A spousal metaphysics of the eucharist: persons, powers and Mary

Upcoming presentation for the annual conference of the European Academy of Religion, Bologna, June 20-23, in the panel on a eucharistic metaphysics.

This proposal starts from the contemporary metaphysics of powers or dispositions. Persons are assumed to have freedom as a sui generis two-way power to make certain of their powers become manifest or not, and are thereby the irreducible source of contingency. In its most fundamental sense, this two-way power is a power to contingently value a certain state of affairs rather than not, or to a certain degree rather than another one. That state of affairs is thereby made manifest or more likely to become manifest. In the specific case of valuing another person qua person, it can properly be called love. When two persons mutually love each other qua person they manifest a kind of infinity mirror, which is the specific state of affairs whereby a third irreducible source of contingency (a third person) can be brought forth in a contingent mutual manifestation of the very being of these two persons.

Next, Mary’s Fiat is taken in this spousal sense of affirming a mutual act of love between her and God the Holy Spirit, contingently bringing forth God the Son within the created order. The virginal conception of Christ is a supernatural elevation of a created substance (a specific set of powers) within Mary’s womb to another substance (the divine embryo), without any created reciprocal disposition partners but as a manifestation of God’s creative freedom as a two-way power. This does not threaten the simplicity and immutability of God’s act of creation since God’s dispositional contribution can be present from the very beginning of creation in a complex chain of conditional divine wills. The metaphysics of the transubstantiation is then the extension of Mary’s Fiat and the incarnation. In a Marian ecclesiology, the priest as a son of the Church and of Mary (cf. John 19, 27) extends the incarnation enabled by Mary’s Fiat by contingently speaking the words of consecration, first spoken by Mary’s first-born (divine) Son. 

Finally, Christ’s spousal self-gift towards the Church was dispositionally instituted by these words on Maundy Thursday, and made manifest as a real state of affairs on the cross on Good Friday. Similar to the Annunciation, the immaculate host is elevated from one substance (one specific set of powers) to another substance (another set of powers) by God’s creative power. The powers of this new substance regularly do not become manifest in the accidental and empirically accessible properties of the substance, although eucharistic miracles can be metaphysically understood as the exceptional manifestations of what is dispositionally really the case for all consecrated hosts. Just like turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana (cf. John 2) was ‘merely’ the immediate manifestation of a power present in any vine (cf. John 15, 5), so turning bread and wine into flesh and blood is a power present in any human body but immediately and dispositionally rendered true by the words of consecration as contingently manifesting the divine two-way power of creation.

Image: Monstrance of our Lady of Koden, © wpolityce

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