Friday, 19 June 2015

The Mass In The Infant Church By Rev Garrett Pierse Part 8.


The West and the Eucharistic Sacrifice— (Continued).

St. Cyprian.

The testimony of previous writers is largely supplemented by the doctrine of St. Cyprian the martyred bishop of Carthage (flourished 248 A.D.). The allegorical statements of Hippolytus may be somewhat mysterious, but there is not the same difficulty in understanding St. Cyprian. Not that he failed to allegorise ; in this respect his doctrine is found in perfect harmony with that of the rest of our period ; he, too, was in constant search for the deeper, symbolical meanings of the Old Testament; he symbolised, to some extent, concerning the Eucharist itself, as Catholics do even at the present day, when they call the Eucharistic accidents by the name of sacramental symbols.

For the historian, the most invaluable characteristic of his Eucharistic doctrine is that it is purely conservative. With Cyprian there is no application of Philosophy to the Eucharist; there is no originality. In regard to the Eucharistic sacrifice he does not teach his own and human thoughts. 1 He objects to the adulteration of the Divine tradition about the Sacrament, with the teachings of men; his words become emphatic and solemn when announcing that, as we are commanded not to infringe the least commandment of God, much more are we forbidden to tamper with His most august doctrine and precept concerning the Eucharistic celebration. 2 His teaching about the Eucharistic sacrifice is therefore the teaching of the Church, and of Tradition.

Unlike previous writers, Justin excepted, he is unbound by any reserve in treating of the Eucharist. In his sixty-third Epistle he writes against those whose practice erred, through " ignorance or simplicity," about the necessity of using wine in the Eucharistic celebration. Only indirectly does he speak of the sacrifice, and yet his teaching is the fullest in the period under discussion, and may be taken as a surer index of the well-defined belief of Cyprian and of his forefathers, from whom he merely handed it down, than the comparatively meagre references of other writers. What, then, is Cyprian's teaching about a strict sacrifice in the Eucharist ?

Strict Sacrifice. 

"Some, either through ignorance or simplicity," he writes, " in consecrating the Cup of the Lord do not that which Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, the Teacher and Founder of this sacrifice, did and taught." 3 "Who more a priest," he asks, "than Jesus Christ who offered a sacrifice to God the Father, and offered the very same thing which Melchisedech had offered, that is, bread and wine, to wit, His body and blood." 4 Again: "For if Jesus Christ our Lord and God is Himself the Chief Priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, surely that priest truly discharges the office of Christ who imitates what Christ did ; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice to God the Father in the Church when he proceeds to offer it according to the manner in which he sees Christ himself to have offered." 5

Though Cyprian uses the word " sacrifice " in a loose sense, so as to mean prayer, 6 or alms, 7 he generally applies it to the Eucharist, and, as will be shown, in the strictest sense. This can be proved independently of his explicit reference that the Eucharist is a " true and full sacrifice," an expression which, after all, leaves a loophole of escape to an objector, since even in his late period, Augustine calls a good work a "true sacrifice." 8 With Cyprian, the word " to sacrifice" is applied to the Eucharist as a technical term. 9 Unlike Tertullian, he makes a distinction between the oblation, or offering of wine (oblatio) 10 and the sacrifice proper of the Consecrated Elements (sacrificium) 11 but the distinction is not always clearly cut, the words oblatio and sacrificium being often used promiscuously. 12

It is most important to note that Cyprian, in the first of these citations, calls Jesus Christ the Teacher of the sacrifice. In the context he appeals to the Gospel and Tradition in defence of his teaching. But if we were to consider merely the Gospel testimony concerning the Eucharistic institution, Christ is not reported as having explicitly described the Supper with the word " sacrifice." His teaching as reported is that the Eucharistic Cup is His blood which is shed (according to some readings, which will be shed) unto the remission of sins, and that the bread is His body which is broken. But does oral tradition represent Christ as describing explicitly the meal as a sacrifice ? Did He teach the sacrifice ? Or did He merely give the premises for the conclusion and describe it as a Supper, while subsequent teachers explicitly taught it to be a sacrifice ? In deciding this question the testimony of Cyprian is important. He says that Christ is the Teacher of this sacrifice; this must mean that Christ not merely taught a Eucharistic meal but described the Eucharist as a sacrifice; otherwise Cyprian's words would be inexact, and he should have to be considered incapable of expressing his meaning. So far as Cyprian's testimony is of value—and it is the testimony, concerning the tradition, of a Father who lived a century and a half after the death of the last Apostle—it gives a Divine origin for the sacrificial expressions concerning the Eucharist. What is more, Irenaeus, who lived half a century after the death of the Apostle John, and who was a strictly conservative writer, testifies also that the Church received the oblation from the Apostles. 13 And if the Apostles taught the strict sacrifice about which Irenaeus speaks, it must, in all reasonableness, be supposed to be a part of the Divine commission and not an unjustifiable invention made by the very men who were promised special Divine assistance. It is true indeed—and the facts present difficulty—that in the beginning the ministers of this sacrifice were not commonly called " priests," but presbyters and bishops. As, however, the fact that sacred ministers are not now called by a name derived from absolution does not prove their unconsciousness of their power of forgiving sin, so the absence of the name " priests," as a technical description of the Apostles, does not prove their unconsciousness of the sacerdotal power, and can be explained by the fact that there was a name, " elder," more in harmony with their former Jewish notions, which was translated " overseer," or bishop, by Greek speakers. Nor is it surprising that the extremely short sketch by the Evangelists should have no explicit reference to " an oblation" in the Eucharist; many things done at the memorable Supper are omitted, and it may be taken that if Christ's body and blood were really present under the Eucharistic symbols, as the Fathers of our period confirm, they were offered by the Saviour to the Father in a form of words which the Apostles could hear.

That Cyprian teaches a strict sacrifice in the Eucharist is plain from the rhetorical question, above, concerning the perfect priesthood of Jesus. Jesus is the priest par excellence —it is not here said because He offered Himself on the Cross, but because he offered, to outward appearance, the same thing which Melchisedech offered, Bread and Wine. The Last Supper therefore was a sacrifice in as strict a sense as Melchisedech's offering. But in the same passages of Cyprian the Eucharist is declared to be identical with the Last Supper; it is " this '* precisely which He commanded to be renewed to the end of time. Cyprian does not, like modern theologians, treat expressly of the essence of this sacrifice, but he gives some data for the solution.

The Implied Essence of the Sacrifice.

" Because,'' he writes, " we make mention of the Passion in all sacrifices (for the Lord's Passion is the sacrifice which we offer), we ought to do nothing else than what He did. For the Sacred Scriptures say, as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do shew forth the Lord's death until He come." 14 Also, " Through Solomon also the Holy Spirit shews beforehand a type of the Lord's sacrifice, of the immolated victim, and of the bread and wine, yea, making mention also of the altar and the Apostles." 15 Here Cyprian calls the Eucharistic sacrifice a representation of the Passion, and even the Passion itself. When he calls it the Passion itself, does he mean that the Eucharist is morally one with the sacrifice of the Cross ? Or is this a loose expression which means merely that it is a commemoration, an anamnesis of the Passion ? The fact that the phrase, " our sacrifice is the Lord's Passion," is given as a reason for the statement " we recall the Passion " implies, though not demonstratively, that the second phrase contains something more than the first, that the Eucharist is, morally speaking, identical with the Passion. A further reason  given by Cyprian is Paul's statement 16 that the eating of the Bread and the drinking of the Cup represent the death of the Lord. These words of Scripture do not mean a merely symbolical representation, but a realistic representation containing the Victim of Calvary. Christ's death is, as it were, continued and morally present.

Cyprian also says, in the second passage quoted, that in Solomon's words there was a prototype of the immolated Victim in the Eucharist. Does Cyprian, while not discussing formally the essence of the Sacrifice, imply that the Eucharist is absolutely, and in itself, a mystical destruction, or, on the other hand, a representation of a former destruction ? His words do not decide the question. They do not tell whether this immolated Victim was once destroyed on the Cross, and is now merely offered, or whether He is destroyed anew, though in a mystic manner, in each repetition of the Eucharist. It is interesting to note that Cyprian speaks of the " Lordly Victim" in the Eucharist, Hostia Dominica. 17 This is a suggestion that the Lord, really present, is the immediate object of the Eucharistic sacrifice. But this thought requires further development.

Object Offered.

"Hence, it appears," he writes, " that the blood of Christ is not offered if there be no wine in the Cup." 18 Again. " So we  call Him also our Bread, for Christ is bread to those of us who touch His body'. 19 "But," he writes, " because Christ bore us all in that He also bore our sins, we see that in the water (used in the oblation) is understood the people, but in the wine is shown the blood of Christ." 20

The question, then, is whether there is in the Eucharist a direct offering of the really present body and blood of Christ. Or may it be that, just as Cyprian's saying " our sacrifice is the Passion of Christ" may possibly mean, our sacrifice is a commemoration of the Passion, so, " to offer the blood of Christ" may mean merely to offer a commemoration of the blood of Christ ? I believe that Cyprian's mind was decided in the belief that the immediate object of the Eucharistic offering is the real body and blood of Christ. It may be freely admitted that Cyprian, like his predecessors, Clement, Origen and Tertullian, and like his Catholic successors of to-day, who speak of the sacramental symbols, was a symbolist as well as a realist when speaking of the Eucharist. He institutes an antithesis between the water and wine, the former is a symbol of the people, the latter of the Lord's blood. The former is a mere symbol not containing the reality symbolised, but the character of an antithesis surely need not make us suppose that the latter, or the Consecrated Wine, is an identical kind of symbol, that is, a mere symbol without the reality signified.

That Cyprian believed in the body of the Lord really present, and a pari in the real presence of His blood, is clear from the strong expression cited, regarding the touching or handling of the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Surely this presence is not merely symbolic ; it is palpable enough. If, then, the body and blood of Christ are really present, they may be taken as offered in that which Cyprian calls "an oblation." Besides, Cyprian says that Christ " has first offered Himself and commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself.'' 21 One of the effects of this offering is communion with the mystical body of Christ.

Effect of Communion.

" When," he writes, " the water is mingled with wine in the Cup, the people are made one with Christ. . . . For if anyone offer wine alone, the blood of Christ is disassociated from us ; but if the water be alone the people are disassociated from Christ." 22 Just as an ordinary meal is often a sign of the fellowship and union of the guests, so the sacrificial meal causes a union of God and men. There is no longer the gross pagan idea that at this union God receives food from man : He gives food in the Eucharist and He receives thanks. St. Paul had before his mind this union, this communion as a result of sacrifice, when he declared that the eating even of the sacrificial meats offered to idols caused a union with the demons. 23 Hence the Eucharist may well be called "communion," not merely because the recipient shares in the physical body of Christ, but because its reception is a sign that a person is not cut off, or excommunicated, from the mystical body of Christ, from Christ Himself and His Church.

Another Effect,  Propitiation.

" If anyone," Cyprian writes concerning another effect of the sacrifice, " should do this, no offering should be made for him nor should any sacrifice be celebrated for his repose. 24 For he does not deserve to be named at God's altar in the prayers of the priests." 25 Here we have it plainly implied by Cyprian that there was a custom of offering the Eucharistic sacrifice for the repose of the dead, some of whom must therefore be conceived as needing refreshment and as receiving benefit from the Sacrifice. From this effect was excluded one who, by his will, made a priest the executor of his business and thus involved him in secular affairs. To attribute to Cyprian any theories as to how this propitiation worked in the case of the living or dead—whether it produced its effect directly or indirectly—would be to read into his statements modern concepts; for us it is sufficient that he stated the simple fact that the Eucharistic sacrifice propitiated God in behalf of the dead. When we remember, also, how Cyprian teaches that it was offered for the Lapsed, but not before performing penance, 26 we must attribute to Cyprian the teaching of an offering both for the living and the dead. It does not appear, however, whether this offering for the living had a merely impetratory efficiency, or also a satisfactory power in regard to sin.

It will be noted, too, that in the passage cited he makes a reference to the naming of the deceased at God's altar. Presumably, the names were written in the diptychs, or folding charts mentioned in the older Liturgies. When it is remembered how Cyprian's own words express that the Eucharist is a true and full sacrifice, that it contains an immolated Victim, a Lordly Victim, that it was taught and founded by Jesus Christ, that it is a commemoration of the Lord's Passion, and even in some sense the Passion itself, that therein the blood of Christ is offered, that it is a symbol of the communion of the people with Christ, that it is offered for the repose of the dead, that the names of the deceased are mentioned at the altar, that certain of the living and certain of the dead are cut off from this effect, or excommunicated, it may be reasonably conceded that it is hard to recall any essential sacrificial belief among modern Catholics which is not found with the Carthaginian Father.

1 Nostra et humann Ep. 63.

2 Ep. 63.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ep. 63.

Ore Sacrificia . . . offero Ep. 69 n 9.

7 Quae in dominicum sine sacrificio venis, De Op. et Eleem. c. 15.

8 De Civ, Dei, lib. x., cap. 6.

9 Sacrificantibus. De Lapsis, c. 26.

 10 Ep. 63.

11 Testim. iii. 9i and De Unit. Eccl. 17.

12 De Op. et Elleem. c. 15.

13 Adv. Haer., iv. 17, 5.

14 Ep. 63.

15 Ibid.

16 I. Cor., xi.

17 De Unit. Eccl., 17.

18 Ep. 63.

19 Christus eorum qui corpus ejus contingimus panis est. De Dom. Orat. 18.

20 Ep. 63.

21 Ep, 63.

22 I Cor. x.

23 Ibid.

24 Pro dormitione ejus.

25 Ep, i, 2.

26 Ep. 15, 2, and^p, 16 ; 2.3