The discussion continues with Fr. Greg. I’ll put his comments on my last post in with my reply.
First, I’m confused, how is my account of the Eucharist as sacrifice any different from what you seem to approve of in this post, or, for that matter, different from the standard RC (and yes, Orthodox: see K. Ware) account of the Eucharist as sacrifice? The Christ-event, including His death, is once for all; however, the Eucharist is the way in which the offering of ourselves and our world becomes acceptable in, with, and through the offering of Christ. Each celebration of the Eucharist is thus a manifestation, a making present, of the Christ-event, at a specific time and in a specific space, “until He comes” so that we can participate in it with our whole being, including those aspects of us which are physical and which are social, not simply those which are psychological, mental, and/or emotional.
Re: Christian priesthood: analogical or real? Christ is THE priest. His priesthood is primordial, archetypal, eternal, and precedes both creation and the incarnation. The priesthood of the Church IS the priesthood of Christ. The priesthood of Aaron foreshadows the priesthood of Christ but does not participate in it as does the Christian priesthood. Therefore, which priesthood is real and which is “analogical”? The answer is obvious: the Christian priesthood is real and true priesthood and, precisely because it is the priesthood Christ, not only replaces, but supersedes the now-obsolete priesthood of Aaron for Christ and the Church, the “whole Christ”, is the “True Israel”.
The one thing we agree on is that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is a fait accompli as a complete offering for sin. But therein lies the problem re the priesthood.
If we consider the Jewish priesthood, the priests offered sacrifices. These sacrifices were efficacious (if not particularly comprehensive or permament) as propitiations for sin. The Jewish priests were performing real sacrifices and achieving present forgiveness of sins.
Christian priests, however, are not doing this. The sacrifice they celebrate is done. There’s no doubt that the atonement Christians have–and celebrate in the Eucharist–is superior to that in Judaism. That not only relieves real priests of their duties; it also relieves them of their raison d’être as well, which is why I don’t think that there can be a formal priesthood in Christianity.
This, I admit is a subtle distinction, but I make it because, as I explained earlier, Roman Catholicism’s way of presenting the Mass as a sacrifice doesn’t always make the eternal nature of Jesus’ work obvious to the faithful. One is left with the idea that the priest is actually performing a sacrifice on the altar, and that in turn leads to the misconception that the sacrifice is present the same way it was in Judaism. I laid this out in the original post on the sacrifice of the Mass.
Re: Mediation: Speaking of analogies: I find your use of I Timothy 2: 5 (“…there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”) analogous with the way in which Jehovah’s Witnesses use John 17: 3 (“…that they know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”) Taken in isolation, the latter would seem to state that the Father is “the only true God,” thereby excluding the Son and the Holy Spirit. Of course, as you have documented so well, such an interpretation flies in the face of all the rest of the New Testament, not to mention the rest of the Tradition, and is therefore excluded.
I don’t remember bringing up 1 Timothy 2:5, but we can discuss it anyway. Obviously you have spent some time in My Lord and My God, so I’ll use that explanation to elucidate my response. Jesus’ reference to the Father as “the only true God” is true re Jesus because a) the Father is the arche of Jesus and b) the Father is greater than the Son. His statement is only operative in the context of God himself. In getting into this, I know I’m running the same risk that Origen did: “…it is possible that some may dislike what we have said representing the Father as the one true God…” (Commentary in John, II, 3) but that will just have to be as it was for Origen.
Turning to 1 Timothy 2:5, just as the Father is the “one true God” only to the Son, so also is Jesus Christ the “one mediator between God and men” only to us.
The same is true for I Timothy 2:5. Even the context suggests something else is going on here. In 2:1-4, St. Paul is calling for intercession by the Christian community on behalf of basically everyone, to the end that the Church may live in peace, being undisturbed in the pursuit of holiness and to the end that “all be saved”. The implication, then, is that the Church, in making these intercessions, is PARTICIPATING in the one mediation of Christ, and this is reinforced by the fact that the request for these prayers continues in verse 8. (BTW, a rule of thumb concerning interpretation of the Bible: if a given interpretation is at odds with what the universal Church as a whole has done and/or believed and continues to do and/or believe, that interpretation is wrong.)
This concept, that of participation, is crucial. Another word is sharing or communion, or fellowship. The underlying Greek word is koinonia. God the Son shares our humanity so that we can share/partake of/be in communion with his Deity, as in II Peter 1:4. The Church, either as a whole, or through individual members, shares in everything that Christ is and that Christ does, including His mediation between God and humanity.
There is no argument re the importance of participation. It’s even more basic than you state: we, as created beings, cannot be in relationship with God on our own, created goodness, but only by participation in his uncreated goodness, which is why we need a fully divine Saviour to make that a reality. But that participation does not equate with the church being a formal mediator between man and God; in fact, as is the case with the priesthood, such participation can be seen to obviate the need for another formal mediator.
However, relating to the exercise of Church discipline, I’m not sure that “mediation” is the proper concept here. In any event, the authority being exercised is that given to the Apostles (and through them, to their successors, the bishops, as Clement of Rome, c. AD 96, documents) in Matthew 16:18-19, 18:18, and John 20:22-23. St. Paul uses this same authority in I Corinthians 5, especially 3-5.
And the rules you mention: they have been under development since virtually Day One of the Church. Much of the Church’s conciliar activity has been devoted to the development of these rules. Such discipline is not a “withholding of grace”. Since its purpose is the ultimate salvation of the one who is disciplined, it is actually an administration of grace even if it involves withholding of one or more of the sacraments.
In Roman Catholicism at least the idea is stronger than that: through the withholding of the sacraments (excommunication,) the church is capable of denying eternal life. Althought there are many caveats to that (RC canon law is complicated if nothing else) that’s the concept.
Further (to answer what seems to be your underlying issue), there is of course a relationship between the individual believer and Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. However, if such a relationship is completely what it is supposed to be, it will entail being in full communion with one branch or another of the Church, which is the social, visible, historically continuous Community which Christ himself founded and which, according to the NT, is the “body of Christ,” “the fullness of him who fills all in all” and “the pillar and ground of the truth”. This Church, although divided, is in fact one, and has matured, and remains alive, because the Holy Spirit is its very soul. As Bishop Zizioulas puts it, the Church, instituted by Christ, is constituted by the Holy Spirit. Again, to be fully reconciled with God is to be in full communion with the Church. One cannot love God and “hate” his brother.
If one has accepted Christ apart from this Church, he has learned of Christ, in the final analysis, only by way of the Church, even if that knowledge of Christ came only by way of reading Scripture, for Scripture would not have come down to any of us except through the Church. If that person has been validly baptized, he is, in fact, a member of that Church and by that very fact is called to full communion with the Church through one of its branches. (If he is not baptized, his acceptance of Christ is not yet complete.) If there are Christian communities in existence which are apart from this Church, these communities are called to re-organize themselves such that they become manifestations (“hypostates”) of the one Church.
The “one branch or another” and “these communities are called to re-organize themselves such that they become manifestations (“hypostates”) of the one Church” bring up many intriguing possiblities. Let me restrict the discussion to the churches which have (or claim) the apostolic succession.
Roman Catholicism, of course, claims not only the apostolic succession but also the centrality of the see of Peter, in Rome. As is the case with the sacrifice of the Mass, the way they present this is misleading. They know that the apostolic succession doesn’t hang on the Papacy (they have the Orthodox churches to remind them of that) but they tend to conflate the two issues to the extent that they leave the impression that apostolicity and the see of Peter are an absolute unity. That is why I think the TAC people are so obsessed with communion with Rome.
Orthodox churches maintain this in a more collegial fashion amongst the national churches (complicated by events such as the Coptic churches, the New World and the Communists.)
There are, of course, those who claim the apostolic succession via bishops who departed the RCC in the wake of Vatican I (like the Charismatic Episcopal Church.) They have the succession; how much they are in “unity” with the rest of Christianity is open to debate.
Finally we have the Anglicans. At the time that Rome ruled Anglican orders to be invalid such a declaration was unreasonable and probably driven by the fact that Anglicanism directly seceded from Rome. Subsequent events have complicated things and it’s hard to know how it will sort out. As I’ve said before, however, the Anglicans were and are the greatest missed opportunity in Christianity for a long list of things.
At the same time, it is true that sometimes, the Holy Spirit speaks prophetically through an individual Christian, in opposition to what some portion of the hierarchy is saying, or more often, doing. When this happens, as with many RC Saints, such as John of the Cross for example, or Sister Faustina, the Saints are eventually vindicated, the hierarchy learns something, and the Church as a whole is enriched. It is interesting that this drama plays out much less frequently in the Eastern Churches; these Churches are clearly not bereft of the Spirit of Prophecy, but the manifestations of such prophecy usually do not run afoul of the hierarchy as it sometimes does in the West (and of course there are false prophets in both East and West).
This, more than anything else, is where “the rubber meets the road.”
I’ve spent enough time on this blog on two examples of this from the seventeenth century that ended disastrously: the Old Believers and the Jansenists. I’ll try not to belabour either but both illustrate the problem that anyone has in renewing either the Roman Catholic or an Orthodox church. I’ll stick to what I know best and run through the RCC’s typical response to such challenges:
- We are the true church.
- The church is infallible and, to boot, so is the Vicar of Christ (i.e., the one who hold’s Christ’s place on earth.)
- We hold the keys to eternal life.
- You have none of these.
- You do not know what you are talking about.
- You should obey us.
- If you don’t, we’ll use the keys, and you’ll have no recourse.
Beyond that, Roman Catholicism has the bad habit of desiring mediocrity amongst the faithful so as to insure good (if not very uplifting) order in the church. So renewal movements, far from being desirable things, tend to be pidgeonholed and/or supressed.
The last point isn’t restricted to Roman Catholicism; it’s found amongst Protestant churches as well, although they don’t tend (until recently, at least) to be as forceful in grinding down their opposition.
Regarding the OT citations: they are predictions of ongoing sacrifice in the Messianic era. They must either refer to the Eucharist or, as Dispensationalism claims, to some resumption of animal sacrifice in Jerusalem during some millenial reign. The latter is simply impossible since Christ has done away with these sacrifices one and for all, and return to them is a rejection of Christ. Also, the Church has read at least Malachi 1:11 as a prediction of the Eucharist going back as far as the Didache.
There’s no doubt that the Old Testament sacrificial system prefigured the New Testament sacrifice of Jesus Christ. How far one wants to take the connection has been, of course, the central point of this discussion.