Eucharist & Eutychianism
I just have a few thoughts about the Eucharist for today (aka The Lord’s Supper, aka Communion, aka The Sacrament, aka That Thing Your Church Doesn’t Do Enough). I am mostly interested in hearing responses from others who have thought more deeply about this topic. I inherited a fairly low church view of the Eucharist from my church background. Of course, I wouldn’t have known it at the time, but my perspective was essentially Zwinglian—I believed it was purely and solely a symbol. In fact, the materials used in the celebration didn’t matter at all. My Jr. High youth pastor once had us celebrate the Eucharist with orange soda and chips (no joke). At the time this seemed like a great exercise in reminding our little evangelical selves that all God cares about is the heart, and so who really cares about outward forms and traditions? I eventually stopped thinking that such a disregard for tradition was helpful, especially when considering all the wonderful Passover theology inherent in the bread and the wine. And, since we mentioned wine, I never had wine as part of communion until last summer when I lived in Paris. It took me as a great surprise when I drank what I thought was grape juice! But once I noticed the ascetic beauty of the wine’s sting I was immediately drawn to think O Death, where is your victory?! O Death, where is your sting?! It was beautiful. I wish that evangelical churches would be more open to wine in the Eucharist. . .
As I’ve gotten older my perspective on the Eurcharist has journeyed away from Zwingli towards Calvin. I can’t say that my view is totally Reformed, but I want to maintain some sense of “presence” or significance that goes beyond mere symbol. But, of course, I refuse to think of this “presence” in any way other than spiritual. I have biblical reasons for this, but I want to mention a particular theological reason that has always stuck with me (perhaps because I’ve yet to hear a good rebuttal—that’s where you come in!). The theological hang-up I have is this: if Christ’s humanity is present in the Eucharist haven’t we become Eutychians?
I like to refer to any view of the Eucharist—Lutheran, Reformed, Orthodox, etc—that speaks of Christ’s humanity as receiving qualities or attributes akin omnipresence in his exalted form (and therefore in some sense present in the Eucharist) as a ‘postponed Eutychianism.’ Sure, Chalcedon will be defended by these traditions to the grave—Christ is fully God, fully man, two separate natures united in one person. But of course, Eutychianism blends the natures so that attributes and qualities of each mix into each other. So, if Christ’s humanity is present in the Eucharist, why isn’t this a form of postponed Eutychianism? If you’re a Catholic or Orthodox reader, this is not a debate; I’m genuinely curious to see how this issue is addressed within your tradition. I’d love to engage this discussion with you.