Friday, 5 June 2015

The Mass In The Infant Church By Rev Garrett Pierse Part 5.


Character of Sacrifices

" For the sacrifice of the Church is the word breathing as incense from holy souls, the sacrifice and the whole mind being, at the same time unveiled to God. Now the very ancient altar in Delos they celebrated as holy; which alone, being undefiled by slaughter and death, they say Pythagoras approached. And will they not believe us when we say that the righteous soul is alone the truly sacred altan and that incense arising from it is holy prayer ? But I believe sacrifices were invented by men to be a pretext for eating flesh." 1

"We do not therefore, and with reason, sacrifice to Him, who is not overcome by pleasure, since the fumes of smoke stop far beneath and do not reach even the thickest clouds." 2

" And those destitute of prudence, that is, those involved in heresies ' I enjoin,' remarks Wisdom, 'touch sweetly stolen bread and the sweet waters of theft,' the Scriptures manifestly applying the terms bread and water to nothing else but to those heresies which employ bread and water in the oblation, not according to the rule of the Church." 3

"For Salem is, when interpreted, peace ; of which our Saviour is enrolled King, as Moses speaks of Melchisedech, King of Salem, priest of the most high God, who gave bread and wine, consecrated food, for a type of the Eucharist." 4

In the first of those passages, we find an emphasis placed on spiritual sacrifices, a feature which was prominent too in the testimonies of Justin and Irenaeus. Seeing that Clement through his system of exegesis looks for the spiritual sense as the highest, it is natural that he should regard prayer and righteousness even as the " best and holiest sacrifice." 5 He is arguing in this context against the gross doctrine according to which the Deity was supposed to stand in need of sacrifice. Consequently, he emphasizes its more refined spiritual character. But from the fact that he declares prayer and righteousness to be the best sacrifice, is it fair to suppose that sensible sacrifices are entirely excluded? The conclusion is not warranted. The material creation, in Clement's idea, is a type of the spiritual, and is inferior thereto. Are material things, therefore, of no account ? The very fact that they body forth the spiritual shows their undoubted utility. From the fact that Clement declares the spiritual sacrifice of prayer to be better than the material sacrifices of Paganism and Judaism, or—as he may reasonably be interpreted—to be the best absolutely, better than a visible sacrifice of the Eucharist without devotion, it cannot be concluded that he could not admit at the same time the latter sacrifice in its proper place of subordination. From the point of view of personal sanctification—and Clement speaks in the context of the " holiest" sacrifice—prayer and a righteous mind seemed to this Father, perhaps, to be superior even to an external sacrifice of the Eucharist, which might be offered by a sinner, and which exists for the sake of subjective righteousness.

In another passage just quoted, Clement makes the statement that the Christians do not sacrifice. The words, already discussed, of Athenagoras—" as to our not sacrificing"—are strikingly similar to those of Clement. But from the context it seems that Clement had either Jew is/i or pagan sacrifices before his mind. For he speaks of the inutility of sacrifices, since the fumes of smoke, arising from the burnt-sacrifices, fail to reach even the clouds. His words, therefore, safely warrant only the conclusion that the Christians did not sacrifice in such wise. But may it be that the verb or concept " sacrificing" was excluded by Clement from the Eucharist ? No ; for this would flagrantly contradict what he teaches elsewhere. We have, in the remaining passages cited, positive indications of his admission of a sacrifice in a material sense. He admits sacrifices in a strict as well as in a loose sense. He speaks of heretics using bread and water in the oblation, and, showing his reverence for the ruling of the Church, speculative as was his mind, he protests that this was against her canon. Evidently he teaches an oblation of bread and wine, which was of such importance as to be a matter for the canons of the Church. Coming from a teacher who, owing to his professed love of the Discipline of the Secret, gives only obscure suggestions of dogmatic matters, this is a strong indication, generating moral certainty, that he believed in a visible and strict sacrifice in the Eucharist. Surely, an oblation of bread and wine does not mean a purely spiritual sacrifice; it is a rite sufficiently external. Nor can it be said that this oblation may consist merely of the offerings of the faithful, and may not be an offering to God. Why, unless it be a religious offering to God, is it of such paramount importance as to be a matter for the ruling of the Church, a matter in which heretics are seen to openly break with the Church ? The "bread and wine" must be regarded as objective, sacrificial gifts.

The very fact that the Eucharist is called an "oblation" shows that it is not merely the eating of a victim, offered and sacrificed on the Cross, but that there is a continued offering of the Christian sacrifice.

That the Eucharist, to Clement's mind, was a sacrifice with a visible and external rite is implied by the passage where he introduces Melchisedech. Melchisedech, high priest, King of Salem, is set down as a type of Christ, King of Peace or Salem ; and the giving of bread and wine on the part of the former is a type of the Eucharist introduced by the Lord. Does not this imply that the Eucharist was to Clement's mind a sacrificial offering just as was that of Melchisedech, especially since it is known from another passage that Clement regarded the Eucharistic bread and wine as an oblation ? Always it must be borne in mind that, owing to his observance of the Discipline of the Secret, Clement may be suspected to mean more than appears on the surface. Another question is what is the object offered, what is meant by the " bread and wine" which enter into the constitution of the offering ?

The Object Sacrificed.

" And," Clement writes, " the mixture of both— of the drink and of the Word— is called Eucharist, renowned and  glorious grace." Again, " For rest assured He Himself also partook of wine for He, too, was man. And He blessed the wine, saying: ' Take, drink, this is My blood,' the blood of the Word. He figuratively calls the Word, ' poured out for many unto the remission of sins '— the holy stream of gladness. . . . And that it was wine which was the thing blessed. He showed again, when He said to his disciples: ' I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, till I drink it with you in the kingdom of my Father." 6 Again, " Meat is the mystic contemplation; for this is the flesh and blood of the Word, that is, the comprehension of the Divine power and essence. ' Taste and see that the Lord is Christ,' it is said. For so He imparts Himself to those who partake of such food in a more spiritual manner." 7

That the oblation of bread and wine, to Clement's mind, included an offering of the Word really present can be reasonably concluded from the passage first quoted. The Eucharist, the very oblation about which we have already learned from the same Father, is a mixture of the Word and the drink. Here Clement cannot be allegorising; it would be absurd to speak, for example, of a mixture of mere doctrine and drink. There must be question, rather, of the presence of the body and blood and Divinity of the Logos.

While the term " mixture " gives unmistakable evidence of Clement's accuracy regarding the Real Presence, it suggests at the same time his inaccuracy regarding the doctrine of Transubstantiation. The mixture of the drink and the Word naturally invites us to think that Clement contemplates in the Eucharist a combination of the Son of God and the elements of wine and water. It may be said that drink, in the passage, meant to Clement's mind the water alone, which had been mixed with the wine, and which he may have supposed to remain after the wine itself was converted into the blood of Christ. But even this over-subtle interpretation will not absolve Clement from some crudity in conceiving the Eucharistic doctrine; even in this explanation there would be conceived by Clement a mixture of the Word and water.

It is not a matter for surprise that Clement, speculative inquirer as he was, and living at a time when controversies about more primary doctrines postponed definite developments concerning certain aspects of the Eucharist, should have exhibited some inaccuracy concerning the mode in which Christ becomes really present in the Sacrament.

It is noteworthy, too, that in some of the last passages cited he takes also in an allegorical sense the body and blood of Christ. Interpreting the text about the institution of the Sacrament, he states that the Word is typically called the holy stream of gladness. This means most probably that the Word is, metaphorically speaking, wine. Moreover, in the last passage quoted he interprets the flesh and blood of Christ as the food of mystical contemplation. Here he probably has before his mind an allegorical interpretation of the sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel, for, in another context, 8 he expressly gives a metaphorical sense to the eating of the flesh and blood of the Lord. But that he does not understand the eating of the body and blood of Christ in an exclusively spiritual sense is concluded not merely from the hint that mystical contemplation is the tasting of the Lord in a "more spiritual" manner, but from the evident fact that he has spoken of the Eucharist as a mixing of the Word and drink, which must be taken in a literal sense.

The object offered is not said in express words to be the body and blood of Christ. But this is implied in his writings, not merely in such a manner as that it may be concluded by his successors, but in such a fashion as to make it probable that his statements were understood in his own mind to mean an offering of the Logos, if not alone, at least amongst other things, namely, the bread and wine ; for he speaks of the Eucharist as an oblation, and understands the Eucharist to be a mixing of the Logos and drink.

Clement does not give expression to any thoughts concerning the objective propitiatory value of sacrifices. " And neither by sacrifices nor offerings, nor on the other hand by glory and honour, is the Deity won over, but He appears only to excellent and good men who will never betray justice for fear nor for great gifts." 9 ' Consistently with Clement's spiritual message, with his emphasis on the spiritual sense as the most important, he speaks here of a subjective propitiation The most important matter is a righteous disposition, a stainless conscience, a good life. He even discards the mere paying of honour and glory to God, which, in the case of a sinner, is a kind of flattery that does not win over God. Thus Clement's religion is not a religion of the heart alone but of the heart and hand—he requires a good life. And just as the fact of Clement's saying that God is not won over by glory and honour does not exclude all value from these actions, so too the fact that he says God is not won over by sacrifices does not necessarily exclude all value from the objective sacrifice itself. What is stated is that sacrifices do not of themselves put a person in the state of grace.

1 Str. vii. c. 6.

2 Ibid. vii. 3.

3 Ibid. i. 19.

4 Str. iv. 25.

5 Ibid. vii. c 6.

Paed. ii. 2.

7 Str. v. c. 10.

8 Paed., i. 6.

9 Str , vii., 3.