Real Presence is a term encapsulating belief that Jesus is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist. This is a doctrine regarding Holy Communion, is maintained in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, and many (but not all) Anglican traditions of Christianity.
According to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions,the bread and wine of the sacrament become the body and blood of Jesus, although they retain the accidents (outward appearance) of bread and wine. Lutherans believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are really present "in, with and under" the Bread and Wine, so that communicants receive both the elements and Christ Himself. The disagreement between these two groups centers on what happens to the bread and wine. Christians outside of these traditions may also hold to varieties of the doctrine of Real Presence, but view the presence of Christ as spiritual and not physical.
In the Reformed understanding, Communion (more frequently called the Lord's Supper or the Lord's Table) is sometimes construed as a symbolic meal, a memorial of the Last Supper and the Passion in which nothing miraculous occurs. For this reason, many of these groups allow the administration of the Supper by laymen. These groups do not accept the doctrine of the Real Presence. Some Reformed Christians dispute the meaning of "Real Presence" and insist that instead of Christ's body and blood coming down to inhabit the elements, the faithful are, via the Holy Spirit, brought to the right hand of the Father, where they feed on the risen, glorified Christ, partaking even of his physical nature in the supper.
Methodism has not issued a definitive statement regarding how the presence of Christ is experienced. While transubstantiation is rejected, the followers of John Wesley have typically affirmed that the grace of Christ is experienced via his real presence in the sacrament, but have allowed the details to remain a mystery. (See Means of Grace)
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04