Jon Stovell’s Notebook


Eucharistic christology and eschatological christology

I think there is a connection between the development of eucharistic theologies like transubstantiation and consubstantiation and the loss of a future-oriented eschatology. As medieval Christianity turned from looking for a future hope to a transcendent hope, the expectation of meeting Christ shifted from the future parousia to the repeated sacrament. For all that certain traditions have much that is good to say about Eucharist, and I think low church Protestantism is deficient and rudimentary in its understanding, nevertheless it remains the case that certain forms of eucharistic theology are not consonant with the NT eschatological hope.

Interestingly, it seem to me that transubstantiation is better off than consubstantiation here. Transubstantiation suggests that the elements somehow become the actual body and blood of Christ. Although this has odd and important ramifications for the nature of Christ’s body, at least it still keeps his body material. Consubstantiation, with its concomitant idea of the ubiquity of Christ’s body, effectively denies the materiality of Christ’s body, at least in its present exalted state.

Now, one might of course reply that insisting on a material body for Christ now raises the problem of its current location. But it is one thing to say that his body is no longer part of our world the way our own bodies are, and quite another to say that his body is now a part of our world but in a very un-bodily fashion. The ascension certainly presents us with difficulties about Christ’s body, but ubiquity merely attempts to solve the problem by dispensing with any recognizable sort of body at all.