Bezalel's Compass

February 13, 2011

Leithart on Transignification and Sacramental Union

Filed under: In Other's Words, Theology — Eric G. Ivers @ 5:27 am

Category: Theology – Liturgical

“Sacramental union” between the “sign” and the “thing” can and has been used to separate: Because there are two entities, sign and union, it’s possible that there is one without the other.

In classic Reformed theology, “sacramental union” usually has exactly the opposite import: Because of the sacramental union, the sign is never a “bare” or “vain” sign; because of the union, God is sincerely offering the thing when He offers the sign.

The 1562 Hungarian Confessio Catholica highlights another aspect of the “sacramental union.” That confession says that God has “united and bound together by heavenly means and union, the sign and thing signified.” Borrowing Chalcedonian language, it continues with a denial that the “natures and substances” of thing and sign are confused or blended, nor is one transformed into another. That is, water doesn’t magically become something else, nor do bread and wine become body and blood substantially. Rather, both the sign and the thing retain their natural qualities, and what changes is “the purpose, condition and name of the sign.” ”Sacramental Union” is a way of affirming “transsignification” rather than “transubstantiation.”

This Confession is also revealing in the way it talks about sacramental language. When Scripture calls the bread “body,” the point is not that there has been a transformation of the substance, but rather that the sign takes on the name of the thing signified, “metonymically, metaphorically, or synecdochically.” The example is that water baptism is sometimes called “purification” or “remission of sin.” To say this language is rooted in “sacramental union” means that the transfer of language doesn’t imply that a special jolt of power is added to the water, but that water, while retaining all its natural properties, is changed in its use and end. Instead of simply washing dirt, it is now part of an action of God.

posted by Peter J. Leithart on Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm


Smithsonian Museum Proposal

Filed under: Architecture, Art — Eric G. Ivers @ 5:16 am

February 12, 2011

Charcoal study

Filed under: Architecture, Art — Eric G. Ivers @ 2:24 am

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