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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Real Presence

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in the eucharist, is a doctrine forming an article in the belief of the Roman, the Greek, and other Eastern churches, and of some bodies or individuals in other Christian communions. Those who espouse the real presence in the eucharist hold that, under the appearance of the eucharistic bread and wine, after consecration by the minister, Christ himself is really and substantially present, body and blood, soul and divinity. The word really is used in opposition to "figuratively;" and the decree of the Council of Trent, which is the authoritative expositor of the Roman Catholic belief, conjoins with that word the terms "truly" and "substantially," the former being used in order to exclude the notion of a barely typical representation, such as is recognisable in the Paschal Lamb and the other Messianic types of the old law; and the latter for the purpose of meeting the view ascribed to Calvin, that Christ, as apprehended by the faith of the believer, was, for such believer, rendered virtually present in the eucharist, and that his body and blood were received in virtue and efficacy, although not in corporal substance. (See LORDS SUPPER).

In the Protestant churches of the Reformation, this question became a matter of serious conflict between Lutherans and Zwinglians. The belief of the Roman and Eastern churches as to the reality of the presence was shared by Luther, who, however, differed from Catholics as to the mode. One school of divines in the Anglican Church, whose doctrine became very prominent in the time of Laud, and has been revived in the late Tractarian movement, also hold to transubstantiation in such a forbidding form to the Protestants as to stand entirely alone within the fold of Protestantism. Yet it must be remarked that between Roman Catholics and all other theological schools, of whatever class, one marked difference exists. According to the former, the presence of Christ in the consecrated eucharist is permanent; so that he is believed to be present not alone for the communicant who receives the eucharist during the time of his communion, but also remains present in the consecrated hosts reserved after communion. On the contrary, all the Lutherans, and almost all Anglicans, confine their belief of the presence to the time of communion, and all, with hardly an exception, repudiate the worship of the reserved elements, as it is practiced by Catholics. (See CONSUBSTANTIATION); (See LUTHERANISM).

In the Protestant Episcopal Church, while the "real presence" is undoubtedly held, yet it is considered as of a spiritual and heavenly character. The homily on the sacrament expressly asserts, "Thus much we must be sure to hold, that in the supper of the Lord there is no vain ceremony, no bare sign, no untrue figure of a thing absent; but the communion of the body and blood of the Lord in a marvellous incorporation, which by the operation of the Holy Ghost is through faith wrought in the souls of the faithful," etc. In the Office of the Communion, the elements are repeatedly designated as the body and blood of Christ; and after their reception we give thanks that God "doth vouchsafe to feed us, who have duly received these holy mysteries, withl the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of [his] Son our Saviour Jesus Christ." The Catechism, in agreement with this, defines the "inward part" of this sacrament to be "the body and blood of Christ, which are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's supper." The 28th Article asserts, respecting the eucharist, that "to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and, likewise, the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ." "By maintaining this view," says Stoughton, "the Church supports the dignity of this holy sacrament without involving the dogma of transubstantiation, which she everywhere repudiates, asserting that it cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a sacrament. and hath given occasion to many superstitions." Instead of this-i.e. a corporal presence by the change of the elements into tie natural body and blood of Christ-she goes on to assert that "the body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the supper only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten inll the supper is faith" (Article XXVIII). See Waterland, Works, vol. vi; Willet, Syn. Pap.; Wheatley, Commone Prayer; Hooker, Ch. Polity; North Brit. Rev. Jan. 1870, p. 272. (See TRANSUBSTANTIATION).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Real Presence'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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