According to Newman Christ is present to us in the Sacrament and in our hearts

Newman writes that Jesus appeared to St. John as is related in the book of Revelation and to St. Paul in Corinth and Jerusalem in visions, but “These appearances were not an actual presence of Christ, as we may conjecture, but impressions divinely made, and shadows cast upon the mind.”

He did likewise with St. Stephen when he saw the heavens open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. At the conversion in Damascus, however, Christ appeared to Paul, not in a vision. Newman quotes Paul: “Am I not an Apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” [1 Cor. ix. 1.]” And he explains: “Would he have said this, if he had had but a vision of Him? Had he not many more visions of Him, not one only?”

Being a witness of Christ’s Resurrection was a condition for being an Apostle. Newman continues: “If St. Paul saw only a vision of Christ, and not Christ “verily and indeed,” in that case he was not a witness of His resurrection. But if he did see Him, it is possible for Christ to be present with us also, as with him.”

Unlike Paul we do not see and hear the sounds of Paradise; we are not conscious of Christ in the same way. Newman notes that in the apparitions to other disciples after the Resurrection there was an unconscious communion. In his appearance to the two disciples of Emmaus he was not recognized by sight; he was known only by faith.

“When He opened His disciples’ eyes, He at once vanished. He removed His visible presence, and left but a memorial of Himself. He vanished from sight that He might be present in a sacrament; and in order to connect His visible presence with His presence invisible, He for one instant manifested Himself to their open eyes; manifested Himself, if I may so speak, while He passed from His hiding-place of sight without knowledge, to that of knowledge without sight.”

Like the disciples of Emmaus, St. Mary Magdalene was not allowed to touch Christ after recognizing him. Afterwards St. Thomas was allowed to see and touch Him. Jesus said, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Faith is better than sight or touch.”

Newman sums up his sermon with the following words: “Christ has promised He will be with us to the end,—with us, not only as He is in the unity of the Father and the Son, not in the Omnipresence of the Divine Nature, but personally, as the Christ, as God and man; not present with us locally and sensibly, but still really, in our hearts and to our faith. And it is by the Holy Ghost that this gracious communion is effected.” And “How He effects it we know not; in what precisely it consists we know not. We see Him not; but we are to believe that we possess Him.”

As a Catholic Newman explains more fully Christ’s sacramental presence.

2 Comment(s)
  • Barb Posted April 14, 2012 2:55 pm

    A very thought provoking post! One thing I’ve wondered — some theologians write that when Jesus said, “Noli tangere” to Mary Magdalene — He was telling her not to “cling” to Him. I’ve always thought it was the other — that she was not to touch Him. It sees Newman would agree? Thank you for this post.

    • frjuanvelez Posted April 14, 2012 3:32 pm

      Thank you for your comment. The Greek verb “aptou” used by John meanns “to touch” (Jn 20:17). Although Our Lord’s words cause us to ponder more, Newman’s insight about the need for faith is a very good one.

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