Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sacramental Theology

If you're just joining us, I'm recounting the reasons I found Anglicanism attractive.

Why Anglicanism? Part I

Regarding the Lord's Supper, Baptism, Confession, and What it Means to be Saved

I believe that Jesus is present to us in our celebration of Holy Communion. I believe that as he said when he instituted the meal, "This is my body, this is my blood." Cannibalistic? Yes. Mystical? Without a doubt. I don't believe that the reception of this meal could do any other than bring transforming power into the lives of those who recieve it.

If you wish to call it "symbol," I'll warn you very frankly: nothing is a “mere symbol.” Nothing is more powerful, nothing more real than symbol. A symbol is a physical sign of an abstraction, but both the physicality and the idea itself are very real.

When he celebrated the Passover, that great meal of God’s liberation, Jesus blessed it, saying “this is my body, this is my blood.” If nothing else, on a gut level, I believe him to be present in our celebration in a way that cannot be quantified or explained. I enter into union with him, and he with me – like a renewal of covenant, we both make our promises to each other again.

(see also On the Eucharistic Life)

In the same way, I was bothered by the Pauline phrase, “baptized into Christ.” I never cared for the Campbellite version of “baptismal regeneration,” (which is what most in these parts are familiar with) but I’m not really interested in Enlightenment-era salvation, either. Salvation is not my activity. It is God's. So is baptism something God does? Is it an action of the Church? Is it my own action? I am of the persuasion that baptism is something the Church does for God, acting out his redemption and making a tangible offering of grace to the convert.

Christians enter into God’s salvation of the world. It is not a shiny trinket that we possess so long as we believe the right things about Jesus in the right way. Further, I believe that something meaningful and real happens when I confess my sins to a brother and he exercises his priesthood by pronouncing God's absolution. In private confession, not only am I known and loved as a sinner, but also restored to God in the most concrete fashion. Dietrich Bonhoffer’s short work, Life Together, (as well as deep, caring friendships in the Body of Christ!) helped me with this idea.
Our brother breaks the cycle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light (116).
And I’m referring, mind you, to the priesthood of the baptized. This would make me very naughty in many Anglican circles. Like, outside of the Diocese of Sydney. Shh, don't tell anyone.


JHearne said...

So to ask a familiar and old question:

What about those of us who either cannot or do not take the Eucharist?

Kyle said...

I think that the Eucharist is an important, even an indispensable vehicle for the reception of Christ's presence. That's probably clear in my writings.

I should say, dear brother, that I don't quite understand the question, and this is why:

It's not pointed out nearly often enough, but I affirm along with the rest of the catholic churches that one receives the full spiritual benefits of the Eucharist whether or not one receives it in both kinds.

There is no difference whether one takes only bread or only wine or both bread and wine.

JHearne said...

I'm familiar with this. Can you point me to a passage in a cathecism that says this, though? It would be thoroughly appreciated.

Kyle said...

I commend to you "A Short Introduction on Communion and Celiac Sprue Disease" (particularly point #5) by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as paragraph 1390 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In the first document:

"Such communicants may still receive the Precious Blood. Catholics believe that whoever receives Holy Communion only under the form of bread or only under the form of wine still receives the whole Christ, in his Body and Blood, soul and divinity."

And the second:

"Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. But 'the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly.' This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites."

It should be noted as doubtful that the Catechism had Celiac disease in mind, so only bread is mentioned as the sole species. But the point is the same.

I do confess to some confusion as to why you care about what Roman Catholics consider to be valid sacramental rites, or the Baptists for that matter. Frankly, since baptists are not sacramental (by definition, perhaps?) I don't see why they wouldn't use a gluten free substitute, or why the bread should even be necessary.

I also recognize that you may not want to engage it here, but I am interested...