Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Bread" and "Wine", or Something More?

"Ebeth" sent me the following question via email:
What comment would you leave this person? He is a very high profile homeschooler in NC.
First off, here is the post in question, from "The Inundated Calvinist":
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
-- Matthew 26:27-28

This was part of the passage for our men's Bible study Tuesday and it struck me as significant. Jesus Himself, not merely a human priest, took the cup, blessed it, announced that "This is My blood" -- and immediately referred to it as "this fruit of the vine".

When Luther met Zwingli to debate the nature of the Lord's Supper, before he sat down he chalked the words Hoc Est Corpus Meum on the tablecloth before Him. And so it is -- but it's still bread, and the wine is still the fruit of the vine.
What we have to remember here is that there are different ways of speaking of the same thing. Often times when we speak, we use the "language of appearances." For example, when night turns into day we say the sun has "risen." This would be the language of appearances, and we usually use it for the sake of simplicity and ease in speaking.

But, if we were in a setting where more technical language was required, like in a Science class, we would instead explain that night turns to day because of the rotation of the Earth on its axis and the revolution of the Earth around the Sun (I think that's how it works, haha, I'm not a science major). This would be the "language of reality."

Note that, depending on our audience and our purpose for speaking, we often switch between the two types of language, even in the same discourse. That's what Jesus is doing in Mt 26 (and in all of the Institution narratives). When he refers to "the blood of the new covenant" he is using the language of reality. When he refers to the "fruit of the vine" he is using the language of appearances.

For more on this, see this excellent blog post by Jimmy Akin. I also employ this argument in Part 2 of my debate with Briguy on the Real Presence in the Eucharist. It sort of came to me intuitively before I even knew about the "language of appearances" vs. "language of reality" distinction. See the following passage:
Secondly, there is a sense in which the Blood of Christ may still be called "wine." This is done for the sake of simplicity and to avoid any scandal that would result from associating the Catholic practice with what cannibals do. So, we often refer to consecrated wine, and consecrated host, which is actually the Real Presence under the appearance of bread and wine. The Church often refers to the Eucharist as "daily bread" and "bread of life" and "bread from heaven" even though we believe that it is much more than mere bread that we consume.
Now, besides the way Jesus is speaking, there is another way to solve the problem. It has to do with the cup that Jesus was referring to. What a lot of people don't realize is that there are four cups in the Passover meal. See the following paragraphs from Part 1 of my debate with "Briguy":
Jesus isn't referring to the same cup here. Scott Hahn provides some helpful context to these words (from this article):
There are four cups that represent the structure of the Passover. The first cup is the blessing of the festival day, it's the kiddush cup. The second cup of wine occurs really at the beginning of the Passover liturgy itself, and that involves the singing of psalm 113. And then there's the third cup, the cup of blessing which involves the actual meal, the unleavened bread and so on. And then, before the fourth cup, you sing the great hil-el psalms: 114, 115, 116, 117 and 118. And having sung those psalms you proceed to the fourth cup which for all practical purposes is the climax of the Passover.
The meal ends with the singing of the psalms (cf. Mat 26:30; Mark 14:26), so we know that the cup they drank was the third cup. Since they drink no more after this, then the "fruit of the vine" of which he will not drink "until the kingdom of God comes" (Luke 22:18) is the fourth cup. Also, what's interesting is that in Luke, Jesus actually tells them about not drinking of the vine before they drink the third cup (cf. Luke 22:18-20). So, this must mean that the third cup was more than just fruit from the vine.
Does that make sense? If Jesus says that he won't drink of the fruit of the vine and then he drinks the cup he has in his hand (as Luke tells us), then that means that what he drank was not the fruit of the vine. Instead, drinking the fruit of the vine was a reference to the fourth cup, which various passages (for example Mt 20:22-23 [cf. Mk 10:38-39] and Jn 18:11) tell us is his death on the cross.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

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