The Eucharistic Theology of Jeremy Taylor and of the Methodists

Here is an insightful examination of the eucharistic theology of Jeremy Taylor, the well-known student of Archbishop William Laud, English theologian and bishop whose writings much influenced John Wesley and many others, even beyond the Anglican Tradition. He says that at the Table "Christ comes to meet us, clothed in a mystery." During the course of the article differences between East and West and then between Luther and the rest of the West are touched upon. I was surprised to learn that Luther allowed the adoration of the consecrated host during the mass - though it is not often "reserved" for just this purpose among Lutherans as it is among Roman Catholics.

Article 18 of the Methodist "Articles of Religion" in The Book of Discipline (para. 103) affirms with the larger Anglican tradition belief in "real presence" (referencing 1 Cor. 10:16-17) when the sacrament is recieved by faith, while at the same time rejecting transubstantiation:
"...to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.
Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ..."
(this is taken verbatim from Anglican Article 28, see The Book of Common Prayer p. 873).

If transubstantiation teaches that (regardless of appearances) the elements are NO longer bread and wine, then our Tradition rejects this position (rightly, I think) since it would seem to imply some sort of ontological deception. It seems clear to me that the bread and wine remain really that, but not only that -they also take on or become bearers of or are somehow joined with something that wasn't there before: "the body and blood of Christ". I find myself regularly moving between some kind of consubstantiation (similar to Luther - which seems to me to have much affinity with the Chalcedonian Creed regarding the "hypostatic union" of the divine and human natures of Christ from the Fourfth Ecumenical Council in 451) on the one hand and, on days when I am more suspicious of the use of "substantial" language to describe the "mystery," more of a modified virtualism or receptionalism on the other hand (similar to Calvin or Wesley - I have heard that the Eastern Orthodox Church perfers language of "mystery" to that of "subtantial change" as well).

I celebrate the "real presence" of both Christ himself and the benefits of his passion in/with/through the physical elements (somehow this is connected to the created-matter-affirming incarnational workings of the God of the Bible), and I like to speak of it in terms "mystery" (with the Methodist and Eastern Orthodox liturgies). Certainly it is a blessing or even a miracle at least on par with what we find in Luke 24:13-34 - the passage that gives us the shape of our Service of Word and Table.

Our tradition's "high" eucharistic theology can be seen in the words of the epiclesis in the Great Thanksgiving in The United Methodist Hymnal (p. 10): "Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood..." This prayer seems to focus both on the elements themselves (as in trans/consubstantiation and objective real presence) as well as on the experience of the recipients (as in virtualism and receptionism) who will come in faith to recieve the sacrament. So that the words of our liturgy allow some diversity of interpretation as to just how this mystery of real presence is recieved. And, if I may make one exhortation for my fellow Methodists: following the example of the Apostolic Church, the Ancient Conciliar Church, the Protestant Reformers, and the Wesleys, it ought to be recieved every week at the least.

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