Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Sovereignty, Eucharist and Ascendancy

In seminary I wrote a paper with the amazing title, "Sovereignty, Eucharist and Ascendancy in the Synoptic Gospels!" During this Lent 2004 I've thought about, written and heard a lot of theology of the cross but since it's Holy Week I'll say a little more about sovereignty, Eucharist and ascendancy, but not with explicit reference to the synoptics.

Moving downriver from theology of the cross, it's time to segue into Martin Luther's theology of the ubiquity of the risen and ascended Christ. Remember Luther and Zwingli at Marburg? Arguing the eucharist/real presence issue, Zwingli claimed the real or authentic presence (Geneva Reformer John Calvin preferred "true presence") of the risen Christ in the Lord's Supper wasn't possible, since Jesus Christ ascended sits (is incumbent, rules from) at the right hand of God the Father. nature reborn coverOf course, "presence" implies and assumes "actual!" Though with Zwingli acknowledging Christ's ascension to God the Father's Right Hand, in responding to Zwingli Luther pointed out the Right Hand of God – God's sovereignty and dominion – is everywhere and throughout, under and over all creation, thus the Right Hand of God to where Jesus Christ ascended and from where He now reigns is everywhere: in Zurich, in London, at Marburg, in San Diego: absolutely all places at all times! To describe the Risen Christ's presence in the Holy Communion, Luther frequently used the formula "in, with and under." And resolving another concern, Luther and the other Reformers concurred about concomitance, or the fullness of the Risen Christ in each element: to participate fully in the Eucharist, it's not necessary to partake of both bread and cup. Or is that impartation of properties?

Only slightly away from this central subject, a short time ago I read Paul Santmire's most recent book about ecological theology, Nature Reborn: The Ecological and Cosmic Promise of Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000, an offering in the series, Theology and the Sciences). Santmire makes the astonishing assertion the person presiding at eucharist holds the totality, entirety and completeness of the redeemed and restored cosmos in her or his hands in the person of the risen, ascended One Who also is now descended, once again "incarnate," among and within the gathered and transformed Eucharistic community.

Another quick aside: to paraphrase the Heidelberg Catechism, in the sweep of Heilsgeschichte revealed and finished in the reconciling Christ event, we move from Christmas with the mystery of Spirit in Flesh to the Ascension, with its mystery of Flesh in Spirit.

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