Project Canterbury

Discerning the Lord's Body
The Rationale of a Catholic Democracy

By Frederic Hastings Smyth, Ph.D.
Superior of the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth

Louisville, Kentucky: The Cloister Press, 1946.

Chapter VI. Metacosmesis after the Ascension


THE GROWING STRUCTURE of the social humanity of the Incarnate Logos which began to take organic form about Our Lord's individual humanity, partook of the process of Metacosmesis by virtue of its im-mediate union with Him as He continued to live visibly within this world. He was Himself that unique bridge across which the transit to the level of the divine and then back again to the human level could be effected. The social structure of His humanity which extended into the lives of His followers had access to that end of the bridge which, in and through Him, was based in the natural level where they all still lived and moved and acted together.

The time came, however, when His individual humanity was withdrawn from every direct, material contact with the structure of His social humanity. As an individual man, Our Lord had withdrawn completely into the level of His divinity. His humanity had completed its individual content within the level of this world; it had rounded out its appointed individual life pattern. This contingent human unit was now absolutely perfected in its totality. It returned no longer to fulfil a further individual growth in the environment of our natural creation. Yet our Lord's social humanity still continued to live and to grow, as it had lived and grown prior to His natural death. But now it had to live and grow among men and women who were surviving the ascension. The individual Man Jesus had, as He Himself clearly prophesied, gone away. [John 16: 7.] And Our Lord had in fact said that His individual departure was in [53/54] some way expedient, or necessary. Otherwise, so He had also said, the Holy Spirit, whom He had promised to send down in some very special manner upon the surviving group of His followers, could not be so sent. [Ibid.]

After the ascension, the Christian group now left behind in this world seems to have felt some perplexity both concerning its own situation and concerning the true interpretation of Our Lord's words about the Gift of the Holy Spirit. But these men and women had Our Lord's promise that such a Gift would be made. They had His promise that in this Gift they would be guided into all truth. [John 16:13.] They could therefore hope shortly for a much greater understanding. So much seemed clear enough. They all returned together from the Mount of Olives, where the event of the ascension had occurred, to the city of Jerusalem. There they continued to keep closely and expectantly together. This first group included, so we are told, the remaining eleven Apostles (the renegade Judas being dead), the Holy Women of Our Lord's fellowship, Our Lady Mary the Mother of Jesus, together with certain other members of Our Lord's human family or clan. The Apostles filled in their own number of twelve by adding Matthias, the first elected Bishop of the Church. And these all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication. Thus they waited for the fulfilment of Our Lord's final promise on the Mount of Olives when He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait there until they should receive power from on high, after that the Holy Ghost should come upon them. [Acts of the Apostles, Chapter I.]

Two questions seem to require an answer in this situation.

First, how is it to be made possible for Our Lord's social humanity to continue as the expression of His life within the world after His individual humanity, which up to that time had been so obviously its substantial center, had withdrawn from its midst? How can the new social group be given the means of a continuing organic life now that its [54/55] individually living center has been removed? Some sort of radical transition is necessary at this point. A living, redeeming process had begun as an individual unit of human perfection growing within this world. Then, by virtue of its divine vital power it had spread outward to inform a small environmental social order by knitting this into itself. This extending process must now effect a transition whereby the social group, previously a mere outgrowth from the individual at its center, assumes independently the vital, creative, living power of that individual, while the individual itself departs from its midst. This is a transition analogous to that which occurs when a first sprout from a seed, which at the beginning lives entirely as a kind of extension of the seed itself, drawing all its life and nourishment exclusively from it, begins to put out independent roots. The original seed now disappears. The new vine which was originally somehow pushed out by the seed, although obviously remaining in an historical sense dependent upon, and organically continuous with the seed, now begins to develop further that life which was always potential and implicit in the seed, but henceforth as a living being with an enlarging life of its own. Just how this complete transition from the individual to the social humanity of Our Lord's Incarnation was to be effected could not have been obvious to those who remained in the group after His ascension.

The second question to be answered concerns the nature of the continuing life-process of Our Lord's social humanity. Under what form shall the metabolism characteristic of the individual organism be imparted to the extending social organism? For granted that the social humanity can be given its own continuing life after the withdrawal of Our Lord's nuclear individual humanity; granted that the vital, re-creative work of the still surviving social organism can continue to enlarge Our Lord's own redeeming life-structure, how is it going to be possible for this enlarging, socially ordered structure, still in the natural level of our creation, to have access to that Metacosmesis which was open to it during Our Lord's individual life?


The answer to the first question was given at Pentecost. Pentecost both signified and effected that crucial transition whereby the re-creative process of the Incarnation passed from an individual, to a fully social implementation. The individual humanity of Our Lord here becomes His social humanity in the Church. The individual seed becomes the social vine. And this is brought about by a special intervention of the Holy Spirit at this critical moment in the advancing life of Our Lord's Incarnate humanity.

The event of Pentecost is therefore cognate to the event of the Annunciation, which was the initiation (conception) of the individual humanity of the Incarnate Lord. [Note that Pentecost is not cognate to the Nativity of Our Lord, as is sometimes incorrectly suggested. At the historically critical (dialectically nodal) points of Pentecost and the Annunciation there was a special emergence of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. No such intervention is recorded at the Nativity. The reason is that the Nativity is not a nodal event.] Both events are crucial. In the one we find the first material elements of Our Lord's individual human body taken from the body of an individual woman, so that the first unit of a humanity re-created in the Incarnation may have its beginning. In the other, we find the first elementary nuclear cell of that same humanity established as a social entity, after Our Lord's individual humanity is withdrawn from its midst. It is here equipped with the potentiality of continuing the individual Incarnation on a social scale, so that the rest of a fallen world (provided it consents) may be eventually redeemed by being appropriated into the divinely bestowed re-created order of its Incarnational social life. In both cases we find God the Holy Spirit intervening to enable these two critical events to take place. [Because of this peculiar intervention of the Holy Spirit in both the establishment and, as a consequence, in the further development of Our Lord's social humanity, the Church is properly called the Communion of the Holy Ghost (2 Cor. 13:14). It has been the custom of the Church to divide her Liturgical Year, her ordered sequences of Feasts and Fasts, into two major parts. In the first part, extending from Advent to the Ascension, she lays special emphasis upon the life and teaching of Jesus as the individual expression of the Incarnation. During the second part, she emphasizes His teaching as applied to, and implemented in, His social humanity, the Church. This season is therefore logically called the Pentecostal Season, and the Sundays within it are called Sundays after Pentecost. During the later medieval period, the Anglican Communion changed the name of the Pentecostal Season to that of Trinity Season. Trinity Sunday is the Sunday immediately succeeding Pentecost. As a special Feast in itself it lays a desirable emphasis upon a profound theological truth. It celebrates the fullness of God's revelation of Himself to man as a Triune Unity, Three Persons and One God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But when it is taken as the Feast whereby to designate the entire part of the Liturgical Year which follows it, the valuable emphasis upon the Church as the Community of the Holy Spirit is lost. It is not without significance that this change in name of the Liturgical season took place at a moment of the Church's history when an understanding of the Church as a redeeming social entity within this world was notoriously obscured and confused. It would be of great help in present-day re-emphasis upon the Church as the social humanity of Our Lord if the name of the Pentecostal Season could be restored in the Anglican Liturgical books.]


From the great event of Pentecost onward, we find a new sense of corporate, redeeming vocation emerging within the Church. That group of men and women who had formed a little company of people closely knit together around Him who was still physically present in their midst, now consciously assumed their further destined function of being His extending humanity when as a physical individual He had withdrawn. As by the Annunciational overshadowing of the Holy Spirit [Luke 1:35.] Our Lord had been conceived the individual prototype of a re-created and perfected Man, so now by the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit they were conceived a corporate group continuous with His individual humanity, the social prototype of a re-created and perfected Mankind. [Acts of the Apostles, 2:2-4.]

The special characteristics which we would expect to find in such a social nucleus soon became apparent. There [57/58] emerged at once within it an exalted sense of its new corporate vocation. These first members of the Church experienced the pressure of an almost explosive, vital expansive force which during the first few hours of their existence as a Community of the Holy Spirit seemed nearly unbearable. They were impelled to an excess of enthusiasm which caused certain bystanders even to mock, and to accuse them of being drunk with new wine. It was a new wine indeed which fired their imaginations and their wills, but it was in this case the very wine of Our Lord's own creative life coursing now through the veins of the newly conceived social extension of His Incarnation.

They began at once to spread this new life of Our Lord by the method of receiving whoever would respond into that group of which they were the first members. They had a marvellous sense of the potential universality of that social process now initiated among them. They spoke with tongues. That is, they began to speak a new and universal language, a language uniquely peculiar to them as a new nation and a new world. And in this language, fresh as their own new life, they issued a call to all other men and nations, whether Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, bond or free, that all might be made organically one in this Divine Community. [Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11.] They received too the power of a tireless labor, surpassing ordinary human endurance, in the cause of spreading Our Lord's redeeming action throughout the whole known world. They could follow Our Lord's injunction literally to take no thought for themselves as individuals, no thought for what they should eat, or drink, or wear, no thought of private careers, of private well-being, comfort, or success in this world. And with all this there came fresh insights into the meanings and implications of Our Lord's life and work now continued in them. They uncovered among themselves new and astonishing gifts for intellectual formulations looking to the elucidation and preservation of the basic Christian verities. They found a deep and guiding [58/59] wisdom in the work of setting up the necessary organizational framework through which the redeeming action of their divine social organism should be practically implemented within the various communities of their environing world.

There began also to develop among them certain corporate attitudes, or communal habits, which are today given the name of the supernatural virtues, the virtues of Faith and Hope and Love (Agape). And Our Lord's promise of the power to work miracles was also fulfilled. They carried with them in their missionary work the gift not only of a new sanity of mind and spirit, but of the redemption of men's bodies from crippling disease to renewed and vigorous health.

These extraordinary qualities which we find emerging within the corporate life of the early Church seem a continuation of those similar qualities which were a striking feature of Our Lord's individual humanity. They are to be interpreted as the characteristics of a new community which, like Our Lord as an individual, lives its life within the very wall of partition between the natural and the supernatural levels, between time and eternity, between the contingent and the absolute stages of human salvation. We find here the characteristics of a reconstituted social humanity within this natural world, yet one which, again like the individual humanity of Our Lord during His earthly life, seems to have passed from the level of the human nature into the level of the divine, and then back again for continuing activity within the level of the natural world. In other words, we should judge from the evidence of the New Testament records that the process of Metacosmesis, which began in Our Lord as an individual, did in fact continue in the life of His social humanity after Pentecost.


This brings us again to our second question. How is this continuation of Metacosmesis made possible for the social extension of the Incarnation? For it seems that the divine [59/60] and human natures are found conjoined uniquely in Our Lord as He lives Incarnate in His individual humanity. If he was the unique door or way [John 10:7,9; 14:6.] whereby alone the new creation of His Incarnation might pass to and fro between the level of the humanity and that of the divinity, [Cf. John 14:6: No man cometh unto the Father but by me. And again, 10:1: He that entereth not by the door ... but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. Note also the striking phrase of 10:9: I am the door; by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. Going "in and out" implies Metacosmesis.] this was by virtue of the unique conjunction of the two natures in Him. In and through Him also, that further social Incarnational structure which had been creatively put out from the individual humanity, could have access to this bridge so long as Our Lord remained as a man upon this earth.

On the other hand, that social humanity of the Incarnation which was conceived at Pentecost extends the structure of the human nature of Our Lord. It still continues as a living organism in this world. It still carries on Our Lord's recreative work within the natural level. It continues, in its growth, to fill up the patterned structure initiated in Our Lord's earthly life. But, with the individual humanity of Our Lord withdrawn, it is not obvious that this surviving social humanity necessarily possesses the same im-mediate access to the level of the divine nature which was available to the Man Jesus. This unmediated union is found only in the individuated Incarnation of the Divine Logos. The divine and human natures are not im-mediately united in the Church.

We have already seen that an absolute consummation is just as much required in the case of every newly created achievement of Our Lord's social humanity as it was required in His individual case. Yet after the ascension the individual humanity was withdrawn from all direct material connection with other living men and women. As Our Lord Himself said, it had become necessary (expedient) [60/61] for Him to go away. [John 16:7.] And he even fortified this statement by saying to the Apostle Peter: Whither I go thou canst not follow me now. [John 13:36.] Therefore that end of the bridge which rested in Our Lord's individual humanity still on earth seems, after the ascension, to have been withdrawn from the world in which His surviving social humanity had still to continue its creative life and work.


Our Lord fully foresaw the problem which this withdrawal of His individual humanity would create. He provided for it by instituting the Memorial of His Body and His Blood.

On the evening of the day before He died upon the Cross, He met with His disciples alone for an evening meal--the last they were to have together during His earthly life. At this supper He took bread, gave thanks over it, and blessed it--probably using for this a traditional Jewish form of blessing. He then distributed this blessed bread to the disciples with the truly amazing words: Take, eat, this is my Body. At the close of the meal He did likewise with a cup of wine, commanding them all to drink of it, saying: This is my Blood of the New Testament which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. And he concluded the whole solemn action with the injunction that as often as the disciples met together thereafter to perform that rite, as often as they did these things, they were to do them as a Memorial of Him.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to know just how the disciples themselves interpreted this rite on that first evening of its institution. For one thing, in spite of Our Lord's teaching, in spite of explicit prophecies, they seemed not yet to have realized that on that very evening Our Lord was to be betrayed and arrested, that a nocturnal trial would be contrived with such indecent haste that by noon the next day He would be nailed to a Cross, and that by [61/62] three in the afternoon He would be dead. They did not realize the frightful tragedy which now impended.

Furthermore, they could have as yet no complete knowledge even of the full content of that life for which this Memorial was to stand. For the final events of Our Lord's life, the crucifixion and death, the resurrection and the ascension, were still to be added to its content. And it turned out that these were the crucial events which made a full understanding of the Memorial possible. Therefore, the disciples' immediate understanding of the fullness of that which was now committed into their hands must have been somewhat vague. Inevitably it must have been deficient.

However, after the resurrection and ascension, the full import of the great rite became clarified. Whatever may have been the fear and despair of the disciples at the dread moment of Our Lord's death on the Cross, they now knew that He had triumphed over death and that He lived eternally. He had withdrawn the visible body of His individual humanity from their midst, but they knew from His own post-resurrection teaching, validated by the evidence of their own senses, that He had taken this humanity with Him into the heart of His own eternal Godhead.


From this time forth the human life of Our Lord must be viewed under two aspects. On the one hand, His individual accomplishment is an historical fact. In this sense, it is the life of a single Man, lived once and for all upon this earth. This life is now ended by His death. It therefore recedes into the historical past.

But this historical accomplishment, this life-structure, having now been conveyed in its entirety into the level of the divine nature of Our Lord, has also in its entirety been made eternal. It follows, therefore, that none of the events within Our Lord's individual human life can be adequately thought of as merely past in an historical sense. His life in all its fullness still is. From the moment of the [62/63] ascension, the whole of Our Lord's life must be viewed not merely as a temporal, but as an eternal fact. It is not merely a life completed on the Cross, within the past history of our world. It is a life caught up by Him as He is risen and ascended, into the time-transcending level of His Godhead. Therefore, in one sense we may say that the Man Jesus lived for such and such a time, so and so many years ago. But in another sense we find that this life, conveyed into the level of Our Lord's divine nature, still is; just as the Divine Logos, who clothes this historical human life upon Himself, still is to all eternity. In particular, the culminating events of the Cross, the resurrection, and the ascension, the events by which the totality of Our Lord's recreative human accomplishment was finally conveyed from the level of a contingent to that of an absolute perfection, are not merely temporally completed events of a long past history. They are also eternal events.

Now such events are difficult, if not impossible, exactly to set forth in human terms, conditioned as these terms must be by the necessary time concepts which frame our earthly lives. We may say, however, without too great inexactitude, that they would appear to us who still remain within the time-process as events in some sense still going on. It would seem also that, under proper conditions, they could therefore be made present or accessible even to men and women who might live at a time long after their actual historical date.


It is precisely this present accessibility of the eternal, and from an earthly point of view ever-continuing, events of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension, which the Apostolic group discerned when immediately after Pentecost its members continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in Breaking of Bread, and in prayers. [Acts of the Apostles, 2:42.] For this same reason, the Breaking of Bread, accompanied by prayer, continues invariably to be the characteristic and necessary expression of fellowship and [63/64] worship within every subsequent group of Our Lord's social humanity.

Following Our Lord's command to make the Memorial, the members of His extending social humanity convene, bringing with them for this action simple articles of food and drink, bread and wine. [Luke 22:19. The Command was: Do this as my Memorial: touto poieite eiV thn emhn anamnhsin. poein means "to do." In equally common usage it means "to make, to produce, to create."] Our Lord's individual material human body has since the ascension been withdrawn from their midst. But when the post-pentecostal members of His social humanity, knit organically together as they now are in the Community of the Holy Spirit, bless their portions of bread and wine, repeating Our Lord's own first action at the Last Supper--repeating too His recorded words-then the bread and wine become His very Body and Blood. [This creative act, whereby the substances of the bread and wine are changed into the Substances of Our Lord's Body and Blood, is usually called Transubstantiation. It is difficult to see how a more accurate, philosophically technical term could be found. Unfortunately, the word Transubstantiation is often said to be an attempt to explain the mode of Our Lord's action in accomplishing this change. This is erroneous. The word simply states the truth that a substantial change does take place at the Church's consecration of her bread and wine. It expresses the fact that before this consecration it would be correct to point to the offered bread and wine and to affirm of them respectively: "This is bread," and "This is wine." After the consecration, these two statements are no longer true. It would be quite incorrect to point to the consecrated Blessed Sacrament and to say without qualification: "This is bread; This is wine." The proper statement would now be: "This is Our Lord's Body; This is Our Lord's Blood." And that is all that the term Transubstantiation is intended to convey. The Church uses the same technical terminology in the Nicene Creed when she wishes to say clearly and concisely that Our Lord Incarnate is Very God. She affirms this by saying that Our Lord is of one Substance with the Father. A vulgar misunderstanding of the term Transubstantiation unfortunately causes even many Anglicans to shy away from its use. Since the Anglican Church employs the same philosophical terminology in her Creed, it is not very logical for her members to refuse to employ it when a method of accurate formulation of her central Sacramental doctrine is sought.] [64/65] This is Our Lord's great and central gift to His continuing Church. Within this gift, by the operation of the Sacramental action itself, it is of historical record that Our Lord promised the emergence of the Substances of His Body and His Blood. And this promise, the Church has found, was quite literally intended.

However, since the events of the resurrection and ascension, Our Lord's own individual human soul and body, after a three days' separation following His death on the Cross, are eternally reunited as an organic whole within the level of His divine nature. The totality of His humanity, body and soul, is now united to Him in the level of the Person of His Godhead. It follows that wherever the Substances of His Body and His Blood emerge, there He too is totally present as a living whole, both in His Incarnate humanity and as God. He is of necessity totally present, by concomitance with His Body, just as every living man is totally present, human body and human soul, whenever his body is found present at some particular place. [See Appendix II, page 199.]

Thus Our Lord in His totality emerges in the midst of whatever group of His social humanity may make this great Memorial of Him according to His command. He emerges from the level of His divinity under the forms of the consecrated Bread and Wine into the natural level of His continuing humanity. He emerges in such wise that He may receive into Himself whatever further additions to the content of the structure of His human perfection may now be brought forward at the hands of those who continue on earth to fill up this content. He can now receive these further contributions just as before His natural death upon the Cross, He received into Himself directly the re-creative accomplishments of the disciples and of the others who at that time formed the initial social extension of His individual organism.


Prior to their presentation at Our Lord's Memorial the [65/66] natural bread and wine have another reference. For the bread comes out of a long process of preparation, a process which involves seed time and harvest in grain fields. In these days it involves threshing machines and rolling mills. It involves logging operations to provide lumber for barrels and paper bags. It involves grain elevators and systems of storage warehouses. It involves financial operations, as, for example, financing of harvests through banks. It involves wholesale dealers in wheat and other ingredients. It even involves brokers and their speculative operations in wheat pits. It involves scientists, chemists and engineers. It involves bakeries and the operations of middlemen and retail shops. Collaterally, a simple piece of bread also involves iron ore mines, collieries, blast furnaces and steel rolling mills, from which sources come the modern machines used in every stage of the bread's preparatory history. It even includes political maneuvers and international relations, since questions of tariffs and regulations of international trade determine, in our present economic system, the regional origin of wheat for the bread which is available to any particular group of people. And it needs no specialized knowledge, no great exercise of the imagination, to see that analogous considerations apply to the preparation of any given portion of wine.

In other words, the preparation of the requisite materials for the Christian Memorial of Our Lord involves a vast network of organized human relationships, embracing without doubt on any particular occasion, the hopes and fears, the successes and failures, the work and recreation, the joys and sorrows, in short, the socially integrated, organized lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings. All these have contributed, in greater or less measure, to the emergence within our natural order of the manufactured articles of food which every Christian group must use in obeying Our Lord's command.


Natural bread and wine, therefore, emerge as the end-products of a certain structure or block of socially [66/67] organized human activity throughout a time recently passed. They stand as concrete, material manifestations of all the human relationships and modes of behavior and activity which have been historically involved in their preparation. They are objects into whose constitution there enter vast and complicated human operations and creative activities which have contributed both to their actual existences and to their presence at a particular required time and place. All of which means that the members of any group of the social body of Our Lord always bring with them, concreted--as it were materially precipitated--under the forms of portions of bread and wine, a structure of dynamic human relationships and of experiences, a structure not alone filled in by their own recent lives and deeds, but entraining within itself all other human activities which have been involved in its history. For, as Aristotle has put it, the faculty of making something resides in the thing made. "The act of building resides in the thing built; i.e. it comes to be and exists simultaneously with the house. Thus . . . the actuality resides in the thing produced; the act of building in the thing built, the act of weaving in the cloth, etc." [Metaphysics, IX, VIII, 13. Cf. Loeb Library Translation by Hugh Tredennick, M. A.] Karl Marx seems to have intended to say something like this when he wrote: "As values, all commodities (i.e. any artifacts or humanly manufactured articles intended for the channels of trade. F. H. S.) are only definite masses of congealed labor-time." [Capital, tr., (Chicago, 1906), I, Chap. 1, p. 46.] And thus, the emergent values of the multitudinous human relationships and social acts of labor which have produced them, reside in portions of natural bread and wine. [St. Augustine used to teach this truth to his people. For example, in his sermons we find such statements as: "After the Sanctification of the Sacrifice of God, because He has willed that we also should be His sacrifice--which was signified when it was first placed upon the altar (i.e. at the Offertory), that is, that we also are His sacrifice and it (the oblation of bread and wine) is only a symbol of what we really are--we say the Lord's prayer . . . ." "There you are upon the table, there you are in the chalice." (Sermons 227, 229).]


The Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood is, therefore, the meeting point of a twofold movement.

On the one hand, a group of the Community of the social humanity of the Incarnation, continuing Our Lord's creative work here on earth, convenes to present to Him the fruits of its activity within a certain period of its life just past. It puts forward a certain increment in the content of its living structure corresponding to its own organic growth during that period of time. This newly won content has been appropriated from among the elements of human life available to the re-creative contact of the Divine Community within the fallen world of its contemporary environment. Appropriated thus into the content of the living vine of Our Lord's social humanity, a certain added area or block of human life has been taken from the disorder of its fallen condition into the order of the New World of the Incarnation. Following Our Lord's command, this fresh addition to the content of His continuing Incarnation on this earth is put forward within His appointed Memorial under the forms of portions of natural bread and wine.

Our Lord then, on His part, moves to emerge from the level of His now risen and ascended individual humanity, that He may receive into that level the gifts of this content newly added to His social humanity. He emerges in the midst of that social humanity which still lives and grows, and thus extends the process of the redemption of the world upon the level of His human nature here on earth. And He emerges in the Substances of His Body and His Blood under the forms of those same portions of offered bread and wine which embody a newly ordered increment in the redeemed content of His earthly Community. The earthly body moves to meet the ascended Body and, within the Consecration of Our Lord's Memorial, these two levels of His humanity merge organically in one perfected whole.


The natural bread and wine put forward by the Divine [68/69] Community are portions of a fallen creation newly ordered into a contingent perfection. Through the re-creative power of the life of Our Lord, working and extending itself within His social humanity, they are structures ordered into the perfection of the pattern of His life. But they, like His individual historical humanity, necessarily contain elements of pain and sorrow, of frustration, both individual and social, of individual and corporate discomfort, and very likely of seeming defeat. Also, the ordered content of these gifts is always dreadfully inadequate and incomplete. It is incomplete in the sense that it remains linked to a further, spreading network of human relationships which, as these fan outward in the fallen, environmental world whence the bread and wine are drawn, still persist in their disordered and fallen state. For, as already indicated, it is not merely Our Lord's social humanity alone which has taken part in the preparation of the bread and wine about to be put forward for the now developing Memorial. These natural objects do not by any means issue exclusively from work, activities, and systems of human relationships which are held totally within the bounds of the organism of the Incarnation. Great numbers of men and women who are but nominally Christian, or who, indeed, make no pretense of holding the Catholic Faith or of working for the spread of the Incarnation, have contributed to their making. Certainly too, quite regardless of the beliefs and intentions of any of the individual people here involved, many of the industries and avenues of the trade and transportation through which the bread and wine have emerged into their present positions are now organized on a basis exhibiting little or nothing of Christian justice. And the present capitalist economic arrangements of our environing fallen world stand in radical and irresolvable opposition to the social realization of anything approaching a universal brotherhood based on Christian love among men.

Within the exclusive practical control of the present members of any average group of Our Lord's social humanity, there lie as a rule relatively few of the industrial and commercial processes required for the preparation of their [68/69] portions of bread and wine. It follows that the offered bread and wine, in the necessity of present circumstances, include within their structures linkages with social relationships as yet untouched by the re-creative spread of Our Lord's New Social World. Unredeemed human beings, caught in the disordered social relationships of a fallen world, of a world organized for the most part on a basis of individualistic and competitive self-aggrandizement, must nevertheless be enlisted to a considerable extent by the Divine Community for help in the preparation of its bread and wine. They must be thus enlisted against some future time when they too can be further reached and re-ordered into a new pattern fit to enter into the pattern of Our Lord's social humanity. And until that time arrives, the necessary linkages here entailed of the offered bread and wine with a persisting, unredeemed environment also introduce contingencies into their perfection--just as analogous contingencies were discoverable too in Our Lord's individual case.


It is clear, therefore, that the bread and wine at any given celebration of Our Lord's Memorial present structures which have been brought only into the first stage of the process of the redemption of human life. They have been brought only into the contingent perfection of Our Lord's Incarnation. Our Lord, however, emerging within these gifts--Incarnate, as it were "further" within this added content of His earthly humanity--now turns to His eternal Cross. He turns to move this content, now freshly added to His living social experience, into the central transit of His Sacrifice. Upon His Cross, here and now unveiled again in time--as it must be by concomitance with His humanity when and wherever He Himself is present--He lifts up these contingent increments in His spreading social humanity, just as He lifted up His individual human body nearly two thousand years ago. Within the Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood, the Offering of the natural bread [70/71] and wine is followed by their Consecration. And once again, just as on the historical Cross He conveyed the content of His individual humanity from the contingent level of His human nature to the absolute level of His divine nature, so now He conveys the contingent gifts of His social humanity into the same absolute level. He thus perfects them absolutely. For as Our Lord emerges in the midst of a group of His social humanity, the substances of the offered natural bread and wine, according to the promise and covenant of the Last Supper, terminate at their Consecration in the Substances of His risen and ascended Body and Blood. By a necessary concomitance with, and participation in, this great transit, the content of the ordered structure of that recent growth within the Divine Community which is set forth within the natural bread and wine, is conveyed from the contingent level of its origin into the absolute level of Our Lord's risen and ascended humanity. It becomes comprehended within the process of the Sacrifice of the Cross. In this way, to the ever-enlarging content of His social Incarnation, Our Lord reopens sacramentally that bridge, that way between the contingent and the absolute, available im-mediately in His individual Incarnation because of the conjunction of the two natures in Him.


The Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood is therefore revealed as a true Sacrifice, because it is the emergence into our time and space of His eternal Sacrifice. It is a Sacramental Sacrifice, because it is an emergence of the Sacrifice of the Cross under new material forms. The place of the Sacramental Sacrifice is a true Altar, because it is itself the re-emergence of the Altar of the Cross. Thus within this Memorial, this Holy Sacrifice of the Church's Altar, successive portions of a fallen and disordered world, reordered into the contingent first' stage of its redemption, are offered periodically to Our Lord under the forms of natural bread and wine. He moves to receive every such offering by emerging within the offered Elements. He clothes this added content of His Incarnate humanity upon [71/72] Himself, conveying it through the transit of the Cross into the level of His Godhead where His risen humanity now abides. A newly redeemed portion of God's fallen world is thus received from out the first stage into the required second stage of the redemption of human life.


The Divine Community of Our Lord's social humanity, however, is still to continue its own growth, its own redeeming action within the level of this world. Certain portions of its bread and wine, newly prepared, have now entered into the transit from the contingent to the absolute perfection of Our Lord's Incarnation. Nevertheless, if Our Lord's social humanity is to continue its life in this world within the continuing time process of a future history of its own, it must build upon the foundations of its past growth. In other words, while the structure of its own most recent history has, under the forms of bread and wine, been conveyed by Our Lord out of the natural level of the earthly life of the Divine Community and into the super-natural level of His ascended life, yet it is precisely upon these same historical structures within the natural world, within the time process, that the growth structures of its future here on earth must be founded. For at the time of any particular offering of the Memorial of Our Lord's Body and Blood, although the re-created structures of the bread and wine enter into the transit of the Cross here opened to them, nevertheless, the Divine Community has not itself come to the end of its natural life. [The End of the World, for Our Lord's social humanity, will correspond to the place which the Cross, the resurrection and the ascension have in His individual earthly life.] It is, instead, in the position of Our Lord's individual humanity during the days of its growth and development before the Cross.

We have seen that whatever content accrued within the level of His human nature during Our Lord's lifetime could, in Him, be im-mediately received into the absolute level of His divinity and thus be perfected absolutely. Into this [72/73] same transit the gifts of natural bread and wine put forward by His social humanity have now been admitted by their Consecration within His Memorial. They have been admitted thus, not im-mediately but mediately through Him, by a concomitant participation in His Cross which is opened by the emergence of His Body and Blood under the forms of those same portions of bread and wine.

We have also seen that in Our Lord's individual case and during His earthly lifetime, whatever new structures of redeemed order were received out of a contingent into an absolute perfection, were--again because of the union of the two natures in Him--returned equally im-mediately to the level of His human nature continuing within this world. These, so returned, could then serve as the basis for His continuing future individual earthly life. We have called this transit, "back and forth" from the natural to the super-natural levels and then again to the natural level of being, a process of Metacosmesis. This return of the absolutely perfected offerings of consecrated Bread and Wine must also be effected in parallel manner as a basis for the continuing earthly life of Our Lord's social humanity. And for this also Our Lord has provided.

Having now received certain contingently perfected increments to the content of His continuing Incarnation, He turns again to return these very same Gifts, but now consecrated, to the original givers. However, the substances of the natural bread and wine, through their consecration within the Memorial of His institution, have now been received into the Substances of His own absolutely perfected Body and Blood. It is, then, His own very Body and Blood which are rebestowed upon the members of the group of His social humanity as they now come forward to receive these Gifts. In the great Rebestowal of the Holy Communion, by concomitance with the Substances of His Body and Blood, Our Lord again gives Himself entire and undivided into the hands of His continuing social body within this world. He gives Himself now, however, under the forms of that consecrated Bread and Wine which had their natural origins within, and through, the very group [73/74] to which they now return. And since He has by this time clothed Himself with that added content of His Incarnation which their ordered structures have provided, therefore in thus giving Himself again to His community, He returns,--again by concomitance with the Gift of Himself,--these same structures, now perfected absolutely, into the hands of His social humanity. He returns these absolutely perfected structures so that upon this fresh basis, now made adequate to a perfected future activity, His social humanity may continue its growth. He returns the offered structures embodied in the natural bread and wine, absolutely perfected and clothed upon Himself, to the end that His social humanity, receiving them united to Him in His Body and His Blood, may fare forth again into the fallen world to prepare, upon this absolutely perfected foundation, new offerings, under forms of fresh portions of natural bread and wine, for the Offertory of its next succeeding Memorial. And with this return of the Gifts, perfected absolutely by union with Our Lord's individual humanity as it now resides in the level of the divine nature, back again into the social humanity which continues its growth upon the level of this world, the Process of Metacosmesis on behalf of His social humanity is made complete.

Project Canterbury