Volume 44 - Issue 1

An Incarnational Model of the Eucharist

by James M. Arcadi

James Arcadi’s published Ph.D. thesis provides an argument for what he calls “sacramental impanation.” In particular, he employs a rich discussion of linguistic and metaphysical realities at work according to the various views of the Eucharist on offer, and advances a coherent account that is grounded in the words of Christ and the liturgy of the church. Arcadi begins by mapping the options available to explain the “mode of presence,” or, in other words, the mode by which God is uniquely (or not) present in the eucharistic elements. He articulates three broad modes of presence: the “corporeal mode,” the “pneumatic mode,” and the “no non-normal mode.” In the first instance, corporeal modes affirm that the body and blood of Christ become substantially present. Pneumatic mode adherents argue that Christ is present in the elements in a non-substantial way, and in the no non-normal family of views, there is no special presence in the elements beyond God’s general omnipresence.

Arcadi’s categorization helpfully focuses on the real differences between traditional views, only then turning to differing streams of thought within each category. Within the corporeal mode, he distinguishes between the Capernite manner, two different Roman manners, and the German manner, which also has two species, what he calls the German-Wittenberg and the German-Nuremberg. What differentiates the German manner from the Roman, is that the presence of the substance of bread and wine are maintained. According to the German manner, Christ and the bread/wine are substantially present; the difference between them lies in how they conceive of the relation between the substantially present bread/wine and the body/blood of Christ.

Arcadi reflects on the linguistic realities at work in Christ’s claims, “This is my body,” and, “This is my blood.” In what sense are these claims true? What might it mean for the body and blood of Christ to be, in some sense, connected to the bread and wine of the Eucharist? Developing a close analysis of the various options, and an engagement with Hunsinger’s notion of “real predication,” Arcadi attends to the implications for these linguistic claims concerning how one conceptualizes God’s presence. What does it mean to say that an omnipresent God is particularly present in the bread and wine? In keeping with his emphasis on the liturgical aspect of the Eucharist, Arcadi develops a notion of consecration to account for Christ’s claims about the bread and the wine, advancing recent discussions in predication to fund his account of impanation.

Arcadi prefers a version of the German-Nuremberg view, which, in contrast with the German-Wittenberg, holds to a union between Christ’s body/blood and the bread/wine that is modelled on the incarnation. Under this category there are three options: hypostatic impanation, natural impanation, and sacramental impanation, the last of which is Arcadi’s position. In hypostatic impanation, there is another hypostatic union established with the divine Word, now with the bread and wine rather than with the human soul/mind and body. In natural impanation, the soul of Christ simply enters into another kind of natural instrumental relation to the elements that parallels the soul’s instrumental relation to the body, in such a way that they can be called “the body and blood of Christ.” But for Arcadi, these options fail to give as adequate an account as sacramental impanation, which posits a sacramental union between the elements and the human body of Christ. On this view, according to Arcadi, “the body of Christ uses the consecrated bread as an instrument. As such, the bread becomes part of Christ’s body in the manner as the human nature becomes part of the composite Christ. Thus, the sacramental union is an instrumental union just as the hypostatic and natural unions are” (p. 209). An advantage to this version of impanation is that it can account, in a much more straight-forward way, how the elements are truly the body of Christ and are not owned by Christ. By focusing on the sacramental union with the body of Christ, sacramental impanation allows for a tighter connection to the words of consecration.

Aracadi demonstrates well that regardless of theological proclivities, one cannot simply ignore metaphysical judgments, claims about presence, or linguistic predication when talking about eucharist, because one must give an account of what it actually means when Christ says, “This is my body.” Furthermore, Arcadi proves to be a balanced reader of a variety of positions, and provides helpful mapping of the various options available for the reader, and whose own position is an intriguing attempt to take the words of consecration and the church’s own liturgical acts seriously with linguistic and metaphysical rigor. For that reason, I think that along with scholars who are interested in working in this area, seminary students would find this volume to be a helpful conversation partner in the development of their own thinking about these issues.

In terms of critical remarks, I will only mention one. Though Arcadi did exactly what he claimed he was going to do, I would have liked to see more biblical work done. The mode of argumentation seems to imply that the biblical material is straight-forward and the real work needed is through metaphysics and linguistic analyses. Nonetheless, Arcadi’s work proves fruitful and instructive, but broader and more in-depth biblical work would have served his overall project well.

Kyle Strobel

Kyle Strobel
Talbot School of Theology
La Miranda, California, USA

Other Articles in this Issue

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