Friday, May 1, 2009

Pelikan on the Nestorian view of the Eucharist

This is said only in passing in The Spirit of Eastern Christendom, and I don't have sufficient chops at this time to be able to be able to flesh it out adequately.
[I]t was recognized that there was a connection between Nestorian christology and a view of the Eucharist that stressed its memorial aspect rather than the real presence. [p. 61]
In context he's saying that this was recognized in the sixth century. If I understand things rightly, it seems that because of the Nestorian objection to the communication of properties (whereby we may say, for example, that God was crucified for us because Jesus Christ is God Incarnate - though of course it must be understood that in his divinity he neither died nor suffered) it's impossible for Christ's Body to have such properties as would allow it to be literally present in the Eucharist - which can only have the consequence of reducing the Sacrament to a memorial.

It's interesting (and unlikely to be merely coincidental) that many Protestants today view the Eucharist as nothing more than a memorial, given that they are sometimes charged with holding to a Nestorian christology due to their unwillingness to ascribe the title of Theotokos to the Blessed Virgin. One must wonder whether that which walks and quacks like a duck is really a duck or not.


Nick said...

You are very correct in your reasoning. IN FACT, one of the MAIN arguments which the Council of Ephesus (refuting Nestorianism) made against that error WAS the Eucharist.

Check out this quote from the main decree of the Council, if you've never see it you will be impressed. This is what St Cyril of Alexandria said against Nestorius at the Council:

"Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the Only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the Unbloody Sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his Holy Flesh and the Precious Blood of Christ the Saviour of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the Life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the Life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his Flesh, he made it also to be Life-giving, as also he said to us: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood."

Look at what is affirmed here:
1) The Mass is a Sacrifice.
2) Jesus is substantially present.
3) John 6 was seen as the Eucharist.

This is the Third Ecumenical Council, this squashes the Protestant position. From a Protestant point of view, what was said here is unBiblical and very blasphemous and not part of true Christianity.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hi Nick,

Thanks for your comments, and thanks for the confirmation. I appreciate it. I'm going to save your remarks for future reference :-)

I think I'm beginning to get a better handle on the justification for describing most Protestants as Nestorian. It has been a confusing thing to me because well-read Protestants - even of the Eucharist-as-memorial camp - will deny the charge. It seems that it all comes out in the implications of what we affirm and deny: by denying, for example, the title of Theotokos to the Blessed Virgin, they implicitly are injecting a division into the Incarnation where none exists.

Thanks again,


Nick said...

Correct. While Protestants are officially anti-Nestorian, and rightly so, some of their doctrines have problematic implications.

While historically Protestants never had a problem with "Mother of God," recently (eg Protestant apologist Eric Svendson) have repudiated the title (as have others) saying it is heretical. Some have even said Nestorius was actually more or less correct! I personally believe the real reason why they have difficulty is that it sounds "too Catholic."

I don't want to take too much credit for finding that quote, because another Catholic showed me it. I think what we need to do is start pointing out that quote more and more, because while many Protestants accept Ephesus, they have never actually read the main decrees.

Anonymous said...

Luther, who we all do well to read asserted the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, not because of the of anything inherent in the bread and wine but in the promise attached to them by Christ and that this word was added to them.

Anonymous said...

Hello Anon,

Thanks for visiting.

I didn’t mention Luther in this post, and I didn’t have him in mind either. Furthermore I only said that many Protestants hold a memorial view of the Eucharist, not that all Protestants do. So I am afraid I don’t understand the nature of your objection.