasion of his investiture as Doctor of Theology honoris causa.
The Eucharist is the supreme form of the life of Christ in each one of us. It is a mystery. As such it is something which cannot be "explained". Nevertheless, it can be "treated" conceptually in order to determine the precise point of origin for the mysterious, in the mystery. That is what theology does. Therefore, one thing is the mystery and faith in it, and another the theological conceptualization. Obviously, theological concepts are not requisite for a belief in the Eucharist.
Theological conceptualization can be quite diverse. In this study I will limit myself to a properly metaphysical conceptualization. In this kind of conceptualization, theologies differ according to the table of metaphysical concepts to which they refer. Here I will follow a fairly simple metaphysical course, one that holds to the naked facts of faith. Needless to say, I will do this in a highly elementary manner, tracing only an outline of what subsequent conceptual developments should be.
I do not claim to say anything new about the Eucharist, but rather I intend to conceptualize in my own way things which are already known. This conceptualization is the formal theme of this presentation. It is very possible that such conceptualization may seem insufficient to many. But insufficient, For what? Certainly for the mystery; but this insufficiency is essentially inherent to every theological conceptualization of the mystery. Insufficient metaphysically? It all depends on what idea one has of metaphysics. I will not go into that issue here. It will be enough for me if this apparent metaphysical insufficiency adequately allows the faith in its integrity to shine through in the revealed fact, and ecclesiastical dogma.
The Eucharist poses many essential problems. In this conference I will limit myself to three of them, which are intimately connected with each other, as we shall see in the course of the exposition.
1. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
2. The mode of this presence.
3. The formal reason for the Eucharist.
Let us proceed step-by-step.
1) First, the very fact of the real presence.
A) For the oldest written text we are indebted, as it is well known, to Saint Paul: toûtó moú estìn tó sôma, "this is my body". To simplify the exposition, I will only refer to the bread, leaving aside the wine. That phrase has three parts. Firstly, sôma, which Latin translated as corpus, body. But Christ did not express himself in either Latin or Greek, but in Aramaic. Sôma translates the Aramaic guph, or also basar, which certainly means body, but not only as the material part of man (that is, not the body as distinguished from the soul), but rather designating the complete entire man, "I, myself". We shall later discuss the rigorous conceptualization of this linguistic fact. Even in Greek, the word sôma expresses at times this "I, myself", as we see in some passages of St. Paul. Then the phrase of St. Paul should be translated: "this is I, myself". The phrase has as subject toûtó, "this". The Aramaic da, and the Hebrew ze mean "this", but at times they can also denote "here". The two possibilities do not exclude each other, because in my view, we are always dealing with "this which is here". Whatever translation one adopts, the phrase says, "this (here) is I, myself". Finally, in the Greek phrase we find the verb "to be" esti. Now then, in Aramaic and in Hebrew there is no verbal copula, the sentence is purely nominative. All discussion of the meaning of "is" in the words of the Eucharistic institution is wasted effort. Consequently, it should actually be translated: "this (here) I, myself". The nominative phrase expresses the reality itself with much more force than the verbal copulative phrase. I will return to this later. Christ himself, then, in His own concrete reality, is (está) present in consecrated bread. All this is well-known, but it is convenient to recall it here in order to begin the conceptualization.
B) What is this bread in which Christ is present? The very fact that Christ should invite one to eat the bread, already tells us that here "bread" does not signify a physio-chemical reality; it is not a matter of the reality of the bread in and of itself, but of the bread insofar as food, i.e., bread sub ratione alimenti. The ratio of food and the ratio of physio-chemical reality are not the same. As early as the thirteenth century, St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure discussed this problem without reaching agreement. For St. Bonaventure, there is no presence of Christ except when the bread is food. He believed that mice are not nourished by bread, and affirmed in consequence that Christ is not present in consecrated bread if the rodent eats it; such bread does not have ratio alimenti for the mouse. St. Thomas, on the other hand, thought that the presence of Christ is a presence in the bread qua reality, in and of itself. In all modesty, I think that St. Bonaventure was right. In the Eucharist, bread is bread as food, and not as the physio-chemical reality of bread. Food is principle of life; to be food is to be principle of life. Because of this, Christ is present in the bread as food, as principle of life. The presence of Christ in the food signifies that Christ is principle of life.
C) The Church has not limited herself to ratifying this fact, but has accentuated the presence, speaking of it as a conversion: mirabilis conversio. Conversion of what?-we ask.
If bread is food, then the conversion consists in a transformation of material food into spiritual food: hence the bread of life, the living bread, the life-giving bread, and other such translations are possible for the expression St. John puts on Christ's lips regarding spiritual food, after the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper: "I am the vine, and you are the branches".
After Christ himself, that which makes Christ present in the bread is the sacramental power of the priest, who, acting in the name of the person of Christ, not only "recalls", but also "repeats" the events of the Lord's Supper.
D) This presence of Christ in consecrated bread is real. That is, it is not a metaphor or a mere symbol. But, in addition, the reality of this presence is not merely moral, nor yet a kind of dynamic virtue, but a physical reality. I have already indicated this: the nominative phrase expresses not only being, but also the physical reality, with much greater force than the predicative phrase. If I say, "you, my son", I say much more than if I say, "You are my son". Because of this, in terms of place, the nominative phrase expresses the reality "here". Of the bread, Christ said to us, "this (here) I, myself". In many cases (among them the phrase we are studying), if one wishes to express the reality with a verb, one must use, not the verb ser [to be] but the verb estar [to be here and now]. Estar involves a connotation of proper physical reality: "here am I, myself".
2) But then the question is inexorable: What are the consequences for the bread of this real presence of Christ which makes of this bread spiritual food?
The answer to this question must clarify three points: What is it to be real?, What is bread as real food?, and What is the reality of the presence of Christ in the bread?
A) First point: What is it to be real? Classical metaphysics has resorted to the concept of substance. The real is thus substance. None of its properties has reality except in dependence upon substance as on its subject. The properties are accidents of the substance. The substance is the subject to which the properties are inherent as accidents.
However, I find this unacceptable. Radically and formally, the real is not substantiality, but substantivity. Among other things, our philosophy needs a metaphysics of substantivity. Let me explain.
Substantiality and substantivity are very different things. As I see it, things are formally constituted by properties, signs, qualities (the terminology is unimportant now) which cohere with each other; each one, as a property, is a property of all the rest, is a "property-of". This is what I call the "constructed state", taking the term from the grammar of Semitic languages. In the constructed state, the terms among themselves, and therefore that which they designate, formally constitute a proper intrinsic unity. And this unity of the constructed state is what I call "system". The constructed state is the intrinsic and formal unity of two nouns, and therefore of two things. If I say, in whatever Indo-European language, "son of Peter", I have two nouns and two realities-son and Peter, the one dependent upon the other. But in the constructed state I have, as it were, but one noun and one thing, constructed in two of its moments, as if I were to say "son-of-Peter". I fully realize that one of these moments is called the "absolute state", but this term is absolute because it is the base on which the whole thing is constructed. Applied to our problem, the idea of the constructed state is what I have called "system". Each of the moments of a system is built upon the system's own unity. Radically and primarily, then, things are systems of properties; each property is a "property-of" the system. This system has two moments. One is that by which the properties in themselves are something "complete" in the order of properties; each property is a property of the others, in a sense, cyclically. But there is another moment. Taking the thing by itself, this complete character of the system is a closed and total unity. It is not a unity by reason of the properties, but a unity with its own characteristic, a characteristic by which the already complete has the sufficiency to be a closed and total unity. By virtue of this second moment, the properties of the thing are not only complete, but they also have the sufficiency to determine the thing as "one" thing. This sufficiency is what I call substantivity. Substantivity is the sufficiency to be a closed, total unity. Both moments, that of being complete and that of being a closed and total unity, are not independent. Complete properties modalize the systematic unity of the substantivity. And this modalization is what I call "constitution": it is the mode of being "one" by virtue of the complete properties. It is the mode by which "one" thing is "this" thing.
Systematic unity, insofar as it is constitutional unity, is not a subjacent subject; rather it is constitutional sufficiency, i.e., the capacity of a thing to constitute its own proper unity. The properties, in a substance, are inherent to a subject. But in a substantivity they are inherent to nothing; rather, they are coherent among themselves in a unity of sufficiency.
The two moments to which I refer (I repeat, being complete in its properties and being a substantivity) are not identical. The unity of substantivity can be opened without destroying the complete character of the properties. This opening is what allows substantivity to change without changing the properties. Substantivity can be acquired and lost in many ways, and always formally without changing properties. Thus, glucose in a jar is something which classical metaphysics called "substantial", but at the same time it is something substantive. On the other land, when it is ingested by an organism (apart from the metabolic alterations), despite preserving whole its presumed substance and its properties, it has nevertheless lost its substantivity. Substantivity is had only by the whole organism; only the organism is the closed and total system. For this reason, the substance itself of the glucose is, in the organism, perfectly insubstantive. The radicality and primariness of things is not, then, substantiality, but substantivity. And the transformation of substantivity is not even remotely a transformation in substantiality; it is not a transmutation of realities. The transformation of substantivity consists in that the system of properties loses its constitutional unity. It is an opening of the unity of substantivity in favor of a unity of a superior order. Then the properties no longer totally modalize the substantive unity. This substantive unity then has a different mode, a different constitutive unity. In the case of the organism, this is a substantive unity which is not constitutionally modalized only by the properties of the glucose. In turn, the new unity does not necessarily constitute a new property of the glucose. Thus, the unity of the organism is not a new property, but only a different unity which is merely functional, etc. The opening of the unity of substantivity can take place, then, in many different ways. Ingestion is no more than one of them, there are others.
This substantivity is, then, what formally constitutes what I shall call the "naked reality" of things.
B) Second point: What is bread as food? Bread as food is not the same as bread as naked reality, as substantivity. Bread is only food with respect to human life; but bread as a mode of reality, as a substantivity, has nothing to do with life. What is bread as food?
To understand this let us observe that many real things not only have a constructed state in their properties, but are also found in a constructed state with respect to human life, such as, for example, a table, a chair, a room, etc. By virtue of this, the properties of this other constructed character do not formally belong to the naked reality of the thing. By its naked reality a thing acts upon other things only by the properties which its naked substantivity possesses, but not by what constitutes its relation to life. Thus a chair acts upon the earth not as a chair, but insofar as it has a certain matter, mass, shape, weight, etc.; consequently being a chair does not belong to the naked reality of what we call a chair. "Chair" is the meaning that a real thing has with respect to living. I call a thing in its naked-reality a "reality-thing"; things in their relation to life I call "meaning-things". They are not the same. A cavern is, as a cavern, a purely geological phenomenon, a property of the naked reality of a mountain; but being a human habitation makes of this reality-thing a meaning-thing.
Obviously, these two modes, while quite distinct, are not independent. That a reality-thing should also be a meaning-thing depends, at least, on the properties it has as a reality-thing. Not all real things have the capacity to be meaning-things, and even when they do have the capacity, they have it in different degrees. The capacity of a thing in its reality to constitute a meaning-thing is what I call "condition". Thus there are things which, because of the mode of their naked reality are, nevertheless, of good or bad condition. When the naked reality, that is, the substantivity, is of such a condition as to be capable of constituting a meaning-thing, we may permit ourselves, by extension, to call that meaning-thing substantivity, and apply to the meaning-thing what we have said about the substantivity of the naked reality.
Given this, bread as naked physio-chemical reality is a reality-thing. Bread as food is a meaning-thing, since it is a principle of our life. And that reality-thing is of such a condition that it can be constituted as food. Because of this I call bread as food "food-bread". Substantivity, as I have said, can be acquired and lost without changing properties. The properties of bread as naked substantive reality do not change as it is constituted food or ceases to be so constituted. When constituted food the systematic unity of the properties is not broken; rather its closed and total substantivity is opened to a superior unity, by which it acquires a new condition for being a meaning-thing.
This, then, is what occurs in consecrated bread.
C) Third point: what is the reality of the presence of Christ in consecrated bread? Christ is principle of our spiritual life. As such, He belongs in the constructed mode to the class of meaning-things, since He is food. Now then, bread does not have the condition of being able to constitute spiritual food. But the presence of Christ, leaving the properties of the naked reality of bread intact, confers on the bread a new condition. He opens the closed and total unity of the substantivity of this bread-food to a superior unity, to the unity of Himself. Then the bread, preserving what was classically called "substance", has lost its substantivity and its condition and has acquired a condition of nourishment which it previously lacked: the condition of being spiritual food. The unity of the body of Christ is what now constitutes the unity of substantivity of the bread-food. The substantivity of consecrated bread is thus the divine substantivity of Christ himself. In the consecration, nothing happens to the bread as physio-chemical reality; rather it loses its former alimentary substantivity. This previous material substantivity has been converted, by the mere presence of Christ, into a spiritual one, into the divine substantivity of Christ. The real presence of Christ has changed the condition of the bread. Consequently, the conversion of consecrated bread is not transubstantiation, but transubstantivation. Certainly, this is not an "in-panification" (analogous to In-carnation), because Christ and the bread, by virtue of the consecration, constitute a single substantivity.
Thus, we must ask ourselves what relation there is, so to speak, between this conversion of substantivity and the real presence. Classical metaphysics has thought that the real presence is a consequence of the conversion. Since there can be no accident without substance, the substantial conversion determines the presence of the substance of Christ in the bread. Whether this conversion is understood as a formal conversion (according to St. Thomas) or as an equivalent conversion (according to Suárez), the basis of the real presence is always seen as the conversion. With all due respect, I propose a different view. I believe that the conversion is the consequence of the real presence of Christ in the food-bread. The real presence is the basis of the conversion. Only because Christ is present in the bread, this bread, as food substantivity, has lost its material substantivity and acquired a substantivity of spiritual food. By the real presence of Christ the bread is converted ratione alimenti. The conversion formally affects the condition of the bread.
Here we have, then, the fact of the real presence of Christ conceptualized
as transsubstantivation. But, inevitably, it presents us with
a very grave problem: In what does the real presence of the body
of Christ in the bread consist? This is the second of the three
problems I formulated earlier.
In the fact of the real presence of Christ in consecrated bread, we deal with the question of the bread being Christ himself, or, expressed in New Testament terms, of the bread being the body of Christ: this is transubstantivation. Transubstantivation is grounded in the real presence of Christ in the bread; consequently, transubstantivation presupposes the real presence of Christ in the bread. What is this real presence as presence? That is our problem. Christ becomes actual in the bread, and we ask ourselves what this actuality is. The meaning of the "meaning-thing" is grounded in the "condition", and in turn the condition is grounded in the "actuality" of the presence. What does this mean?
The Latins called actualitas, "actuality", to the fact that something be in act that which it is. Being a dog in act consists in being fully what constitutes its "caninity", as it were. But precisely because of that I call the same thing actuity: this is the characteristic of being in formal plenitude the reality that one is. On the other hand, actuality is the characteristic not of being "act", but rather of being "actual". Actuity and actuality are not the same, as it is not the same to be in act (estar en acto) and to be actual (ser actual). As I see it, this is essential for the understanding of what sôma, body, is. In my opinion, this is the only way we can understand why "body" can signify "I, myself". And consequently, this is essential to understand the mode of presence of the body of Christ in consecrated bread. The mode of the presence of Christ in consecrated bread through trans-substantivation is "actuality". We are obliged here to carefully examine three points: What is actuality?, What is the human body?, and What is the mode of the real presence of the body of Christ in consecrated bread?
First point: What is actuality? Actuality is always the character of one reality with respect to another, and this relation is the "presence" of something in something. This presential relation can be of various kinds.
First of all, it can be an extrinsic presence to the real thing which is present: this is "extrinsic" actuality. Thus, viruses have possessed actuity for millions of years, but only in this century do they have actuality, that is, an actual presence for us. Clearly it is an actuality extrinsic to viral reality.
But it is not always thus; actuality can be "intrinsic" to the reality present. When a person "makes himself present" (se hace presente) in some place or among other people, his actuality is intrinsic to himself. What does "intrinsic" signify here? It signifies that the actuality does not consist in the mere presentiality before someone, in mere presentness, but in "being present" (estar presente). His actuality does not consist in the "present" of the being (in the circumstantial sense = estar), but in the "being" (estar) itself of the one present. It is this, the very reality of the person, which, upon making itself present (hacerse presente), "is" (está) present; it has an actuality intrinsic to its reality. The person is (está) making himself present from his very self, from his own reality. This actuality is the result of a "making". But the person in question could instead not make himself present. It is clear that the actuality of making oneself present does not formally involve the modification of any of one's properties. Certainly, in the case of the man, making himself present does involve a modification of properties. But this modification does not belong to the state of being present (estar presente) as such; rather it is only something which conduces to making oneself present. Just as the complex processes of perception do not form part of the state of being present (estar presente) of the perceived as such, so the potencies and the chemical reactions are not present (no están) formally in the color green which is present before me. A thing could make itself present without modification of its properties; such is the case with God.
But actuality may be even deeper. It can be a being present (un estar presente) that does not depend on any "making", but which formally belongs to the reality of the one present. This is not mere presence from one's own reality, but in one's reality qua reality. It is actuality not "from" one's reality, but "in" one's very reality. This is "intrinsic and formal" actuality. Then the state of being present (el estar presente) is a characteristic of the real by the mere fact of being (ser) real; the reality is present eo ipso by simply being real, and not by any "making" or something similar. It belongs to the very reality of what is (está) present. Clearly in such a case actuality does not involve any modification of properties. This is the case of God with regard to creation. As we shall see forthwith, such is also the case of man with regard to his body. Man does not "have" a body; rather he "is" corporeal. Thus his corporeal actuality belongs to human reality itself, not only intrinsically, but also formally. Man does not "make" himself present to his body; rather he "is already" (está ya) present to his body. And, in other dimensions, this type of intrinsic and formal actuality is proper to all reality as such; this is being (ser). I do not intend to address that subject here. I will restrict myself to asserting, for the record, that we are also in need today of a metaphysic of actuality; a metaphysic of act is not sufficient to us.
Every intrinsic actuality, and especially every intrinsic and formal actuality has characteristics proper to it and a proper formal structure.
Firstly, let us examine the characteristics proper to actuality:
1. Actuality is a real moment; it is not something merely symbolic or the like.
2. Actuality is a physical moment, not a moral presence or even a presence of dynamic virtualities. This physical characteristic is what the verb "to be" (estar) expresses. "Estar" signifies not the mere "to be" (ser), but rather "to be here and now" (estar siendo). The verb estar is a verb which always denotes something physical. That is why it is a copula in Latin, but as the linguists say, in the strong sense. However, they do not tell us in what does the "strong" sense consist. Allow me to contribute: the strong sense is, as I see it, physical actuality.
3. Actuality is a moment which admits a becoming. Above all, the becoming of actuality is not the becoming of a property, but it is, nevertheless, a physical becoming. Actuality is acquired or lost without the least change of properties in the one who is actual; the becoming of actuality is not a becoming of actuity. This becoming is a moment of the actuality itself, not only on the part of the one in whom something is made actual, but above all on the part of the very thing which is made actual; it is reality itself which becomes actuality. Thus, to give a theological example, God is actual in the Incarnation, in the just man, etc. God has a strict becoming in the order of actuality. Not only, in the Incarnate Word, (which is Christ), does humanity acquire divine actuality, but God himself also, in his divine reality, freely acquires an actuality, a human actuality. It is the Word Himself who was made flesh; it is He who acquires actuality. Not only was the flesh made Word, but the Word itself was made flesh. The same should be said of the indwelling of God in the just man. It is God himself Who becomes actual in the just man, and it is God himself who ceases to be actual in the man who sins.
Actuality has, in addition, a proper structure. A single reality can have various actualities, not only successively, but also simultaneously. The fact is that actuality has a radical principle by which the real is here-and-now present. In man this principle, as I have already indicated and we shall presently see, is the body. But grounded in its radical principle, the real can have many other actualities, which I will call here "ulterior actualities". So man, through his radical principle, through his body, has the ulterior actuality of being present, for example, as father, as brother, as doctor, etc. It is a matter of ulterior actualities grounded in a radical principle of actuality. These are different modes of the radical actuality; that is, they are its modalizations. As such, they are formally diverse. These diverse modes can be simultaneous. God is actual in the Incarnation and at the same time, in grace; man is actual as father, and also as brother, as doctor, etc. These modalizations are the real and physical expression of the radical richness of the principle of actuality.
But this obliges us to reflect further on human actuality. I have said in advance of the idea, that the intrinsic and formal principle of human actuality is the body. This requires a concise explanation. It is the second point.
Second point: What is the human body? The human body is an intrinsic and formal moment of the human reality; man "is" corporeal. This moment has, however, various sub-moments, among which, in my opinion, it is necessary to discern carefully. To simplify, I will call them moments also, instead of sub-moments.
1. The body is a system of properties, each of which has a rigorously determined "position" with respect to the other properties. This structural positioning is, in my view, what constitutes organization. It is according to this moment, I believe, that the body is an organism.
2. By its organization, the body is a proper complex, all of whose parts are in solidarity with one another and give the body its proper configuration. This moment of configuration is clearly distinct from the moment of organization; the body's highly diversified organic functions maintain the same configuration, which is arrived at, so to speak, by very different routes.
3. In its organization and in its proper configuration the body determines the real and physical presence of man in reality. According to this moment, then, the body is a corporeity. That man is corporeal means that corporeity is the very radical principle of being here-and-now present in reality: the body is sôma. This is, as I see it, how "body" has been able to signify "I, myself": it is I myself who is present "here". Let us not, then, confuse body and organism. Body is corporeity, and as such, is the intrinsic and formal principle of actuality.
The body has, then, three moments, organization, configuration, and corporeity. The are essentially distinct. The somatic function cannot be identified with either the configurational or the organizational function. But each one of these moments in man is the foundation for the next. Man's radical principle as corporeity, as sôma, establishes a configuration, and this configuration is what establishes an organization. If I may be permitted the expression, configuration and organization are modes of realizing corporeity.
In fact, these three moments or functions are not separable. But this is so only in fact. To be a principle of actuality, does not imply its being so "of its own" (de suyo) or having configuration or organization. Let us say in passing that this principle-of-actuality moment, with neither configuration nor organization, is what constitutes, as I see it, the "glorified body". The glorified body will be neither an organism nor a configuration; rather it will be, in my opinion, purely and simply a principle of actuality in God and in the rest of those glorified. How? We do not know. Let's not lose ourselves in fantasies and imaginings. It is enough to have conceptualized it.
Evidently, the body as corporeity, that is, as principle of actuality, is not a principle of localization. Localization is always something derived from the pure state of being here-and-now present from the principle of actuality. By reason of his organism and his configuration, man cannot be here-and-now occupying space in many places at once; but by his corporeity he can have actuality in many parts of reality at once without ceasing to be here-and-now in himself by doing so.
This granted, we now approach the third point.
Third point: the mode of the real presence of Christ in the bread. Stated in thesis form: Christ takes bread as the principle of his personal actuality here, and is therefore really present in the bread. To explain this affirmation it will suffice to appeal to the concepts I have just expounded.
1. Christ is present in the bread as actuality and not as act. Christ is not localized in the bread as if He were something enclosed in it; rather, He is actualized in it. Stated more precisely: it is not a matter of substance and accidents (this would be "act"), but of actualization. This actualization is a moment of the actualized itself, but without this implying any modification of its properties. Neither the properties of the bread nor those of Christ change by the actual presence of Christ in the bread. For this reason, the whole classical difficulty with how the body of Christ can be in so many consecrated hosts at once seems to me useless; it is not a matter of localization, but of actuality of presence.
2. Christ is (está) in the bread formally as actuality from his own personal reality. His actuality is thus a real and physical being present (estar presente), but this actuality is not formally identical to the naked reality of Christ in and of Himself, just as when a person makes himself present, his making himself present is not formally identical to his own naked reality. Christ is Christ even without the Eucharist.
3. In this actuality, Christ makes himself present (se hace presente) in Himself, from Himself. The actuality is intrinsic to Christ, i.e., Christ is the intrinsic principle of His actuality. But because of the mode in which Christ chose to make Himself present, this actuality is the bread; he takes the food-bread as the principle of His actuality. And thus, since the principle of actuality in man is the body, is corporeity (and Christ is a man), it turns out that the food-bread, as the principle of Christ's actuality, is the body of Christ. It is Christ Himself. His body is his "I, myself". Here we have the mode of the presence of Christ in the bread as real presence.
4. Christ takes the bread. The real presence is a making Himself present. Taking is to make oneself present. Therefore, to the actuality of Christ in the bread formally belongs His mode of being taken, his mode of making Himself present, i.e., the state of His soul (if I may so express it), at the Last Supper. This state of soul was that of his Passion and death. "This is the body which will be given up for you". This is the sense in which the real presence is an anamnesis, a repetition of the Passion and death. And therefore, like the Passion itself, it is for the remission of sins.
5. While taking bread as the principle of Christ's actuality, it turns out that the actuality itself is common to Christ and the food-bread; it is the food-bread which is assumed to be the principle of actuality, and it is Christ who is actual in the bread. Seen from the first aspect, Christ says, "this is my body", i.e., "this (the bread here) (is) the body of Christ (is I myself)". Seen from the second aspect, He says, "my body is this", i.e., "my body (Christ himself), (is) this here". This community of actuality is precisely the essence of the real presence.
6. Christ takes bread as the principle of his actuality, but it is bread as food which he takes. Hence, "this is my body", is a way of saying, "the food is Christ himself"; and "my body is this", is the same as saying, "I myself am the food". This is, as I said before, what constitutes transubstantivation. So now we see that the essence of trans-substantivation is this actuality of the bread made Christ's actuality. It is trans-actualization. The "trans" itself is one of actuality; it is a becoming of actuality and not a becoming of actuity.
7. But there is also something essential to add in order to describe this structure. Body is not only the intrinsic, but also the formal principle of Christ: because of this, sôma can signify "I myself". But by virtue of this formal and radical principle Christ can "extend" (if you will pardon the term) His own formal actuality, He can ulteriorly modalize His principle of actuality, incorporating the food-bread as principle of actuality. This is a modalization, but an ulterior one; Christ would have His body even if there were no Eucharist. The bread as food-bread is not the formal body of Christ. Christ, by His own formal reason, is not food-bread. What is modally identical to the body of Christ is the food-bread as principle of Christ's actuality, The food-bread as the moment of intrinsic actuality is grounded in Christ's body as the formal moment of Christ's reality. It is the same actuality, but modalized as food. This "extension" is, from my point of view, the precise point of the Eucharistic mystery as mystery. Christ is as actual in the bread as in His own person, but He is actual in the bread because He is already actual in His person. It is, I repeat, the same actuality but modalized in the bread as food.
For Christ to "take" bread signifies, then, that He makes of the bread's actuality the principle of His own actuality. By virtue of this, the real presence of Christ in the bread, i.e., this common actuality, in my view, constitutes what has been called the sacramental presence. The actuality of the bread as bread "signifies", in fact, the actuality of Christ in the bread as food.
Here we have the reality of Christ in the bread. It is, so to
speak, the essential and radical moment of the Eucharistic. But
only radical, because the Eucharist is not exhausted in this real
presence. The Eucharist is the supreme form of the life of Christ
in each of us. The formal essence of the Eucharist is not exhausted,
then, in the real presence. Without it there would be no Eucharist,
but the real presence alone is not the formal reason of the Eucharist.
What is this formal reason? That is the third problem which I
proposed to examine.
This is not a matter of speculation, even a true speculation, but of something revealed by Christ himself. Christ said to us: "He who does not eat my flesh and drink my blood will not have eternal life". Therefore, we are not only dealing with the reality of Christ in the bread and wine, but also with the reality of Christ as the principle of life for us all: "Take this, all of you, and eat of it". The verbs "take" and "eat" are an imperative to all those at the table. This is the formal reason for the Eucharist. In what does it consist?
I have already pointed to it in my study of the real presence: Christ "is" (está) actually present in the bread, and by this presence the bread has been converted to spiritual food. And, as such, consecrated bread is something which should be eaten. This terminology may seem a bit coarse to our mentality, but to the Jews of the time it was not. Christ is, then, principle of life by manducation. But here the problem arises: What, in fact, is this manducation?
The response to this question is already given in the very institution of the Eucharist, Christ gave the consecrated bread to be eaten at a "supper". Hence, the manducation has two moments, both of which are essential but perfectly distinct. One is the naked fact of eating, as one eats bread, etc. The other is the fact of eating gathered at a supper, that is, gathered at a "meal". Obviously, without the fact of eating, what we call a supper with various people would not be possible. But in order for there to be such a supper it is not enough to eat. For simplicity, instead of the word supper I will use the equivalent term "banquet", agape. The Church herself has spoken of the Eucharist as a celestial banquet. Well then, the bare fact of eating is only the radical essence of the banquet; something more is needed. So, the Eucharist is a "banquet". That is its formal essence.
In order to conceptualize this, we must consider two points: what a banquet is, and in what does the Eucharist as banquet formally consist.
First point: what is a banquet? To a banquet, I constantly repeat, eating is essential. But the fact of eating is not what formally constitutes a banquet. A banquet has that proper unity which is the community of the table-companions. They may gather in the unity of a special occasion as the Israelites gathered every year to commemorate the exodus from Egypt. But the companions may also be gathered around a person, as in the case of an honor banquet, or out of friendship for a person. Thus, the community of banqueters is established around the person who is the object of the banquet. What the banquet adds to the bare fact of eating is the unity of eating around a person, in his honor or in friendship with him. Because of this there can be a banquet even if only that person and a single table-companion are present. At a banquet, the table-companions have a common actuality, since they are all present to each other and to the person who is, as it were, the object of the banquet, and since being here-and-now present is, as we have seen, actuality. And it is this common actuality which formally constitutes a banquet. Conversely, the common participation in the agape is what constitutes the formal, and not only the radical, reason for the banquet.
But what is this community? Community is not mere collectivity. Community is not an additive moment, but a unity determined by something which is rigorously common to all the persons, who constitute community only because of this which is common to them. In a mere community of persons, the persons enter into it solely insofar as some are not others. There can be, and there are in every community, differences which are, in a sense, qualitative, but persons form a community only as others. Actuality is common to the others as others.
But persons can have another type of common actuality. They can have common actuality, not as "others", but as "persons", each being in himself what he personally is. In reality, persons enter into community in an impersonal mode. Impersonality is a thing which excludes personal realities; the other realities are not impersonal but a-personal. On the other hand, there is another type of unity of persons into which persons enter, each being in himself what he personally is. Thus the common actuality of all of them is more than community; it is personal communion. Without community there is no communion of persons, but community is not the same as personal communion.
Given this, we ask ourselves what the formal essence is of the Eucharistic banquet.
Second point: the formal essence of the Eucharistic banquet. First of all, the Eucharist is formally a banquet, agape. Spiritual food is not eaten as material food is eaten, to wit: It is not the fact of the bread in and of itself that matters, but the fact that it is eaten by each one in that real unity which is established between spiritual food as food and the person of Christ. It is a banquet to Christ, of Christ, and with Christ. It is essential, I believe, to insist on this aspect of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not only a question of the real presence of Christ in the bread; it is also formally a question of the one who receives the Eucharist with Christ. This unity is a unity of actuality: Christ becomes actual in me and I become actual with Christ. It is not a matter of a communication of substances or properties, but a unity of actuality. In what does the commonness of this actuality consist? That is our question.
The common actuality of Christ and his table-companions is not mere community; it is communion. Here is an essential point for the formal reason of the Eucharist: communion with the person of Christ. The essence of the Eucharist is communion. This may appear to be a tautology because of the indiscriminate use of both concepts in the common term "communicate". But it is not a tautology; rather, communion is a moment of the formal essence of the Eucharist. Food as such is proper to community; communion is a personal unity in and by alimentation. The Eucharist is banquet; it is agape, and this agape consists in a personal communion with Christ and, derivatively, in the personal communion with the other persons. The common actuality of the table-companions at the Eucharistic banquet is the personal unity of all of them in the personal actuality of Christ.
But communion is only one moment of the formal reason of the Eucharist;
we need to ask ourselves, In what does the unity of this personal
communion consist? This unity is, in man, a unity of actuality.
And the principle of human actuality is what constitutes corporeity.
The body is, formally, a principle of actuality. Thus, it follows
that in the personal communion of the participants in the agape
with Christ, Christ is actual in each one of them through His
principle of formal actuality, i.e., through His body. The participants
in the agape, upon acquiring an actuality in Christ, thereby
form a body with Him, and by its virtue their personal communion
with Christ is precisely and formally an incorporation
into the body of Christ. And since all form a single body with
Christ, it follows that, as St. Paul tells us, we are all co-corporeal
in Christ. The idea of the body of Christ, of incorporation to
Christ, and of co-corporeity is expressed in St. Paul. The formal
essence of the Eucharist is personal communion, and the essence
of personal communion is incorporation to the body of Christ.
And since body is the actuality of the "I, myself" in
reality, it follows that this incorporation consists in the fact
that each participant in the agape is "I, myself", being
I in, and by the I of Christ. Every Christian is another
The Eucharist is the supreme form of the mystery of the life of Christ in each one of us. This life constitutes itself sacramentally above all in the Eucharist.
I indicated at the beginning that I do not pretend to say new things about the Eucharist, but conceptualize in my own way those already known. This conceptualization appeals to three concepts: substantivity, actuality, and corporeity. And these concepts take us directly to all the Pauline ideas. The life of Christ in us is a life that emerges from Christ (food) through transsubstantivation, in the form of corporeal actuality which formally consists in the incorporation to Christ.
When Christ taught us to pray, He taught us to ask the Father for daily bread. The bread Christ was thinking of -let us not fantasize- is certainly the bread of material sustenance. But Christ reminded us at other moments of His life, reaching for a phrase from Deuteronomy, the man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And shortly before He died He tells us that, "who does not eat my flesh, and drink my blood will not have eternal life". Material sustenance itself is not foreign to the life of Christ in us. Because of this, although in a literal sense "daily bread" may mean material sustenance, its sense is not falsified by asking the Father to "give us this day our daily bread, the bread of your Holy Word, the bread of the Holy Eucharist, and the bread of material sustenance". The intrinsic unity of these three moments of bread constitutes the formal structural essence of the life of Christ in us, the formal structural essence of the Eucharist.