Skip to comments.Philip Schaff's History of the Church - Passages on the Eucharist
Posted on 11/05/2009 8:59:31 AM PST by Mr Rogers
Before starting the text of a long article, I want to explain what it is.
In discussing the meaning of the Eucharist with Catholics on FreeRepublic, I've frequently been told that the Church Fathers, from the very beginning, have taught it was a 're-presentation' of Calvary. I've read little of the Church Fathers - as have many who have lectured me, I suspect. The norm on both sides of the argument is to pull quotes from those who help your case, and ignore what does not.
In excerpts below, taken from his 7,000 page history, Philip Schaff discusses the nuance of the Church Fathers, and how the doctrine of the Eucharist evolved over 600+ years. The article at the link has footnotes, so one can read the actual quotes he references. Yes, he is a Protestant, and it shows - but I believe he tries to point out those passages that disagree with his case, as well as those that agree.
So to start:
§ 68. Celebration of the Eucharist.
The celebration of the Eucharist or holy communion with appropriate prayers of the faithful was the culmination of Christian worship.400 Justin Martyr gives us the following description, which still bespeaks the primitive simplicity:401 "After the prayers [of the catechumen worship] we greet one another with the brotherly kiss. Then bread and a cup with water and wine are handed to the president (bishop) of the brethren. He receives them, and offers praise, glory, and thanks to the Father of all, through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit, for these his gifts. When he has ended the prayers and thanksgiving, the whole congregation responds: Amen. For Amen in the Hebrew tongue means: Be it so. Upon this the deacons, as we call them, give to each of those present some of the blessed bread,402 and of the wine mingled with water, and carry it to the absent in their dwellings. This food is called with us the eucharist, of which none can partake, but the believing and baptized, who live according to the commands of Christ. For we use these not as common bread and common drink; but like as Jesus Christ our Redeemer was made flesh through the word of God, and took upon him flesh and blood for our redemption; so we are taught, that the nourishment blessed by the word of prayer, by which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation (assimilation), is the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus."
Then he relates the institution from the Gospels, and mentions the customary collections for the poor.
We are not warranted in carrying back to this period the full liturgical service, which we find prevailing with striking uniformity in essentials, though with many variations in minor points, in all quarters of the church in the Nicene age. A certain simplicity and freedom characterized the period before us. Even the so-called Clementine liturgy, in the eighth book of the pseudo-Apostolical Constitutions, was probably not composed and written out in this form before the fourth century. There is no trace of written liturgies during the Diocletian persecution. But the germs (late from the second century. The oldest eucharistic prayers have recently come to light in the Didache ,which contains three thanksgivings, for the, cup, the broken and for all mercies. (chs. 9 and 10.)
From scattered statements of the ante-Nicene fathers we may gather the following view of the eucharistic service as it may have stood in the middle of the third century, if not earlier.
The communion was a regular and the most solemn part of the Sunday worship; or it was the worship of God in the stricter sense, in which none but full members of the church could engage. In many places and by many Christians it was celebrated even daily, after apostolic precedent, and according to the very common mystical interpretation of the fourth petition of the Lords prayer.403 The service began, after the dismission of the catechumens, with the kiss of peace, given by the men to men, and by the women to women, in token of mutual recognition as members of one redeemed family in the midst of a heartless and loveless world. It was based upon apostolic precedent, and is characteristic of the childlike simplicity, and love and joy of the early Christians.404 The service proper consisted of two principal acts: the oblation,405 or presenting of the offerings of the congregation by the deacons for the ordinance itself, and for the benefit of the clergy and the poor; and the communion, or partaking of the consecrated elements. In the oblation the congregation at the same time presented itself as a living thank-offering; as in the communion it appropriated anew in faith the sacrifice of Christ, and united itself anew with its Head. Both acts were accompanied and consecrated by prayer and songs of praise.
In the prayers we must distinguish, first, the general thanksgiving (the eucharist in the strictest sense of the word) for all the natural and spiritual gifts of God, commonly ending with the seraphic hymn, Isa. 6:3; secondly, the prayer of consecration, or the invocation of the Holy Spirit406 upon the people and the elements, usually accompanied by the recital of the words of institution and the Lords Prayer; and finally, the general intercessions for all classes, especially for the believers, on the ground of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for the salvation of the world. The length and order of the prayers, however, were not uniform; nor the position of the Lords Prayer, which sometimes took the place of the prayer of consecration, being reserved for the prominent part of the service. Pope Gregory I. says that it "was the custom of the Apostles to consecrate the oblation only by the Lords Prayer." The congregation responded from time to time, according to the ancient Jewish and the apostolic usage, with an audible "Amen, "or "Kyrie eleison." The "Sursum corda," also, as an incitement to devotion, with the response, "Habemus ad Dominum," appears at least as early as Cyprians time, who expressly alludes to it, and in all the ancient liturgies. The prayers were spoken, not read from a book. But extemporaneous prayer naturally assumes a fixed form by constant repetition.
The elements were common or leavened bread407 (except among the Ebionites, who, like the later Roman church from the seventh century, used unleavened bread), and wine mingled with water. This mixing was a general custom in antiquity, but came now to have various mystical meanings attached to it. The elements were placed in the hands (not in the mouth) of each communicant by the clergy who were present, or, according to Justin, by the deacons alone, amid singing of psalms by the congregation (Psalm 34), with the words: "The body of Christ;" "The blood of Christ, the cup of life;" to each of which the recipient responded "Amen."408 The whole congregation thus received the elements, standing in the act.409 Thanksgiving and benediction concluded the celebration.
After the public service the deacons carried the consecrated elements to the sick and to the confessors in prison. Many took portions of the bread home with them, to use in the family at morning prayer. This domestic communion was practised particularly in North Africa, and furnishes the first example of a communio sub una specie. In the same country, in Cyprians time, we find the custom of infant communion (administered with wine alone), which was justified from John 6:53, and has continued in the Greek (and Russian) church to this day, though irreconcilable with the apostles requisition of a preparatory examination (1 Cor. 11:28).
At first the communion was joined with a love feast, and was then celebrated in the evening, in memory of the last supper of Jesus with his disciples. But so early as the beginning of the second century these two exercises were separated, and the communion was placed in the morning, the love feast in the evening, except on certain days of special observance.410 Tertullian gives a detailed description of the Agape in refutation of the shameless calumnies of the heathens.411 But the growth of the churches and the rise of manifold abuses led to the gradual disuse, and in the fourth century even to the formal prohibition of the Agape, which belonged in fact only to the childhood and first love of the church. It was a family feast, where rich and poor, master and slave met on the same footing, partaking of a simple meal, hearing reports from distant congregations, contributing to the necessities of suffering brethren, and encouraging each other in their daily duties and trials. Augustin describes his mother Monica as going to these feasts with a basket full of provisions and distributing them.
The communion service has undergone many changes in the course of time, but still substantially survives with all its primitive vitality and solemnity in all churches of Christendom,a perpetual memorial of Christs atoning sacrifice and saving love to the human race. Baptism and the Lords Supper are institutions which proclaim from day to day the historic Christ, and can never be superseded by contrivances of human ingenuity and wisdom.
§ 69. The Doctrine of the Eucharist.
Literature. See the works quoted, vol. I. 472, by Waterland (Episc. d. 1740), Döllinger (R. Cath., 1826; since 1870 Old Cath.), Ebrard (Calvinistic, 1845), Nevin (Calvinistic, 1846), Kahnis (Luth. 1851, but changed his view in his Dogmatik), E. B. Pusey (high Anglic., 1855), Rückert (Rationalistic, 1856), Vogan (high Anglic., 1871), Harrison (Evang. Angl., 1871), Stanley (Broad Church Episc., 1881), Gude (Lutheran, 1887).
On the Eucharistic doctrine of Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, and Tertullian, there are also special treatises by Thiersch (1841), Semisch (1842), Engelhardt (1842), Baur (1839 and 1857), Steitz (1864), and others.
Höfling: Die Lehre der ältesten Kirche vom Opfer im Leben und Cultus der Christen. Erlangen, 1851.
Dean Stanley: The Eucharistic Sacrifice. In "Christian Institutions" (N. Y. 1881) p. 73 sqq.
The doctrine concerning the sacrament of the Lords Supper, not coming into special discussion, remained indefinite and obscure. The ancient church made more account of the worthy participation of the ordinance than of the logical apprehension of it. She looked upon it as the holiest mystery of the Christian worship, and accordingly celebrated it with the deepest devotion, without inquiring into the mode of Christs presence, nor into the relation of the sensible signs to his flesh and blood. It is unhistorical to carry any of the later theories back into this age; although it has been done frequently in the apologetic and polemic discussion of this subject.
1. The Eucharist as a Sacrament.
The Didache of the Apostles contains eucharistic prayers, but no theory of the eucharist. Ignatius speaks of this sacrament in two passages, only by way of allusion, but in very strong, mystical terms, calling it the flesh of our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, and the consecrated bread a medicine of immortality and an antidote of spiritual death.412 This view, closely connected with his high-churchly tendency in general, no doubt involves belief in the real presence, and ascribes to the holy Supper an effect on spirit and body at once, with reference to the future resurrection, but is still somewhat obscure, and rather an expression of elevated feeling than a logical definition.
The same may be said of Justin Martyr, when he compares the descent of Christ into the consecrated elements to his incarnation for our redemption. 413
Irenaeus says repeatedly, in combating the Gnostic Docetism,414 that broad and wine in the sacrament become, by the presence of the Word of God, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the body and blood of Christ and that the receiving of there strengthens soul and body (the germ of the resurrection body) unto eternal life. Yet this would hardly warrant our ascribing either transubstantiation or consubstantiation to Irenaeus. For in another place he calls the bread and wine, after consecration, "antitypes," implying the continued distinction of their substance from the body and blood of Christ.415 This expression in itself, indeed, might be understood as merely contrasting here the upper, as the substance, with the Old Testament passover, its type; as Peter calls baptism the antitype of the saving water of the flood.416 But the connection, and the usus loquendi of the earlier Greek fathers, require us to take the term antitype, a the sense of type, or, more precisely, as the antithesis of archetype. The broad and wine represent and exhibit the body and blood of Christ as the archetype, and correspond to them, as a copy to the original. In exactly the same sense it is said in Heb. 9:24comp. 8:5that the earthly sanctuary is the antitype, that is the copy, of the heavenly archetype. Other Greek fathers also, down to the fifth century, and especially the author of the Apostolical Constitutions, call the consecrated elements "antitypes" (sometimes, like Theodoretus, "types") of the body and blood of Christ.417
A different view, approaching nearer the Calvinistic or Reformed, we meet with among the African fathers. Tertullian makes the words of institution: Hoc est corpus meum, equivalent to: figura corporis mei, to prove, in opposition to Marcions docetism, the reality of the body of Jesusa mere phantom being capable of no emblematic representation418 This involves, at all events, an essential distinction between the consecrated elements and the body and blood of Christ in the Supper. Yet Tertullian must not be understood as teaching a merely symbolical presence of Christ; for in other places he speaks, according to his general realistic turn, in almost materialistic language of an eating of the body of Christ, and extends the participation even to the body of the receiver.419 Cyprian likewise appears to favor a symbolical interpretation of the words of institution, yet not so clearly. The idea of the real presence would have much better suited his sacerdotal conception of the ministry. In the customary mixing of the wine with water he sees a type of the union of Christ with his church,420 and, on the authority of John 6:53, holds the communion of the Supper indispensable to salvation. The idea of a sacrifice comes out very boldly in Cyprian.
The Alexandrians are here, as usual, decidedly spiritualistic. Clement twice expressly calls the wine a symbol or an allegory of the blood of Christ, and says, that the communicant receives not the physical, but the spiritual blood, the life, of Christ; as, indeed, the blood is the life of the body. Origen distinguishes still more definitely the earthly elements from the heavenly bread of life, and makes it the whole design of the supper to feed the soul with the divine word.421 Applying his unsound allegorical method here, he makes the bread represent the Old Testament, the wine the New, and the breaking of the bread the multiplication of the divine word! But these were rather private views for the initiated, and can hardly be taken as presenting the doctrine of the Alexandrian church.
We have, therefore, among the ante-Nicene fathers, three different views, an Oriental, a North-African, and an Alexandrian. The first view, that of Ignatius and Irenaeus, agrees most nearly with the mystical character of the celebration of the eucharist, and with the catholicizing features of the age.
2. The Eucharist as a Sacrifice.
This point is very important in relation to the doctrine, and still more important in relation to the cultus and life, of the ancient church. The Lords Supper was universally regarded not only as a sacrament, but also as a sacrifice,422 the true and eternal sacrifice of the new covenant, superseding all the provisional and typical sacrifices of the old; taking the place particularly of the passover, or the feast of the typical redemption from Egypt. This eucharistic sacrifice, however, the ante-Nicene fathers conceived not as an unbloody repetition of the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but simply as a commemoration and renewed appropriation of that atonement, and, above all, a thank-offering of the whole church for all the favors of God in creation and redemption. Hence the current name itselfeucharist; which denoted in the first place the prayer of thanksgiving, but afterwards the whole rite.423
The consecrated elements were regarded in a twofold light, as representing at once the natural and the spiritual gifts of God, which culminated in the self-sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Hence the eucharistic prayer, like that connected with the typical passover, related at the same time to creation and redemption, which were the more closely joined in the mind of the church for their dualistic separation by the Gnostics. The earthly gifts of broad and wine were taken as types and pledges of the heavenly gifts of the same God, who has both created and redeemed the world.
Upon this followed the idea of the self-sacrifice of the worshipper himself, the sacrifice of renewed self-consecration to Christ in return for his sacrifice on the cross, and also the sacrifice of charity to the poor. Down to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the eucharistic elements were presented as a thank-offering by the members of the congregation themselves, and the remnants went to the clergy and he poor. In these gifts the people yielded themselves as a priestly race and a living thank-offering to God, to whom they owed all the blessings alike of providence and of grace. In later times the priest alone offered the sacrifice. But even the Roman Missal retains a recollection of the ancient custom in the plural form, "We offer," and in the sentence: "All you, both brethren and sisters, pray that my sacrifice and your sacrifice, which is equally yours as well as mine, may be meat for the Lord."
This subjective offering of the whole congregation on the ground of the objective atoning sacrifice of Christ is the real centre of the ancient Christian worship, and particularly of the communion. It thus differed both from the later Catholic mass, which has changed the thank-offering into a sin-offering, the congregational offering into a priest offering; and from the common Protestant cultus, which, in opposition to the Roman mass, has almost entirely banished the idea of sacrifice from the celebration of the Lords Supper, except in the customary offerings for the poor.
The writers of the second century keep strictly within the limits of the notion of a congregational thank-offering. Thus Justin says expressly, prayers and thanksgivings alone are the true and acceptable sacrifices, which the Christians offer. Irenaeus has been brought as a witness for the Roman doctrine, only on the ground of a false reading.424 The African fathers, in the third century, who elsewhere incline to the symbolical interpretation of the words of institution, are the first to approach on this point the later Roman Catholic idea of a sin-offering; especially Cyprian, the steadfast advocate of priesthood and of episcopal authority.425 The ideas of priesthood, sacrifice, and altar, are intimately connected, and a Judaizing or paganizing conception of one must extend to all.
From Volume 3
§ 95. The Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Comp. the Literature in vol. i. § 38 and § 102, the corresponding sections in the Doctrine Histories and Archaeologies, and the treatises of G. E. Steitz on the historical development of the doctrine of the Lords Supper in the Greek church, in Dorners "Jahrbücher für Deutsche Theologie," for 1864 and 1865. In part also the liturgical works of Neale, Daniel, etc., cited below (§ 98), and Philip Freeman: The Principles of Divine Service. Lond. Part i. 1855, Part ii. 1862. (The author, in the introduction to the second part, states as his object: "To unravel, by means of an historical survey of the ancient belief concerning the Holy Eucharist, viewed as a mystery, and of the later departures from it, the manifold confusions which have grown up around the subject, more especially since the fatal epoch of the eleventh century." But the book treats not so much of the doctrine of the Eucharist, as of the ceremony of it, and the eucharistic sacrifice, with special reference to the Anglican church.)
The Eucharist is both a sacrament wherein God conveys to us a certain blessing, and a sacrifice which man offers to God. As a sacrament, or the communion, it stands at the head of all sacred rites; as a sacrifice it stands alone. The celebration of it under this twofold character forms the holy of holies of the Christian cultus in the ancient church, and in the greater part of Christendom at this day.998
We consider first the doctrine of the Eucharist as a sacrament, then the doctrine of the Eucharist as a sacrifice, and finally the celebration of the eucharistic communion and eucharistic sacrifice.
The doctrine of the sacrament of the Eucharist was not a subject of theological controversy and ecclesiastical action till the time of Paschasius Radbert, in the ninth century; whereas since then this feast of the Saviours dying love has been the innocent cause of the most bitter disputes, especially in the age of the Reformation, between Papists and Protestants, and among Lutherans, Zwinglians, and Calvinists. Hence the doctrine of the ancient church on this point lacks the clearness and definiteness which the Nicene dogma of the Trinity, the Chalcedonian Christology, and the Augustinian anthropology and soteriology acquired from the controversies preceding them. In the doctrine of baptism also we have a much better right to speak of a consensus patrum, than in the doctrine of the holy Supper.
In general, this period, following the representatives of the mystic theory in the previous one, was already very strongly inclined toward the doctrine of transubstantiation and toward the Greek and Roman sacrifice of the mass, which are inseparable in so far as a real sacrifice requires the real presence of the victim. But the kind and mode of this presence are not yet particularly defined, and admit very different views: Christ may be conceived as really present either in and with the elements (consubstantiation, impanation), or under the illusive appearance of the changed elements (transubstantiation), or only dynamically and spiritually.
In the previous period we distinguish three views: the mystic view of Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus; the symbolical view of Tertullian and Cyprian; and the allegorical or spiritualistic view of Clement of Alexandria and Origen. In the present the first view, which best answered the mystic and superstitious tendency of the time, preponderated, but the second also was represented by considerable authorities.999
I. The realistic and mystic view is represented by several fathers and the early liturgies, whose testimony we shall further cite below. They speak in enthusiastic and extravagant terms of the sacrament and sacrifice of the altar. They teach a real presence of the body and blood of Christ, which is included in the very idea of a real sacrifice, and they see in the mystical union of it with the sensible elements a sort of repetition of the incarnation of the Logos. With the act of consecration a change accordingly takes place in the elements, whereby they become vehicles and organs of the life of Christ, although by no means necessarily changed into another substance. To denote this change very strong expressions are used, like metabolhv, metabavllein, metabavllesqai, metastoiceiou'sqai, metapoiei'sqai, mutatio, translatio, transfiguratio, transformatio;1000 illustrated by the miraculous transformation of water into wine, the assimilation of food, and the pervasive power of leaven.
Cyril of Jerusalem goes farther in this direction than any of the fathers. He plainly teaches some sort of supernatural connection between the body of Christ and the elements, though not necessarily a transubstantiation of the latter. Let us hear the principal passages.1001 "Then follows," he says in describing the celebration of the Eucharist, "the invocation of God, for the sending of his Spirit to make the bread the body of Christ, the wine the blood of Christ. For what the Holy Ghost touches is sanctified and transformed." "Under the type of the bread1002 is given to thee the body, under the type of the wine is given to thee the blood, that thou mayest be a partaker of the body and blood of Christ, and be of one body and blood with him."1003 "After the invocation of the Holy Ghost the bread of the Eucharist is no longer bread, but the body of Christ." "Consider, therefore, the bread and the wine not as empty elements, for they are, according to the declaration of the Lord, the body and blood of Christ." In support of this change Cyril refers at one time to the wedding feast at Cana, which indicates, the Roman theory of change of substance; but at another to the consecration of the chrism, wherein the substance is unchanged. He was not clear and consistent with himself. His opinion probably was, that the eucharistic elements lost by consecration not so much their earthly substance, as their earthly purpose.
Gregory of Nyssa, though in general a very faithful disciple of the spiritualistic Origen, is on this point entirely realistic. He calls the Eucharist a food of immortality, and speaks of a miraculous transformation of the nature of the elements into the glorified body of Christ by virtue of the priestly blessing.1004
Chrysostom likewise, though only incidentally in his homilies, and not in the strain of sober logic and theology, but of glowing rhetoric, speaks several times of a union of our whole nature with the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and even of a manducatio oralis.1005
Of the Latin fathers, Hilary,1006 Ambrose,1007 and Gaudentius ( 410) come nearest to the later dogma of transubstantiation. The latter says: "The Creator and Lord of nature, who produces bread from the earth, prepares out of bread his own body, makes of wine his own blood."1008
But closely as these and similar expressions verge upon the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation, they seem to contain at most a dynamic, not a substantial, change of the elements into the body and the blood of Christ. For, in the first place, it must be remembered there is a great difference between the half-poetic, enthusiastic, glowing language of devotion, in which the fathers, and especially the liturgies, speak of the eucharistic sacrifice, and the clear, calm, and cool language of logic and doctrinal definition. In the second place, the same fathers apply the same or quite similar terms to the baptismal water and the chrism of confirmation, without intending to teach a proper change of the substance of these material elements into the Holy Ghost. On the other hand, they not rarely use, concerning the bread and wine, tuvpo", ajntivtupa, figura, signum, and like expressions, which denote rather a symbolical than a metabolical relation of them to the body and blood of the Lord. Finally, the favorite comparison of the mysterious transformation with the incarnation of the Logos, which, in fact, was not an annihilation of the human nature, but an assumption of it into unity with the divine, is of itself in favor of the continuance of the substance of the elements; else it would abet the Eutychian heresy.
II. The symbolical view, though on a realistic basis, is represented first by Eusebius, who calls the Supper a commemoration of Christ by the symbols of his body and blood, and takes the flesh and blood of Christ in the sixth chapter of John to mean the words of Christ, which are spirit and life, the true food of the soul, to believers.1009 Here appears the influence of his venerated Origen, whose views in regard to the sacramental aspect of the Eucharist he substantially repeats.
But it is striking that even Athanasius, "the father of orthodoxy," recognized only a spiritual participation, a self-communication of the nourishing divine virtue of the Logos, in the symbols of the bread and wine, and incidentally evinces a doctrine of the Eucharist wholly foreign to the Catholic, and very like the older Alexandrian or Origenistic, and the Calvinistic, though by no means identical with the latter.1010 By the flesh and blood in the mysterious discourse of Jesus in the sixth chapter of John, which he refers to the Lords Supper, he understands not the earthly, human, but the heavenly, divine manifestation of Jesus, a spiritual nutriment coming down from above, which the Logos through the Holy Ghost communicates to believers (but not to a Judas, nor to the unbelieving).1011 With this view accords his extending of the participation of the eucharistic food to believers in heaven, and even to the angels, who, on account of their incorporeal nature, are incapable of a corporeal participation of Christ.1012
Gregory Nazianzen sees in the Eucharist a type of the incarnation, and calls the consecrated elements symbols and antitypes of the great mysteries, but ascribes to them a saving virtue.1013
St. Basil, likewise, in explaining the words of Christ, "I live by the Father" (John vi. 57), against, the Arians who inferred from it that Christ was a creature, incidentally gives a spiritual meaning to the fruition of the eucharistic elements. "We eat the flesh of Christ," he says, "and drink His blood, if we, through His incarnation and human life, become partakers of the Logos and of wisdom."1014
Macarius the Elder, a gifted representative of the earlier Greek mysticism ( 390), belongs to the same Symbolical school; he calls bread and wine the antitype of the body and blood of Christ, and seems to know only a spiritual eating of the flesh of the Lord.1015
Theodoret, who was acknowledged orthodox by the council of Chalcedon, teaches indeed a transformation (metabavllein) of the eucharistic elements by virtue of the priestly consecration, and an adoration of them, which certainly sounds quite Romish, but in the same connection expressly rejects the idea of an absorption of the elements in the body of the Lord, as an error akin to the Monophysite. "The mystical emblems of the body and blood of Christ," says he, "continue in their original essence and form, they are visible and tangible as they were before [the consecration];1016 but the contemplation of the spirit and of faith sees in them that which they have become, and they are adored also as that which they are to believers."1017
Similar language occurs in an epistle to the monk Caesarius ascribed to Chrysostom, but perhaps not genuine;1018 in Ephraim of Antioch, cited by Photius; and even in the Roman bishop Gelasius at the end of the fifth century (492496).
The latter says expressly, in his work against Eutyches and Nestorius: "The sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, which we receive, is a divine thing, because by it we are made partakers of the divine-nature. Yet the substance or nature of the bread and wine does not cease. And assuredly the image and the similitude of the body and blood of Christ are celebrated in the performance of the mysteries."1019
It is remarkable that Augustine, in other respects so decidedly catholic in the doctrine of the church and of baptism, and in the cardinal points of the Latin orthodoxy, follows the older African theologians, Tertullian and Cyprian, in a symbolical theory of the Supper, which however includes a real spiritual participation of the Lord by faith, and in this respect stands nearest to the Calvinistic or Orthodox Reformed doctrine, while in minor points he differs from it as much as from transubstantiation and consubstantiation.1020 He was the first to make a clear distinction between the outward sign and the inward grace, which are equally essential to the conception of the sacrament. He maintains the figurative character of the words of institution, and of the discourse of Jesus, on the eating and drinking of his flesh and blood in the sixth chapter of John; with Tertullian, he calls the bread and wine "figurae" "or "signa corporis et sanguinis Christi" (but certainly not mere figures), and insists on a distinction between "that which is visibly received in the sacrament, and that which is spiritually eaten and drunk," or between a carnal, visible manducation of the sacrament, and a spiritual eating of the flesh of Christ and drinking of his blood.1021 The latter he limits to the elect and the believing, though, in opposition to the subjectivism of the Donatists, he asserts that the sacrament (in its objective import) is the body of Christ even for unworthy receivers. He says of Judas, that he only ate the bread of the Lord, while the other apostles "ate the Lord who was the bread." In another place: The sacramentum "is given to some unto life, to others unto destruction;" but the res sacramenti, i.e., "the thing itself of which it is the sacramentum, is given to every one who is partaker of it, unto life." "He who does not abide in Christ, undoubtedly neither eats His flesh nor drinks His blood, though he eats and drinks the sacramentum (i.e., the outward sign) of so great a thing to his condemnation." Augustine at all events lays chief stress on the spiritual participation. "Why preparest thou the teeth and the belly? Believe, and thou hast eaten."1022 He claims for the sacrament religious reverence, but not a superstitious dread, as if it were a miracle of magical effect.1023 He also expressly rejects the hypothesis of the ubiquity of Christs body, which had already come into use in support of the materializing view, and has since been further developed by Lutheran divines in support of the theory of consubstantiation. "The body with which Christ rose," says he, "He took to heaven, which must be in a place .... We must guard against such a conception of His divinity as destroys the reality of His flesh. For when the flesh of the Lord was upon earth, it was certainly not in heaven; and now that it is in heaven, it is not upon earth." "I believe that the body of the Lord is in heaven, as it was upon earth when he ascended to heaven."1024 Yet this great church teacher at the same time holds fast the real presence of Christ in the Supper. He says of the martyrs: "They have drunk the blood of Christ, and have shed their own blood for Christ." He was also inclined, with the Oriental fathers, to ascribe a saving virtue to the consecrated elements.
Augustines pupil, Facundus, taught that the sacramental bread "is not properly the body of Christ, but contains the mystery of the body." Fulgentius of Ruspe held the same symbolical view; and even at a much later period we can trace it through the mighty influence of Augustines writings in Isidore of Sevilla, Beda Venerabilis, among the divines of the Carolingian age, in Ratramnus, and Berengar of Tours, until it broke forth in a modified form with greater force than ever in the sixteenth century, and took permanent foothold in the Reformed churches.
Pope Leo I. is sometimes likewise numbered with the symbolists, but without good reason. He calls the communion a "spiritual food,"1025 as Athanasius had done before, but supposes a sort of assimilation of the flesh and blood of Christ by the believing participation. "What we believe, that we receive with the mouth .... The participation of the body and blood of Christ causes that we pass into that which we receive, and bear Christ in us in Spirit and body." Voluntary abstinence from the wine in the Supper was as yet considered by this pope a sin.1026
III. The old liturgies, whose testimony on this point is as important as that of the church fathers, presuppose the actual presence of Christ in the Supper, but speak throughout in the stately language of sentiment, and nowhere attempt an explanation of the nature and mode of this presence, and of its relation to the still visible forms of bread and wine. They use concerning the consecrated elements such terms as: The holy body, The dear blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ, The sanctified oblation, The heavenly, spotless, glorious, awful, divine gifts, The awful, unbloody, holy sacrifice, &c. In the act of consecration the liturgies pray for the sending down of the Holy Ghost, that he may "sanctify and perfect"1027 the bread and wine, or that he may sanctify and make "them the body and blood of Christ,1028 or bless and make."1029
IV. As to the adoration of the consecrated elements: This follows with logical necessity from the doctrine of transubstantiation, and is the sure touchstone of it. No trace of such adoration appears, however, in the ancient liturgies, and the whole patristic literature yields only four passages from which this practice can be inferred; plainly showing that the doctrine of transubstantiation was not yet fixed in the consciousness of the church.
Chrysostom says: "The wise men adored Christ in the manger; we see him not in the manger, but on the altar, and should pay him still greater homage."1030 Theodoret, in the passage already cited, likewise uses the term proskuvnei'n, but at the same time expressly asserts the continuance of the substance of the elements. Ambrose speaks once of the flesh of Christ "which we to-day adore in the mysteries,"1031 and Augustine, of an adoration preceding the participation of the flesh of Christ.1032
In all these passages we must, no doubt, take the term proskunei'n and adorare in the wider sense, and distinguish the bowing of the knee, which was so frequent, especially in the East, as a mere mark of respect, from proper adoration. The old liturgies contain no direction for any such act of adoration as became prevalent in the Latin church, with the elevation of the host, after the triumph of the doctrine of transubstantiation in the twelfth century.1033
§ 96. The Sacrifice of the Eucharist.
Besides the works already cited on the holy Supper, comp. Höfling: Die Lehre der ältesten Kirche vom Opfer im Leben u. Cultus der Kirche. Erlangen, 1851. The articles: Messe, Messopfer, in Wetzer u. Welte: Kirchenlexicon der kathol. Theologie, vol. vii. (1851), p. 83 ff. G. E. Steitz: Art. Messe u. Messopfer in Herzogs Protest. Real-Encyklopädie, vol. ix. (1858), pp. 375408. Phil. Freeman: The Principles of Divine Service. Part ii. Oxf. and Lond. 1862. This last work sets out with a very full consideration of the Mosaic sacrificial cultus, and (in the Pref. p. vi.) unjustly declares all the earlier English and German works of Mede, Outram, Patrick, Magee, Bähr, Hengstenberg, and Kurtz, on this subject, entirely unsatisfactory and defective.
The Catholic church, both Greek and Latin, sees in the Eucharist not only a sacramentum, in which God communicates a grace to believers, but at the same time, and in fact mainly, a sacrificium, in which believers really offer to God that which is represented by the sensible elements. For this view also the church fathers laid the foundation, and it must be conceded they stand in general far more on the Greek and Roman Catholic than on the Protestant side of this question. The importance of the subject demands a preliminary explanation of the idea of sacrifice, and a clear discrimination of its original Christian form from its later perversion by tradition.
The idea of sacrifice is the centre of all ancient religions, both the heathen and the Jewish. In Christianity it is fulfilled. For by His one perfect sacrifice on the cross Christ has entirely blotted out the guilt of man, and reconciled him with the righteous God. On the ground of this sacrifice of the eternal High Priest, believers have access to the throne of grace, and may expect their prayers and intercessions to be heard. With this perfect and eternally availing sacrifice the Eucharist stands in indissoluble connection. It is indeed originally a sacrament and the main thing in it is that which we receive from God, not that which we give to God. The latter is only a consequence of the former; for we can give to God nothing which we have not first received from him. But the Eucharist is the sacramentum of a sacrificium, the thankful celebration of the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, and the believing participation or the renewed appropriation of the fruits of this sacrifice. In other words, it is a feast on a sacrifice. "As oft as ye do eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lords death till He come."
The Eucharist is moreover, as the name itself implies, on the part of the church a living and reasonable thank-offering, wherein she presents herself anew, in Christ and on the ground of his sacrifice, to God with prayers and intercessions. For only in Christ are our offerings acceptable to God, and only through the continual showing forth and presenting of His merit can we expect our prayers and intercessions to be heard.
In this view certainly, in a deep symbolical and ethical sense, Christ is offered to God the Father in every believing prayer, and above all in the holy Supper; i.e. as the sole ground of our reconciliation and acceptance. This is the deep truth which lies at the bottom of the Catholic mass, and gives it still such power over the religious mind.1034
But this idea in process of time became adulterated with foreign elements, and transformed into the Graeco-Roman doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass. According to this doctrine the Eucharist is an unbloody repetition of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by the priesthood for the salvation of the living and the dead; so that the body of Christ is truly and literally offered every day and every hour, and upon innumerable altars at the same time. The term mass, which properly denoted the dismissal of the congregation (missio, dismissio) at the close of the general public worship, became, after the end of the fourth century, the name for the worship of the faithful,1035 which consisted in the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice and the communion. The corresponding terms of the Orientals are leitourgiva, qusiva, prosforav.
In the sacrifice of the mass the whole mysterious fulness and glory of the Catholic worship is concentrated. Here the idea of the priesthood reaches its dizzy summit; and here the devotion and awe of the spectators rises to the highest pitch of adoration. For to the devout Catholic nothing can be greater or more solemn than an act of worship in which the eternal Son of God is veritably offered to God upon the altar by the visible hand of the priest for the sins of the world. But though the Catholic worship here rises far above the vain sacrifices of heathendom and the merely typical sacrifices of Judaism, yet that old sacrificial service, which was interwoven with the whole popular life of the Jewish and Graeco-Roman world, exerted a controlling influence on the Roman Catholic service of the Eucharist, especially after the nominal conversion of the whole Roman heathendom, and obscured the original simplicity and purity of that service almost beyond recognition. The sacramentum became entirely eclipsed by the sacrificium, and the sacrificium became grossly materialized, and was exalted at the expense of the sacrifice on the cross. The endless succession of necessary repetitions detracts from the sacrifice of Christ.
The Biblical support of the sacrifice of the mass is weak, and may be reduced to an unduly literal interpretation or a downright perversion of some such passages as Mal. i. 10 f.; 1 Cor. x. 21; Heb. v. 6; vii. 1 f.; xiii. 10. The Epistle to the Hebrews especially is often misapplied, though it teaches with great emphasis the very opposite, viz., the abolition of the Old Testament sacrificial system by the Christian worship, the eternal validity of the sacrifice of our only High Priest on the right hand of the Father, and the impossibility of a repetition of it (comp. x. 14; vii. 23, 24).
We pass now to the more particular history. The ante-Nicene fathers uniformly conceived the Eucharist as a thank-offering of the church; the congregation offering the consecrated elements of bread and wine, and in them itself, to God.1036 This view is in itself perfectly innocent, but readily leads to the doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass, as soon as the elements become identified with the body and blood of Christ, and the presence of the body comes to be materialistically taken. The germs of the Roman doctrine appear in Cyprian about the middle of the third century, in connection with his high-churchly doctrine of the clerical priesthood. Sacerdotium and sacrificium are with him correlative ideas, and a Judaizing conception of the former favored a like Judaizing conception of the latter. The priest officiates in the Eucharist in the place of Christ,1037 and performs an actual sacrifice in the church.1038 Yet Cyprian does not distinctly say that Christ is the subject of the spiritual sacrifice; rather is the mystical body of Christ, the Church, offered to God, and married with Christ.1039
The doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass is much further developed in the Nicene and post-Nicene fathers, though amidst many obscurities and rhetorical extravagances, and with much wavering between symbolical and grossly realistic conceptions, until in all essential points it is brought to its settlement by Gregory the Great at the close of the sixth century. These points are the following:
1. The eucharistic sacrifice is the most solemn mystery of the church, and fills the faithful with a holy awe. Hence the predicates qusiva fobera;, frikth;, ajnaivmakto", sacrificium tremendum, which are frequently applied to it, especially in the Oriental liturgies and homilies. Thus it is said in the liturgy of St. James: "We offer to Thee, O Lord, this awful and unbloody sacrifice." The more surprising is it that the people should have been indifferent to so solemn an act, and that Chrysostom should lament: "In vain is the daily sacrifice, in vain stand we at the altar; there is no one to take part."1040
2. It is not a new sacrifice added to that of the cross, but a daily, unbloody repetition and perpetual application of that one only sacrifice. Augustine represents it, on the one hand, as a sacramentum memoriae a symbolical commemoration of the sacrificial death of Christ; to which of course there is no objection.1041 But, on the other hand, he calls the celebration of the communion verissimum sacrificium of the body of Christ. The church, he says, offers (immolat) to God the sacrifice of thanks in the body of Christ, from the days of the apostles through the sure succession of the bishops down to our time. But the church at the same time offers, with Christ, herself, as the body of Christ, to God. As all are one body, so also all are together the same sacrifice.1042 According to Chrysostom the same Christ, and the whole Christ, is everywhere offered. It is not a different sacrifice from that which the High Priest formerly offered, but we offer always the same sacrifice, or rather, we perform a memorial of this sacrifice.1043 This last clause would decidedly favor a symbolical conception, if Chrysostom in other places had not used such strong expressions as this: "When thou seest the Lord slain, and lying there, and the priest standing at the sacrifice," or: "Christ lies slain upon the altar."1044
3. The sacrifice is the anti-type of the Mosaic sacrifice, and is related to it as substance to typical shadows. It is also especially foreshadowed by Melchizedeks unbloody offering of bread and wine. The sacrifice of Melchizedek is therefore made of great account by Hilary, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, and other church fathers, on the strength of the well-known parallel in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
4. The subject of the sacrifice is the body of Jesus Christ, which is as truly present on the altar of the church, as it once was on the altar of the cross, and which now offers itself to God through his priest. Hence the frequent language of the liturgies: "Thou art he who offerest, and who art offered, O Christ, our God." Augustine, however, connects with this, as we have already said, the true and important moral idea of the self-sacrifice of the whole redeemed church to God. The prayers of the liturgies do the same.1045
5. The offering of the sacrifice is the exclusive prerogative of the Christian priest. Later Roman divines take the words: "This do (poiei'te) in remembrance of me," as equivalent to: "This offer," and limit this command to the apostles and their successors in office, whereas it is evidently an exhortation to all believers to the commemoration of the atoning death, the communio sacramenti, and not to the immolatio sacrificii.
6. The sacrifice is efficacious for the whole body of the church, including its departed members, in procuring the gifts which are implored in the prayers of the service.
All the old liturgies proceed under a conviction of the unbroken communion of saints, and contain commemorations and intercessions for the departed fathers and brethren, who are conceived to be, not in purgatory, but in communion with God and in a condition of progressive holiness and blessedness, looking forward in pious longing to the great day of consummation.
These prayers for an increase of bliss, which appeared afterwards very inappropriate, form the transition from the original simple commemoration of the departed saints, including the patriarchs, prophets and apostles, to intercessions for the suffering souls in purgatory, as used in the Roman church ever since the sixth century.1046 In the liturgy of Chrysostom, still in use in the Greek and Russian church, the commemoration of the departed reads. "And further we offer to thee this reasonable service on behalf of those who have departed in the faith, our ancestors, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, and every just spirit made perfect in the faith .... Especially the most holy, undefiled, excellently laudable, glorious Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary .... the holy John the Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, the holy, glorious and all-celebrated Apostles, and all thy Saints, through whose prayers look upon us, O God. And remember all those that are departed in the hope of the resurrection to eternal life, and give them rest where the light of Thy countenance shines upon them."
Cyril of Jerusalem, in his fifth and last mystagogic Catechesis, which is devoted to the consideration of the eucharistic sacrifice and the liturgical service of God, gives the following description of the eucharistic intercessions for the departed: "When the spiritual sacrifice, the unbloody service of God, is performed, we pray to God over this atoning sacrifice for the universal peace of the church, for the welfare of the world, for the emperor, for soldiers and prisoners, for the sick and afflicted, for all the poor and needy. Then we commemorate also those who sleep, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, that God through their prayers and their intercessions may receive our prayer; and in general we pray for all who have gone from us, since we believe that it is of the greatest help to those souls for whom the prayer is offered, while the holy sacrifice, exciting a holy awe, lies before us."1047
This is clearly an approach to the later idea of purgatory in the Latin church. Even St. Augustine, with Tertullian, teaches plainly, as an old tradition, that the eucharistic sacrifice, the intercessions or suffragia and alms, of the living are of benefit to the departed believers, so that the Lord deals more mercifully with them than their sins deserve.1048 His noble mother, Monica, when dying, told him he might bury her body where he pleased, and should give himself no concern for it, only she begged of him that he would remember her soul at the altar of the Lord.1049
With this is connected the idea of a repentance and purification in the intermediate state between death and resurrection, which likewise Augustine derives from Matt. xii. 32, and 1 Cor. iii. 15, yet mainly as a mere opinion.1050 From these and similar passages, and under the influence of previous Jewish and heathen ideas and customs, arose, after Gregory the Great, the Roman doctrine of the purgatorial fire for imperfect believers who still need to be purified from the dross of their sins before they are fit for heaven, and the institution of special masses for the dead, in which the perversion of the thankful remembrance of the one eternally availing sacrifice of Christ reaches its height, and the idea of the communion utterly disappears.1051
In general, in the celebration of the Lords Supper the sacrament continually retired behind the sacrifice. In the Roman churches in all countries one may see and hear splendid masses at the high altar, where the congregation of the faithful, instead of taking part in the communion, are mere spectators of the sacrificial act of the priest. The communion is frequently dispatched at a side altar at an early hour in the morning.
I've noticed this repeatedly. Protestants who insist they can go to the Bible and read it for themselves, without any bishop or pope telling them what it means, seem equally convinced that they cannot understand the Fathers except after they've been post-processed by a Protestant theologian or patristic exegete.
Augustine had a "symbolical" view of the Eucharist, hmmm? He says in one place that we sin if we don't adore the Host. You think he's teaching that we ought to adore a symbol? Hardly.
There isn’t one Catholic in a hundred - and probably a thousand - who has actually READ the Church Fathers deeply. It is the project of a lifetime...thousands and thousands of pages, involving controversies most of us have never thought about.
Mad Dawg made a point on another thread about devotional language vs logical language. That is another challenge in reading the Church Fathers. They were Fathers, not writers of Systematic Theology.
Please don’t tell me Catholics immerse themselves in the Church Fathers and read them in unbiased fashion. Neither do Protestants. No one who cares enough to spend years in research does it ‘just because’, or in a dispassionate curiosity.
Schaff gives lots of examples on both sides, and sometimes on 3 or 4 sides. That is about as good as it gets.
Are they here trying to tell me what the Church Fathers said? No, and I wouldn't listen to them if they did.
Schaff gives lots of examples on both sides, and sometimes on 3 or 4 sides.
And he definitely picks and chooses, and definitely has an axe to grind, and definitely has a point of view, and definitely wants to justify his own Protestant POV.
I have to say that it is just baffling that many honest Christians - avowed, self-proclaimed fundamentalists - simply will not believe what it says, right there, in the Bible.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed (John 6:48-51; 52-55, RSV)
What can this mean? There is only one explanation. It is incredible - as incredible and as stunning as the Incarnation. But it is true. The Eucharist is God Himself, who gives Himself to us as food.
We adore you oh Christ and we praise You; because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.
Relying on Schaff is not helpful. He does some special pleading when he deals with Tertullian or the Alexandrian Fathers, for instance. He uses words in English (figure, spiritual, allegory, symbol) that may or may not carry the same meaning as their Greek or Latin originals. “Spiritual” for instance has a whole range of meaning from merely symbolic to totally sacramentally real. Even “figura” was used in the 800s controversy between two monks, both of whom believed that Christ was really truly present to describe a “real” presence. “Figure” in English by itself would be misleading if it were used to translate the Latin “figura” when used by one of the debaters in that controversy but it would be accurate when used to translate the position of the other debater.
Schaff also does a sleight-of-hand trick by pointing out the absence of any detailed treatment of real presence in the first centuries, as if that means they didn’t believe in it. It could just as reasonably be used to infer that they did believe in it, that no one had even thought to challenge it.
Finally, another trick he uses is to quote Irenaeus or someone and then say, “Now, lookie here, Irenaeus’s position can’t be described as consubstantiation or transsubstantiation.”
Of course not. Consubstantiation and Transsubstantiation both presume real presence. If all one wants to do is affirm real presence, then one doesn’t use these words. They are used only when trying to explain in more detail HOW the real presence comes to be. So Irenaeus (or whomever it was) can and does assert real presence but does not assert transsubstantiation. And that he does not assert Transsub is exactly what one would expect because the HOW was not yet at issue. Yet Schaff implies that the absence of a transsub assertion means a lack of believe in real presence.
Schaff was too well trained not to know the difference. He’s speaking as a Reformed partisan-notice that he gets in a dig equally at LUtherans as at Catholics. If he only want to savage the Catholic position, he would only have mentioned the absence of transsub but he tosses in consub as well. That’s a way of a saying, “Take that, you dirty Lutherans, you’re just as damnably wrong as those Catholics.”
Sorry, but no cigar. This is Reformed propaganda.
If you want a really decent, fair Reformed disquisition on the topic, look at Alasdair I. Heron, _Table and Tradition_. Heron taught at Erlangen University’s German-Protestant theological faculty but was Scots and Presbyterian in background.
But he’s fair. Although he does not endorse a Catholic position, he does recognize that believe in the undeniable real sacramental presence is common throughout the early Fathers. He makes too much of the “symbolist” reading of Augustine, but he’s at least an honest broker with whom one can, as a Catholic debate.
But this 150-year-old stuff from Schaff, stuff it.
Augustine is the most-interpreted of all the Church fathers. Any genius (including Luther), precisely because of his nuanced mind, lends himself to varied interpretation.
The claim that Augustine had a “spiritualizing” view of Eucharistic presence goes back to Erasmus. It spawned the “sacramentarian” movement in the Low Countries which, many scholars believe, made its way down the Rhine and influence Zwingli to his extreme “merely symbolic” view (Calvin was not so extreme).
I think Augustine taught a genuine real presence, not a merely spiritual presence. Erasmus was wrong. But Dugmore and others popularized it and it’s now taken for granted by a lot of scholars.
You can interpret Augustine to support completely opposite viewpoints (e.g., on free will). I think it’s pretty clear that he had a full corporeal presence doctrine.
It all turns on what the meaning of spiritual is. Spiritual can mean “merely symbolic” or something between corporeal and merely symbolic (Calvin) or “sacramentally corporeal.”
The Catholic teaching is that the presence is corporeal but a unique kind of corporeality that is not sense perceptible, because obviously Christ’s presence is not visible or tangible in the Eucharist. “Sacramental” (special kind of corporeal) and “spiritual” are synonyms for those who believe in real but sacramental corporeal presence. But for those who believe in real absence (Zwingli) or spiritual but not corporeal (Calvin), “spiritual” is pitted against real and it means “sacramental” but sacramental understood as uncorporeal.
The history I just outline helps explained why Schaff and others claim that Augustine taught a spiritual presence. Isn’t that convenient, Augustine used the same word Calvin did. But did he mean the same thing as Calvin? I say no, Schaff says yes.
Alasdair Heron (mentioned in my preceding comment) also says no. He says Augustine did believe in real presence, not merely spiritual presence. Heron prefers to use “sacramental” to describe this real presence because “spiritual” can mean so many different things. We Catholics can also call the real corporal presence Sacramental presence because it’s not the same as everyday corporeal presence. We don’t mean quite the same thing as Heron means by “sacramental” but at least Heron doesn’t try to fit Augustine to a procrustean Calvinist bed. He remains a Reformed but he’s aware that Augustine didn’t exactly teach what Calvin taught and that Catholics are probably closer to Augustine’s real meaning. Heron does give more credence to Dugmore’s line of reasoning than I would, but still, he’s at least a Reformed thinker one can reason with.
That is an important thing to keep in the back of our minds. The reason why it is not sufficient to just read the Bible and believe is precisely because of 2,000 years of man-added meanings and traditions to all versions of Christianity. Today, we have volumes and volumes of books and documents which are almost impossible to digest by a single individuals, too voluminous for a human being to process.
Understanding early Church is not only dependent on the available evidence (archeology, manuscripts), but on the veracity of extant copies, on historical developments, on the political and social realities of the times, on social norms of the ancients as opposed to ours, etc. In short, in order to believe and to "know" that what you believe is true is no longer a matter of simply hearing the word. This is a very good post, very apropos. I will try to read all of it, piecemeal. However, I just wanted to call everyone's attention to the following statement of Justin Martyr:
Is this what the Church teaches today?
Maybe in the West. In the East, he is a minor saint, quite obscure.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
“I BELIEVE” - “WE BELIEVE”
GOD COMES TO MEET MAN
50 By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation.1 Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men. God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
THE REVELATION OF GOD
I. GOD REVEALS HIS “PLAN OF LOVING GOODNESS”
51 “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.”2
It was unheard of in Judaism to eat flesh and drink human blood. It is nowhere to be found in Jewish religious tradition as acceptable sacrifice.
And Jesus being a Jew who obeyed the Law perfectly would not have done something the Law explicitly fobids! So, something is not kosher here, no pun intended.
Therefore, the idea is either spiritually symbolic or it is cultist cannibalism. It cannot be both. God offeirng himself as real food and real drink...so that by consuming him we are consumed by him. Good Lord!
“”Schaff was too well trained not to know the difference””
You’re right! Philip Schaff is a fraud . Much of what he writes has been exposed already.
Here is an example
Philip Schaff Says Cyprian “Symbolic”
What does historian Philip Schaff say about Cyprian on the Eucharist?
“Cyprian likewise appears to favor a symbolical interpretation of the words of institution, yet not so clearly. The idea of the real presence would have much better suited his sacerdotal conception of the ministry. In the customary mixing of the wine with water he sees a type of the union of Christ with his church, and, on the authority of John 6:53, holds the communion of the Supper indispensable to salvation. The idea of a sacrifice comes out very boldly in Cyprian.” (Schaff, volume 2, page 243-244)
That’s it from Schaff on Cyprian. First, I ask — WHERE does Cyprian “appear to favor a symbolical interpretation” of “This is My Body... This is My Blood.” He then adds “yet not so clearly.” You better believe not so clearly! Schaff gives no evidence whatsoever for this “symbolical” view. The direct quotes from St. Cyprian above speak for themselves. Schaff is simply wrong characterizing this as “symbolical.” WHAT is symbolical? The Eucharist is in fact “the body and blood” of Christ and is offered in sacrifice says Cyprian! That is not symbolical! That is as Catholic and Orthodox as you can get!
Schaff is fudging here. While he admits that the idea of sacrifice in the Eucharist “comes out very boldly” in Cyprian, he later repeats —
“The African fathers, in the third century, who elsewhere incline to the symbolical interpretation of the words of institution, are the first to approach on this point the later Roman Catholic idea of a sin-offering; especially Cyprian, the steadfast advocate of priesthood and of episcopal authority.” (Schaff, vol 2, pg 246-7)
Again “...the symbolical view of Tertullian and Cyprian” (vol 3, pg 492).
NOWHERE does Cyprian incline to a symbolical interpretation of the words of institution. Give me the evidence from Cyprian, not Schaff! I’ve already dealt with “This is the figure (Latin figura) of My body” from Tertullian and showed that should not be understood in modern terms of “symbolic.” Much more from J.N.D. Kelly and Darwell Stone later.
Cyprian on Real Presence and Sacrifice
In a footnote Schaff gives the Latin for Cyprian Letters 63:14 above —
“Epist. 63 ad Coecil. c. 14: ‘Si Jesus Christus, Dominus et Deus noster, ipse est summus sacerdos Dei Patris et sacrificium Patri seipsum primus obtulit et hoc fieri in sui commemorationem proecepit: utique ille sacerdos vice Christi vere fungitur, gui id, quod Christus fecit, imitatur et sacrificium verum et plenum tunc offert’” (Schaff, footnote #1, page 247).
See translation of Letters 63:14 above. Nothing “symbolic” about that! Schaff ends his section on the Eucharist as sacrifice with this line —
“The ideas of priesthood, sacrifice, and altar, are intimately connected, and a Judaizing or paganizing conception of one must extend to all.” (Schaff, volume 2, page 247)
St. Cyprian was not a Jew nor a pagan. He was a Christian bishop and a Saint who took Jesus at His word (Luke 22:19f). This is CHRIST’S body and blood we are receiving in the Holy Eucharist to unite us to Himself and to His Body the Church (1 Cor 10:16-17). That is neither a Judaizing nor paganizing conception. That is the BIBLE conception and the unanimous testimony of the early Christians!
“The belief that the Eucharist is a SACRIFICE is found EVERYWHERE. This belief is coupled with strong repudiations of carnal sacrifices; and is SAVED from being JUDAIC by the recognition of the elements AS CHRIST’S BODY AND BLOOD, of the union of the action of the Church on earth with that of Christ in heaven, and of the spiritual character of that whole priestly life and service and action of the community as the body of Christ which is a distinguishing mark of the Christian system.” (Darwell Stone, conclusion of Ante-Nicene period, volume 1, page 54)
“...the eucharist was regarded as the distinctively Christian SACRIFICE from the closing decade of the first century, if not earlier.” “The eucharist was also, of course, the great act of worship of Christians, their SACRIFICE. The writers and liturgies of the period are UNANIMOUS in recognizing it as such.” (Kelly, page 196, 214)
Here’s more from Protestant church history scholar J.N.D. Kelly —
“Clearly his [Tertullian cited before] assumption is that the Savior’s BODY and BLOOD are as REAL as the baptismal WATER. Cyprian’s attitude is similar. Lapsed Christians who claim communion without doing penance, he declares [De laps 16; cf. Ep 15:1], ‘DO VIOLENCE TO HIS BODY AND BLOOD, and sin more heinously AGAINST THE LORD with their hands and mouths [from which they received Communion] than when they denied Him’” (Kelly, page 211-212).
This passage from Jurgens FAITH OF THE EARLY FATHERS reads in context —
“The Apostle likewise bears witness and says; ‘You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils. You cannot be a communicant of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils’ [1 Cor 10:21]. And again he threatens the stubborn and perverse and denounces them, saying: ‘Whoever eats the bread or drinks the Cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord’ [1 Cor 11:27]. But they spurn and despise all these warnings; and before their sins are expiated, before they have made a confession of their crime, before their conscience has been purged in the ceremony and at the hand of the priest [sacrificio et manu sacerdotis], before the offense against an angry and threatening Lord has been appeased, they do VIOLENCE TO HIS BODY AND BLOOD; and with their hands and mouth they SIN AGAINST THE LORD more than when they denied Him.” (Cyprian, The Lapsed 15,16)
Again, how in the world does Schaff get “symbolical” out of that!
I wanted also to quote this line from the NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA —
“St. Cyprian (d. 258) deplored the denial of Christ by those who apostatized in the persecution of Decius. But even worse was their reception of the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ before their sins had been expiated. (This would not be so if Christ were only symbolically present.) ‘Greater is the crime they now commit by hand and mouth [the priest used to put the Host into the hand of the Christian, who in turn put it upon his own tongue] against the Lord than when they denied the Lord’ (De lapsis 15.16; CSEL 3.1:248).” (NCE , volume 5, page 604)
BTW, the NCE and JND Kelly list Darwell Stone as a reference in their bibliography but Schaff is nowhere to be found! I wonder why?
“Later he [St. Cyprian] expatiates [De laps 25f] on the terrifying consequences of profaning the sacrament, and the stories he tells confirm that he took the REAL PRESENCE LITERALLY.” (Kelly, pg 212)
And it just so happens I have this extended passage from Jurgens as well!
“Hear what took place in my presence and with myself as witness. It happened that some parents were fleeing; and acting imprudently because of their fear, they left an infant daughter in the care of a nurse. The nurse turned the abandoned child over to the magistrates. In the presence of the idol where the people were gathering, and because she was not, on account of her age, able to eat meat, they gave her bread mixed with wine, which was itself left over after the sacrifice offered by those who are perishing [i.e. pagans]. Afterwards the mother recovered her daughter. But the girl was no more able to speak and point out the crime that had been committed than she had before been able to understand and prevent it.
“It came about through ignorance, therefore, that the mother brought the child into our presence when we were offering the Sacrifice. The girl mingled with the saints [Jurgens: the term -cum sanctis- applies to the Christian congregation]; and then, growing impatient of our prayers and petitions, was at one moment shaken with weeping and at another began to be tossed about by the violent excitement of her mind. As if by the compulsion of a torturer, the soul of that child of still tender years confessed the awareness of the deed by such signs as it could.
“When the solemnities were completed, however, and the deacon began to offer the chalice to those present, and when her turn came among the rest of those receiving, the little girl, with an instinct of the divine majesty, turned her face away, compressed her mouth with resisting lips, and refused the cup. The deacon persisted, however; and although she was resisting, he poured some into her mouth from the Sacrament in the cup. The result was that she began to choke and to vomit. The Eucharist was not able to remain in that violated body and mouth. The drink sanctified in the Blood of the Lord [santificatus in Domini sanguine potus] burst forth from her polluted stomach. So great is the power of the Lord, and so great his majesty!” (Cyprian, The Lapsed 25)
DG> Tertullian’s and Cyprian’s views were “symbolic”
Symbolic? Symbolic? Symbolic my left ear lobe as Joe Didde says!
More from J.N.D. Kelly on St. Cyprian and the Eucharist —
“So, when he comments on the Lord’s Prayer, he states [De orat dom 18] that Christ is our bread ‘because He is the bread of us who TOUCH HIS BODY’; and elsewhere he argues [Ep 57:2] that prospective martyrs should be fortified ‘with the protection of CHRIST’S BODY AND BLOOD....For how can we teach or incite them to shed their OWN blood in confessing the Name if, as they set out on their service, we refuse them THE BLOOD OF CHRIST?’.....
“....when Cyprian states [Ep 63:13; cf. ib 63:2] that ‘in the wine CHRIST’S BLOOD IS SHOWN’ (in vino vero ostendi sanguinem Christi), we should recall that in the context he is arguing against heretics who wilfully use water instead of wine at the eucharist. In choosing the term ‘is shown’, therefore, he is NOT hinting that the wine merely symbolizes the sacred blood. His point is simply that wine is an essential ingredient of the eucharist, since numerous Old Testament texts point to it as a type of the precious blood. It is significant that only a few lines above [Ep 63:11] he had spoken of ‘DRINKING THE LORD’S BLOOD’” (Kelly, page 212-213).
And now Darwell Stone A HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST —
“The writings of St. Cyprian contain very many incidental references to the Eucharist. It is always mentioned with profound reverence. The Eucharistic food is described as ‘sanctified’ [De laps 25] — a phrase applied also, it must be noticed, to a person who has been made holy by being baptised [E.g. Ep 69:2,8,10,11,15; 70:2; 73:18], and to the water and the oil made holy for use in the administration of Baptism [Ep 70:1,2].
“With obvious or expressed reference to our Lord’s words, ‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine’ [Matt 7:6], it is spoken of as ‘the holy thing’ [De laps 26], or ‘the holy thing of the Lord’ [De unit 8; De laps 15,26; Ep 31:6], or ‘the pearls of the Lord’ [Ep 31:6]. ‘THE BLOOD OF CHRIST’ is said to be ‘shown’ or ‘set forth’ by the wine in the cup; the bread and wine which the Lord offered to the Father are called ‘HIS BODY AND BLOOD’; the ‘wine of the cup of the Lord’ is spoken of as ‘BLOOD’. (Stone, volume 1, page 40)
[in a footnote Stone has the following from Cyprian Epistle 63] :
2, ‘nor can His blood, by which we have been redeemed and quickened, be seen to be in the cup, when wine, which is shown (ostenditur) to be the blood of Christ, is absent from the cup’;
4, ‘our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered sacrifice to God the Father, and offered the very same thing as Melchizedek, that is bread and wine, namely His body and blood’;
6, ‘when the blood of the grape is spoken of, what else is shown than the wine of the cup of the Lord which is blood?’;
7, ‘mention is made of wine that by wine may be understood the blood of the Lord, and that what was afterwards manifested in the Lord’s cup might be foretold in the predictions of the prophets.’ (Cyprian, from Stone, volume 1, page 40, footnote)
“Communicants are said to receive and to be sustained and protected by the BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST [De laps 2; De dom orat 18; Ep 11:5; 57:2; 58:1,9; 63:7]. When any communicate unworthily the BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD are taken and drunk with defiled hands and polluted mouth, and are outraged and profaned [De laps 16,22,25; Ep 15:1; 75:21].
“To complete what may be gathered as to St. Cyprian’s thought of the Eucharistic presence, there are two passages which need to be correlated to those already in view. In the first of these passages St. Cyprian says of one who took part in the Eucharistic rite after an act of apostacy —
‘He could not eat and handle the holy thing of the Lord, but found that he was carrying a cinder in his open hands. By this single instance it was shown that the Lord departs when he is denied, and that what is received does not benefit unto salvation one who is unworthy, since the saving grace is changed into a cinder on the departure of the holy thing’ [De laps 26 we shall cover this later].
“In the other passage St. Cyprian is speaking of an opposite instance, where the faith of Christ is victoriously maintained in time of persecution — ‘Let us arm,’ he says, ‘the right hand also with the sword of the Spirit, so that it may bravely reject the deadly sacrifices of the heathen, and that the hand which mindful of the Eucharist RECEIVES THE BODY OF THE LORD may embrace the Lord Himself, hereafter to obtain the reward of the heavenly crowns of the Lord’ [Ep 58:9].
“In the first of these passages, in distinction from those in which the body and blood of the Lord is said to be taken and drunk and outraged and profaned in unworthy Communions, the possibility is contemplated of a withdrawal of the sacred presence in such cases; in the second of them the embrace of the Lord Himself seems to be regarded as a special gift over and above what is in every good Communion.” (Stone, volume 1, page 40-41)
“Up the Rhine,” of course. What came down the Rhine was Swiss sectarianism.
Somebody needs to pick up a copy of the letters of St. Ignatius (95 AD). Not you, of course, but somebody who has written at length above.
FWIW - one of my ‘take ways’ from Schaff is that the Church Fathers wrote without the following controversies in mind. This makes it tough for us to read what they meant with confidence.
For example, I’ve heard many Baptists sermons talk about considering the bread to be the broken body of Christ. NONE of those pastors meant transubstantiation, yet a Catholic hearing them might interpret them that way.
Now, add in to that this question - is it a sacrifice for atonement, or thanksgiving? The name suggests the latter, as do the passages in the scripture abut remembrance and proclamation. I see no passage of scripture that indicates it is for forgiveness.
John 6 needs to be interpreted in context. “26Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you...32Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
Catholics read that as discussing Eucharist, which Jesus had never discussed before. It makes far more sense in context of the feeding of the 5000 in verses 1-15 of the same chapter.
Verses 52-53 follow 35: “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
I doubt I’ll convince a single Catholic. However, I don’t think it is fair to say the Catholic interpretation is the only one possible.
In the end, the question of whether it is a sacrifice of thanksgiving (eucharist) or atonement is settled for me by Hebrews 10: “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” There are too many passages where the sacrifice of Jesus is spoken of in the past, and as “once for all”. It is not a perpetual sacrifice we can re-partake in weekly. Not according to the word of God.
The African fathers, in the third century, who elsewhere incline to the symbolical interpretation of the words of institution, are the first to approach on this point the later Roman Catholic idea of a sin-offering; especially Cyprian, the steadfast advocate of priesthood and of episcopal authority. (Schaff, vol 2, pg 246-7)
Again ...the symbolical view of Tertullian and Cyprian (vol 3, pg 492).
NOWHERE does Cyprian incline to a symbolical interpretation of the words of institution. Give me the evidence from Cyprian, not Schaff!”
You miss Schaff’s point ENTIRELY!
He wrote: “The African fathers, in the third century, who elsewhere [yes, ELSEWHERE they incline to symbolic] incline to the symbolical interpretation of the words of institution, are the first to approach on this point [but HERE they do not!] the later Roman Catholic idea of a sin-offering; especially Cyprian [who is strongly against the symbolic].
Attack him for being wrong, if and where he is, but it makes no sense whatsoever to attack him for agreeing with you!
And Schaff’s point on sacrifice is that it starts out as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (the meaning of Eucharist) and NOT atonement. Atonement conflicts with Romans, and all those passages that litter the New Testament about how we HAVE BEEN forgiven, and HAVE BEEN saved.
Be pedantic if you must. The context is clear. And one could argue that a hell of a lot more ink was spilled theologically in the West over the centuries simply because the Christian West expanded so widely while Christian East struggled to survive under Islam.
Is it really necessary for Easterners not to let anything go past without getting in a dig at the West and at Augustine? It’s tiresome.
By that measure it's even harder to understand the protestant theory of understanding scripture(solo Scripture) especially because they have no historical writings to back up their beliefs.
Catholic teaching on Our Eucharistic Lord is very consistent through the ages,like it or not,dear brother!
Your reasoning is inverted. Of course the specific issues that Schaff is concerned with had not arisen in the time of Tertullian and the other fathers. Real Presence (the what) was not an issue until the time of Berengar of Tours in 1050. Transsubstantiation (the how) was not an issue until after Real Presence was settled and they turned to thining about the how.
No intelligent Catholic reads Justin or Irenaeus or Tertullian or Augustine and “hears” transsubstantiation, as you claim. You are using “transsubstantiation” when you mean “real presence” as distinct from “merely symbolic presence” (Berengar, perhaps Calvin) or “real absence” (Zwingli). The fact that you think “transsubstantiation” is the basic label for Catholic belief only shows that you don’t really understand the debates on these issues.
Catholics read the Fathers and find nothing, zero, nada that would either (1) deny a real, corporeal presence or (2) affirm real absence or mere symbol.
We read the Fathers and find things less clearly spelled out than they were later. And that’s not a problem because things got spelled out only after mere symbol or real absence positions got raised.
(Note to Kosta: yes, this spelling out never took place in the East. For good reasons. The mere symbol and real absence positions were not raised there. Please do not tell me that the Easterners are wiser because they didn’t stoop to spelling out these arcane differences. They didn’t have too. Zwingli and Berengar were Westerners. The West dealt with the problems raised in the West. We did a damn good job of it, if you ask me. Would to God that we could have stayed with less spelling out. But if you’d have had a Berengar or Zwingli in your midst, I hope to God that you also would have done some spelling out.)
Back to Mr.Rogers: we are perfectly correct to recognize in the Fathers a teaching on Christ’s real presence that is compatible with our later more spelled out teaching.
You, on the other hand, have a tough task. You need to show that their writings are compatible with either a merely spiritual/symbolic or real absence position. Schaff tried to show that a merely spiritual, not really corporal/substantial presence was actively taught by the Fathers.
But as we have pointed out, to do this you have to play fast and loose with the language.
It will not do for you, Mr. Rogers, to tell us Catholics that we are wrong to “read into” the Fathers our real presence (not transsubstantiation) belief. We don’t have to do that to maintain our beliefs. We merely have to show that the Fathers are not incompatible, that they are less fully developed by not contradictory.
You have to show they actually contradict real/substantial presence. (”Real” and “substantial” are the same thing, from res and substantia in Latin.)
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