Fascinatingly, discussion on a recent post re "Messy Anglican Church" has taken a turn towards eucharistic theology, discussing transubstantiation, consubstantiation, memorials and related matters. Here I will not attempt to offer a complete reflection on eucharistic theology, rather just offer a few observations.
(1) "Is" is not a simple word. If I am away from my wife, meeting with some folk, and pull a photo of her out of my wallet and say, "This is my wife," everyone understands that "is" is at least about representation (The photo offers a representation of her) and yet may be about something more, because the photo is a likeness of her (not just a symbol of her) and in some sense conveys the reality of her, indeed, for me at least, in her absence, the photo helps to convey her 'real presence' with me. It all gets a bit more complicated (I suggest) if such a display of a photo took place after the death of the person in the photo: the 'real presence' of the deceased would have a memorialising aspect which would not be the case if, in the instance of the event above, it occurred a couple of hours after I left my wife at home, alive and well.
But, think of a different context. Suppose I went to a wedding dance but my wife could not come. Not to worry, I take out her photo and hold it while I dance. Someone asks what I am doing, and I say, "This is my wife. I am dancing with her." Quite rightly, the questioner would think I was nuts! It is not the case that in every context I can say "This is my wife" while holding her photo and the sentence makes sense. (In the context of the eucharist, one of the mistakes the church has made (I venture with trepidation to suggest) is to propose that "This is the body of Christ" is true in all contexts. Frankly, I am not convinced that leftover wafers in a box in a room off the side of the church, several days removed from a communion service can have the statement "This is the body of Christ" sensibly said of them: the right context for such a statement to make sense is when disciples are gathered with intention to remember with thanksgiving etc.)
(2) In my understanding, in the original Aramaic, a separate and distinct word for "is" was not used by Jesus. This does not necessarily make much difference to the debate, but it should give us pause before we invest too much significance into the later supply of the verb to be in Greek then Latin then English.
(3) What does our NZ Prayer Book convey to us about understandings of the nature of the bread and the wine as prayed over in a communion service? We have within the book some six possibilities in English (I won't even attempt to work through all legal possibilities for eucharistic prayers in our church, nor through our eucharistic prayers in Maori and other languages recognised in this church).
p. 423: "Send your Holy Spirit that these gifts of bread and wine which we receive may be to us the body and blood of Christ, and that we, filled with the Spirit's grace and power, may be renewed for the service of your kingdom."
p. 438 "As we eat this bread and drink this wine, through the power of your Holy Spirit feed us with your heavenly food, renew us in your service, unite us in Christ and bring us to your everlasting kingdom."
p. 469-70 (which makes two statements I think need to be cited to express the theology of bread/body and wine/blood within this particular service):
"We lift up the cup of salvation and call upon your name. Here and now, with this bread and wine, we celebrate your great acts of liberation ...Empower our celebration with your Holy Spirit, feed us with your life, fire us with your love, confront us with your justice, and make us one in the body of Christ with all who share your gifts of love."
p. 487 "Send your Holy Spirit, that we who receive Christ's body may indeed be the body of Christ, and we who share his cup draw strength from the one true vine."
p. 513 "Send your Holy Spirit upon us and our celebration, that we may be fed with the body and blood of your Son and be filled with your life and goodness."
p. 520 (from "A Service of the Word with Holy Communion", i.e. a service for use with reserved sacrament in order to extend communion from one congregation to another) "God, creator of time and space, may the love and faith which makes this bread the body of Christ this wine his blood enfold us now ... May Christ's Holy Spirit bring to us in the sacrament the strength we need ..."
p. 733 = p. 423.
Multiply through the book we also have the seminal words for Anglican eucharistic theology, intended to be a blending of theologies jostling for space in post-Reformational Anglicanism,
"Draw near and receive the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ in remembrance that he died for us. Let us feed on him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving."
I suggest our church with its prayer book has catered for a range of eucharistic theologies cherished by Anglicans through the centuries without endorsing any one of them as 'majority' or 'mainstream'.
I also suggest that our church with its clear linkage to the work of the Holy Spirit as agent of transformation, while also emphasising the words "Draw near ... with thanksgiving" offers a clear distinction from those theologies which place weight on substantive transformation of the bread and the wine: within our range of Anglican theologies, we are united in emphasising the outcome of praying over the bread and the wine as the transformation of those who receive.
"Is" is not a simple word and our church's prayer book, in its own way, acknowledges that!