Lutherans & The Real Presence & Eucharistic Miracles

Lutheran theology affirms that in Holy Communion, the consecrated wine and bread are united with the real body and blood of Jesus. This union is not symbolic – we are not just pretending the bread and the wine are also body and blood. But the union is also not necessarily discernable to empirical methodologies. If you place the wafer or a drop of wine under a microscope, a Lutheran would not be surprised that no elements of human tissue or blood are detectable. We affirm Christ’s bodily presence in a unique and special way – as opposed to the immanent presence of God that infuses all of creation, creating and sustaining all things and beings moment by moment. Holy Communion is different, we maintain in distinction from many of our other post-Reformation brothers & sisters in Christ. But we draw back from the full concept of transubstantiation as taught in the Roman Catholic Church. But our theology is closer to Roman Catholic than to many other Protestant denominations (and non-denominations).

If you’re interested in discussions of how and why Lutherans affirm the unity of the incarnate Christ in Holy Communion, here’s an excellent article. It explains why we interpret Christ’s words at the Last Supper literally, with a systematic explanation of how we maintain this interpretation. If you prefer a less systematic (but only slightly so) and more artistic explanation of Lutheran theology related to this, you might enjoy this article (and this corresponding image). For a Roman Catholic evaluation of Luther’s position on transubstantiation, this is a fairly accessible read.

But I got started on this track here. I’m aware of a tradition mostly in Roman Catholicism (exclusively?) of Eucharistic miracles – events associated primarily with consecrated hosts (bread) exhibiting supernatural characteristics. But it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to. Many of my colleagues might dismiss it as a Catholic thing. But my avoidance of this topic mostly stems from a skepticism over the circumstances of the alleged miracles. Isn’t it all just hearsay? Can any of it be proved?

But the article above references an event in 2006. That’s pretty recent. And it alleged eminent forensic experts provided expert testimony as to the nature of the miracle. But it didn’t give me names. A few clicks more brought up this article. The second of the four stories on this web site actually listed some names, and I Googled one of the experts mentioned, Professor Maria Sobaniec-Lotowska, MD. She’s a real person. A real medical researcher. And one of her many publications has to do with Eucharistic miracles. It’s written in Polish, though, and Google’s attempt to translate it into English was problematic, to say the least. It appears to be a more speculative article than a medical one, however. But at least the Eucharistic miracle allegation cites an actual medical authority.

Maybe these events – at least some of them – could be true? Certainly I’m not the only skeptic. This website has some interesting information I may follow up on in the future. I’m sure there are plenty of others. Some of these events are modern and apparently investigated and documented using not just modern scientific methods but perhaps even modern understandings of evidence integrity.

What’s the takeaway, though?

I don’t view these miracles as attestations to the Roman Catholic Church as an institution. Do I believe God could cause these miracles? Of course. Am I able to determine or decipher his purposes for such? Not necessarily. Do these miracles contradict my Lutheran theological understanding of Holy Communion? I don’t think so. Perhaps if anything they have the potential to strengthen it. It’s definitely something I’m interested in learning more about. It’s hardly a necessary expression or demonstration of the faith, but it’s potentially a fascinating insight into the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s