I’d like to present one other possibility. If there’s any reason to think it’s not a good possibility, maybe someone can help me with that. If there’s reasons to think transubstantiation is a better option, I’d like to hear those, too.
Here’s how I arrived at an option other than transubstantiation. We want to achieve unity in the Body of Christ, and one of the most important things we can do in order to do this is by getting everyone on the same page with the Eucharist.
There was a time when worldwide Christianity had the kind of unity we’re now looking for. In this specific instance, at least. There was a time when Christians in every part of the world did this the same way.
It’s not that way anymore, though. We’ve lost that unity and have been trying to get it back ever since. There’s the Schism that separates the Catholics and the Orthodox, and there’s the little matter of the Reformation that divides Catholics and Protestants.
So here’s my idea. When you lose something (like unity, for example), the best way to find it is to go back to the last place you had it. The last time we had this kind of unity was…
This might be where I need a little help. Would pre-Schism be a good place to go, or should we go back a few centuries earlier? In my mind, the Schism marks the place where the EO and CC parted ways with regard to formal leadership. But they may begun to drift apart in other matters of faith and/or practice prior to that. I’m not sure exactly where the Eucharist falls on that timeline.
Here’s the point. If you ask me, it’s not too hard to resolve this. Just go back to the last place where everyone was in agreement with each other, look around at what we have now, and see who’s doing the best job of keeping this sacrament according to that standard. I think I might want to refer to that standard as the “last unified sacrament.”
Now, here’s the part you probably won’t like. If you look to the “last unified sacrament” and examine what it looked like in a good amount of detail, it’s not transubstantiation. Transubstantiation “developed” from the original standard into the Western church’s modern teaching. It wouldn’t be quite right to call it a “change,” but it did become more clarified, more precise, less general, etc. Because of this “development,” the modern teaching on transubstantiation is not identical to the standard that was in place when Christianity last enjoyed unity on this teaching.
And here’s the part you really won’t like. If you look at the modern teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it doesn’t seem to have changed at all since the last time all Christians were united on this matter. If you were to re-enact the “last unified sacrament” in one building and perform “an Orthodox mass” in another building, it seems (to me) that the two things are completely identical with regard to the Eucharist.
Personally, I can’t escape the conclusion that the Eastern Orthodox teaching on the Eucharist is the best option that you can look to if you’re serious about sacramental unity. How do you escape that conclusion? What are your reasons for disliking some of the things I said? Did I say anything completely untrue? What would you do differently?
What is it that makes transubstantiation the best option, rather than the eucharistic teaching of the EOC? When you look back on the last time all Christians were able to do this together, which of these teachings most closely resembles that standard? Does this matter to you; why or why not?