Two Random Thoughts on Systematic Theology

Eamonn Clark

The first thought I’ve been mulling over for a while. The second thought came to me last night before I drifted off to dreamland. So for the first one, I’m ready for a real discussion, but for the second one, go easy on me!

FIRST: There are many definitions one encounters for “the Church.” Examples are, “the community of believers,” “the Mystical Body of Christ,” “the communion of grace,” “the Bride of Christ,” to name a few. None of these would be wrong, but there is one that I have never encountered before as far as I can recall which might be legitimate… That would be, “rational creation’s participation in Christ.” The merit of this is that it includes human beings insofar as they are united with Christ, that is, to the extent which they share His Life by imitation and union. It excludes non-rational creatures, like rocks, cacti, and lemurs. It excludes, or at least intensely qualifies, Christ Himself – it does not seem quite right to say that Christ is “in” the Church… To compare this definition with the others could be helpful; for example, the Bride of Christ is not exactly Christ Himself, the Bridegroom, nor is His Mystical Body exactly the same as His “normal” Body. Maybe the most interesting aspect of this definition is its limited openness to angels (who are rational creatures)… Insofar as they are united with Christ by doing His Will or by sharing His Life, they are in the Church. But they are not in the Church the same way human beings redeemed by Christ are in the Church. Further, each individual has his or her own unique participation in Christ, according to differing graces, sacramental characters, and virtues. Therefore, this definition allows for a multiplicity of ways of being “in the Church” – in fact, there are as many ways to be “in the Church” as there are rational creatures, since it seems no two participations in Christ will be precisely the same, with the possible exception of humans who do not possess the ability for rational activity (and therefore voluntary cooperation with grace). Finally, were there some other economy of salvation with another Incarnation of the Son (such as might happen for an extraterrestrial race), rational creatures which participate in that particular order of grace would be in their own communion of grace, as it is mediated by another human nature, even though it is still the same Divine Person… They would be in a different Church, a different Mystical Body, although still ultimately participating in the same Divine Life.

So there are some major advantages to this definition.

SECOND: A little less thought out, but it really hit me last night… So, first, the Eucharist contains the real and substantial Presence of Christ’s own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This is, as pointed out above, distinguishable from His Mystical Body, which is the whole Church. Okay. Second, the Eucharist contains the secondary dimensive quantity of Christ – which means He is present in that space according to “being in a space” but without having normal shape, the manner of presence being merely according to the mode of substance, which is in relation to the accidents of the substance that has been transformed, viz. bread and wine. (See St. Thomas on that here for more.) Okay. Third, while it is not quite right to say that Christ is “physically” in the Sacrament, due to the primary dimensive quantity not inhering in the Substance, it is still correct to say that the Substance of Christ is “here” and “not over there.” When a Host or Chalice is moved, Christ is not moved physically (His physical Body and Blood are resting in Heaven under their primary dimensive quantity), but the Substance appears in different places according to the motion of the accidents of bread and wine; that is to say, the Substance is “here,” then “there.” Okay, so with that relatively unclear explanation, let me briefly get to what hit me… It seems that, in a way, the Eucharist rips open the universe and taps into the Substance of Christ which is “underneath” it. The Substance is potentially made real in this particular spot, not by placing the Substance there – which can only be done by physically moving Christ under His primary dimensive quantity – but by “opening” this place to “uncover” it.

What are the implications of this? Is this a legitimate way to look at this reality? I’m not quite sure. I need to think about it more. But I found the possible line of inquiry very interesting.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments…

5 thoughts on “Two Random Thoughts on Systematic Theology

  1. This lines up with and expands beautifully on something Dr. Brant Pitre said in “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist:” that, because Jesus is true God, He can appear anywhere, under any form He chooses. Simplistic, but essentially saying the same thing – at least to my understanding.


  2. Regarding point 1: the Second Vatican Council advanced our understanding of the Church as embracing all the baptized in various degrees of participation and all humanity as being in relation to Christ (the “head of every man”). This is the theological premise of evangelization.
    Regarding point 2: Please expand on the substance of Christ being “underneath” the universe.


    1. Hi Father!

      1 – Yes, all good… If I remember, I started playing around with this definition because I thought about angels, who are not human of course, and wondered whether they could be somehow considered “in the Church” and how. If you back up and see the principle by which we humans are “in the Church” you arrive at something like the definition I proposed which could in some way possibly include angelic creatures.

      2 – It’s as if He is “already there” somehow and is “uncovered” by making that particular space available. It’s like poking a hole in creation to uncover God’s omnipresence, but in this case through revealing the substance of Christ. I have to think about it more… the fact that one moves accidents but not Christ, and yet Christ is “here” and then “there” is very strange – in fact, it could also be helpful to explore “Eucharistic motion” from the point of view of the gifts of the Resurrection, namely, agility and subtlety. What do you think?


    2. Further on 2 – God’s omnipresence is by power, knowledge, and essence… This makes all three, which are already in each physical space, Personally substantial. While the whole of creation depends on (“rests on”) God for existence, in a general way of the entire Godhead (which explains omnipresence), now in “this” particular place there is the Personal substantial presence which is previously only remotely indicated by God’s creative and sustaining presence in a non-Personally substantial way.

      Lots of layers!


  3. A negative to your proposal in #1 bro is that it doesn’t sound very cool, like Mystical Body and Bride of Christ do 🙂

    Happy Divine Mercy Day!


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