Fr John advances the following arguments:
(1) The Eucharist is not a symbol of icon of the Body and Blood of Christ; it is the Body and Blood of Christ. For Byzantine theologians, Fr John writes, "the Eucharist is Christ's transfigured, life-giving, but still human, body, en-hypostasized in the Logos and penetrated with divine 'energies.'"
Putting aside, for the moment, the question of the divine energies, surely medieval Latin theologians would agree that the Eucharist is the glorified body of the risen Christ. In the classical presentations of transubstantiation, the bread and wine do not become the divinity of Christ; they become his Body and Blood, i.e., Christ in his physical human nature. More accurately, the "substance" of the bread and wine become the "substance" of Christ's Body and Blood. The soul and divinity of Christ are present with his eucharistic flesh because the risen Christ cannot be divided.
(2) Because of the Byzantine distinction between the essence and energies of God, we never find the category of "essence" (ousia) employed to speak of the Eucharist: the glorified flesh of Christ is filled with the divine energies, not with the divine essence. If it were, then all who partake of the Eucharist would be joined to the essence of God, which is impossible. Hence, Meyendorff concludes, Byzantine theologians "would consider a term like 'transubstantiation' (metousiosis) improper to designate the Eucharistic mystery."
And here I stumble. The scholastic doctrine of transubstantiation speaks of a substantial change: the conversion of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of the Body and Blood. I do not see why, at least based on what Meyendorff has said so far, the notion of substantial change would have been judged inappropriate by Byzantine theologians. One can speak of a substantial change (whatever that might mean) without involving the essence of God in this change. Latin theologians do not, after all, assert that the bread and wine become the divinity of Christ. They do not claim that the Eucharist becomes "an 'essence' distinct from humanity" (I'm not even sure what that means). I do not understand Meyendorff's point, unless he has simply miscomprehended the medieval construal of transubstantiation altogether.
(3) Orthodox employment of the term metousiōsis ("transubstantiation") is a result of Latin influence. Okay. So what? Is Latin theology to be rejected out of hand? Is it more pernicious than Alexandrian or Syriac influence? I'm sure that the Orthodox bishops and theologians who adopted the term in the 16th and 17th centuries well understood the origin of the term; but they did not hesitate to employ it and the notion of substantial change to speak of the eucharistic transformation. They of course made it clear that they were not embracing the scholastic presentation lock, stock, and barrel; but apparently they found it to be a legitimate and helpful way to speak transmutation of the elements into Christ's Body and Blood. Thus we read in the Longer Catechism of St Philaret:
In the exposition of the faith by the Eastern Patriarchs, it is said that the word transubstantiation is not to be taken to define the manner in which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord; for this none can understand but God; but only thus much is signified, that the bread truly, really, and substantially becomes the very true Body of the Lord, and the wine the very Blood of the Lord. In like manner John Damascene, treating of the Holy and Immaculate Mysteries of the Lord, writes thus: "It is truly that Body, united with Godhead, which had its origin from the Holy Virgin; not as though that Body which ascended came down from heaven, but because the bread and wine themselves are changed into the Body and Blood of God. But if thou seekest after the manner how this is, let it suffice thee to be told that it is by the Holy Ghost; in like manner as, by the same Holy Ghost, the Lord formed flesh to himself, and in himself, from the Mother of God; nor know I aught more than this, that the Word of God is true, powerful, and almighty, but its manner of operation unsearchable." (J. Damasc. Theol. lib. iv. cap. 13, § 7.)
Please note: I am not arguing that transubstantiation is the best way to speak of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist. I am simply observing that for several centuries Orthodox theology apparently did not have a problem appropriating the notion of substantial change as a way to speak of the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood. Why did it take 400 years for Orthodox theologians to object to the Orthodox invocation of transubstantiation? Are we to believe that the Orthodox Church actually forgot its eucharistic faith?
(4) Transubstantiation implies the other worldliness of the eucharistic bread. Here Meyendorff directs our attention to the controversy regarding azymes and enthusiastically commends an essay written by Fr John Erickson: "Leavened and Unleavened." So I downloaded the essay and read it. It's a fascinating read, yet I remain confused how this controversy illumines the question of transubstantiation. As far as I know, Latin theologians have never argued that unleavened bread is essential to a valid celebration of the Eucharist; they have never argued that the use of leavened bread disrupts or interferes with the transubstantiation of the elements.
What am I missing in Fr John's analysis?
I will post further reflections on transubstantiation and the question "Do the bread and wine remain after the consecration?" in a later post. At the moment I would like to focus on Fr John Meyendorff's discussion of transubstantiation.