Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Mass In The Infant Church By Rev Garrett Pierse Part 7.

Tertullian from a wood carving
The West and the Eucharistic Sacrifice.


The doctrine of Tertullian regarding the sacrifice of the Eucharist is, in some respects, parallel to that of the great Alexandrian teachers. His teaching shows many-traces of the allegorical system of exegesis, but he is careful to point out, in opposition to Origen, that not all texts of Scripture must be interpreted symbolically. 1 His practical sense as a former advocate, his insistence on facts, preserved him from allegorising about everything, and, from this standpoint, his writings do not exhibit the obscurity of extreme allegorists.

Like that of the Alexandrians, his teaching on the Eucharist was considerably influenced by the Discipline of the Secret. " What is holy, must not be thrown to the dogs," 2 " silence is due to the sacred mysteries " 3 — these are Tertullian's guiding principles, and compel us to believe that he means more than he expresses, that he is economic of the Christian truth. Unlike the case of the Alexandrians, however, his Eucharistic doctrine remained unaffected by the philosophy of the day. In this respect he adopts the attitude of Irenaeus; he knew philosophy, but did not believe in its value; he was probably inspired with this disgust by Gnostic philosophy, which had evolved into a labyrinth of fantastic speculations. The result was that he considered philosophers absolutely, as the patriarchs of the heretics, 4 and conceived as preposterous any alliance between the Academy and the Church. 5

Unfortunately, his sympathy for a severe form of spirituality having tempted him to give the last half of his life to the visionary Montanists, his great powers, his crushing irony, his terse epigrammatic style, his logical mind, and his vehement genius, were all directed against the more benign doctrines of his former Church, but the change does not seem to have affected his Catholic ideas on the Eucharist, except that it may possibly have rendered them unduly spiritual. His spiritual bias will be recognised in passages concerning a sacrifice in the Eucharist.

Character of  the Sacrifice

" The prophecy of Malachy," he writes when a Montanist, "will bear the same import ... In every place there, is offered to My name a clean sacrifice, namely {scilicet) the offering of glory and blessing and praise and hymns." 6 Again, even when a Catholic he says : " This (namely, prayer) is the spiritual victim which destroyed the former sacrifices. Wherefore, He saith, the multitude of your sacrifices ? . . . Who sought them at your hands ? What God sought, the Gospel teaches ; there will come a time when the true worshipper will worship the Father in spirit and truth . . . We are the true worshippers who, praying in spirit, sacrifice in spirit the prayer that is proper and acceptable to God." 7

But he also writes : " Mithra celebrates also the oblation of bread." 8 Again, " Similarly on the fast days also many think they ought not participate in the prayers of the sacrifices, lest their fast might be broken on receiving the body of the Lord. Does the Eucharist, then, break up the devout service of God ? Does it not rather bind this service with a new bond to God ? Will not your fast be more solemn if you stand at the altar of God ? When you receive the body of the Lord and reserve it, you place in security both the participation in the sacrifice and the fulfilment of duty." 9

Once more, " But was it not because He had to be 'led like a lamb to the slaughter and because, as a sheep before her shearer is dumb, so was He not to open His mouth,' that He so intensely wished (in eating the Pasch) to accomplish the symbol of His own redeeming blood ?" 10

Since the use of the word "offering" or "sacrifice" by Tertullian does not necessarily imply a sacrifice in the strict sense, it is well to understand the meaning of his sacrificial terminology—which is not less difficult to grasp than other portions of his extended vocabulary. With Tertullian, "offering" and "to offer" (oblatio and offer re) often have reference to prayer: 11 sometimes they refer to the whole Eucharistic function; 12 sometimes they mean sacrifice in the strictest sense. 13

The word " sacrifice" (sacrificum) means generally prayer ; 14 sometimes works of mortification ;' 15 sometimes, as will be shown, sacrifice in the strictest sense.16 The verb, to sacrifice (Sacrificare), means to pray ; 17 or to perform the pagan act of sacrifice. He says :—"We (Christians) do not sacrifice." 18 In excluding the act of sacrificing, Tertullian resembles Athenagoras and Clement of Alexandria, and means only the pagan kind of sacrificing.

Some of the citations above show that Tertullian's teaching is uniform with that of writers previously considered in expressing a spiritual idea of sacrifice. Viewing the Eucharist as a whole—its subjective as well as its objective side, the prayers associated with it as well as the mystery itself—the spiritual aspect could well be predominant in his mind. But was his idea of sacrifice purely spiritual ? From the other passages quoted it can be deduced that, although Tertullian does not expressly treat the question, his language implied a strict sacrifice in the Eucharist. Very probably, these passages implied the doctrine even to himself. Speaking of the mysteries of Mithra, he says that therein the devil imitated the Christian Sacraments,—its Baptism, its signing the forehead at Confirmation,—and in this context, amongst these great mysteries, he mentions the pagan imitation also of the offering of bread. The offering of bread must be to Tertullian's mind a great religious act, an offering to God, a sacrifice. But how can an offering of Bread to God be denominated a sacrifice of mere prayer ? How can it be said to be a subjective sacrifice ? How can it be called anything but a sacrifice implying an external rite, a strict sacrifice ? The Eucharist, therefore, is not a mere meal; it is an august offering of Bread in a religious rite. After this clear reference to the external character of the sacrifice, there is no need to refer to the insinuation in the next passage in the evidence, where Tertullian associates the Eucharist with standing at God's altar.

In the last passage above quoted, there is a hint that Tertullian regarded this external sacrifice as a symbol of Christ's redeeming blood on the Cross, as, in other words, a representation of the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Passover, which Christ also observed, was a symbol of the redeeming blood shed on the Cross, and, surely, Tertullian would extend this symbolism to the Christian continuation of the same feast. But to say in this manner that the Eucharist is a symbol of another sacrifice, does not imply that it is not a sacrifice viewed in itself. Does the fact that the Jewish Passover was a symbol of the Sacrifice of the Cross prevent it from being a true sacrifice ? Does the fact that several Jewish sacrifices were shadows of the future one on Calvary prevent them from being in themselves strict sacrifices ?

Mystic Destruction.

"Even the apostate will recover his former garment —the reception of the Holy Spirit— and will obtain anew the ring—the - seal of Baptism—and Christ will be slain again for him." 19 Here there is a strong suggestion of mystic destruction in the Eucharist. Tertullian, now a Montanist, is vehemently contending that adultery and apostasy are not remissible by the Church. He holds that the parable of the prodigal son is not to be utilised in defence of the more benign doctrine. But he ironically states his opponents' case. Even an apostate, like the returned prodigal, will receive in the Eucharist the Saviour slain like the fatted calf of the parable—for this is the meaning of the phrase, " Christ will be slain again for him.'" 20 That this is the true interpretation will be proved from an altogether parallel passage, closely following the last sentence. " The Gentile," says Tertullian, applying the parable of the prodigal to the call of the Gentiles, and not to grievous sinners, " receives his former garment, the state, namely, which the transgression of Adam had forfeited; he receives then for the first time the ring by which, after being interrogated, he seals the covenant of faith, and he then consumes the rich food of the Lord's body, namely, the Eucharist." 21 The " consuming of the Eucharist" is parallel to the previous phrase—" Christ will be again slain for him." Tertullian is referring to the custom of the reception of the Eucharist after Baptism. It cannot be said that Tertullian means Christ was slain on the Cross and is eaten in the Eucharist—his phrase is, "Christ will be slain," i.e, in the Eucharist. Hence, Tertullian calls a celebration of this sacrament a slaying, in some sense, of Christ. He cannot mean a physical and bloody destruction. His phrase resembles the more modern Catholic theory that Christ is slain by the mystic sword of the Consecration.

I have translated Tertullian's word mactare, "slaying," for this is suggested by the parallel expression about the slaying of the fatted calf of the parable. If it had another sense of the word, namely, " sacrificing,'' then it would mean that the Eucharist is a sacrificing of Christ.

Tertullian, outside the suggestion contained in the passage concerning mystic destruction, does not say explicitly that this sacrifice is an offering of Christ's body and blood, but he contains the premises for this conclusion—whether he drew it himself or not—since he believed in a solemn offering of Bread, and since, as will now be shown, he is a believer in the Real Presence.

The Object Offered.

" The flesh," he writes, " feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise might fatten on its God. When they are united in their service, they cannot be separated in their recompense. These sacrifices, moreover, which are acceptable to God—I mean conflicts of the soul, fastings and abstinences, and the humiliations which are annexed to such duty—it is the flesh which offers again and again to its own special detriment.'' 22 Again, "if a portion of our Chalice or of our Bread should fall to the ground, we bear it with anxiety." 23 But he writes symbolically: " Having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, this is My body, that is, the figure of My body." 24

There can be no reasonable doubt, however, but that Tertullian is a realist in treating of the Eucharist. It is the flesh which is here said to feed on the body of Christ. We might be able to, at least, conceive the soul feeding on the body of Christ in some spiritual and symbolic sense. But the flesh— this cannot feed on a phantom. The phrase must suppose the body of Christ substantially present. Tertullian, indeed, does not teach realism in an exclusive sense. The last citation shows that he includes a symbolic sense; the bread is a figure of Christ's body. Arguing against Marcion in this passage, Tertullian is anxious to dwell on the different figures of Christ's body in order to show fully its reality. For there could be no figure without a reality; there could be no shadow without a substance. The best reconciliation of Tertullian's undoubtedly symbolic and realistic passages is suggested by the plain fact that the Catholic Church to-day can profess uncompromising realism, and yet call the species sacramental symbols. A certain amount of symbolism does not exclude realism in the one case ; it need not in the other. In the case of Tertullian, also, we may boldly admit a symbolic interpretation for some of his Eucharistic passages. He says in the passage above quoted, that bread is the figure of the Saviour's body, that His body is metaphorically bread, a statement which will recall the teaching of Clement and of Origen. It is in the light of an allegorical interpretation that we can best understand passages which, at first sight, would seem to imply the theory of Impanation, such as, that His body is conceived (symbolically) to be in bread, 25 that Christ mysteriously figured His blood in wine. 26

Effect of the Sacrifice. 

It remains to investigate whether Tertullian attributed the propitiatory effect of the Eucharistic sacrifice to the presence of the body and blood of the Divine Victim, or to the prayer associated with the sacrifice. His teaching in this matter will be found imperfect. "The Sacrament of the Eucharist," he writes, "which was commanded by the Lord to be received by all at meal-time, we take in our meetings before dawn and from the hands of none except the presidents ; we make offerings in behalf of the dead, for their anniversaries." 27 Again, " For his (the husband's) soul (the wife) prays, and, meantime, begs refreshment for him . . . and makes an offering on the anniversary of his decease." 28 Tertullian attributes a propitiatory effect to works of mortification in general. 29 He does not express whether he attributes this atoning effect to the Eucharist, in a more special sense, whether he attributes it not to the subjective dispositions but, after the manner of Origen, to the objective institution. The reference to the anniversary offerings, in immediate connection with the Sacrament of the Eucharist, insinuates that Tertullian taught an anniversary offering of the Eucharist itself in behalf of the dead. The words, " in behalf of" do not necessarily mean more than that the offering was made in honour of the martyred dead on their anniversaries. But we can take it that it was offered also for "refreshment" for other classes of deceased persons. Thus, the widow, in the last passage, begs for refreshment for the deceased husband, and although her offering was mainly one of prayer, we may presume that a petition was made also in the offering of the Eucharistic Bread, in behalf of souls needing refreshment.

Hippolytus of Rome.

Another Western writer who gives in some respects exceptionally clear testimony concerning the Eucharistic sacrifice is Hippolytus of Rome (+ 235 A.D.)

His history is somewhat mysterious, and he has the unenviable reputation of having been the head of a schism, the rival of Pope Callistus, and so the first anti-Pope. If, as is probable, he wrote the work known as the Philosophoumena, some of his teachings aroused much criticism ; in the doctrine of the Trinity he was accused by Callistus of Ditheism. 30 But his teaching on the Eucharist will be found to be in harmony with that of other writers of this age. His sharing in the allegorising tendencies of the day shows how the Alexandrian and Oriental methods were common to Rome, which is but natural since Hippolytus made use of Greek, the common literary language of the time. But any reasonable person will declare that his symbolism did not prevent him from teaching a strict sacrifice in the Eucharist.

Strict Sacrifice. 

" If the Anti-Christ appears," he writes, "the food and drink offering is removed, which  already is offered to God by the Gentiles in all parts. 31 Again, " Wisdom has set up her table, the promised knowledge of the Holy Trinity, and His venerable immaculate body and blood which are daily provided on the mystical and Divine table, inasmuch as they are sacrificed in commemoration of that ever memorable and first table of the mysterious Divine Supper." 32 " The food and drink offering " in the first passage plainly implies a visible sacrifice in the form of bread and wine, " the sacrifice of the Gentiles," corresponding to the minchah or wheat offering of Malachy. In the other passage there is the valuable and explicit statement that the body and blood of Christ are sacrificed in remembrance of the Last Supper. Here we have a statement of the greatest importance, that the Eucharist, which alone is the authorised token of the Last Supper, involves a sacrifice of this august character. But it may be said that this expression of Hippolytus is metaphorical. Now Hippolytus speaks here of three tables. It is true that he takes the first table in a metaphorical sense and makes it mean the Holy Trinity. But it would be wrong to suppose that the other two tables mentioned are to be taken metaphorically. The only reasonable sense which can be attributed to them is that the body and blood of Christ are sacrificed on the real Eucharistic table in memory of the Last Supper also connected with a real table. If Hippolytus uses metaphor and symbolism in speaking of the first table, he does not do so in treating of the others. Is it reasonable, then, to suppose that the Lord's body and blood, which are provided on a real Eucharistic table, are themselves mere metaphors ? Is it reasonable to conclude that the sacrificing of these concrete objects, really present, is also a mere metaphor ? Such a conclusion is positively excluded, since, as we know from the previous passage discussed, Hippolytus considered the Eucharist as a visible u food and drink sacrifice."

The sanctity attached by Hippolytus to the Eucharistic table is suggestive. It is a mysterious and Divine table. It will be noted, too, that Hippolytus does not here call the sacrificing of the body and blood of Christ a commemoration of the Cross, but of the Last Supper.

Hippolytus attributes a propitiatory effect, not merely to the Sacrifice of the Cross, but to the eating of the Sacrificial Elements—Christ's flesh and blood. " Come eat My bread and drink the wine I have mixed for you. He gave His Divine flesh and His blood to be eaten and drunk unto the forgiveness of sins.'' 33

1 Fragm. in Proverb, ix. I.

1 Be Resurrect. Carnis, xx.

2 De Praescript., 41. 

3 Apol. 7.

4 Adv. Hermog., c. 8.

5 De Praescript., vii.

6 Adv. Marcion, iii. 22, Montanist.

7 De Oratione, xxvii., Catholic.

8 De Præscript., xv.

9 De Oratione, xix., Catholic.

10 Adv. Marcion, iv. 40, Montanist.

11 Et offeres pro duabus. De Exhort Cast, c. ii., Mont. Pro qua oblationes annuas reddis. Ibid. Et offert annuis diebus dormitionis ejus. Be Monog., c. 10.

12 Quod matrimonium Ecclesia conciliat et confirmat oblatio. Ad Ux ii. 8, Mont.

13 Non permittitur mulieri . . . nec tinguere nec offerre, nedum sacerdotalis officii sortem vindicare. De Virg. Velandis,c 9, Mont.

14 Et ascendet sacrificium tuum libera fronte. De Exhort Cast., c. 11, Mont. Sacrificum mundum, gloria scilicet relatio. Adv. Marc. iii. 22, Mont. Sacrificium offertur. De Cultu Fem. ii. 11.

15 De Pat. xii., Catholic.

16 Orationibus sacrificiorum. Be Oratione, 19, Catholic

17 Sacrificamus . . . sed quomodo praecepit Deus pura prece ad Scap. ii.

18 Non sacrificamus quia non possumus coenam Dei edere et daemoniorum. De Spectaculis, c. 13, Cath.

19 De Pud. c 9.

20 Rur sus illi mactabitur Christus,

21 Ibid,

22 De Resurrect. Carnis, viii. Montanist.

23 De Corona 3,

24 Corpus ilium suum fecit, dicendo, hoc est corpus meum, id est, figura corporis mei. Adv. Marc, iv. 40.

25 Corpus ejus in pane censetur, hoc est corpus meum. De Orat. 6.

26 Sanguinem in vino consecravit. Adv. Marc. iv. 40. Vinum in sanguinis sui memoriam consecravit. De Anima c. 17.

27 De Corna, 3.

28 Pro anima ejus orat et refrigerium interim adpostulat . . . et offert annuis diebus dormitionis ejus. De Monogamia, c. 10.

29 Afflictatio carnis, hostia Domino placatoria. Haec aures Christi Dei aperit, severitatem dispergit, clemeutiam elicit. De Pat. c. 13, Cath.

30 Philosophoum. ix. 12.



33 Fragm. in Proverb, ix. I.