The Incarnation and the Consecration of the Eucharist

There is not uncommon comparison that some theologians make between Jesus becoming man at the virgin conception and Incarnation versus Jesus becoming present at the consecration of the Eucharist. At the Incarnation, he is present in body, blood, soul, and Divinity, and so also in the Eucharist. However, the role of the Persons of the Trinity in both these events is sometimes misunderstood.

{1:18} Now the procreation of the Christ occurred in this way. After his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they lived together, she was found to have conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit.
{1:19} Then Joseph, her husband, since he was just and was not willing to hand her over, preferred to send her away secretly.
{1:20} But while thinking over these things, behold, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to accept Mary as your wife. For what has been formed in her is of the Holy Spirit.
{1:21} And she shall give birth to a son. And you shall call his name JESUS. For he shall accomplish the salvation of his people from their sins.”

The Holy Spirit brought about the virgin conception of Christ: “what has been formed in her is of the Holy Spirit.” However since the three Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity are co-equal as one God, the Second Person cannot be the passive object of the action of the Spirit. Now the Holy Spirit did cause the conception of Christ’s body: the formation of His body and the creation of His soul. Even so, we must hold that Jesus himself brought about His own Incarnation. And this act was of the Trinity, just as each Person of the Three never really acts alone. Yet we attribute certain acts of God to particular persons, based on the distinction between them, which is always rooted in the differences of procession.

The Holy Spirit did not incarnate the Son; He incarnated Himself. The Holy Spirit created the body and soul of Christ, and at the same instant, Jesus caused His own Incarnation by uniting to the body and soul. Yet, since the Father sends the Son to become incarnate, the Incarnation should be attributed to the Father as well. So the Father sends the Son, and as a result, the Son chooses to incarnate Himself, by the work of the Holy Spirit. And these acts — creation of body, creation of soul, union of body and soul, union of human nature with Divine Nature — are all one act of the Trinity.

Then, as concerns the consecration of the Eucharist, the same principle applies. The Holy Spirit changes the substance of bread into the substance of Christ’s body, and the substance of wine into the substance of Christ’s blood. The rest of His humanity becomes present by concomitancy, since He is alive, with body and soul united. And the Divine Nature becomes present by the hypostatic union. And all this is one act of the Trinity.

But Christ is not passive in this act of the consecration of bread and wine, which then becomes the Eucharist in the three-fold manner described. For when the priest consecrates the bread and wine, he acts in persona Christi. Thus, the consecration is truly an act of Christ.

And it is the very same act as when Jesus Christ himself consecrated the Eucharist at the Last Supper. That one act of consecration had the effect, throughout all times and places, of consecrating every Eucharist. Each priest who consecrates, truly consecrates, but he does so by the power of Christ’s consecration of every Eucharist. For the power of God is beyond the limits of time and place.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
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