LOOK! IT IS JESUS

First Things | 2/1/1994 | John Schwenkler
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What do Catholics believe happens to the bread and wine that are consecrated during the Liturgy of the Eucharist?

As the philosopher G. E. M. Anscombe put it in a classic essay from 1974, the easiest way to explain what we are supposed to believe is by thinking about how to introduce the concept of transubstantiation to a young child:

Course - Word - Transubstantiation - Child - Word

Not of course using the word “transubstantiation,” because it is not a little child’s word. But the thing can be taught, and it is best taught at mass at the consecration, the one part where a small child should be got to fix its attention on what is going on. . . . Such a child can be taught then by whispering to it such things as: “Look! Look what the priest is doing. . . . He is saying Jesus’ words that change the bread into Jesus’ body. Now he's lifting it up. Look! Now bow your head and say ‘My Lord and my God,’” and then “Look, now he’s taken hold of the cup. He’s saying the words that change the wine into Jesus’ blood. Look up at the cup. Now bow your head and say ‘We believe, we adore your precious blood, O Christ of God.'”

Anscombe was making two points. First, that a child’s instruction in the faith should be primarily “as part of an action; as concerning something going on before it; as actually unifying and connecting beliefs, which is clearer and more vivifying than being taught only later, in a classroom perhaps, that we have all these beliefs.” Catechetical instruction in precise formulae and official doctrine is relevant to religious formation. But such explicit teaching is dependent on a foundation of prior formation in religious praxis.

Anscombe - Point - Words - Formulation

Anscombe’s other point was that the words used in the formulation of...
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