Monday, 18 March 2019

Clear, beautiful and strong words of St. Cyril, the great catechist of the fourth century, are an unanswerable proof that the faith of the Church of his time in the Real Presence is identical with that of the Church of today.

Let us now consider the testimony of St. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church, on the Real Presence. Cyril was born in the year 310. After his ordination to the priest hood he was entrusted with the office of instructing converts and explaining the doctrines of our holy faith to the people. In the performance of this noble and holy task he wrote his admirable catechetical instructions, in which he clearly explains and victoriously defends the mysteries of the Christian religion against all the infidels and heretics of his time. Although he lived nearly sixteen hundred years ago, when we read his works, we would feel inclined to imagine that we are reading the works of St. Alphonsus, or of some eminent theologian of our own epoch. Shortly after he was made bishop of Jerusalem, a wonderful event took place, which lasted a whole day. A luminous cross, brighter than the sun, appeared in the heavens in the day-time from one end of Jerusalem to the other, and was seen by both Christians and pagans. The Arians had raised a furious persecution against the Church, and with the help of the Arian emperor succeeded in causing the banishment of the most holy and prominent Catholic bishops from their sees; among these was St. Cyril. He suffered much in his banishment. After the death of Constantius, Cyril returned to Jerusalem. Soon after the new emperor, Julian the Apostate, who out of hatred to the religion of Christ, which he intended to destroy, undertook to disprove the prophecy of Jesus Christ, in which He foretold the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, saying: "They shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone " (Luke 19: 44). Julian therefore invited the Jews all over the world to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. The Jews hastened eagerly to comply with Julian's invitation. They joyfully set to work clearing the ground with silver and golden pickaxes and other tools; even the rich Jewish ladies carried away the earth in their silk aprons, and all the Jews contributed either labour or money to carry out the emperor's intentions. At last the labourers reached the lowest stones of the foundation, which had never yet been removed, and which they now re moved, fulfilling thereby Christ's prophecy to the very letter, that " not a stone would remain on a stone." When all the remains of the old foundation had been taken away, the Jews aided by the emperor's skilled workmen began to lay the proposed new foundations, but were soon unable to make any headway, for earthquakes overthrew their work, globes of fire darted forth from the ground, scattered the workmen and consumed all that was combustible on the grounds. These wonderful occurrences were repeated every time the Jews at tempted to resume the work, so that they had at last to give it up in despair, to their great distress, and to the confusion of Julian the Apostate and the other enemies of the Christian religion. St. Cyril continued to defend the Christian religion against all its enemies until his death in the year 381. Let us now consider his admirable testimony in favour of the Real Presence.

"The very doctrine of St. Paul,'' he declares, " abundantly suffices to make us believe the divine mysteries, which render us worthy to become, so to speak, relatives of Jesus Christ both in body and blood. For this apostle clearly proclaims that our Lord Jesus Christ on the night, in which He was betrayed, took bread and, giving thanks, gave to His disciples saying: Take ye and eat, this is My body. And taking the chalice and giving thanks, He said: Take ye and drink, this is My blood. Now, since He Himself declared and said: This is My body, who will henceforth dare to deny it? And since He Himself so positively said: This is My blood, who will ever doubt it and say that it is not His blood? Jesus had previously at Cana of Galilee changed water into wine, which has some relationship (or similarity) to blood; and shall we esteem Him unworthy of being believed when He changed wine into blood? Having been invited to those nuptials where bodies are united, He per formed the aforesaid miracle which no one expected; and shall not we be most firmly convinced, that He gave us His body and blood for our nourishment, and perfectly certain that we are receiving His very body and blood? For He gives us His very body in the species of bread, and His very blood in the species of wine, so that when thou tastest the body and blood of Christ, thou becomest a partaker of His very body and blood. Thus we become 'Christiferi,' that is, we are bearers of Christ in our bodies, when we receive His body and blood into our members; hence, according to St. Peter, ' we are made partakers of the divine nature ' (2 Peter 1:4). Formerly Christ, disputing with the Jews, said: Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you shall not have life in you. But the Jews, not taking these things in a spiritual sense, were shocked and forsook Him, for they imagined He invited them to feast on His flesh as if it were (the) flesh (of animals). In the Old Testament there were the loaves of proposition; but these have been abolished together with it.

In the New Testament the bread is heavenly, and the chalice is salutary, for they sanctify our body and soul. Therefore I do not wish thee to consider them as merely simple bread and merely simple wine, because they are the body and blood of Christ. For although thy senses tell thee that they are mere bread and wine, nevertheless let faith confirm thee (in the belief that they are really the body and blood of Christ). Do not judge of the thing by its taste; but let faith make thee certain beyond even the shadow of a doubt, that thou art made worthy to become a partaker of the body and blood of Christ."