The Holy Eucharist, by Charles Chapman Grafton (1902)

To the Editor of The Living Church: [1]

A CORRESPONDENT in your January number, after referring to my Tract on the Holy Eucharist, asks me two questions: “Does the Bishop mean to imply that by the act of consecration the Body of Christ is made by the priest?” Our answer is in the negative. No, he does not. The next question is, “Does he mean to say that by the invocation of the priest the real Body and Blood of Christ are brought from the right Hand of God the Father Almighty and placed on the altar, etc.?” Again, the answer is in the negative.

            The questions of your correspondent show that gross misunderstanding exists concerning the doctrine of the Real Presence as taught by the Catholic School of Churchmen. In the interests of Christian charity and of that unity amongst ourselves, upon which the future usefulness of our beloved Church so much depends, let me try to explain this matter.

            The first difficulty to be cleared up relates to Christ’s Ascension. What is meant when the Apostles, St. Paul and St. Peter say, “He is at the right hand of God?” God is not a Being having material or corporeal parts, a right hand or a left hand. God is everywhere, for all things created are in Him. He is indeed “above all,” being separate from all, but is by His Omnipotence and Omnipresent Energy “through all and in us all.”

            The Son of God made man is now reigning in that Human Nature, with its glorified and spiritual Body, which has been gathered into union with the Godhead, and made partaker of His power. “Christ,” says Bishop Pearson, “is said to sit down at the right hand of the Father in regard of that absolute Power and Dominion which he hath obtained in heaven.” Our Lord Himself declared this truth, saying, “Hereafter shall the Son of Man sit at the right hand of the Power of God.” It means that He is gathered into it and shares in it as the angels do not. While, therefore, although our Lord’s glorified Humanity is not by itself omnipresent, yet by virtue of its union with the omnipotent Deity, Christ can, without its involving any change of locality, make Himself and His Blessed Body present where he will. St. Stephen saw Him as in heaven, St. Paul in the roadway.

            This answers the two questions. The priest does not by consecration make a new Body, nor is Christ “brought” down nor in any material way does He move.

            For the further aid of those who seek not controversy but are willing to be taught by the Spirit let me try and explain something further concerning this Blessed Mystery of condescending Love.

            Christ founded His Church and it was made a living organism on the day of Pentecost. He did not go away from it at His ascension. Many persons make this mistake. They think of Him as gone off to some distant locality. He did not, however, go away from His Church, but remained within it. This He declared He would do. He would not only send the Holy Spirit, but “I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you.” The Spirit was not to come to take the place of an absent Lord, but “I will be with you always unto the end of the world.” “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” Thus He went away, by an ascension to the Right Hand of Power. He went from a visible companionship with all the collected Apostles, that He might be with each of them and their successors and all His followers as they became separated in all lands. Remaining, He dwells in His Church, which is a temple of living stones, a spiritual organism of which He is the Light and Life. What Almighty God is to the material universe, that the Son-Man is to this new spiritual creation. The Light and Life go out from Him and His Humanity to bless and sustain every member of it. It is by the ordained means of the sacraments that the Light and Life are communicated to us. It is by the Holy Spirit that dwells in the Church that those sacraments are made effectual signs and instruments of grace and our hearts by repentance, faith, and love are prepared beneficially to receive them. So it comes to this: That Christ stands in the midst of His Church, ever present to all within it. He now, as when He stood at the Holy Table at the Last Supper, takes, by means of His authorized agents and ministers, the Bread and Wine, and by His Word and Spirit gathers them into union with Himself and calling them after their divine engrafting declares them to be His Body and Blood. That Body indeed can never again be broken or that Blood again be shed, and so the priest in giving the sacrament says “the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” “the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given and shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul to everlasting life.” But that which is not only received, but “given” and “taken,” though in this heavenly and spiritual manner, is as our articles declare “The Body of Christ.”

            It would greatly aid concord amongst Churchmen of all schools if they would realize what these words “heavenly and spiritual” signify. They mean in their deepest, fullest sense that the whole transaction of the Eucharist takes place in the Kingdom of Heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit. The whole transaction is done—not in the material, natural world, but in the spiritual organism or Kingdom of Christ. Every person and thing and act and word connected with the Oblation, Consecration, Reception belongs to this spiritual Kingdom and makes the whole transaction, from first to last, in all its processes and gift, a divinely spiritual one. How the outward sign and inward gift are united is a mystery which cannot be explained by any natural law or by human philosophy. The Gift cannot properly be assented to be “under” or “in” or “below” or “above,” or by any like terms which necessarily denote locality. Taking our blessed Lord’s words literally, all we can say is: it is a Mystery, the work of the Spirit, and that the two parts are sacramentally and supernaturally identified.

            But while that which is present and the sphere of that Presence, and the Power by which it is effected, and the persons, priests and people—all belong to the spiritual order, yet it does not follow that Christ, in the totality of His two natures, is not present (or He is not otherwise) by virtue of the consecration and the Spirit’s power.

C. C. Fond du Lac.


[1] The Living Church, January 15, 1902; reprinted in Works, Vol. 7, pp. 201-205. Transcribed by Richard Mammana, 2012.

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Filed under Anglo-Catholicism, Bibliography, Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church history

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