My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In 2019, a Pew Research Center study on the religious commitment and practice of American Catholics found a significant number of the faith did not have an accurate or complete understanding of the "Real Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist Sacrament. This prompted Cardinal Seán O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston to proclaim a "Year of the Eucharist" for 2020-2021 to help rehabilitate the faithful. The "Real Presence" by Dr. Timothy O'Malley could very well be required reading in support of that endeavor.
Chapter One tackles the "Obstacles to Real Presence" by identifying three (3) points of confusion: an over-reliance on a physical interpretation of presence, a lack of reverence and an apparent false dichotomy between reverence and recognition of Christ's presence in others. Along the way, Fr. Thomas Reese S.J. is thrown under the bus for declaring that he "find[s] the theology of transubstantiation to be unintelligible" and that we should just "accept it as a mystery and not pretend we understand it." Unfortunately if we do that, I think that we take away some of the power that particular sacrament is supposed to have.
Chapter Two looks at the Real Presence in the Scriptures. Here is where Dr. O'Malley really shines because he focuses on what we mean by presence. After that we move on to Chapter Three to examine how the early Church Father's developed the "doctrine of Eucharistic presence" where the terms Body and Blood are associated to the Bread and Wine. The language used here by the early Fathers is not easily understood and I think this is where most readers start to fall away. While I can acknowledge the mystagogical element of the real presence, my modern mind has trouble with the constant use of Body and Blood when I do not see an actual body or blood. Why must these be linked in the Eucharist? What do we mean when we say Body? Can we explain that term other than symbolically if we don't actually have [what we normally view as] a physical body?
Chapter Four - Savoring the Mystery of Transubstantiation, attempts to answer these questions. After spending a little time with a couple of quarreling monks to define the argument as reality vs symbolic, Dr. O'Malley spends the reminder looking at St. Thomas Aquinas ... an amazing doctor of the church whose theology builds upon the concepts of substance and accidents decried by the afore mentioned Fr. Reese when he states that he does not "believe in prime matter, substantial forms, substance and accidents." Ultimately we get little here other than the belief that the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the true Body and Blood of Christ because the Church says so. Score one for Fr. Reese.
Chapter Five - Eucharistic Devotion and Real Presence, doesn't really add much to the debate, but it does offer a look at how the [various] practices of adoration can enable us to recognize the Real Presence in the Eucharist. While this was not the slam dunk that I was looking for, it does give me plenty to meditate on ... YMMV
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
#RealPresence #NetGalley #YearoftheEucharist
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