SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
Q. But are not many of Christ's sayings to be understood figuratively, as when he says, I am the door, I am the true vine, etc. ? Why then may not the words of the institution of the last supper be also understood figuratively?
A. It is a very bad argument to pretend to infer, that because some of Christ's words are to be taken figuratively, therefore all are to be taken so: at this rate an Arian might pretend that when our Saviour in holy Scripture is called God, and the Son of God, it is only figuratively, because he is in other places figuratively called a door, a vine. There is a manifold disparity between the case of the expressions you mention, viz.: I am the door, the vine, etc., and the words of the last supper, this is my body, this is my blood. First, because the former is delivered as parables and similitudes, and consequently as figures; the latter are the words of a covenant, sacrament, and last will, and therefore are to be understood according to their most plain and obvious meaning. Secondly, because the former are explained by Christ himself in the same place in a figurative sense, but the latter are not. Thirdly, because the former are worded in such a manner as to carry with them the evidence of a figure, so that no man alive can possibly take them in any other than a figurative meaning: for who will pretend to say that our Saviour was really a door, or a vine-tree? but the latter are expressed, and so evidently imply the literal sense, that they who have been the most desirous to find a figure in them have been puzzled to do it. This was the case of Luther himself, as we learn from his epistle to his friends at Strasburg. And of Zuinglius, as we learn from his epistle to Pomeranus.
Q. But may not the sign or figure be called by the name of the thing signified ? And have we not instances of this in Scripture ?
A. In certain cases, when a thing is already known to be a sign or figure of something else, which it signifies or represents, it may indeed be said according to the common laws of speech, and the use of the Scripture, to be such or such a thing, that is it signifies or represents such a thing; as in the interpretation of parables, ancient figures and the like. But it is not the same in the first institution of a sign, or figure, because when a thing is not known beforehand to be a sign or representation of some other thing, to call it abruptly by a foreign name, would be contrary to all laws of speech, and both absurd and unintelligible, as if you should say that a morsel of bread is London bridge, or that a bit of cheese is Canterbury church; because by an art of memory they put you in mind of those buildings: but this would be justly censured as nonsensical and unworthy of a wise man : just so it would have been if our blessed Saviour at his last supper, without acquainting his disciples beforehand, that he designed to speak figuratively, should have abruptly told them, this is my body, this is my blood, had he not meant that they were really so. For abstracting from the change which Christ was pleased to make in the elements by his Almighty word, a bit of bread has no more similitude to Christ's body than a morsel of bread has to London bridge; so that nothing but the real presence of Christ's body and blood, could verify his words at his last supper, or vindicate them from being highly absurd and unworthy the Son of God.
Q. But do not these words which our Saviour spoke, viz.: Do this in remembrance of me, Luke xxii. 19, determine his other words to a figurative sense? For the remembrance or commemoration of a thing supposes it to be absent.
A. These words, do this in remembrance of me, inform us, indeed, of the end for which we are to offer up, and receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, viz.: For a perpetual commemoration of his death and passion, as St. Paul teaches us, 1 Corinthians xi. 26. But they no ways interfere with those other words, this is my body, and this is my blood; so as to explain away the real presence of Christ's body and blood. It is certain, St. Matthew and St. Mark never looked upon those words, do this in remembrance of me, as a necessary explication of the words of the institution, this is my body, this is my blood, as any ways altering or qualifying the natural and literal meaning of them; since they have in their gospels quite omitted those words, do this in remembrance of me. As to what you allege, that the remembrance of a thing supposes it to be absent, I answer, that whatsoever things we may be liable to forget, whether really present or really absent, may be the object of our remembrance; for what can be more intimately present to us than God, and yet the Scripture commands us to remember our Creator, Ecclesiastes xii. 1, though in him we live, move, and have our being, Acts xvii. 28. So that this command of remembering Christ, is no ways opposite to his real presence: but the most that can be inferred from it is, that he is not visibly present; which is very true; and therefore, lest we should forget him, this remembrance is enjoined.