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Cardinal Dulles Delivers Spring McGinley Lecture


The Real Presence

Cardinal Dulles seeks to explain the mysteries of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist during his spring McGinley Lecture.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., the Lawrence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society

Photo by Chris Taggart

Building on his fall lecture about the significance of the Eucharist in the church, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., sought to explain the mysteries of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist during his spring McGinley Lecture on Feb. 15.

“It takes the human mind to the very limits of its capacity. In the end, we have to exclaim that we have here an effable mystery, which only the mind of God can fully understand,” he told hundreds of listeners at Fordham Preparatory School’s Leonard Theater on the Rose Hill campus.

In his lecture titled “How Real Is the Real Presence,” Cardinal Dulles explained that Christ himself taught of his presence when he told his disciples, “This is my body … this is my blood ... As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.” These teachings are evidenced by Scripture and are a matter of faith that should not be questioned, said Cardinal Dulles, the Lawrence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham.

“Many of the disciples found this a hard saying and parted from his company, but Jesus did not modify his message to win them back,” he added.

Citing the declarations of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), Cardinal Dulles used three adverbs to describe Christ’s presence in the sacrament—truly, really and substantially—saying that they were pivotal to Catholic teaching and to excluding divergent views.

That Christ is truly contained in the Eucharist as the sacrament is not mere symbolism, but represents a true body. The presence is real because it takes place in the order of being and does not depend on the thoughts or feelings of the minister. And finally, Christ’s presence is substantial in the sense that it denotes the reality of his presence.

Although the real presence may be a mystery too complex to understand for many people, Cardinal Dulles said, “It is better simply to accept the words of Christ, of Scripture, of the tradition and of the Church’s magisterium, which tells us what we need to know: Christ is really but invisibly present in this sacrament.”

— Michele Snipe

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