Thursday, 31 May 2012
REFUTING ERRORS CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST. Part 2
7. We have another strong proof (the third) in the same chapter of Saint John (chapter 6); for the people of Caphernaum, hearing Christ speak thus, said: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (verse 53); and they even thought it so unreasonable, that "after this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him" (verse 67). Now, if the flesh of Christ was not really in the Eucharist, he could remove the scandal from them at once, by saying that it was only spiritually they were called on to eat his flesh by faith; but, instead of that, he only confirmed more strongly what he said before, for he said: "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you" (verse 54). And he then turned to the twelve disciples, who remained with him, and. said: "Will you also go away? And Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have known that you are the Christ the Son of God" (verses 69-70).
8. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is proved also from the words of Saint Paul: "For let a man prove himself for he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord" (1 Corinth 11:28-29). Now, mark these words, "the body of the Lord." Does not that prove how erroneously the sectarians act, in saying that in the Eucharist we venerate, by faith, the figure alone of the body of Christ; for if that was the case, the Apostle would not say that they who received in sin were deserving of eternal condemnation; but he clearly states that one who communicates unworthily is so, for he does not distinguish the body of the Lord from the common earthly food.
9. Fourthly, it is proved again from Saint Paul, for speaking of the use of this Holy Sacrament, he says: "The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?" (1 Corinth 10:16). Mark the words, "the bread which we break”; that which is first offered to God on the altar, and afterwards distributed to the people, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? Do not, in a word, those who receive it partake of the true body of Christ?
10. Fifthly, it is proved by the Decrees of Councils. We find it first mentioned in the Council of Alexandria, which was afterwards approved of by the first Council of Constantinople (381). Next, the Council of Ephesus (431) sanctioned the twelve anathemas of Saint Cyril against Nestorius, and in this, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is taught. The Second Council of Nicaea in 787 (Act. 6) condemns, as an error against Faith, the assertion that the figure alone, and not the true body of Christ, is in the Eucharist; for, says the Council, Christ said, take and eat, this is my body, but he did not say, take and eat, this is the image of my body. In the Roman Council, under Gregory VII, in 1079, Berengarius, in the Profession of Faith which he made, confesses that the bread and wine are, by the consecration, substantially converted into the body and blood of Christ. The Fourth Council of Lateran, under Innocent III., in the year 1215 (chapter 1), says: "We believe that the body and blood of Christ are contained under the species of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into the body, and the wine into the blood." In the Council of Constance (1418), the Propositions of Wickliffe and Huss were condemned, which said that (in the Eucharist) the bread was present in reality, and the body figuratively, and that the expression "this is my body" is a figure of speech, just like the expression, "John is Elias". The Council of Florence (1445), in the. Decree of Union for the Greeks, decrees, "that the body of Christ is truly consecrated (veracitur confici) in bread of wheat, either leavened or unleavened."
11. It is proved, sixthly, by the perpetual and uniform Tradition of the Holy Fathers. Here is an incomplete list: Saint Ignatius the Martyr, in his letter to Smyrna; Saint Iræneus, in his work Against the Heresies in chapter 18, and in another place, in chapter 34; Saint Justin, Martyr, in his Apology where he argues that the same flesh which the Word assumed is in the Eucharist; Tertullian; Origen; Saint Ambrose; and Saint John Chrysostom. Saint Athanasius, Saint Basil, and Saint Gregory of Nazianzen, express the same sentiments in their writings. To this list we could go on and add names such as: Saint Augustine; Saint Remigius (440-533); and Saint Gregory the Great. From the later East we have Saint John of Damascus. Thus, we see an uninterrupted series of Fathers for the first seven centuries proclaiming, in the clearest and most forcible language, the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
12. By this we see how false is the interpretation which Zwingli put on that text, "This is my body," when he said that the word ‘is’ means ‘signifies’, founding his heresy on a verse of Exodus (12:11): " For it is the Pasch (that is the passage) of the Lord." Now, said he, the eating of the paschal lamb was not itself the passage of the Lord; it only meant it, or signified it. The Zwinglians alone follow this interpretation, for we never can take the sense of the word ‘is’ for the word ‘means’ or ‘signifies’, unless in cases, where reason itself shows that the word ‘is’ has a figurative meaning; but in this case the Zwinglian explanation is contrary to the proper literal sense, in which we should always understand the Scriptures, when that sense is not repugnant to reason. The Zwinglian explanation is also opposed to Saint Paul, relating to us the very words of Christ: "This is my body, which shall be delivered up for you" (1 Corinth 11:24). Our Lord, we see, did not deliver up, in his Passion, the sign or signification of his body, but his real and true body. The Zwinglians say, besides, that in the Syro-Chaldaic or Hebrew, in which our Redeemer spoke, when instituting the Eucharist, that there is no word corresponding in meaning to our word ‘signify’, and hence, in the Old Testament, we always find the word ‘is’ used instead of it, and, therefore, the words of Christ, "This is my body," should be understood, as if he said, "This signifies my body." We answer: First: It is not the fact that the word signifies is never found in the Old Testament, for we find in Exodus: "Manhu! which signifies: What is this" (Exodus 16:15 – [hence it was called manna]); and in Judges (14:15): "Persuade him to tell you what the riddle means;" and in Ezekiel (17:12): “Know you not what these things mean." Secondly: Although even if the words ‘mean’ or ‘signify’ were not found in the Hebrew or Syro-Chaldaic, still the word ‘is’ must not always be taken for it, only in case that the context should show that such is the intention of the speaker; but in this case the word has surely its own signification, as we learn, especially from the Greek version; this language has both words, and still the Greek text says, "This is my body," and not "This means my body."
13. The opinion of those sectarians, who say that in the Eucharist only a figure exists, and not the body of Christ in reality, is also refuted by these words of our Lord, already quoted: "This is my body, which shall be delivered up for you" (1 Corinth 11:24); for Jesus Christ delivered up his body to death, and not the figure of his body. And, speaking of his sacred blood, he says (Saint Matthew 26:28): "For this is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins." Christ, then, shed his real blood, and not the figure of his blood; for the figure is expressed by speech, or writing, or painting, but the figure is not shed. Someone might object that Saint Augustine, speaking in On Christian Doctrine, of that passage of Saint John, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man." says that the flesh of our Lord is a figure, bringing to our mind the memory of his passion. We answer, that we do not deny that our Redeemer instituted the Holy Eucharist, in memory of his death, as we learn from Saint Paul (1 Corinth 11:26): "For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord until he come;" but still we assert, that in the Eucharist there is the true body of Christ, and there is, at the same time, a figure, commemorative of his death; and this is Saint Augustine’s meaning, for he never doubted that the body and blood of Christ were in the Eucharist really and truly, as he elsewhere expresses it in his 83rd Sermon.
14. There is, I should say, no necessity of refuting Calvin’s opinions on the Real Presence, for he constantly refutes himself, changing his opinion a thousand times, and always cloaking it in ambiguous terms. Bossuet and Du Hamel may be consulted on this point. They treat the subject extensively, and quote Calvin’s opinion, who says, at one time, that the true substance of the body of Christ is in the Eucharist, and then again, that Christ is united to us by Faith; so that, by the presence of Christ, he understands a presence of power or virtue in the Sacrament; and this is confirmed by him in another part of his works, where he says that Christ is just as much present to us in the Eucharist as he is in Baptism. At one time, he says the Sacrament of the Altar is a miracle, and then again, the whole miracle, he says, consists in this, that the Faithful are vivified by the flesh of Christ, since a virtue so powerful descends from heaven on earth. Again, he says that even the unworthy receive in the Supper the body of Christ, and then, in another place, he says that he is received by the elect alone. In fine, we see Calvin struggling, in the explanation of this dogma, not to appear a heretic with the Zwinglians, nor a Catholic with the Roman Catholics. Here is the Profession of Faith which the Calvinist Ministers presented to the Prelates, at the Conference of Poissy, as Bossuet gives it: "We believe that the body and blood are really united to the bread and wine, but in a sacramental manner that is, not according to the natural position of bodies, but inasmuch as they signify that God gives his body and blood to those who truly receive him by Faith." It was remarkable in that Conference, that Theodore Beza, the first disciple of Calvin, and who had hardly time to have imbibed all his errors, said publicly, as De Thou relates, "that Jesus Christ was as far from the Supper as the heavens were from the earth." The French Prelates then drew up a true Confession of Faith, totally opposed to the Calvinists: "We believe," said they, "that in the Sacrament of the Altar there is really and transubstantially the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine, by the power of the Divine Word pronounced by the Priest," and so on.
OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE REAL PRESENCE ANSWERED
15. They object, first, the words of Christ: "It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing. “These words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John, 6: 64). See there, they say, the words which you make use of to prove the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist are figurative expressions, which signify the celestial food of life, which we receive by Faith. We answer, with Saint John Chrysostom, that when Christ says the flesh profits nothing, he spoke not of his own flesh, God forbid! but of those who carnally receive it, as the Apostle says: "The sensual man perceives not those things that are of the Spirit of God" (1 Corinth 2:14), and those who carnally speak of the Divine Mysteries, and to this Saint John refers when Christ says: "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John, 6:64), meaning that these words refer not to carnal and perishable things, but to spiritual things and to eternal life. But even supposing these words to refer to the flesh of Christ itself, they only mean, as Saint Athanasius and Saint Augustine explain them, that the flesh of Christ, given to us as food, sanctifies us by the Spirit, or the Divinity united to it, but that the flesh alone would be of no avail. These are Saint Augustine’s words in his 27th Tract on John’s Gospel.
16. They object, secondly, that when Jesus Christ said: "This is my body," the word this in the sentence has reference to the bread alone, which he then held in his hand, but bread is only a figure of the body of Christ, but not the body itself. We answer that if we do not consider the proposition "This is my body" as complete in itself, that might be the case if he said, for example, ‘this is’, and did not say any more, then the word ‘this’ would have reference to the bread alone, which he held in his hand; but taking the whole sentence together, there can be no doubt but that the word ‘this’ refers to the body of Christ. When our Lord changed water into wine, if he had said, this is wine, everyone would understand that the word ‘this’ referred not to the water but to the wine, and in the same way in the Eucharist the word ‘this’, in the complete sense of the sentence, refers to the body, because the change is made when the whole sentence is completed. In fact, the word ‘this’ in the sentence has no meaning at all, till the latter part is pronounced, ‘is my body’; then alone the sense is complete.
17. They object, thirdly, that the sentence, " This is my body" is just as figurative as other passages in the Scriptures, as for example, when Christ says: "I am the true vine," "I am the gate," or when it is said that he is the Rock. We reply that it is a matter of course that these propositions should be taken figuratively, for that Christ should be literally a vine, a door, or a rock is repugnant to common sense, and the words "I am," therefore, are figurative. In the words of consecration, however, there is nothing repugnant to reason in joining the predicate with the subject, because, as we have remarked already, Christ did not say ‘this bread is my body’, but "This is my body;" this, that is what is contained under the appearance of this bread, is my body; here there is nothing repugnant to reason.
18. They object, fourthly, that the Real Presence is opposed to the words of Christ himself, for he said (John 12:8): "The poor you have always with you, but me you have not always." Our Saviour, therefore, after his ascension, is no longer on earth. Our Lord, we reply, then spoke of his visible presence as man receiving honour from Magdalen. When Judas, therefore, murmured against the waste of the ointment, our Lord reproves him, saying, you have not me always with you, that is, in the visible and natural form of man, but there is here nothing to prove that after his ascension into heaven he does not remain on earth in the Eucharist, under the appearance of bread and wine, invisibly, and in a supernatural manner. In this sense we must understand also, all similar passages, as, "I leave the world and go to my Father" (John, 16:18): "He was taken up into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God" (Mark, 16:19).
19. They object, fifthly, these words of the Apostle: "Our fathers were all under the cloud and did all eat the same spiritual food" (1 Corinth 10:1-3); therefore, they say, we only receive Christ in the Eucharist by Faith, just as the Hebrews received him. We answer, that the sense of the words is, that the Hebrews received spiritual food, the Manna, of which Saint Paul speaks, the figure of the Eucharist, but did not receive the body of Christ in reality, as we receive it. The Hebrews received the figure, but we receive the real body, already prefigured.
20. Sixthly, they object that Christ said: "I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new, in the kingdom of my Father" (Matthew 26:29), and these words he expressed, after having previously said, "This is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many for the remission of sins" (verse 28). Now, say they, take notice of the words, ‘fruit of the vine’. That is a proof that the wine remains after the consecration. We answer, first, that Christ might have called it wine, even after the consecration, not because the substance, but because the form of wine was retained, just as Saint Paul calls the Eucharist bread after the consecration: "Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord" (1 Corinth 11, verse 29). Secondly, we reply, with Saint Fulgentius, who supposes that Christ took two chalices, one the Paschal chalice, according to the Jewish Rite, the other according to the Sacramental Rite. Our Lord then, he says, when using the words they found the objection on, spoke of the first chalice, and not of the second, and that he did so is clear from the words of another of the Evangelists, Saint Luke (22:17), who says that "having taken the chalice, he gave thanks, and said: Take and divide it among you. For I say to you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, till the kingdom of God come." Now, if we read on to the 20th verse of the same chapter, we find that Jesus took the chalice of wine and consecrated it: "In like manner the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the New Testament, in my blood which shall be shed for you." Hence, it is manifest that the words, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine," were expressed by our Redeemer previous to the consecration of the chalice.
21. They object, seventhly, that the doctrine of the Real Presence cannot be true, for it is opposed to all our senses. But to this we reply, with the Apostle, that matters of faith are not manifest to the senses, for "Faith is the evidence of things that appear not" (Hebrews 11:1). And we have another text, also, which disposes of this feeble argument: "The sensual man perceives not the things that are of the Spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him" (1 Corinth 2:14). All this can be answered more extensively if time permits.
II. OF TRANSUBSTANTIATION, THAT IS, THE CONVERSION OF THE SUBSTANCE OF THE BREAD AND OF THE WINE INTO THE SUBSTANCE OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST.
22. Luther at first left it as a matter of choice to each person, either to believe in Transubstantiation or not, but he changed his opinion afterwards, and in 1522, in the book which he wrote against Henry VIII, he says: "I now wish to transubstantiate my own opinion. I thought it better before to say nothing about the belief in Transubstantiation, but now I declare, that if any one holds this doctrine, he is an impious blasphemer", and he concludes by saying, that in the Eucharist, along with the body and blood of Christ, remains the substance of the bread and wine: "that the body of Christ is in the bread, with the bread, and under the bread, just as fire is in a red-hot iron." He, therefore, called the Real Presence "Impanation," or "Consubstantiation," that is, the association of the substance of bread and wine with the substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.