It occurred to me recently that, although the Reformed tradition has been correct about the (S)piritual presence of Christ at the Lord’s supper, the orientation of that discussion has always (due to the debates) been (limitedly) the physical place on earth wherever the Lord’s Supper is being celebrated.
There is an element of the Lord’s Supper that has sometimes been overlooked in all this, an element which the Reformed have always affirmed. It is called the sursum corda. It is the “lifting up of the hearts.” This element is common among all Christian traditions, incidentally. “Lift up your hearts…” “We lift them up to the Lord.” This does not mean “feel uplifted.” This actually means that, by faith, we are lifted up into the presence of God in heaven itself. If you look up Calvin’s liturgy for the Lord’s Supper, you will find it clearly present. At the Lord’s Supper, then, what we are saying by the sursum corda is that we are lifted up into the presence of Christ Himself, by faith.
The implications of this for the Lord’s Supper now become clear. Christ is not physically present in the elements down here on earth. He is present “down here” only by the Holy Spirit. But He also lifts us up to Him there in heaven spiritually, by faith. So Christ is present physically at the Supper. The two qualifications are that He is not present in the elements, and He is not present down here except by the Spirit. Instead, He lifts us up by the Holy Spirit through our faith, so that we can be present THERE.
My wife, when I had explained this idea to her, had one of those (many!) brilliant insightful moments, and added that this was eschatological: we are already present there at the Lord’s Supper in heaven by faith, and we will be present at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb in the future. So there is an already/not yet structure to this participation. I think I had known this about the Lord’s Supper in general. However, I had not applied it specifically to being in the physical presence of Christ by faith already, and waiting for our physical presence to be before His physical presence not yet.
I have not seen this particular idea anywhere, although I guess I would be surprised if no one has ever thought of it before. I myself came to it as I was contemplating the last Christological post I had written here. If anyone knows of anyone who has thought this thought before, I would be grateful if it could be pointed out.