The Greek Concept of Matter and Quantum Uncertainty
Lydia Jaeger FAITH Magazine March-April 2009
Lydia Jaeger is Director of Studies at the Institut Biblique de Nogent-sur-Marne
From its outset, quantum mechanics has been a source of intrigue; the picture it presents of the microscopic world being so different to that of everyday experience gained from normal-sized entities, between the atomic scale and the vast spaces of the cosmos. Many efforts have been (and are still being) made to understand the strangeness of the quantum world; a plethora of interpretations, often divergent, have been proposed. In the context of our study, it is relevant to introduce two approaches which allow a link with the Greek notion of matter; they specifically ask the question as to what extent the developments in physics in the 20th century should make us reconsider the critique of this notion, which the idea of creation gives rise to.
Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum theory, explicitly made the connection between the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics and Greek matter, in its role of potentia; he tried in this way to make sense of attributing a state vector to an individual quantum system. While the probability theorems of this theory allow us accurately to predict the behaviour of a sufficiently large group of identical quantum entities, the wave function of an individual quantum system describes itspofenf/al to produce certain outcomes when appropriate measurements are taken. This potentia therefore constitutes an intermediate level of reality, between quantum systems and the observation of certain outcomes when a measurement is taken. It sustains the change in a quantumsystem which is caused by taking a measurement. In this way, it plays a role comparable to matter, which, for Aristotle, is the substrate which accommodates changes.
However, the analogy established is misleading. In quantum mechanics, the idea of probability only applies to groups of systems and not to individual systems; in particular, no measurement exists for the supposed probability property for an individual system. Moreover, the wave function contains all the information about the state of the system (provided that it is pure). This wave function can be expressed without recourse to any probabilistic notions (if we represent the state vector of the system in an arbitrary orthonormal basis). The potentia that Heisenberg postulates cannot therefore amount to an extra level of reality, in addition to the objective properties of the system. Recent results have indeed been able to show that probabilistic predictions in quantum mechanicslogically follow, without any additional postulates, from the description of individual quantum systems, with the aid of the wave function, which can be expressed, as we have seen, in a completely non-probabilistic way and the assumption that the objective properties of the system can be obtained by measurements with certainty. Thus it is impossible to consider the probabilistic structure of quantum mechanics when applied to groups of systems as pointing towards an intermediate level of reality, the so-called potentia.
A second connection between quantum theory and the Greek concept of matter is profiled in the debate on the possible incompleteness of quantum mechanics. The famous article by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen in 1930 triggered this debate, since it demonstrated, for the first time, non-local correlations between two systems which have interacted in the past, as predicted by quantum mechanics. This consequence of the formalism seemed so unacceptable to Einstein that he concluded from it that quantum theory would only give a partial description of reality, leaving out a more fundamental domain. The debate took a new and decisive step with the work of J.S. Bell. He managed to show that the probabilistic nature of quantum predictions is not the result of our limited knowledge:we arrive at contradictory results if we postulate that quantum theory is only a partial description of a hidden reality.
This result cautions against the temptation to perceive, in the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, an indication of its incompleteness. Quantum theory does not contain any sign of a deeper reality of which it only furnishes a partial description. Thus, it is not warranted to infer from the strangeness of the microscopic world a limit that mathematical description might encounter at that level. As much as Galilean physics, contemporary physics is based on the conviction that mathematical processes apply to our "lowly" world; we are not talking about merely approximate realisations of mathematical forms which would only exist in the world of Ideas. In this respect, it is noteworthy that laws of exact mathematical form govern the probabilistic predictions of quantum mechanics. Asindicated, (complex) mathematical considerations even allow us to deduce the statistical predictions of quantum mechanics, solely starting with the non-probabilistic descriptions of individual quantum systems. It is therefore wrong to believe that there would be another level of reality behind the atomic world and that mathematical description would there come to an end. On the contrary, quantum mechanics describes a real order, even if this order reveals strange features which are unintuitive to common sense. We should not be too surprised: after all, our common sense is derived from the world of macroscopic objects, and transposing this to the atomic world is not at all obvious.
These considerations show that the presumption of order stemming from faith in a Creator God is not impaired by quantum mechanics. In particular, creation makes us immune against the fundamental motive owing to which Einstein saw in the uncertainty of quantum theory a sign of its incompleteness: in a strictly deterministic worldview our ignorance is the only possible source of indeterminate events. Over against such a view, the biblical perspective stresses the contingency of natural order, as it is dependent on the free act of creation. ■
This is an extract of a paper given to the joint conference of the American Scientific Affiliation and Christians in Science in Edinburgh, August 2007. The author thanks Peter Mittelstaedt for very helpful comments.
Werner HEISENBERG, Physics and philosophy: the revolution in modem science, New York, Harper & Row, 1958, ch. IX.
P. MITTELSTAEDT, The interpretation of quantum mechanics and the measurement process,
Cambridge UP., 1998, p. 47-57, 62-64.
March - April 2009
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” Gospel of Matthew 2:13
The non-saccharine nature of the Gospel stories is a constant reminder of their veracity. Arguably, it is only their regular retelling from childhood that empties them, for some, of their shock value. No author of a fictitious hagiography would consider the raw facts of Jesus’s life to be in any way decorous for a deity-made-man.
Yet there they are. The facts. Incredible. Inconvenient. Immovable. Christ did spend his first New Year on this earth fleeing into exile in Egypt. Unlike much of the preceding story of the Incarnation, this dramatic episode temporarily draws our attention away from the maternal nature of Mary and towards the paternal nature of Joseph.
In doing so, it highlights another fact that is incredible, immovable yet also inconvenient for many moderns: all men are called to fatherhood.
“All of us, to exist, to become complete, in order to be mature, we need to feel the joy of fatherhood: even those of us who are celibate,” said Pope Francis in his daily homily 26 June 2013.
“Fatherhood is giving life to others, giving life…for us, it is pastoral paternity, spiritual fatherhood, but this is still giving life, this is still becoming fathers.”
The reality, however, is that fewer and fewer men are living out fatherhood than ever before, and fewer and fewer children are experiencing paternity.
A recent report by the Centre for Social Justice think-tank revealed that three million children in the United Kingdom are now growing up predominantly with their mothers. This is often due to unavoidable circumstances deserving of understanding, care and compassion. Such legitimate mitigation, though, cannot diminish the inherent need of a child to have a mum and a dad.
The absence of fathers in families is clearly linked to higher rates of poverty, youth crime and teenage pregnancy, says the think-tank report. It warns that the UK is experiencing a “tsunami” of family breakdown. In one neighbourhood in the Riverside area of Liverpool, there is no father present in 65 per cent of homes with dependent children.
While the natural fall-out from fatherless families is demonstratively deleterious, the supernatural fall-out is equally baleful.
“For those who have had the experience of an overly authoritarian and inflexible father, or an indifferent, uncaring, or even absent one, it is not easy to calmly think of God as a father or to confidently surrender themselves to him,” observed Pope Benedict XVI during a General Audience in January 2012.
He pointed out that “it isn’t always easy today to speak about fatherhood and, not having adequate role models, it even becomes problematic to imagine God as a father.”
In a recent book entitled Faith of the Fatherless, the American psychologist Paul Vitz attempts to draw a definite link between fatherlessness and atheism. He profiles dozens of prominent atheists, from Dawkins to Nietzsche to Robespierre, finding a clear common denominator as he goes: “In no case do we find a strong, beloved father with a close relationship with his son.”
So what is to be done? As with the sons of Jacob in the Old Testament and, subsequently, the Son of Man in the New Testament, the answer is clear: Ite ad Joseph – Go to Joseph.
It is in Saint Joseph that we find a model of manhood that embodies a heroic paternalism applicable both to those who live out their fatherhood generatively and also to those who pursue their paternity through the priesthood or other forms of apostolic celibacy. Indeed, Joseph himself falls into the latter category.
Joseph is prayerful, noble, loving, hard-working and always docile to the will of God. He adores Our Lady. He sacrifices everything for Christ.
In contemporary society, the generative father who doesn’t imitate Joseph can lapse into a range of behavioural patterns from demitting spiritual leadership in the family to neglecting the well-being of his wife. As the old aphorism recommends, the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.
Meanwhile, the spiritual father who does not imitate Joseph’s generosity can easily lapse into self-absorption and self-gratification. The result is an elimination of the fruitful paternalism to which all priests are called by Christ. The clerical state should never become a brotherhood of bachelors, still less a redoubt for those content with a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle.
The Catholic evangelist Matthew James Christoff states that “there will not be a New Evangelisation without the evangelisation of men”. If the forthcoming 2015 Synod on the Family can begin to grapple with that issue it will be doing the Church and wider society a great service indeed. Let us pray to Saint Joseph that it does.
When the synod entitled “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the context of Evangelisation” was announced by Pope Francis back in 2013, I thought it sounded like a very good idea. The rich truths of the teachings of the Church on marriage and the family are now comprehensively supported by a wealth of sociological evidence. Indeed, if we read the website of the Family Education Trust (which does not make its appeal to any text or creed) we find, under the heading “The Importance of the Family”, the following:
There is no area in social science in which the evidence stacks up so completely on one side: marriage and traditional family life are associated with good outcomes in terms of health, wealth, and other indicators of well-being. A community of stable families has fewer problems with crime, antisocial behaviour and isolation than a community in which short-lived relationships are the norm.
We simply cannot afford to formulate public policy on the assumption that all living relationships are of equal value to society. Rather, we need to allow public policy to be shaped by the facts and promote marriage and responsible parenthood. (www.famyouth.org.uk)
The academic research exists in the secular arena and I could only see that Holy Mother Church would seek gently but firmly to re-propose the beauty of her teachings to our society, so confused about the truths of the human vocation to a married or celibate life. Surely the pursuit of the Common Good, and more importantly the salvation of souls, would demand such.
A Shock for Catholic parents
Fast forward to the apparently rather hurried and somewhat awkwardly constructed “Relatio post disceptationem” of 13 October 2014, issued as the interim report from the synod fathers, and the headlines around the world caused many faithful Catholic parents much anguish: “Could the Catholic Church be liberalising on divorce, contraception and homosexuality?” (Christian Today); “Welcome gays, non-marital unions” (Catholic News Service).
Indeed, a few of the headings in the Relatio itself were none too comforting vis-à-vis “positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation” and the extensive discussion on making the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist available to the divorced and remarried. It was a confused and confusing document, which the secular media lapped up.
Why would the Church want to be seen to be liberalising its approach to cohabitation and other irregular situations? There are swathes of evidence to support the increased risks to children, both born and unborn, within cohabiting situations. What length of time would make cohabitation valuable in the eyes of the Church? What about serial cohabitees and the damage left behind? Surely we must find ways of leading couples gently and lovingly towards the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, and never shy away from why marriage matters.
Equally, the teachings on divorce and remarriage are clear and unambiguous. As a lay Catholic wife and mother, I simply do not understand why this is such a preoccupation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognised by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery.” Indeed, the former Tory MP Louise Mensch wrote on this subject: “I’m a divorced (and remarried) Catholic and I’m sure it would be a mortal sin for me to take communion…nobody in a state of serious sin…is able to receive Christ worthily. To receive Him unworthily is to commit a further mortal sin.”
The teachings on homosexuality are equally unambiguous. Why the gross doctrinal confusion? And what of sin, mortal or otherwise, the Sacrament of Confession and a firm purpose of amendment? Christ’s teachings on sexual purity and the indissolubility of marriage? The sixth and ninth Commandments? Are these impolite observations? Judgmental even?
What message was the Church offering my teenage children as they reach such a crucial stage of their formation as young Catholics considering their vocation? The simplicity of “chastity before marriage and fidelity within” almost takes the breath away of parents with teenage children when they realise how easy it can be to explain what the Church teaches to young minds. The mass media never promote such thinking and parents need the Church to shake off any reluctance or bashfulness in proclaiming these very clear teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Familiaris Consortio: Clarity with Compassion
I did not encourage my children to read anything of the Relatio post disceptationem – how strange! And I found myself agreeing with Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia when he said: “I think confusion is of the devil and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion.” For these teachings of Holy Mother Church come from the words of Christ himself. They cannot be changed. And the Pope of the Family, Saint John Paul II had already offered his apostolic exhortation on the pastoral challenges facing the family in his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio. I would urge all readers to seek out this document, which is written with great clarity, depth of discernment, insight, love, compassion and integrity.
Familiaris Consortio presents a wholly compassionate yet objectively truthful account of the Magisterium of the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family and in its introductory paragraph states: “In a particular way the Church addresses the young, who are beginning their journey towards marriage and family life, for the purpose of presenting them with new horizons, helping them to discover the beauty and grandeur of the vocation to love and the service of life.” Amen. Amen. And later in the same document: “The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.”
Fast forward to the final synod document – the “Relatio Synodi” of 18 October 2014. This is much less controversial in its content and more authentically, if not perfectly, aligned to the Truth (although it has yet to be officially translated out of Italian by the Vatican). The re-alignment was very much the result of the work of the 10 smaller working groups who feverishly drafted their amendments to the Interim Relatio, which many participants suggested did not reflect the tone or content of the synod at all. Deo gratias.
The Challenges Facing Young People
And yet my overriding impression of the 2014 synod was that it failed to demonstrate an understanding of many of the issues that Catholic young people, parents and families struggle with in their daily lives (a view similarly expressed by Catherine Pakaluk in an article for Aleteia, 24 October 2014). Many of these are a result of Church teaching not being taught clearly in the first place. The Church should be honest and truly repentant about this – if people do not hear the Word then they cannot live by the Word.
Chastity and fidelity Our young people deserve to be taught the importance of chastity before marriage and fidelity within for the good of their souls and their life in Christ. We must teach and encourage them to discern whether they are being called to marriage or celibacy and that nothing in between can serve their call to holiness. Dating is for discernment, yet parents are very confused and fearful of being seen to judge “irregular situations”.
Marriage deferral and infertility Society is facing a retreat from marriage as young people are encouraged to defer marriage and family until economics and security are just right. The cost of this deferral of marriage and childbearing is greatest for young women. The demands on a woman to obtain the roundest education, the most fulfilled career, the highest promotion, the perfect relationship, and to “squeeze in two children” – all these are set against a backdrop of her diminishing fertility. Female fertility is a precious gift, taken so much for granted by a deceitful society which cares little about the demographics of plummeting fertility levels and the ultimate cost to human happiness.
At a time when young men are increasingly reluctant to commit to marriage and family, the Church must engage in this dialogue between the sexes. Diminished fertility, or indeed infertility, is a deeply painful suffering, as is the constant fear of not being able to meet someone open to marriage and children.
Cultural resistance to marriage In certain sections of society, marriage has been almost eliminated from the culture; increasingly it has become the privilege of the middle classes. How does the Church re-propose Christ’s teachings on marriage and human sexuality in such situations for the good of individuals and society? The Church cannot passively accept that “simply to live together is often a choice based on an overall attitude opposed to anything institutional and definitive” (Relatio post disceptationem). It is the Church’s job to make the voice of Our Lord Jesus Christ loud and clear, otherwise she compounds the pain of young Catholics struggling to find like-minded potential spouses, even within the Catholic community.
Secular sterility The Church’s vision of marriage and family is so hard for young Catholics to encounter, yet it offers them the key to true human happiness and fulfilment. Witness is crucially important, but so is the pulpit – especially where there are no longer any witnesses! Marriage and children and grandchildren are deeply longed for by most and have been taken for granted by previous generations. We are now bombarded by the language of secular sterility and seem reluctant as a Catholic community to counter such attitudes. “Be fruitful and multiply,” God told us, and yet Catholics seem unable to discern the truth of their calling. The Church teaches responsible parenthood, of course, but what about generous discernment as co-operators with the love of God the Creator – keeping Christ at the centre of marriage and the deep joy this brings?
Contraception The meaning of “openness to life” is not taught and is therefore poorly understood. There are amazing apostolates out there to explain these teachings (One More Soul, based in the US, is a fine example), yet few know of these and even fewer talk openly about this issue within the Church. We are wealthier than ever as a society, yet why are we so reluctant to have children?
Artificial contraception is not an option in conscience for a practising Catholic. Indeed many of the challenges facing the family in the modern world are probably symptoms of the mostly uninformed rejection of this beautiful teaching, held as truth by the entire Christian community until the 1930s.
The Church must help the faithful reconnect with Humanae Vitae. The science behind natural fertility regulation is now irrefutably reliable (I am most familiar with the Billings Ovulation method) and makes one wonder at the perfection of creation itself. We must teach this to young people and help them encourage one another to live a life of generosity with all of God’s gifts – “…human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to man’s eternal destiny” (Catechism 2371).
Modern healthcare Catholic couples need the Church to equip them to deal with the moral maze of modern healthcare systems. Artificial contraception is promoted (after each birth, when we can feel vulnerable) and sterilisation may be suggested at some point, making it all the more important that the Church’s teachings are clearly proclaimed. With marriage and family deferred until later in life, around one in six couples will experience fertility problems. Certain contraceptives can actually damage fertility if used long-term. Catholics need to be aware of the problematic morality of many of the reproductive technologies they will be offered, something that is quite hard when you fear never being able to have children.
And what about prenatal testing? What if all is not well with baby? Abortion is now the first line of defence against babies with “foetal abnormality” – more than 90 per cent of Down’s syndrome babies are aborted. Where do Catholic couples get support and advice against what often sounds like a medically informed “opinion” to terminate? The Church must encourage Catholic doctors to help Catholics navigate their way to the moral truth. Humanae Vitae asks no less.
Mixed marriages The cultural challenges within mixed marriages, which have steadily increased in number over the last 40 years, are complex. The full weight of responsibility of the Catholic spouse becomes apparent with the gift of a child and it can feel like a lonely and burdensome job. “Each Christian family is called to be a domestic church – it is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelising and missionary task” (Catechism 2205). Many Catholics now are so poorly catechised themselves that to educate their children and evangelise their spouse can seem overwhelming. The Church must walk closely beside such couples, and families have a responsibility to encourage each other in their life of prayer and sacrifice. Our faith life is spiritually weakened if confined to Sunday Mass. Parents and families need to be re-educated in Catholic family prayer and tradition, and in how to invite Christ into every aspect of their lives through prayer, penance and sacrifice – there is much to do.
Abortion We can never speak too often or too loudly against abortion, this greatest of evils. It is society’s answer to an “unplanned” pregnancy (married or otherwise) and we must proclaim the gift of chastity and the gift of life all the more strongly because of that. In the UK 200,000 abortions take place every year; some reports suggest that more than half of these are a consequence of failed contraceptive use. The Culture of Death awaits all of us and especially our young people. A contraceptive mindset leads stealthily to the road to abortion. The Church must understand this ubiquitous danger to our mortal souls and preach loudly against it.
Family breakdown and poverty The breakdown of stable family life, and the consequent rise in single-parent families, usually run by the mother, is one of the greatest contributors to poverty. The Church cannot disconnect these issues, which affect children’s prospects so fundamentally. If the Church were to offer the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried would any investigation be carried out to see whether previous spouses and families were still being supported, materially and spiritually, and not abandoned to poverty of both kinds. How can the Church walk faithfully beside such families, both materially and spiritually, and re-propose the beauty of married fidelity to their next generations? They deserve no less.
Pornography Incredibly, pornography was not mentioned in any of the synod documents. Yet so much research now exists to demonstrate the destructive effects of its ready availability on the internet. Anyone, at any age, can fall prey to its allure at the click of a button. Young people do so in vast numbers and the damage to their future marital happiness has begun. Just as a contraceptive mentality has fractured the link between the unitive and procreative aspects of human sexuality, so pornography is now slowly eliminating the need for even the unitive. Truly this is the work of Satan, and the Church must address the problem.
Family versus the state Finally, Familiaris Consortio acknowledges that the “ideal of mutual support and development between the family and society is often very seriously in conflict with the reality of their separation and even opposition….For this reason, the Church openly and strongly defends the rights of the family against the intolerable usurpations of society and the state.” With state authorities making ever increasing attempts to encroach on the primary educational responsibilities of parents, the Church must always proclaim the primary rights of parents and families.
A Longing to Hear the Truth
In discussing homosexuality and Communion for the divorced and remarried, the synod seems not to have touched on what is “arguably the most pressing humanitarian crisis of our day: the epidemic failure to live marriage and family in a manner consistent with authentic human flourishing” (Catherine Pakaluk, Is the Pope’s “Accent on Mercy” the Solution to the Culture Wars?, Aleteia, 24 October 2014).
As Pope Benedict taught in Caritas in Veritate: “Each person finds his good by adherence to God’s plan for him, in order to realise it fully. In this plan, he finds his truth, and through adherence to this truth he becomes free (cf Jn 8:32). To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity. Charity, in fact, ‘rejoices in the truth’ (1 Cor 13:6).” The world is longing to hear the Truth taught gently and with love.
Jacqueline Stewart is a stay-at-home mum to five children whose ages range from 5 to 16.
Recent Popes, including the current Holy Father Pope Francis, have shown a deep devotion to Our Lady. Donncha Ó hAodha now attempts to present an aspect of the Marian teaching of Benedict XVI, specifically in relation to the ever-relevant topic of human freedom.
1. Highest Honour of our Race
The abundant preaching of Benedict XVI on Our Lady testifies not only to the centrality of the Mother of God in salvation, but also to the Pope Emeritus’s personal devotion to Mary, whom he has evidently contemplated deeply in the light of Scripture. One aspect of his Marian teaching of perennial relevance, but especially in the context of the New Evangelisation, is the nature and scope of human freedom. “Since the beginning and throughout all time but especially in the modern age freedom has been the great dream of humanity.”1
Mary’s greatness lies above all in her free and unreserved openness to God. She not only hears the word but “keeps” it (cf Lk 11:28). Our Lady conceived Christ in her heart before she enclosed him in her womb. Her greatness resides first in her spiritual maternity, in freely welcoming God’s will, and then also in her physical maternity. She freely renews this commitment time and again. She “ponders” the Word (cf Lk 2:19, 51), while not always understanding it (cf Lk 2:50), and freely embraces it, making it life of her life.
In her choice of the supreme good, namely God himself, by a will unhindered by selfishness, Mary achieves the greatest freedom ever attained by a human creature. She is therefore a model of authentic human freedom. Mary overturns the widespread notion of freedom as “doing whatever I like, regardless of … anything”. By showing the fruitfulness of self-surrender to the divine call, she continually reminds her children of the unlimited horizons of love they may freely embrace, thereby making superlative use of their freedom.
2. Mirror of Justice
The Book of Revelation presents us with the dazzling image of the woman “clothed with the sun” (Rev 12:1).2 This lady of stellar radiance has already appeared fleetingly in Psalm 45:13, which refers to the princess “decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes”, while the liturgy places on Mary’s lips the oracle of Isaiah 61:10: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”3
Mary’s incomparable beauty is the fruit of her freedom. In his homily on the feast of the Assumption in 2007, Benedict XVI meditated on the “multidimensional image” of Rev 12:1-6:
“Without any doubt,” the Pope Emeritus taught, “a first meaning is that it is Our Lady, Mary, clothed with the sun, that is, with God, totally; Mary who lives totally in God, surrounded and penetrated by God’s light. Surrounded by the 12 stars, that is, by the 12 tribes of Israel, by the whole People of God, by the whole Communion of Saints; and at her feet, the moon, the image of death and mortality.
“Mary has left death behind her; she is totally clothed in life, she is taken up body and soul into God’s glory and thus, placed in glory after overcoming death, she says to us: Take heart, it is love that wins in the end!
“The message of my life was: I am the handmaid of God; my life has been a gift of myself to God and my neighbour. And this life of service now arrives in real life. May you too have trust and have the courage to live like this, countering all the threats of the dragon.”
Our Lady is clothed with the Sun of Justice, Christ the Lord (cf Mal 4:2). Her beauty consists in her immersion in Christ. Thus she defeats death (the moon) and enjoys an unheard-of intimacy with the entire Communion of the Saints (the crown of 12 stars).
Christ does not rob us of our freedom. On the contrary, only by a free and complete self-abandonment to the only One who truly knows what is in man (cf Jn 2:25) does our freedom achieve its fullest potential. Indeed, “it is only by conforming our own will to the divine one that human beings attain their true height, that they become ‘divine’”.4
3. Virgin most Prudent
By freely embracing God in Christ, with her fiat (“Let it be to me”; Lk 1:38) Our Lady gives us an unsurpassed lesson in freedom. Freedom is the capacity to choose the good, and the greater the good chosen the greater the freedom achieved. Our Lady’s decisions remind us that human freedom is made for unlimited greatness, for the vast expanses of love, by the choice of the Supreme Good, God himself.
As the then-Holy Father put it at the Vigil of Pentecost in 2006: “We want the true, great freedom, the freedom of heirs, the freedom of children of God. In this world, so full of fictitious forms of freedom that destroy the environment and the human being, let us learn true freedom by the power of the Holy Spirit; to build the school of freedom; to show others by our lives that we are free and how beautiful it is to be truly free with the true freedom of God’s children.”5
4. Mother most Admirable
Our Lady’s person is bathed in Christ, the splendour of the Father (cf Heb 1:3), because she has freely espoused the Holy Spirit. Similarly, to the extent to which the human person “clothes” him or herself in Christ (cf Gal 3:27), he or she attains true human and spiritual perfection. Only in giving ourselves do we truly receive.
As Benedict XVI explained in New York in 2008: “The Gospel teaches us that true freedom … is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love … . Real freedom, then, is God’s gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on “the mind of Christ” (cf Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us!”6
There is a paradox here. The freedom of the Gospel, the capacity to entrust oneself to eternal love, far from “cramping our style” or “stunting our humanity” is the only access-route to true fulfilment, by means of a genuine participation in the divine life.
In much contemporary discourse, freedom is seen as emancipation from God. “But”, Benedict XVI pointed out, “when God disappears, men and women do not become greater; indeed, they lose the divine dignity, their faces lose God’s splendour. In the end, they turn out to be merely products of a blind evolution and, as such, can be used and abused … . Only if God is great is humankind also great. With Mary, we must begin to understand that this is so.”7
By her free self-entrustment to God, Mary “magnifies” the Lord (cf Lk 1:46) and in so doing supremely develops her own personality. Our Lady shows that it is not an “either/or” dilemma, a choice between God and man, between His happiness and ours. In this sense, Mary’s person proclaims Christianity as the true humanism.
Mary wanted God to be great in the world, great in her life and present among us all. She was not afraid that God might be a ‘rival’ in our life, that with his greatness he might encroach on our freedom, our vital space. She knew that if God is great, we too are great. Our life is not oppressed but raised and expanded: it is precisely then that it becomes great in the splendour of God.8
5. Mother of Sorrows
The “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:21) is the fruit of redemption. By his sacrifice, Christ turns Adam’s “No” into a resounding and definitive “Yes” (cf 2 Cor 1:19-20). In a meditation on Christ’s agony in the garden, Benedict XVI reflected:
Man of himself is tempted to oppose God’s will, to seek to do his own will, to feel free only if he is autonomous; he sets his own autonomy against the heteronomy of obeying God’s will. This is the whole drama of humanity. But in truth, this autonomy is mistaken and entry into God’s will is not opposition to the self, it is not a form of slavery that violates my will, but rather means entering into truth and love, into goodness.
“Mary, as the Fathers of the Church explain, is the New Eve, the true mother of the living, of those who have freely chosen life”
And Jesus draws our will – which opposes God’s will, which seeks autonomy – upwards, towards God’s will. This is the drama of our redemption, that Jesus should uplift our will, our total aversion to God’s will and our aversion to death and sin and unite it with the Father’s will: ‘Not my will but yours.’ In this transformation of ‘no’ into ‘yes’, in this insertion of the creatural will into the will of the Father, he transforms humanity and redeems us. And he invites us to be part of his movement: to emerge from our ‘no’ and to enter into the ‘yes’ of the Son. My will exists, but the will of the Father is crucial because it is truth and love.9
Freedom matters a great deal. Its abuse heralded the trauma of death. Its wise use heals man and restores his dignity as a beloved child of God. “As by one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners, so, by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19). Christ is the New Adam, reversing Adam’s failure to fully accept the Creator’s love. Mary, as the Fathers of the Church explain, is therefore the New Eve, the true mother of the living, of those who have freely chosen life.
As Co-redemptrix, Mary speaks of the saving power of freedom. She consciously makes her Son’s oblation her own. As a merciful Mother, Mary is the anticipated figure and everlasting portrait of the Son. Thus, we see that the image of the Sorrowful Virgin, of the Mother who shares her suffering and her love, is also a true image of the Immaculate Conception. Her heart was enlarged by being and feeling together with God. In her, God’s goodness came very close to us.10
6. Our Refuge and our Strength
The entire history of salvation can be seen as the dialogue between divine grace and human freedom. This dialogue continues today in the life of each individual. “Man is the one creature free to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to eternity, that is, to God.”11
Mary shows us the solution to the dilemma we all tend to experience: “I really want to … but I just don’t feel like it right now.” Her life proclaims the value of our smaller or greater conversions to truth. She beckons encouragingly to those who hesitate in giving themselves fully to their vocation in life. “She turns to us saying: ‘Have the courage to dare with God! Try it! Do not be afraid of him! … Commit yourself to God, and then you will see that it is precisely by doing so that your life will become broad and light, not boring but filled with infinite surprises, for God’s infinite goodness is never depleted’.”12
“In her person and life Our Lady challenges the imploded freedom of much of contemporary culture”
The Mother of God teaches us that “the person who abandons himself totally in God’s hands does not become God’s puppet, a boring ‘yes man’; he does not lose his freedom. Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good.”13
As the then-Holy Father declared in the evocative setting of Revolution Square in Havana, Cuba, “the truth which stands above humanity is an unavoidable condition for attaining freedom, since in it we discover the foundation of an ethics on which all can converge and which contains clear and precise indications concerning life and death, duties and rights, marriage, family and society – in short, regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person”.14
In her person and life Our Lady challenges the imploded freedom of much of contemporary culture. She calms our insecurity by pointing to the human capacity to embrace the eternal. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:46-47). The precariousness of human commitment is in fact capable of definitive fidelity if it builds on the faithfulness of God. “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts; he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree” (Lk 1:51-52).
7. Queen of Peace
After evoking the momentous inauguration homily of St John Paul II, Benedict XVI inaugurated his own pontificate with words which are like a charter of true freedom and a clarion-call of the New Evangelisation:
Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.15
Mary embodies this fundamental truth. Because she has chosen the supreme Good with a will untrammelled by sin, she is the freest of all human beings. For this reason she is the most beautiful human creature to have ever graced this earth and is indeed the Highest Honour of our Race (cf Jud 15:9).
Fr Donncha Ó hAodha is a priest of the Opus Dei Prelature living and working in Dublin.
“An authentic updating of sacred music can take place only in the lineage of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.”1 The Church has a treasure trove of music, a deep well from which we can draw, yet since the Second Vatican Council that music has for the most part been ignored in most parishes. Perhaps it was a noble attempt to fulfil the council’s request for full and active participation that found us singing hymns at the Mass. After all, hymns were a ready resource for music directors and congregations needed very little training to participate. However noble the intention, this approach took us on an perilous detour leading ever further from our traditions.
The time has come to remove the distraction of a group gathered around a microphone and to rediscover our inheritance, to revive the ancient musical traditions of the Mass, which are inextricably linked to the liturgy. Praiseworthy efforts are being made to improve the music at Mass, and several free publications of the Propers of the Mass are available to download.2
The introduction of the third translation of the Roman Missal came with a revised General Instruction (GIRM), which has restored chant to its rightful place in the liturgy. However, this seems to have met with some resistance. Since its introduction I have read several articles (both online and in print) about the music of the Mass. Many have lauded the long-awaited clarification on music in the liturgy, but many others have argued for a continuation of hymn singing at Mass, favouring the so-called “hymn sandwich”.
Without fail they quote GIRM 47, which concerns the Entrance: “When the people are gathered, and as the Priest enters with the Deacon and ministers, the Entrance Chant begins. Its purpose is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical time or festivity, and accompany the procession of the Priest and ministers.”
They then, helpfully, go on to interpret the word chant for us. Interpretations usually go something like this: “Chant is from the Latin cantus, which can also be translated as song.” This may well be the case; however, one then should consider why, if that is what they meant, the translators did not use the word song, or some other form of words showing that a song was permissible, such as chant or song, chant and/or hymn or perhaps liturgical song. The fact remains that the rubrics only mention chant.
In the search for a definitive answer there are several places one might look. First, one might look at the subsequent text of the General Instruction. GIRM 48, which is never quoted, sheds light on why the word chant is used and what it actually means. It reads: “This chant is sung alternately by the choir and the people or similarly by a cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. In the dioceses of England Wales the Entrance Chant may be chosen from among the following: the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum or the Graduale Simplex, or another chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, and whose text has been approved by the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales.” The word chant is used here because it means a chant taken from one of the books of chant. It is not to be mistaken with any other form of song, not even a hymn.
Secondly, GIRM 88 (concerning singing at Communion) states: “When the distribution of Communion is over, if appropriate, the Priest and faithful pray quietly for some time. If desired, a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the whole congregation.” Note the se of other words to describe the different types of song permissible – Psalm, canticle or hymn. If the contention is that in the Entrance and at the Offertory3 these songs were also permitted, the question arises: Why were they not mentioned by name in reference to the Entrance and at the Offertory, as they are in GIRM 88 with respect to Communion?
"The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as being especially suited to the Roman liturgy; therefore it should be given pride of place in liturgical services”
Thirdly, one could compare this paragraph with its former incarnation, GIRM 48 of 2003, in which one will immediately note a fourth option, “a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the diocesan Bishop”. This option is missing from the current General Instruction. The question immediately arises: Why was it removed?
If this evidence is not enough one might consider another clue as to why the word chant is used. It is found in the first document to be issued by the Second Vatican Council and is reiterated in GIRM 41: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as being especially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, all things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”
We can draw only one conclusion from the above evidence and it is crystal clear: the chant that the Church wishes us to use in the sacred celebration is Gregorian chant. This chant should be given pride of place as it is a part of the rich inheritance of our traditions. We should, therefore, accept that chant is the right and proper music for the celebration of the sacred liturgy.
There may be some who, even after all this evidence, would still argue the case for hymn singing. The arguments might run along the lines that liturgical law is “more about principles than hard and fast rules”. They might even add that, with that in mind, it is better for the congregation to sing something than nothing at all. Let us then investigate the second part of GIRM 48. This qualifies the first half of that particular section, which calls for singing to come from one of the books of chant: “If there is no singing at the Entrance, the antiphon given in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a reader; otherwise, it is recited by the Priest himself, who may even adapt it as an introductory explanation.”
Having already established that the chants are to come from a book of chant it goes on to say that if this chant is not sung the text should be recited. There is no alternative to the Entrance antiphon – it is either sung as prescribed or it is recited. A replacement hymn is not given as an option.
“One needn’t be a trained musician to sing chant. It can be sung unaccompanied, so there is no need to hire an organist. And it can be sung with minimal initial training”
Why, then, is there such resistance to chant, the only form of music mentioned by name in Sacrosanctum Concilium. By continuing to disregard or place arbitrary interpretations on the rubrics or, worse still, to speculate on them to suit our own ends, we ignore what is asked of us in the celebration of the Eucharist. In particular, we risk lowering the dignity of the celebration and breaking that “uninterrupted tradition” which the document goes to great lengths to highlight.
We should therefore ask ourselves three questions:
n Are we being asked to do something heretical?
n Are we being asked to do something theologically unsound?
n Are we being asked to do something illegal?
If the answer to these is negative then we may ask ourselves a fourth question: “Why resist?” Fear of the unknown quite often prevents us from trying something new. In this case we should recall the words spoken to Mary by the angel, “Be not afraid,”4 and again to Joseph, “Do not be afraid,”5 and again by Our Lord, who constantly exhorted Peter and the apostles, especially after the resurrection, to have no fear.
Training may be one common obstacle, but this is not insurmountable and the efforts will be richly rewarded. There may be parishes where not even one person can play an instrument or read music, but this is certainly not a problem when it comes to chant. Chant “democratises” (for want of a better word) the music of the liturgy. One needn’t be a trained musician to sing chant. It can be sung unaccompanied, so there is no need to hire an organist. And it can be sung with minimal initial training, which is not to say that we should not strive to better our efforts through continued instruction.
I am sure that, despite all this, there will be some who will continue to argue for the status quo and who, despite what Mother Church is asking of us through her bishops, will disregard the General Instruction. Undoubtedly, they will be able to come up with very convincing counter-arguments to justify their position. After some reflection on whether this opposition is really about singing or about some other deep-seated issue, we may still all arrive at the same place: that we belong to the Church and that this same Church, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, leads us towards God through (among other things) the full and undiluted celebration of the liturgy.
One final note from GIRM 397: “The Roman Rite constitutes a notable and precious part of the liturgical treasure and patrimony of the Catholic Church; its riches are conducive to the good of the universal Church, so that their loss would gravely harm her.”
Joseph Estorninho is the director of music at St James’s Catholic Primary School in Twickenham and the director of the Gregorian chant choir at the parish of St Margaret of Scotland in East Twickenham. He studied composition at the University of Melbourne. Among his compositions is the work “Requiem for the Innocents”, written to commemorate the loss of unborn babies through abortion or miscarriage. He has written several musicals and cantatas for schools.
Appendix: online resources for Gregorian chant
The Lalemant Propers published by C C Watershed:
The Graduale Parvum jointly published by the Church Music Association of America and The Blessed John Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music:
The Simple Choral Gradual, also published by the Church Music Association of America:
At first sight, the doctrine of the Eucharist and Aristotelian metaphysics seem worlds apart. The doctrine of the Eucharist is among the most sublime of the mysteries of faith whereas metaphysics holds the foundational place in the realm of pure reason. Yet, in St Thomas Aquinas’s exploration of the doctrine of the Eucharist, the two worlds come together with such exquisite harmony that it appears as if they were made for each other.
In this essay, I wish to briefly survey this harmonious relationship as perhaps the supreme example of reason at the service of revelation, or of philosophy as the handmaid to theology. Such a survey will also demonstrate the need for at least a basic grounding in philosophy, if we are to better understand and communicate the mysteries of our faith.
What You See is Not What You Get
At the heart of the doctrine of the Eucharist is the assertion that while the appearance before us is one of bread (or wine), the substance present after the conversion is Christ’s Body (or His Blood). As Aquinas puts it in his hymn “Lauda Sion”:
Sub divérsis speciébus,
Signis tantum, et non rebus,
Latent res exímiæ.
[Here beneath these signs are hidden,
Priceless things, to sense forbidden,
Signs, not things, are all we see.]
On the one hand, we assent to the presence of the substance of Christ’s Body because we accept the truth of Christ’s own words that “this is My Body” (Lk 22:19). On the other hand, we assent to the continued presence of the accidents of bread from the fact that we trust our senses.
That something can be different in appearance from what it is essentially can easily be catered for within Aquinas’s Aristotelian philosophical system because one of the most basic distinctions is between substance and accident. Substance points to what a thing is, whereas accident points to some lesser characteristic of the thing. That these two realities are distinct can be seen from the fact that Peter can change shape (pudge out), colour (get a sun tan), gain new relationships (become a father), acquire a new habit (learn Latin), and so on without changing what he is: he remains a human being throughout. If substance is distinct from accident (and so accidents can change without the substance changing) then, while it is amazing that what appears to be bread is actually the Body of Christ, this is not a contradiction, because in this case, the substance has changed without the accidents changing.
A Unique Conversion
Dogma datur christianis,
Quod in carnem transit panis,
Et vinum in sanguinem.
[Hear, what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth,
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.]
The conversion of the bread into the Body of Christ (and the wine into the Blood of Christ) must be a conversion of a unique kind. It cannot be categorised as a normal type of substantial change, what is called a transformation. When something is transformed – when, for example, grass is eaten and digested by a sheep – one substance is converted into another substance, since the grass is taken up (at least in part) into the body of the sheep. In such cases, the accidents of grass (such as its colour and texture) pass away with the change in substance. This is, quite evidently, not the case in the conversion of the bread into the Body of Christ: the accidents of bread remain; we clearly see them before us.
Moreover, in a transformation the matter of the thing being converted passes over into the terminus of the conversion. When the sheep eats the grass, the matter of the grass passes over into the sheep. This cannot be true in the case of the Eucharist because, if it were, then each confection of the Eucharist would add to the matter of Christ’s body! Yet, Christ has his own discreet quantity of bodily matter. So, on account of the accidents remaining and on account that this conversion does not add to the matter of Christ’s body, this conversion simply cannot be a transformation.
The Church has given this conversion the name transubstantiation.1 To see why this word is apt, we need to delve a little more deeply into the difference between transubstantiation and transformation. The idea of transformation rests upon what is called the hylomorphic theory, another stalwart principle of Aristotelian philosophy. This is the idea that all material things are the composite of a material and formal principle. The formal principle (the form) configures the matter to be a certain type of matter: a human body if the form is human, an oak tree if the form is that of an oak tree, and so on.
In a transformation, when substance A (eg grass) becomes substance B (eg sheep flesh), the matter of substance A endures throughout the conversion and continues on as the matter of substance B, yet the form of substance A becomes the form of B. The matter remains but there is a change in form, hence the word transformation. In transubstantiation, however, the whole substance (the form-matter composite) of substance A (bread) is converted into substance B (the Body of Christ): hence the word transubstantiation. Precisely how this happens we cannot say, but it is certainly within the power of God to do this. Every created agent is limited to bringing about a change in form only (a sheep can transform grass into its own body matter by digestion), but God – as the ultimate cause of all being – can surely bring about changes at the level of being: converting one entire substance into another.
To explain this unique conversion further, some theologians have proposed the theory of adduction. This says that the conversion is a two-step process: first, the annihilation of the substance of the bread; second, the coming to be of the Body of Christ where the bread once was. Aquinas opposes this on two grounds. First, if the Body of Christ does not come out of the bread, then the Body must move from where it was prior to the consecration to where the bread was occupying space: but we do not see that happening. Second, the sense of Christ’s own words, “this is my Body,” implies that what was bread is now His Body. If there were no real connection between the bread and the Body, Christ ought to have said “that is my Body.” The pronoun “this” implies a connection between the bread and the Body, such that the substance of Christ’s Body comes out of the bread.2 Finally, there is a powerful argument of fittingness. If the bread is just replaced, it is not clear how what is offered in the Mass is really our offering. Only when what we offer – bread and wine – is connected with what the priest offers to the Father after the consecration, namely the Body and Blood of Christ, can we truly say that this is our offering to God.3
As I have already intimated, the doctrine of the Real Presence relies upon us believing Christ when he says “this is My Body” and believing our senses when we see before us the appearance of bread. From these two points of reference, we must conclude that the accidents of bread (that clearly do remain after the consecration) are self-subsisting, which is to say that they do not exist, as accidents normally do, in a substance. They cannot exist in the substance of bread since the bread is no longer present and they cannot have their existence in the substance of Christ’s body because the substance of a human body is not the proper substance for the accidents of bread: human bodies simply do not have the texture, colour, and so on, of bread. By deduction, then, the accidents of bread must exist independently of any substance.
At first sight, this would seem to be a contradiction even from within Aristotle’s own philosophical system. The very definition of a substance is that which exists in itself and not in another thing, whereas accidents are defined precisely in contra-distinction to this: they exist in something else, namely in a substance.
The way out of this seeming contradiction is to mount another distinction within Aristotle’s philosophical system, this time the distinction between primary and secondary causality. For Aristotle and Aquinas, the universe is full of secondary causes. These are beings that have quasi-autonomous causal power. For example, apple trees have inherent power to produce apples: apple trees are the secondary cause of apples. However, I was careful to say quasi-autonomous because, among other things, given that secondary causes (like apple trees) do not account for their own existence, they must receive both their existence and their causal power from a primary agent (aka God). Hence, if the primary cause wants to bypass or leap-frog the secondary cause and produce the effect directly … he certainly may.
“Every created agent is limited to bringing about a change in form only, but God can bring about changes at the level of being”
The point here is that substances are the secondary cause of the existence of accidents. Substances really have the power to give existence to their accidents (eg the substance of bread really does cause the existence of the colour and texture of bread). However, this causal power is ultimately from the primary agent. Hence, if God wants to hold the accidents of bread in existence without the proximate causal activity of the substance of bread … he certainly may.
The Totality of Presence
The doctrine of the real presence includes the assertion that Christ is fully present under both species (under the appearance of bread and under the appearance of wine) as well as fully present under each particle of each species. The latter means that when a consecrated host is fractured into two, Christ is fully present in each half.
Of the first totality, the poet Aquinas writes:
Caro cibus, sanguis potus:
Manet tamen Christus totus,
Sub utráque spécie.
[Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine,
Yet is Christ in either sign,
All entire, confessed to be.]
Of the second, he says:
Fracto demum Sacraménto,
Ne vacílles, sed memento,
Tantum esse sub fragménto,
Quantum toto tégitur.
[Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains,
What was in the whole before.]
The explanation of how Christ is fully present under each species requires us to consider how Christ is made present in the first place. An important principle of sacramental theology is that Sacraments cause by signifying. They are not just signs and causes of grace but, rather, signs that cause grace. Now, we should note that the priest confects the Eucharist by saying over the bread, “This is My Body,” and over the wine, “This is My Blood.” From the words alone, only the Body of Christ is made present out of the bread and only the Blood of Christ is made present out of the wine.
If this were all there was to it, Christ would not be wholly present under each species: under the bread there would be only his Body and not his Blood, or his Soul or His Divinity. So we need to add that something can be made present not only on account of the force of the words uttered by the priest but on account of what is called natural concomitance.4 This means that whatever is actually connected with the Body of Christ (or the Blood of Christ) is made present when the Body (or the Blood) is made present.
Now, Christ is made present in the Eucharist as He really is – it is not another Christ that is made present. Hence, since (after the Resurrection) the Body of Christ is united to his Blood and his Soul and all these, in turn, are hypostatically united to the Word of God, when the Body is made present so also are the Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Likewise, when – by the force of the words spoken by the priest – the Blood is made present under the continued appearance of wine, the Body, Soul and Divinity of Christ are made present by natural concomitance.
This, then, explains the total presence under each species: what about the total presence under each part of each species? Here we must go back to what we said about transubstantiation. We saw that this was a unique type of conversion because, while the substance changes, the accidents of bread remain. And, since the accidents of the bread remain, this means that the accidents of Christ’s own body are not expressed. They are present (because Christ’s body is present) but they are quite evidently not expressed. I say “quite evidently” because if the accidents of Christ’s body were expressed, we would obverse startling changes in a consecrated host: for one thing it would grow to the size of a man (the man Jesus) and take on the shape of a man: since quantity and shape are accidents.
That quantity with its associated dimensions is an accident is clear from the fact that I can change my quantity and dimensions without becoming other than what I am – a human being. Quantity under given dimensions is also what extends a thing in space so as to make one part of that thing separate from the other parts. It is because I, the author, am extended in space that one part of me, let’s say my right arm, could be got hold of separately from the rest of my body and broken off from the whole. But since in the Eucharist, the accident of quantity proper to Christ’s body is not expressed, the parts of Christ’s body are not spread out into different parts of space; hence breaking off a piece of the host does not entail breaking off one part of Christ’s body from another part.5
Beyond Physical Presence
The fact that the quantity and dimensions of Christ’s body are not expressed also explains how Christ’s presence in the Eucharist surpasses the limitations of physical presence, this limitation being that a body can only be in one place at one time. Obviously, Christ’s Eucharistic presence is not limited in this way because He is truly and substantially present in every consecrated host in every tabernacle of the world.
It is on account of the quantity of a material substance (like a human body) under certain dimensions that it is located in a place. It is because a body fills up a certain amount of space that it is located in that place and, thereby, not in another place. But when a thing is not present with its quantity or dimensions, it is not limited in this way. Another way of saying this is that Christ’s Body is not located by its Eucharistic presence and so not fixed to a single location.6
It is important to be clear as to what we have been up to here. We have not mounted philosophical arguments that prove Christ is really present in the Eucharist despite appearances, or that He is wholly present in each part of each consecrated host; nor have we proved, from reason alone, that He is really present in a consecrated host in the Cathedral of Tokyo and Paris at the same time. These things we assent to by the virtue of faith. However, what we have done, with the help of Aristotle, is show how these amazing assertions are not contradictions – they are not impossibilities.
I like to picture Virgil returning to his own circle in hell (which is actually more like limbo and which he shares with Aristotle) after finishing his tour of the after-life with Dante. During his visit to the fourth sphere of paradise, he bumps into a certain resident there, Thomas from Aquino. Thomas gives to Virgil a copy of his poetic hymns Lauda Sion and Pange Lingua. He also gives something to Virgil to pass on to Aristotle: a copy of the eleven questions on the Eucharist from his Summa Theologiae. Just imagine the astonishment and great satisfaction that Aristotle might experience in seeing how dextrously his philosophy expounds and defends the truth of the doctrine of the Eucharist. Turning to the inside cover of the book he sees inscribed in free-hand the dedication: “To the Philosopher with thanks: I couldn’t have done it without you!” Anyhow, that’s how I like to think of it.
Dr. William Newton is the associate professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and is based in Gaming, Austria.