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Quiddity – What is?

Quiddity (Latin: quidditas = whatness) is a medieval scholastic term referring a thing’s essence (primary substance) in contrast to its observable form (secondary substance).

This kind of distinction goes back to Plato and plays an important role in understanding the Catholic Sacrament of the Eucharist, said to transform in essence but not in observable form.

Catholics and several other Christian churches believe that Holy Communion is not just a memorial but a sacrament in which one partakes of the living body and blood of Christ. Each Christian Church has subtle variations in trying to explain this mystery. For Catholics, by taking the transformed host one goes further into becoming a part of the mystical body of Christ.

For most Christian believers, partaking in the Eucharist is the opposite of natural eating. With the Eucharistic meal, the eater becomes part of the eaten, whereas in natural eating the reverse is true: the eaten becomes part of the eater.¹

Concerning the Catholic theological distinction between essence and form, essence is not to be taken as mere mattery/energy—that is, the fabric of the observable universe.  For Catholics, essence is a spiritual term that means something qualitatively different from matter/energy.

This important point is often misunderstood or entirely overlooked by New Age / Quantum Physics enthusiasts who recast the old myth of naturalistic pantheism into the latest scientific language, which arguably is just another myth.

David Hume

David Hume (Photo: Wikipedia)

Clearly, not everyone accepts the idea of primary substance. Non-believers tend to think of it as mumbo jumbo. And Catholics are sometimes called derogatory terms like “wafer biters.”

The philosopher David Hume and others who probably never felt the glory of the Eucharist argued that since primary substance cannot be perceived, it should not be assumed to exist.

However, many who do experience tangible effects from the Eucharist would likely see Hume’s perspective as limited, one coming from a mind constrained by worldliness, materialism and an over-reliance on conceptual reasoning.  As Wikipedia notes

The claim that substance cannot be perceived is neither clear nor obvious, and neither is the implication obvious.²

¹ Some New Age and Shamanistic believers might dispute this, saying that when we eat an animal we temporarily merge with its soul, which continues into an afterlife.

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substance_theory

Related » Consubstantiation, Transubstantiation

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Transubstantiation

O Sacrament Most Holy by Br Lawrence Lew, O.P.

O Sacrament Most Holy by Br Lawrence Lew, O.P. via Flickr

Transubstantiation is the Roman Catholic dogma that the substance of bread and wine transforms into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ during the Eucharistic celebration of Holy Mass.

To make sense of the fact that the communion wafer doesn’t change in outward appearance, Catholic theologians rely on the Aristotelian distinction between a thing’s form and its substance.

According to this belief, the form (what we see) does not change but the substance (sometimes called the essence) does.

This opposes the popular view that the Eucharist is only a symbol of remembrance or, as some New Age believers say, a sign of human or cosmic unity. From a Catholic perspective, both of these views are inadequate.

3rd quarter of 16th century

3rd quarter of 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the sacrament of the Eucharist includes symbolic and unifying aspects, its heavenly mystical quality supersedes these shortsighted interpretations about its meaning and character.

In some New Age circles, there is a trend to equate the cosmic and/or astral realms with the heavenly. But for Catholics the cosmic (planets, stars, galaxies, energy), the astral (spirits, gods, goddesses), and the heavenly (sometimes revealed audio-visually but usually experienced as grace) are each different.

So for Catholics, any attempt to homogenize these realms falls short.

Related Posts » Agape, Aristotle, Consubstantiation, Grace, Quiddity

On the Web:

  • While Catholics believe that the Eucharist need not change in physical appearance to be an effective sacrament, claims are sometimes made as to its miraculous transformation


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Vocal Prayer

Prayer A Powerful Weapon by abcdz2000 via Flickr

In Catholic usage vocal prayer is a form of prayer that is vocalized, often (but not exclusively) in public groups such as the Eucharistic celebration (i.e. Holy Mass). In personal, private practice, vocal prayer may be standardized or impromptu.

Vocal and mental prayer may alternate and overlap. And both forms of prayer are generally directed towards personal petitions, seeking forgiveness or intercession.

Many Catholic and non-Catholic advocates of vocal prayer seem to misunderstand the efficacy of mental prayer, especially in its contemplative-intercessory form.

Great saints like St. Faustina Kowalska say that even a brief but sincere inner, contemplative prayer from the heart is far more effective and pleasing to God than the endless, superficial repetitions characteristic of much vocal prayer.

Related Posts » Catholicism, Contemplation, Meditation


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Archetypal Image

yoda and darth talk peace for xmas by MC – Tumblr

According to the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the archetypal image is a representation of an underlying archetype. Archetypal images symbolize and mediate the psychological power of the collective unconscious to the ego (i.e everyday consciousness).

Through different types of expression (e.g. works of art and architecture), mankind translates these hidden archetypal forces into the observable world of human culture.

Some modern and ancient examples of archetypal images would be figures like Godzilla, the Klingons, The Cylons, Luke Skywalker, Spiderman, Superman, Superwoman, Batgirl, Marilyn Monroe, Spock, the Magician, the Witch, the Angel, Yahweh and the Devil.

Jung believes the ancients did not always see archetypal images as mere symbols, but often as actual things in themselves. The Indian sun god, Surya, for instance, was not a symbol but a real deity, diurnally traveling across and lighting up the sky in a splendid chariot. Likewise, many American Indian cultures firmly believe their myths tell of actual ancient events and heroic ancestors. And today, Catholics believe that the Eucharist is not just a symbol but the real presence – in essence but not form – of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.¹

how things look from the darth side by MC – Tumblr

On the topic of UFOs, Jung believed the rounded flying saucers of the 1950s were archetypal images of the human self, not unlike the mandala. By the same token, Jung didn’t rule out the possibility of actual UFOs.

However, Jung was not as open-minded with regard to Christian truth-claims, choosing to adapt them to his own theories. At times he speaks of the crucifixion of Jesus, for instance, as producing an upwardly skewed symbol of the self (i.e. the crucifix) instead of seeing Jesus’ death as a saving sacrifice and absolute victory over evil, as do most Christians. Some might argue that Jung’s and the Christian view do not really differ. Others do believe that they differ on important points—most notably, on the nature of and how to deal with evil

¹ Belief, alone, does not create truth out of falsehood. But as Plato pointed out, a true belief does relate to an actual truth, if not knowledge of that truth.

² An interesting follow-up to this point can be found in Jung’s relationship with the Dominican priest, Victor White. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_White_%28priest%29


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Agape

Early Christians celebrating Communion at an A...

Early Christians celebrating Communion at an Agape Feast, from the Catacomb of Ss. Peter and Marcellinus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In literary circles the Greek term agapē (Latin: caritas) refers to the ideal of universal love, especially charitable Christian love among brothers and sisters of the one human family.

As C. S. Lewis suggests in his book, The Four Loves (1960), this type of love is distinct from matrimonial, emotional, passionate-erotic and friendly love.

For many Christians, agape also refers to the institution of the Eucharist, introduced by Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is often connected by Christians with the Jewish Passover meal, an event signifying, among other things, fellowship.

Christians also stress that the Eucharistic meal is not just a celebration of fellowship. For believers in the Eucharist, agape is a “love feast” involving a genuine participation in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The rite is said to pierce through space and time and be sanctified from heaven.

Agape feast 04

Agape feast 04 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Believers also say the Eucharist is not a mere symbol nor memorial; rather, the host is essentially if not visibly transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

The roots of the Eucharist are traceable to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was believed that deceased ancestors partook of food and drink offered at funeral feasts. Somewhat like the Eucharist, this was not just a memorial feast but an active celebration of the living and the dead.

The Wikipedia entry on agape says that the earliest use of the term agape didn’t bear any particular religious connotation.

Although the word does not have specific religious connotation, the word has been used by a variety of contemporary and ancient sources, including biblical authors and Christian authors. Greek philosophers at the time of Plato and other ancient authors have used forms of the word to denote love of a spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, in contrast to philia (an affection that could denote friendship, brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection) and eros, an affection of a sexual nature.¹

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape. This Wikepedia entry may seem less “biased” and more “objective” than a Christian theological view. But it’s arguably biased in its own way.

Related Posts » Consubstantiation, Eros, Philia, Transubstantiation


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Consubstantiation

English: The Lord's Supper. Christ standing at...

English: The Lord’s Supper. Christ standing at an Orthodox altar, giving the Eucharist to the Twelve Apostles. Frescoes in the upper church of Spaso-Preobrazhenski cathedral. Valaam Monastery Русский: Алтарная апсида верхнего храма Спасо-Преображенского собора Валаамского монастыря. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Consubstantiation is the teaching about the Lord’s Supper that says Christ is “in, with, and under” the bread and wine, which themselves are not altered in substance.¹ It’s often associated with Martin Luther, even though he spoke in terms of “sacramental union.”

The teaching, however, resonates with Luther’s view that Christ’s divine and human aspects are so closely united that he is omnipresent within all of creation.

Wikipedia outlines the, perhaps, first visibly historical incidence of consubstantiation:

In England in the late 14th century, there was a political and religious movement known as Lollardy. Among much broader goals, the Lollards affirmed a form of consubstantiation—that the Eucharist remained physically bread and wine, while becoming spiritually the body and blood of Christ. Lollardy survived up until the time of the English Reformation

¹ An alteration of substance but not of form is key to the Catholic belief in transubstantiation.

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consubstantiation#History_and_culture

Related Posts » Eucharist


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Eucharist

3rd quarter of 16th century

3rd quarter of 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Eucharist (Greek eucharistia = thanksgiving) is a sacrament, also called Holy Communion (Catholic) and the Lord’s Supper (Protestant), in which Jesus is believed to be present under bread and wine.

It is based on the New Testament account of the Last Supper, in which Jesus asks his disciples to take and eat bread and wine in order to remember him (1 Corinthians 11.23-5; Matthew 26.26-8; Mark 14.22-4; Luke 22.17-20).

The bread and wine are consecrated by a priest or, in Protestantism, a minister and is given to disciples. Theological differences arise among different Christian groups as to whether the bread and wine become the real presence of Christ, coexist with the real presence of Christ or serve as mere symbols.

Drawing on a distinction from Aristotelian logic, Catholic theology indicates that the essence of the bread and wine are transformed but not the observable form. Moreover, Catholicism adheres to the position known as ex opere operato (by the action performed), which indicates that the sacrament is always effective when administered by a consecrated priest, regardless of the moral condition of his soul at the time.

If one believes that we’re all born with the taint of original sin and remain imperfect throughout our lives, ex opere operato seems a reasonable and, indeed, necessary position.

Related Posts » Consubstantiation, Quiddity, Transubstantiation