Eucharistology and Modern Rationalism

Philipp Rosemann, in Peter Lombard (OUP, 2004), reminds us of the continuing importance of Cardinal de Lubac’s Corpus Mysticum for understanding Medieval theology and the doctrine of the Eucharist (p.154-55):

“In tracing the use of the term “corpus mysticum”, the cardinal found that its meaning underwent a significant reversal. Initially, in the writings of the Fathers, the Church herself was considered the “true body” of Christ, corpus verum, whereas the Eucharist was termed the “mystical body,” corpus mysticum. From around the middle of the eleventh century, however, and as a consequence of the Berengarian controversy, increasing emphasis was placed upon the fact that the Eucharist itself is the true body of Christ, while the Church came to be viewed as His mystical body. De Lubac argued that this “Eucharistic realism” took place at the expense of the former “ecclesial realism”; in other words, the emphasis upon the real presence of Christ on the altar as distinct from, and presupposed by, His mystical presence as the Church privileged a new understanding of the Church as a corporate, hierarchical entity—and not as one body, one person. It was now no longer the Eucharist that made the Church, but the Church that made the Eucharist. At the same time, the hardening of the doctrine of the real presence, with its concomitant difficulties, made it increasingly necessary to subject the Eucharist to logical scrutiny, indeed to a kind of Christian rationalism and “indiscreet intelligence” that were “no longer capable of envisioning the understanding of the mysteries outside of their demonstration.”

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