These comments began in a conversation about the presence of mysticism in Jewish and Christian theology.
How about that Jews believe that God recreates the world every day/every minute, and restores our souls every morning when we awake. I'd call that an ongoing miracle. Of course, even tho it's in our liturgy, many Jews are not so involved with the "spiritual" aspect of Judaism, or take the above words literally, so I only can speak for myself.
Sue Gurland, 11/15/07.
There is a famous Hebrew saying "There is no depending on miracles." On the one hand, we see every day as a new miracle of creation. All nature is constantly renewed by Divine creation, and is consequently viewed by most people as "normal." But we see "nature" as one giant miracle. A "normal" miracle. We don't rule out the possiblity of "special" miracles at any time, but also can't depend on that possibility to achieve a given result. Doubtless, the Lord has His own plans to which we aren't yet privy. Until the Lord performs some miracle, we believe that it is incumbent upon us to do all that is in our own power to create our own reality, and earn our Grace by virtue of the good deeds which the Lord - in his infinite wisdom - has afforded us the opportunity to perform. (As in the saying "The Lord helps those who help themselves...") Until that glorious day arrives when the Lord himself initiates a real Kingdom of Heaven on Earth (and builds or orders the building of the Third Temple), and tells us how it should be operated, we are on our own, so to speak, to do the best we can with the tools and revelation He has already given us.
Yigal Kahana, 11/16/07.
As far as I know the Catholic Church repudiated the concept of transubstantiation centuries ago. Regarding the belief in miracles, the fundamental distinction among people regarding this issue, is not based primarily on whether someone is Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, but rather whether one is a literalist, i.e. they believe that God wrote the Bible and it is therefore infallible, or whether they are non-literalists, and believe that the Bible is a human creation, regardless of which Bible you are talking about. This difference is more significant than whether someone is Jewish, Christian or Muslim. We are used to thinking that Jews, Christians and Muslims, share much in common within their own religions, but differ markedly with those of other faiths. In actuality, a literalist Christian, Jew and Muslim, share much in common, and differ markedly with someone who does not believe that God wrote any of the Bibles, thus repudiating the infallibility of any Bible. Thus, I as a Reform Rabbi, probably share more in common with a typical liberal Protestant clergy, than I would with an Orthodox Rabbi. The literalist Jew, Christian and Muslim share much in common,
they just differ as to which one of them is chosen by God, and whose book is true. As it turns out, there are no non-literalist Muslims as far as I know. I have asked many Muslim scholars and Imams about this, and they assure me that all Muslims accept the literal truth of the Bible and believe it to be written by God. As a result, Islam is quite primitive in general, because they derive their moral code from a document that is very old, intolerant, which repeatedly advocates the slaughter of the non-believer and which was written by those who were engaged in vicious tribal warfare, and were looking for divine sanction to vent their fury against other tribes and those who are different. The proof is in the pudding, as the history of Islam is filled with warfare and endless battles, continuing up to the present. I realize this view is not politically correct, but if we don't know the dangers that are out there, we will be unprepared to confront them. Just because intolerance is cloaked with religiosity, doesn't make it any less dangerous, in fact it makes it more dangerous, because the believers think that God is ordering them to kill and persecute those who disagree with them.
Rabbi Barry Silver, 11/16/07.
Thank you for copying me on this discussion. Eucharistic theology is a source of great conversation and debate among Christians. Anglican Christians generally do not use the language of "transfiguration" when talking about communion. Our prefered language is to speak of the "real presence" of Christ in the bread and wine. We speak of this as a spiritual truth, apprehended by faith, as opposed to a scientific truth confirmed through molecular analysis. This is a nuancing (some would say an ambiguous nuancing) of Roman Catholic doctrine which uses the phrase "transubstantiation" (rather than the phrase "transfiguring") to talk about the change in substance from bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Anglicans have generally been uncomfortable with this language because of our tradition of appreciation for scientific inquiry and reason. Howerver, we are uncomfortable with a more traditioanlly protestant understanding of the Eucharist as a "memorial" of Jesus' Last Supper, rather than a graceful means of conveying sacramentally the real presence of Christ. The Anglican definition of a sacrament may be helpful: "An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace or truth". For more, see the Outline of Faith located in the back of the Prayer Book next time you're in the pew.
Fr. Andrew Sherman, 11/29/07.
Some brief thoughts about the sacrament of communion would be:
The Episcopal Church professes the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of bread and wine. We distinguish this from the RC doctrine of transubstantion. We belief Christ is present in the sacrament through the mind and heart of faith. As you know, Episcopal tradition involves people receiving the bread and wine. Intinction, the technical word for dipping, is followed by some, usually out of concerns for hygiene. However, the most common way is everyone drinking from the common cup to emphasize the "union" that is an essential aspect of communion. Some Episcopal Churches, especially at smaller, house church Eucharists, might employ the passing of the cup and bread like the Church of the Saviour. (everybody is sitting at a table and bread and wine are passed one to another. Each person says "this is the bread...." and "this is the blood..." to be person next to him after the person on the other side has already said it to him.) I have and continue to use that practise in those types of settings. We offer communion to children as well as adults, with the thought that the grace of Christ's presence comes to all regardless of the maturity of their understanding of the meaning of the sacrament. Let me know if you want to talk about this at greater length. It is an interesting subject. Andrew
Fr. Andrew Sherman, 1/8/08.