[Edit: After further reflection, I’ve decided this was incomplete, and so did a Part 2, which I have to linked to here.]
[Before I start, I’d like to emphasise how amateur this is. I have much to learn, and have not yet been baptised into the Church. Wherever I’m mistaken, please correct me to the best of your ability or direct me to correction. And wherever I’m missing something, please show me.
Thanks in advance]
In what sense is something what it is? For example, why is a chair, a chair? What makes it a chair? I think this is (roughly) what philosophers used to call the substance/essence. Does the essence actually exist, or is it just in our minds? Is the essence in an object’s own existence, or only in the mind of the person who recognises or identifies the object?
Here’s a thought experiment: if no people existed in the universe, what would each thing be? If the essence is basically or definitions, then there would be no essence. It would be absurd to say planets, or chairs, or even atoms would still exist, as they would have no definitions. All would still exist, but completely incomprehensible (which is fine as there would be no one to comprehend it).
But, this logic fails for numbers. If there are three holes, regardless of whether it’s recognised or not, those numbers exist. Not physically, and not because I defined those numbers, but just because of the holes, there is three. The existence of the holes implies the real existence of the threeness of those holes. So, objects have non-material properties implied by the form of their existence.
Now to the Eucharist. Jesus tells us it is his body, and his blood (and who am I to interpret this as meaning anything else?). But to all appearances, it is still bread and wine. But, appearances can be deceiving. So, what is the essence of the body and blood?
The best answer I can find, is that the essence of the body, is its life. Life is the essential bodyness of the body, and whatever has my life, is my body. When my body one day loses my life, it will no longer really be my body; it will more be my ex-body, and respected (hopefully) for what it was, and for its potential in the resurrection. I believe the same or similar is true of the essence of our blood.
So, the bread is no longer bread, and the wine no longer wine, but the body and the blood of Jesus of Nazareth, because his life is in them. And his life (body, spirit, soul, divinity) is in them, because it is his body and blood, by his declaration.
‘This is the bread which cometh down from heaven: that if any man eat of it, he may not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’
‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.’
God bless you.
I’m sharing this in case it can help others understand, as it helped me understand. Pascal said that we are more convinced by the reasons we find on our own than those shown us, and I think he’s right, but another angle may still be of help to others.
Have any proper (respected, orthodox) theologians spoken about the Eucharist this way? I hope so, because I don’t want to suggest my own ideas.
I’d like to repeat my request at the start, that if I’m mistaken anywhere here, in matters great or small, please correct me. I only want orthodoxy (truth).
Thanks again, and may God almighty bless you deeply.