After an examination of the testimonies of Irenaeus bearing on the effect of this offering, the sketch of his doctrine will be finished.
Effect of the Sacrifice.
" God is not appeased by sacrifice. For if anyone shall offer a sacrifice merely to outward appearance . . . while in his heart he does not assign to his neighbour that fellowship with him, which is right and proper ... he does not deceive God by that sacrifice . . . Sacrifices, therefore, do not sanctify a man . . . but it is the conscience of the offerer that hallows the sacrifice when it is pure, and this moves God to accept the offering as from a friend. But ' the sinner' said He, ' who sacrifices a calf to me, is as if he had killed a dog.' " 1
"This was the reason why, when Mary was urging (Him) to (perform) the miracle of the wine, and was desirous before the time to partake of the cup of recapitulation, 2 the Lord, checking her untimely haste, said,' Woman, what have I to do with thee ?'" 3
I am not here considering the obvious effects, according to Irenaeus, of the Eucharistic sacrifice, such as adoration, thanksgiving, impetration. I am concerned merely with the less intelligible effect of propitiation. In the passages cited, Irenaeus inaccurately attributes the whole effect of propitiation to the conscience of the offerer. Just as he attributed the purity of the oblation entirely to the conscience of the Church, so too he here gives subjective dispositions more than their due share of efficiency. They do not appear to be regarded by him as mere conditions for the efficacy of the objective sacrifice. In the very context where he has just been speaking even of the New Testament sacrifice, he says that it is the conscience which hallows the oblation as if the latter, at least in the New Law, had not an independent and objective sanctity through including the body and blood of Christ. Of course, no exception can in fairness be taken to the statement that sacrifices, even the Eucharistic sacrifice, when offered up by a sinner, do not sanctify him. So much does Irenaeus insist on the subjective aspect of sacrifices that he places the difference between the old and new oblation in the fact that the new one is offered by free-men, the old one by slaves; the new is offered by people whose subjective disposition is such that they offer all things to God, the old by those who gave Him merely a tithe of their possessions. 4 True the newness of the Eucharistic sacrifice consists also in the objective fact that it contains the body and blood of our Divine Lord, but Irenaeus does not mention this as the ground of its novelty.
Although Irenaeus does not speak of propitiation., or satisfaction, wrought by the objective sacrifice as such, he has the materials from which the conclusion might be evolved. In the passage last quoted in this connection, he speaks, according to a probable rendering, of a commemoration of the Passion in the Eucharist, as did Justin before him, and as many writers were to do after his time. He speaks of the " Cup of recapitulation." This can hardly mean anything but the Cup reminding one of the Passion. Besides, there is, it was seen, a real presence of Christ's blood in the Cup, according to the teaching of Irenaeus. Considering the redemptory character of Christ's blood, and seeing that the Eucharist is an objective representation of Christ's blood shed on the Cross, a representation containing the reality, the conclusion is not far to seek—whether Irenaeus fully conceived it or not, a point about which we have no positive evidence— that the Eucharist in itself propitiates God, and satisfies for the temporary punishment due to the sins of departed souls. Since Irenaeus teaches a strict sacrifice in the Eucharist, since he may be presumed to conceive the offering of a heavenly reality therein, namely, the flesh and blood of Christ, since, very probably, he describes the Eucharistic Cup as a reminder of the Passion, he contains the substance of the present-day Catholic doctrine of the Mass, for whose essence Vasquez, who satisfies the demands of definitive teaching, requires only the presence of the body and blood of Christ and a representation of the sacrifice of the Cross. It would be over-subtle to trace in the general exposition of sacrifice given by Irenaeus any metaphysical solutions regarding the precise essence of the sacrificial action, whether, for example, it should be placed in the representation of the sacrifice of the Cross, in the Consecration, in the Communion, or in the act of offering.
Clement of Alexandria : Criticism of the Source.
There is a striking unity about the teachings of Irenaeus and of Clement of Alexandria (flourished A.D. 192) in regard to the spiritual aspect of sacrifice. Both give higher value to mental worship, to a good conscience, and in this they are but repeating the teaching of Scripture, of St. Paul, for example, who prefers the internal circumcision to the external. If they are shown to have these thoughts, visible worship, also, and a visible sacrifice would not of necessity be excluded.
The teaching of Clement of Alexandria concerning the sacrifice was influenced by certain principles which must be considered if a proper estimate of his testimony is to be formed. One influence was his habit of taking allegorically the sayings of Scripture, even those regarding the Eucharist, as will be seen. To Clement's mind there was an obvious, common interpretation of Scripture, or the carnal sense; there was also an uncommon meaning which could be divined only by a keen intellect. The latter was the spiritual sense. It was the duty of the true Gnostic, or perfect man, to pierce the carnal veil of Scripture, and discover, in as many cases as possible, the more valuable allegorical lesson. The Scripture was full of dark types, but the penetrating mind of the Gnostic could, by minute study, reach the antitype corresponding to each, and so attain to advanced and uncommon science. This dualism of Scriptural knowledge, advocated by Clement, is not to be understood in the sense that the advanced form, derived from the spiritual interpretation, superseded the elementary kind obtained through the carnal sense. Clement 5 declares that the elementary knowledge acquired by Baptism alone is not to be despised, since, through the illuminating effect of this Sacrament, the recipient knows God Himself.
Besides his exegetical principle of allegorising, which has a warrant in the practice of St. Paul, a force influencing his teaching was his quite reasonable compromise with the Hellenic philosophy of the day. Following a lead presumably given by his teachers, of whose great discourses he declared his own writing to contain the outline, 6 he was determined to wed the philosophy of the day with faith, to find reasons for his belief, to separate the true from the false in a critical spirit, and to utilise in a right manner the worldly knowledge which the heretical Gnostics abused. He shows an utter disregard for those who were then frightened at the dangers of Hellenic philosophy, "like children at masks," to use his own words. 7 He distinguished faith or catechetical instruction, and science or the assured demonstration of things of faith. 8 The latter exercise contributed something to the advanced knowledge of the true Gnostic. As one of the pioneers in Theology, it is natural that, dealing with a pagan science, and with matters then undefined, as for example questions about the Eucharist, he should in some cases be unreliable, and err against his usually critical spirit by furnishing trifling analogies or allegorisings instead of proofs.
Although it is to some extent fashionable nowadays to discard the " Discipline of the Secret," and to refer to the development of doctrine as an explanation of the imperfections of early Patristic testimonies, yet a correct estimate of the deficiencies of ' Clement's teaching cannot be formed by an appeal to the latter theory alone. If ever there was a Father that gave unmistakable evidence of the principle of doctrinal economy, it was Clement of Alexandria. He speaks approvingly of pagan philosophers, like Plato, who expressed certain parts of their teaching in the form almost of riddles. 9 He says that he interspersed in his writings the dogmas in such a manner that the discovery of the sacred traditions might not be easy to the uninitiated. 10 Owing to his belief in dark enigmas in Scripture, it was a principle with Clement to divine a deeper meaning than the superficial ; so too on account of his imitation of such mystic writing it is perfectly reasonable and scientific to suspect that Clement's veiled hints concerning the dogma of the Eucharist contain more than appear on the surface. Although, in other circumstances, it is unscientific to extract from early writers more than their separate expressions warrant, in Clement's case more speculation and subtlety of interpretation are justifiable. It may be supposed that the Eucharistic doctrine was at the time more developed than might appear from a cursory glance at his works. Clement's respect for the tradition, expressed by this reluctance to commit it to writing, shows that his teaching may be presumed to be reliable in the main. We shall now see how far these influences—a spiritual exegesis, the adoption of a foreign philosophy, and the Discipline of the Secret—affected his teaching concerning the existence, or otherwise, of a strict sacrifice in the Eucharist.
1 Is, 66. 3. Adv. Haer. iv., 18, 3.
2 Participare compendii poculo, i.e., most probably, the cup which recapitulates the sufferings of Christ.
3 Adv. Haer., iii. 16. 7.
4 Adv, Haer., iv, 18. 2, sq,
5 Paed., i, 6.
6 Str. I., c, i. Amongst, his teachers were, probably, Tatian and Pantaenus.
7 Ibid., vi,, 10.
8 Ibid„ vii„ 10, 57.
9 Sir., v. 10.
10 Ibid., vii,. 18.