The “Real Presence”–A Flexible Friend

Yesterday at Mass for Corpus Christi I spoke about the real presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It reminded me that many Catholics use an abbreviated form of this theological mouthful and refer to “the Real Presence”.

The problem with this is that “the Real Presence” is a term that is also used by non-Catholics to refer to their beliefs about the Eucharist. I’ve heard Anglicans, Methodists and even a Baptist talk about “the Real Presence” at Holy Communion. They all mean something different by the same term.

This reflects a major problem in all theological and ecumenical discussion: people use the same terminology to describe totally different beliefs. The Catholic uses the term (or should) to refer to transubstantiation. The Anglican says he believes in “the Real Presence” and may be referring to consubstantiation (the belief that Christ is “with” or “beside” the consecrated bread and wine) or receptionism (Christ is received by the individual as he receives the bread and wine by faith) The term “Real Presence” used by a Baptist or Methodist may simply mean, “I feel close to Jesus when I go to communion.”

So what does the term mean and where does it come from and what should we do about it? Read more.

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