Saturday, January 28, 2006

Paul VI's Encyclical "Mysterium Fidei"

For those who have finished B16's Encyclical and are hungry for more, may I suggest that you dig up Paul VI's encyclical "Mysterium Fidei"? It was written just after the promulgation of Vatican II's Constitution on the Liturgy in 1965. As the title suggests, it is about the Eucharist. Paul had noticed that the infamous "Spirit of Vatican II" was making an early and unwelcome appearance and that some theologians were ditching the traditional teaching of the Eucharist, so he wrote this as sort of "memo" to remind Catholic theologians, priests, bishops and faithful of what its all about. It is a very short encyclical by recent standards, but it is a real corker.

I came across "Mysterium Fidei" while in discussion with a priest who asserted that the "The Church does not teach that Christ is physically present in the Eucharist". I acknowledged that the Church usually prefers to speak of a "substantial", "ontological", "bodily/corporeal" presence, rather than a "physical" presence per se, nevertheless, I wondered whether his assertion was correct. He quoted Aquinas who taught that Christ was not present in the Eucharist "per modum loci"--ie. as if Christ was "located" in the Eucharistic elements, and asserted that Christ was only "physically" present in heaven. That seemed a little close to the old BCP "Black Rubric" for my taste, so I went searching. Here's what I found in PVI:

"Once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and wine except for the species--beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in his physical "reality", corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place." (MF 46)

So, Thomas A. was right, but Father was wrong: The Church does teach that Christ is physically present, but not "per modum loci".

Read the whole thing here: Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei

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