Vol. LVIII. I -II 1976.
SERGIUS BULGAKOV’S SOPHIOLOGICAL
INTERPRETATION OF THE EUCHARIST
Dr Louis J. Shein
McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sergius Bulgakov is undoubtedly one of the few Russian theologians who made a serious attempt to create a theological system which should be at once reasonable and all-embracing. In contrast to Eastern theology which is apophatic, Bulgakov’s theology may by characterized as cataphatic. That is, he tried to present the central Christian doctrines in a positive way, which means he was being philosophical and rationalistic in his exposition.
Bulgakov was deeply involved in the ecumenical movement and tried to find a valid basis for unity within the Body of Christ. He found that the chief barrier to a mutual acceptance of the Sacraments by both the Eastern and Western churches is the question of valid holy orders and the meaning of the Eucharist. Bulgakov raises two questions regarding the efficacy and validity of the Sacraments outside the canonical limits of a given church: (a) the significance of canonical divisions, and (b) the significance of dogmatic divisions. He points out that canonical divisions only prevent the possibility of a direct and unmediated communion in the Sacraments, but do not annul their effciacy because the invisible fellowship of the churches is not broken. As regards dogmatic division Bulgakov feels that it is due to the absence of a valid priesthood
1. Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944) was a descendant of a long line of Orthodox priests. He was educated at the Moscow University where he majored in political economy. While at the University, Bulgakov became actively involved in a Marxist group. After a long and tortuous spiritual odyssey he returned to the Orthodox Church, and in 1918 was ordained as priest. In 1922, along with a number of Russian intellectuals he was banished from Russia. He settled in Paris where he founded the Theological Institute of which he was Dean until the end of his life. Bulgakov is the author of many books and articles dealing with philosophical, economic, political and theological problems. He was greatly influenced in his Sophiology by Vladimir Solovyov and Father Pavel Florensky.
in Protedtantism, but the question of the sacrament of the Eucharist is still a great barrier to mutual acceptance by both Orthodoxy and Catholicism. He says that «we can speak of communion in sacramcnts (except baptism) in relation to Protestantism only in a general and indefinite sense of their participation in the life of the Church through grace, but nothing beyond this.»2
Bulgakov sums up his views on holy orders and the sacraments in these words:
«Churches which have preserved their priesthood, although they happen to be separated are not actually divided in the sacramental life. Strictly speaking a reunion of the Church is not even necessary here, although generally this is hardly realized. The churches which have preserved such a unity in sacraments are not divided canonically in the sense of jurisdiction, and, dogmatically, through a whole range of differences — but these are powerless to destory the efficacy of the sacraments.»3
Bulgakov has no difficulty in recognizing Roman Catholic orders since they are in true Apostolic succession.
Bulgakov’s doctrine of the Eucharist4 can only be understood in terms of his Sophiology which is central to his theology as a whole. We shall therefore attempt to give a brief outline of his theological position within the context of the doctrine of Sophia and then proceed to deal with his views on the Eucharist.
Bulgakov’s theological views are set forth in his two trilogies as well as in many important articles. The «minor» trilogy deals with the personalities surrounding Christ in the Russian «Deeisis’» i.e., the Mother of God, John the Baptist and the angels.5 The «major» trilogy contains the main theme of his Sophiology. According to L.A. Zander, one of Bulgakov’s close disciples, the major trilogy as a theological system is equal in importance to that of Thomas Aquinas.
Bulgakov’s doctrine of Sophia was greatly criticised by Russian Orthodox
2. S. Bulgakov, «By Jacob’s Well.» Father Sergius Bulgakov. The Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, London, 1969, p. 10.
3. Bulgakov, Ibid., p. 10.
4. S. Bulgakov, discusses at great length the doctrine of the Eucharist in his article, «The Eucharistic Dogma» (in Russian) Put, (La Voie) 1930, Nos. 1 and 2. pp. 3-46 and 3-33.
5. The «minor trilogy consists of the following books: The Burning Bush (1927); Friend of the Groom' (1927); Jacob’s Ladder (1929).
theologians and the official hierarchy. In fact, his Sophiology was officially condemned in 1935 by Patriarch Sergius of Moscow. Bulgakov defended his position by stating that his works are in the realm of «theologoumena» rather than essential doctrine. However, a careful study of his major works will show,6 that the doctrine of Sophia is central to all his theological views, which means that it is essential doctrine.
Traditionally, Sophia (The Infinite Wisdom of God) was regarded as the Logos. In Russian piety, it is identified with the Mother of God (Bogomater). Bulgakov felt that this would restrict Wisdom to one Person of the Trinity. He therefore introduced the concept of the «dvoica» (the Russian word for «two-some» or dyad), i.e., the Word and Spirit reveal the Father. The concept of «dvoica», in Bulgakov’s view, provides man with a more profound freedom in that both Word and Spirit are active in creation, which he refers to as «creaturely Sophia». Sophia is both the nature of God and the foundation of the created world. The Divine world (which is God’s nature) and the created world are linked by Sophia. Bulgakov seeks to solve the problem of God’s relation to the world by the doctrine of Sophia. He describes his system as pan-en-theism (all is in God) as distinct from pantheism (All is God).
Veneration of the Mother of God occupies a very important place in Russian Orthodoxy. She is regarded as the supreme pinnacle of humanity, or the perfect representative of human nature. Because the Mother of God is identified with the Holy Spirit in connection with the Incarnation, Bulgakov refers to her as the «creaturely Sophia.» Sophia expresses man’s resemblance to God. Man is created in the image of the Divine Sophia and in this capacity is himself determined as the creaturely Sophia. Sophia represents the principle of God’s self-revelation in divine life. Bulgakov maintains that the world existed in God prior to its creation, which implies that the world and God are one. He insists that this is not to be construed as pantheism since the created world is distinct from God — it is the creaturely Sophia.
The unity of nature and the unity of life in God according to Bulgakov are revealed in Him as a certain eternal content — as Truth. This content is the Divine Word of Word of the second hypostasis.
«Sophia exists for the tri-hypostatic God. It belongs to his hypostases in their separateness as well as in their Unity. It cannot exist outside and apart from the Hypostases, and yet, in spite of this, it is not a Hypostasis...
6. The «major» trilogy consists of the following books: The Lamb of God, (1933); The Comforter, (1936); The Bride of the Church, (1945).
Sophia is actually the divine nature (physis), which was re-united in the God-man Christ with the creaturely-human nature according to the Chalcedonian dogma... the divine Sophia as the revelation of the divine nature represents the pre-eternal, divine Humanity, which corresponds to the Primordial Image of the creaturely humanity. But these natures are disclosed as the one Divine-humanity or Sophia, both in divine and creaturely being.»7
It is this link between man and God that makes it possible for man to accept divine revelation, since man, according to Bulgakov, is an emergent-God-man. God contains within Himself the Primordial Image of man. This is Bulgakov’s way of trying to explain rationally the doctrine of the Incarnation as well as man’s possibility of union with God.
Bulgakov’s use of the term «Sophia» is rather ambiguous. In one of his works,8 he refers to Sophia as a «fourth hypostasis» (although not divine), while in another work9 he denies that Sophia is a fourth hypotsasis. He insists that Sophia is not a hypostasis like the Persons of the Trinity, but that she has the capacity «to be hypostatized», i.e. Sophia is hypostasity. She is passive and feminine and is hypostatizcd by her self-surrendering relationship to the hypostases of the Godhead. Sophia is the love of God for Himself and can therefore be the link between what God loves of Himself and the love within Himself. In other words, Sophia is the link between the divine and the created world.
Vladimir Lossky, the well-known Russian theologian, points to the danger inherent in Bulgakov’s Sophiology, for it reveals the dangers of the Eastern approach to the problem of the Trinity. For Bulgakov, God is a «Person in three hypostascs» who reveals Himself in the ousia — Sophia. Lossky points out that if the Persons exist they have one nature and their very procession consists in receiving their common nature from the Father who is the unique Source. Lossky stresses that it is the apophatic nature of Russian Orthodoxy that was able, while distinguishing between nature (ousia) and hypostases, to proserve their mysterious equivalence.
Russian Orthodoxy teaches that man’s chief goal is union with God, or deification. This belief is inherent in the concept of Imago Dei, which must
7. S. Bulgakov, «What is Revelation?» in Revelation' edited by John Baillie and Hugh Martin, Faber and Faber Limited, London, 1937. pp. 178-179.
8. S. Bulgakov, Svet Neverchenii (The Unfading Ligit)’ Moscow, 1917, p. 212.
9. S. Bulgakov, Agnets Bozhii (The Lamb of God), YMCA Press, Paris, 1933, p. 128.
not be regarded analogically, metaphorically or allegorically, but essentially. This does not mean that man is of the same hypostatic essence as God, but it docs mean that man participates in this hypostatic essence. Lossky says that this concept poses a real problem. For according to apophatic theology, there is the antinomy of the accessibility of the inaccessible nature of God. This problem can be solved, says Lossky, only if we distinguish between the essence of the Triune God which is never accessible, and the uncreated energies, which have to do with the Trinity’s relation to the created world, which is often referred to as the economy of God10. The energies of God manifest themselves under different attributes, such as Wisdom, Life, Power, Justice, Love, Being, God, etc. «For Orthodox thought, the energies signify an exterior manifestation of the Trinity which cannot be interiorized, introduced, as it were, within the divine being, as its natural determination.»11
Lossky accuses Bulgakov of identifying God’s essence with His energies which is inherent in his doctrine of Sophia.
«God’s presence in His energies must be understood in a realistic sense. It is not the presence of a cause operative in its effects: for the energies are not effects of the divine cause, as creatures are; they are outpourings of the divine nature which cannot set bounds to itself, for God is more than essence. The energies might be described as that mode of existence of the Trinity which is outside of His essence.»12
Lossky states that Bulgakov’s fundamental error is that he identified the energy of Sophia with the essence’ which is the very principle of the Godhead. Bulgakov failed to see that God is not determined by any of His attributes which are inferior to Him. To quote Lossky again on this point.
«Hence the formulation of the doctrines as an antinomy: the energies express by their procession an ineffable distinction — they are not God in His essence — and yet, at the same time, being inseparable from His essence, they bear witness to the unity and the simplicity of the being of God.»13
Bulgakov tried to give a positive explanation to the Chalcedonian dogma
10. «Oikonomia» means, literally, the conslruction or administration of a house, a regimen, a dispensation.
11. Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical theology of the Eastern Church, James Clarke and Co. Ltd., London, 1957, p. 80.
12. S. Bulgakov, The Lamb of God, pp. 221 ff.
13. The Lamb of God, p. 231.
which states that the two natures of Christ exist in one hypostasis. He points out that the Church Fathers placed too much emphasis on the action of the Divine upon human nature and not enough emphasis on the human action upon the Divine nature. He therefore tries to expound the unity through the doctrine of Sophia, which he felt would enable us to know the truth of the two natures. He relates Christ with the Divine Sophia, and Mary, the Mother of God, with creaturely Sophia. In other words, the Divine Sophia is Christ’s Divine nature and creaturely Sophia is His human nature. The two natures unite in one hypostasis in the «secdless conception and Incarnation of the Logos». Here we have a definite action of the human nature upon the Divine nature in the Incarnation. Christ’s human nature is preserved in the free, creative act of Mary, who «spiritually, consciously, and sacrificially»14 gives herself to be the handmaid of the lord.
«Spiritual conception consists in this, that in the Bearing One (Mary) was enkindled a self-denying love to the one to be born. Because of this love for the Son, there existed a total sharing of life — even bodily life, that is, seedless conception.»15
Because of the role of the human as regards the Divine in the Incarnation, the one to be born can truly receive human nature in its fullness.
The Incarnation is regarded by Bulgakov as a «kenosis» which entails Christ’s forsaking of His Divine Glory but the retaining of His Divine nature. That is, the humiliation concerns only Christ’s assuming the form of a slave, but His becoming man has an independent meaning apart from redemption. Christ’s becoming man corresponds in a certain sense to the personal nature of the Logos Who was from the beginning human. From the Logos was «the light of man lighting every man coming into the world.»16 Bulgakov maintains that Jesus the Man, Who bears the image of God was the original form in Adam before his fall. The idea of the divine image of man implies that while the Incarnation realizes the Divine plan of salvation, it has its basis in humanity itself. In his attempt to penetrate into the mystery of the Incarnation, Bulgakov posits humanity in God prior to the Incarnation so that the Incarnation is simply a concrete manifestation of the humanity already present in God.
When we say that God is love we confess His Triunity. But this love within
14. The Lamb of God, p. 221.
15. The Lamb of God, p. 231.
16. St. John 1:4
the Trinity extends beyond itself into a non-divine world which Bulgakov calls Sophia, for Sophia is love of Love. It is a voluntary self-sacrificial and self-giving love. The Holy Sophia gives Herself to the Divine Love and receives Its gifts, but she contains within herself only that which she has received. In this sense Sophia is the «Eternal Feminine.» In other words, the doctrine of the world finds its realization in the doctrine of the Mother of God — cosmology thus becomes Mariology. The Mother of God as the incarnation of Sophia is the limit of the creature; it is its highest achievement in which it ceases to exist for itself and gives up everything to God. This brief outline of Bulgakov’s Sophiological views should serve as a basis for our understanding of his doctrine of the Holy Eucharist.
In his important article on the Eucharist, Bulgakov states that the holy gifts of bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. But he insists that the change of the essence does not affect the physical nature of the bread and wine, since it is a metaphysical and not a physical change. We are also told that the change which occurs in the Eucharist is not to be identified with the change of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, or the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in the feeding of the multitude. Those were physical changes and do not imply a metabole which presupposes some kind of identity of a terminus a quo with a terminus ad quem, and at the same time implies their complete difference.
It should be noted that the concept of change in the holy gifts contains an antinomy which overcomes the law of identity. For change is identity of difference and difference of identity. What actually takes place in the Eucharist is not a conversion of one substance into another, but a unity that is at the same time in opposition to both. «This is my body, this is my blood» is an antinomian miracle, that is to say, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, and the body and blood are the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine. This metaphysical change denotes union with two worlds, the heavenly and the earthly. The reason why we fail to grasp the nature of the change is because of the discrepancy between experience and the evidence of faith. Experience is concerned with the immutability of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, whereas faith testifies to the complete and true change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in which Christ is «truly, really and essentially present.» (vere, realiter et essentialiter).
Roman Catholic theology, according to Bulgakov, is primarily concerned with the problem of change of the Eucharistic elements. Bulgakov points out that Thomas Aquinas deals with this problem in true Aristotelian fashion, by
dividing the nature of things into substances and accidents. Substances characterize things, whereas accidents are the qualities of things. Aquinas applies this distinction between substances and essences to the change in the Eucharistic substance. According to this view, the accidents of bread and wine retain their «breadness» and «wineness», physically, chemically and retain even their gustatory properties in the Eucharistic change. That is to say, the accidents exist without their substances, which is one of the manifestations of the Eucharaistic miracle. In the change of the bread and wine, although they remain «sine subjecto sive substantia» their substances change. This means that there occurs a transubstantiation which in a miraculous way does not affect the accidents. So that instead of the substance of bread and wine there appears the substance of the body and blood of Christ, and in virtue of the nature of Christ per concomintantiam' the whole God-man is implanted (totus et integer). Through the transsubstantiation of the accidents of bread and wine the body of our Lord is present in the Eucharist.
Bulgakov is quick to point out that the doctrine of Transubstantiation affirms the physical indwelling of the risen and ascened Lord in the holy gifts and only the accidental aspect of this presence is missing. This makes it possible for the simultaneous sacramental presence of our Lord on many altars as well as in every part of the holy gifts, wholly and indivisibly, since the substantial presence is both supraspatial and supratemporal This doctrine implies that in the bread and wine we have Christ Himself. Who in some mysterious manner returns to earth and is present in the host. Bulgakov maintains that this doctrine negates the reality of the Ascension in that Christ returns to earth in order to be present simultaneously on innumerable altars and hosts under the form «in pane, cum pane, sub pane». Bulgakov regards the doctrine of Transubstantiation as one of the many modifications of the impanation theory. He insists that the doctrine of the Eucharist is a Christological problem and must be dealt with accordingly. In agreement with the teaching of Gregory of Nyssa and St. John of Damascus, Bulgakov maintains that the bread which has been sanctified by the Word of God truly becomes the body of God’s word. That is to say, we are being offered at the Lord’s Table «heavenly bread and the cup of life.» In the Eucharist God’s omnipotence makes that which did not exist to exist, i.e., the bread and wine which is not eaten by Christ after the Ascension, is received and sanctified. When our Lord first instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the upper Room He was able to offer Himself directly in His Body and Blood as redemptive food which made union with Him possible. After the Ascension Christ was no longer physically
present on earth. The Eucharist became a reality only after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when we first read of the «breaking of bread.»17 In other words, the changing of the holy gifts was accomplished by the Holy Spirit.
The Ascension is central to Bulgakov’s interpretation of the change in the Eucharistic elements for it constitutes a new limit established by Christ Himself in His words to Mary Magdalene: «I have not yet ascended, but will ascend to my Father.»18 The Ascension thus establishes a new relationship between bread and wine as things of this world and the earthly food and the body and blood of Christ in the glorius state of His Resurrection, Ascension and His sitting on the right hand of the Father. Christ now possesses a supercosmic and metacosmic body.
Bulgakov makes a distinction between the Resurrection and the Ascension in relation to the Eucharist. Christ’s partaking of food with His disciples after the Resurrection confirms the identity of our Lord’s earthly body with His risen body and establishes a direct connection between these two, so that one passes into the other without violating His own being. The Ascension does not signify disincarnation, but is so to speak, an eternalization of the Incarnation which has power in heaven and on earth. After the Ascension the glorified body of Christ assumed perfect spirituality. Which makes it possible for this body to be present at the right hand of the Father. Although the escended body is absolutely different from His physical body. It neverthless retains its force of a body, albeit it is now a dynamic body. This dynamic body is no longer in need of a particular form of body, it is a body in general which has the power to assume a corporeal form according to the needs of the spirit, which is always individual.
Bulgakov argues, not very succesfully, that since «all power is given to Christ in heaven and on earth» as a man, it follows that His glorius body has all the properties peculiar to a human body. In his desire to stress the full humanity of Christ. Bulgakov maintains, that Christ’s victory over death was not attained by the omnipotence of the Creator over the creature, but by His human nature, by the feat of human effort and human life, although this life is inseparable from the Divine life. As truly man, Jesus, by being obedient to the end was able to overcome his «bodi!incss», so that His spiritual body no longer depends on «bodiliness», for it has its own pure form.
17. Acts 2:42.
18. John 20:17.
The real basis for the Eucharistic doctrine, according to Bulgakov, is the idea of the ascended body of Christ. Although Christ is no longer present in His physical body, He continues to retain full connection with the world, which is both a spiritual and bodily connection. Christ includes His bodily state into His Godmanhood. We are told by Bulgakov that the concept of a spiritual body must not be confused with the Lutheran concept of ubiqitas, according to which the body of Christ it present everywhere (ubique), although this presence becomes evident only in Communion. Bulgakov rejccts the ubiquitas concept by pointing out that Christ’s spiritual body is not present in any particular place, since His supertemporality is above space. He concedes however, that Christ can enter into space and manifest Himself in a definite place whenever He wills to do so.
In the Eucharist the bread and wine have fully and without any limitations become and continue to become the redemptive body and blood of Christ. The changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ does not however denote the indwelling of the ascended Christ substantialiter in these accidents, but denotes their direct conversion without any limitation into the body and blood of Christ, which is a true change. Bulgakov insists that Christ’s appearance is defined by and limited to the Eucharist alone and for no other purpose.
How does Bulgakov interpret the «real» presence in the Eucharist (praesentia realis)? We are told that in Russian Orthodoxy the real presence is interpreted as Christ’s actual presence in the holy gifts, but for communion only. We thus have on the one hand, the true presence of the Lord in the Eucharist and we worship Him, but on the other hand, this is a definite concrete presence for communion only and it docs not extend beyond this purpose. In Orthodoxy the adoration of the holy gifts is permitted only at the Holy Supper, i.e., in the divine liturgy where all believers participate in His Presence.
In contrast to the Orthodox position on the real presence, the Roman Catholic view is that the Lord is present in the host, albeit invisibly, but essentially in the same manner as He is in heaven «with the accidents.» This means that Christ continues to return to earth after His Ascension. The host is presented for worship on the altar, is carried in the procession, signifying Christ’s presence on earth. Bulgakov rejects this view on the ground that the ascended Lord is present only at Communion.
The doctrine of the Eucharist can be grasped in its profound mystery only if we fully understand the meaning of the Incarnation. The fact of the Incarnation, says Bulgakov, is ontologically not possible. For it God is a
Spirit, how is incarnation possible for Him? The question is, does the nature of the absolute divine Spirit eliminate bodiliness as its negation, or does it embrace it into itself and support it; It is at this point that Christology is closely bound up with the doctrine of Sophia, according to Bulgakov.
The doctrine of the Incarnation centres around the question of bodiliness. The body is the image and self-revelation of the spirit. Hence, the Absolute Spirit (God) may also have an absolute body which is the Word of God. This body is the life of the tri-hypostatic Subject, the consubstantial Trinity which possesses this Body not only in potentia but in actu as absolute content. God, in living the Divine life, reveals His Godhead, which Bulgakov terms the Divine Sophia. Bodiliness is the unity of the idea and the image, content and being, thought and life, Word and Spirit, who reveal in the di-unity of God the Father, Who reveals Himself. This bodiliness is the Divine Sophia, present in the Holy Trinity as a single life of the Three and the life of each of the hypostasis separately as well as in unity with the other hypostases. The outline of the Divine Image is given directly to the Son as the Image of the Father, but is realized by the Holy Spirit as the image of the Son, which is the image of the «heavenly man», since the Divine Body, i.e., Sophia, is the eternal humanity in the Godhead. It is eternal humanity in the Godhead which makes it possible for the Son of God to become man on earth.
In the Incarnation our Lord assumed a creaturely body but without sin. The chief characteristic of the human body is creatureliness; although the body was created by God, it was not a spiritual body, which accounts for its imperfection. The hypostasis of the human spirir lives and realizes itself through the creaturely body, but because of original sin, the human body lost its sophiic* glory. This loss has reference however, only to man’s state and not to his essence, for the sophiic dignity of man is as indestructible as is the image of God.
When our Lord assumed a creaturely body His body remained pure, chaste and alien to sin. Bulgakov argues, unconvincingly, that since Christ has two natures — divine and human, it follows that He also has two bodies — divine and human, which have their one basis in Sophia. The second body, which is the creaturely Sophia, is a created body from the earth — it is human flesh. In the Incarnation the Divine Glory clothed itself in a human body which God possessed before the creation of the world, and because of His Divine nature could never lose it.
* This adjective comes from the Russian word sofinost and the English adjective Sophiic. This in the best way of translating the Russian Adjective.
As the New Adam, Christ subjected his spiritual body by the will of the Spirit and thus made it correspond to the Divine Glory which He possessed in virtue of His deity. Christ’s redemptive act is realized first of all in His personal human bodiliness which was glorified by remaining self-identical. By his death on the cross and by His complete obedience to the Father. Christ achieved complete possession of the spirit over the body. It was this act of complete obedience to the Father as well as the indwelling of the Godhead in His Body that His Body was sanctified by the Spirit and was thus able to become itself to the very end in the Resurrection. The Resurrection occured by the power of the Holy Spirit in answer to the full victory of the spirit over the body when was incarnate by the word.
Bulgakov points out that the Resurrection as a redemptive act of God over man and in man is an ontological imposition upon God, for it is contrary to His Divine nature. In the Incarnation Christ united within Himself the God- hood and the world by one hypostasis. To use Bulgakov’s terminology, the Divine and creaturely Sophia is the one self-identical Sophia which is real in God and in the World. From this unwaranted premise, Bulgakov concludes that Christ’s body and blood is the Divine Sophia, the Glory of God which appears not only in God but in creation as well. Christ, who fulfilled all truth, fulfills in Himself also the truth of the body, giving in the glory belonging to it’ i.e., its sophiic nature. The Ascension, in Bulgakov’s view, is not only victory over death, but it is also the glorification of Christ’s body.
Through his sophiological interpretation of «bodiliness» Bulgakov is able to affirm that the body and blood of Christ offered in the Eucharist has the force of Divine sophiity which unites the heavenly body with the earthly substance. Christ’s body, which is now with the Father, permeates the whole of creation. Hence, the bread and wine become the body and blood of our Lord. Bread and wine which belong to this world arc at the same time ontologically participating with the earthly body of Jesus which He possessed while on earth. It is on the basis of this participation, in Bulgakov’s view, that it makes it ontologically possible for this change to take place. The transfiguration of the creaturely body which corresponds to the Second coming of Christ, is realized it the Eucharist and is available only to the eyes of faith.
It should be evident by now that the doctrine of Sophia affects all the central doctrines of the Church and is not restricted to the doctrine of the Eucharist. His attempt to explain the Incarnation, Resurrection and Ascension by his Sophiology, is both un-Biblical and contrary to the teaching of Russian Orthodoxy. It is difficult to see how his doctrine of Sophia really solves the
mystery of the change which takes place in the Eucharist; it merely confuses the issue.
We can now summarize the salient points of his doctrine of the Holy Eucharist.
1. In the mystery of the Eucharist the physical substances of bread and wine truly change into the body and blood, of Christ.
2. It follows from the above that bread and wine with all their properties cease to be a substance of this world and become the true body and blood of Christ.
3. The change is accomplished by the union of the holy gifts with the spiritual, glorified and ascended body of Christ.
4. Although the earthly substances of the holy gifts remain bread and wine for the world, when they arc being offered at Communion they already belong to the body of Christ which is outside of this world. That is to say, the holy gifts are raised to the metacosmic body of the ascended Christ and are Christ’s bodiliness on earth.
5. The bread and wine which have become the body and blood of Christ through their union with His spiritual body do not have to change their earthly form, since it is a metaphysical and not a physical change. However, the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ without any differentiation in substances and accidents, or essence and form.
6. Bulgakov insists that his interpretation of the change in the Eucharist negates the theories of impanation, consubstantiation and transubstantiation, since they are merely different sides of the same coin, so to pseak. They simply replace the real union with something that cannot be united, namely, bread and wine, with the spiritual and glorified body of Christ.
7. The real basis for the change is in Bulgakov’s view, the Ascension. For it is after the Ascension that Christ possesses a spiritual body while retaining at the same time His connection with the states of His earthly body. This makes it possible for Christ to return to the earthly state of His body through the change which occurs in the Eucharist.
Unless we can accept Bulgakov’s Sophilogical views, which is difficult to do, we cannot accept his interpretation of the change in the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine.