Thursday, 2 October 2014
Simple instructions On The Holy Eucharist As A Sacrament And Sacrifice by The Very Rev. Geo. Edw. Canon Howe. Part 3.
The presence of Jesus Christ, real and substantial, in the Sacred Host is a Divine truth, revealed by Our Lord to His Apostles, and taught by the Church to her children, and enforced on their acceptance, under penalty of eternal loss, as an article of faith, during the nineteen centuries of her existence.
Appearances. —There yet remains something further to consider, in order to complete the definition of the Holy Eucharist, viz., to explain the words: appearances of bread and wine.
By appearances we mean such sensible qualities as the shape, colour, taste, and feel of a substance, being sometimes called the accidents or species of the substance. If you take a piece of wax, you find it has a certain consistency, a certain colour and shape. These, however, may vary, though the wax itself remains ; for instance, heat it a little, and you can mould it as you please, giving it quite another shape, but you still have the wax ; or bleach it, and its colour changes, yet it is wax still. These changes are what we call the accidents or the appearances of the substance, wax. Now in the Holy Eucharist, the substance of the bread and of the wine no longer remains after the Consecration, but only the species or the appearances of them. What to our senses seems bread is now the true and real Body of Christ, and what seems to us wine, truly His Precious Blood. For, as the Council of Trent says (Sess. XIII., c. 3): "It has always been believed in the Church of God that immediately after the Consecration, the true Body of Our Lord, and His true Blood exist under the species of bread and wine, together with His Soul and Divinity," in other words, there is no bread and no wine after the Consecration, but only the species and appearances thereof.
Nevertheless, our senses are not deceived as to these. There was no dove at Our Lord's Baptism, but to the eyes of those present only the appearance or resemblance of a dove. There were no tongues of fire at Pentecost, but only the appearances of such, " parted tongues as it were of fire." So in the Eucharist there is no bread, but only, to our eyes and other senses, the accidents or species of bread.
And why should Our Lord thus conceal Himself from us, and hide under these humble veils ?
1. Because no man can see God and live (Exod. xxxiii. 20) ; the dazzling splendour and beauty of Our Lord would blind our eyes, as if they were to gaze unprotected on the bright noonday sun. When S. John saw, in a vision only, one 'Like to the Son of man," like the sun shining in his power, he fell down as one dead (Apoc. i. 17). What, then, would be our fate, if we saw Our Lord Himself, not in vision only, but in reality, with all the display of His magnificence and glory!
2. That we may not be afraid to approach Him. Such splendour as this would terrify us, and we should fear to go and receive Him, unless He veiled His majesty from our eyes. When Moses had spent forty days and nights with God on Mount Sina, he at length came down to the plain ; but the people, and even Aaron, his own brother, were afraid to come near, because of the brightness of his countenance, after his long converse with God (Exod. xxxiv. 30). It is the will of Our Lord that we should go, and go frequently, to receive Him in this Sacrament. Yet how should we dare—frail, sinful creatures as we are — to approach this infinite sanctity and beauty of God, unless He concealed His grandeur and sublimity from our eyes?
3. It is a trial to our faith and belief. If we saw Our Lord here as He is, we should have no such test. Whereas, hidden as He is from our senses, we give proof of our faith and belief, by accepting His word, that under the sacramental veils He is truly and really present. When the Apostle Thomas refused to believe in the Resurrection, unless he could see and touch his Lord, he was faithless and unbelieving. Our Saviour rebuked him for this, and added, " Blessed are they that have not seen and have believed " (John xx. 29). By our faith and belief in the Real Presence, in spite of what appearances may say, we acquire merit, and merit here means reward hereafter.
4. Moreover, we are in this reminded that we are but pilgrims on the earth, where we are unfit and unable to see the glory of God. We should, therefore, long and sigh for our true country, God's kingdom of bliss, where we shall see Him face to face as He is, and rejoice in His glory for ever.
Bread. —As previously stated, bread is part of the matter of the Eucharistic Sacrament, and very appropriately so; for, as bread is the staff of life, the chief food of the body, so the Body of Our Lord, under the form of bread, is the food and support of our souls. Hence, material bread is the appropriate matter of this Sacrament, which is the supernatural Bread that came down from Heaven. Moreover, the form of bread is the simplest and easiest manner of receiving Our Divine Lord. We can hardly conceive any other.
The bread employed in this case is unleavened, that is to say, it consists simply of flour and water, panis triticeus, without yeast or fermentation. Such was the bread Our Lord used at the Last Supper, for according- to the Old Law, the Jews were forbidden to have any leavened bread in their houses at the time of the Passover festival, and the Evangelists distinctly tell us that Christ instituted the Blessed Sacrament on the first day of the azymes, or unleavened bread, and after eating with the Apostles the Paschal Lamb, at the offering of which any but unleavened bread was unlawful (Matt. xxvi. 17; Mark xiv. 12; Luke xxii. 7).
In the Latin Church, unleavened bread may alone be used, as more closely following the example of Our Lord. Some Oriental Churches, however, use leavened bread, though not of the ordinary household kind, but bread made with greater care and attention. Such bread is always valid matter, but in the Western Church unlawful.
The bread used in this Sacrament is termed the Host. It is flat and circular in form, a custom that goes back to the very earliest days of Christianity. In the Greek Church it is sometimes square ; and in both cases bears the figure of the Crucifixion, or the letters I.H.S., initials of the words Jesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus, Saviour of Men.
This wine must be the juice of the grape, vinum de vite. Any kind of wine may serve, if truly the juice of the grape ; for such was the matter used in the cup by Our Lord at the Last Supper. Tradition says He added to it a few drops of water, hence the Church requires us to do the same at the Altar, when preparing for the Consecration. The Council of Trent gives to this mixing of wine and water three symbolical meanings, namely :—
1. To honour the water and blood that flowed from the side of Our Lord, when one of the soldiers opened it with a spear, as He hung upon the Cross in death (John xix. 34).
2. To represent the union of the Faithful with Christ. Water typifies the Sacrament of Baptism, whereby we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church, and wine signifies His Blood in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Hence the water is blessed, as representing the Faithful; the wine is not, which typifies Our Lord.
3. To recall to our minds the two natures, human and Divine, united in the one Person of the Son of God, effected in the mystery of the Incarnation, and never to be separated for all eternity. The Monophysites, in the fifth century, refused to mix water with the wine, for, as their Greek name implies, they held but one nature in Christ. In their action they were consistent with their doctrine, though so heretical in itself, and always declined to adopt the practice of the Church, which teaches the twofold nature of Her Founder—practice which dates back even to the time of the Apostles.
These two elements, bread and wine, constitute but one Sacrament. The consecration of one of them without the other would be criminal and sacrilegious, even if valid, and nothing would excuse or justify such an act, not even to give Holy Viaticum to the dying.
As showing the reverence and care that should be used in regard to the matter of this Sacrament, we read of saintly kings and queens, who, despite their many preoccupations and anxieties, yet found time to prepare with their own hands the bread and wine for the Altar. Thus was it with Queen Radagundes, of Thuringia, in the sixth century, S. Louis, King of France, in the thirteenth, and the martyred S. Wenceslaus, Duke of Bohemia, in the tenth. This last used to sow the wheat and tend a special vine with every care, that the best flour and grapes might be procured for making the altar bread and wine for the Holy Sacrifice.
Such examples ought to be to us an incentive to show all possible respect to everything connected with this august mystery. Should it ever be our privilege to have anything to do in preparing the matter for it, let it be done with all reverence and care; this especially applies to the choice of the wine, which must always be procured from reliable firms, authorised by the Bishops to provide it, and when procured, be kept with care, so that it may not be diluted, and so possibly be rendered invalid matter for the Sacrament. Our faith and reverence must make us guard against such a danger.