The structure of this paper is as follows. I begin with a brief review of the Scriptural texts. In doing so, I propose a novel theory regarding the institution of the Eucharist. I then consider the early Patristic texts at greater length. The texts chosen have been indifferently selected on the basis that they are variously advanced by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant disputants as favouring their particular positions. I then present a theological analysis of the Eucharist as the three-fold rational sacrifice that justifies the Aaronic cult. Next I discuss the controversy over the "form of the Eucharist", referring back to my speculations regarding the Gospel of John, and finally I discuss Eucharistic Ontology from a Platonist perspective. Readers who are familiar with the earlier material are invited to skip immediately to the latter sections of this document.
"I speak as to sensible men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?" [1Cor 10:15-18]
"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.St Paul uses recognizably Platonic language ["participation", "partake", "the one bread" = the form of the Body of Christ] to make a strong theoretical statement about the relationship between the Eucharistic Elements and the Body and Blood of Jesus. He then backs this up with a discussion of the practical consequences of a form of Eucharistic abuse. This two-pronged approach to the topic makes it pretty clear that St Paul did not think that the Eucharist was "just a symbolic action", but rather participated in an uncompromising objective reality.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy [anaxios] manner will be guilty [enochos] of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks [anaxios - omitted in RSV] without discerning [diakrinon] the body eats and drinks judgement [krima] upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another - if any one is hungry, let him eat at home - lest you come together to be condemned." [1Cor 11:23-34]
The phrase "Do this in remembrance of Me" corresponds to the Greek "Touto poieite eis ton emen anamnesin". It has hidden depths. The word "poiein" (translated here as "Do") has sacrificial overtones. In the Greek Septuagint Bible, there are numerous sacrificial uses of this word, for example: "Now this is what you shall "poieseis" upon the altar; two lambs a year old, day by day, continually" [Exodus 29:38]. Similarly, the word "anamnesis" (literally "remembrance") also has sacrificial overtones. It occurs only eight times in the Greek Bible. All but once [Wis 16:6] it is in a sacrificial context. Three examples are:
"There is in these sacrifices an anamnesis of sin year after year." [Heb 10:3]St Paul uses legalistic language in discussing the reception of Holy Communion. His sequence of thought is:
"And you shall put pure frankincense with each row, that it may go with the bread as an anamnesis to be offered by fire to the Lord." [Lev 24:7]
"On the day of your gladness .... you shall blow over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; they shall serve you for anamnesis before your God." [Num 10:10]
As to why John appears to the institution of the Eucharist, I make two suggestions:
"When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said:
'Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.
I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.
And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth. I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.
Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.'"Although it is not stated that this prayer was a blessing said over bread and wine and although Jesus does not explicitly state that bread and wine were become His Body and Blood, the prayer is both Eucharistic and Intercessory in nature, as might be expected of the Dominical Anaphora. It looks back, with gratitude and satisfaction, at what had already been achieved and looks forward to must yet be accomplished. The phrase: "The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one" is absolutely applicable to the Blessed Sacrament. Long before I conceived that this text might be the First Eucharistic Prayer, I had thought that this phrase must relate to the institution of the Eucharist. This language, as also the phrase: "this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" is similar to that used by Jesus in the explicit eucharistic teaching contained in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel:
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst '.....
The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, 'I am the bread which came down from heaven' ....
Jesus answered them, 'Do not murmur among yourselves ..... I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My Flesh'.
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'
So Jesus said to them, '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. He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.' This He said in the synagogue, as He taught at Caper'na-um.
Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?'
But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, said to them, 'Do you take offence at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.' ....
After this many of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him. Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also wish to go away?'
Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.'"Here, Jesus is portrayed as speaking in extreme terms of the absolute necessity for anyone wishing to have Eternal Life to eat the Flesh of the Messiah and to drink His Blood. The language that Jesus uses is so strong that many of his followers leave Him. It should be recalled that the language was particularly offensive spoken by a Jew to Jews, because the idea of drinking any kind of blood - let alone human blood - is abhorrent to any orthodox Jew. As far as I can recall, this is the only occasion when it is recorded that anyone stops following Jesus. Rather than Jesus calling them back with an explanation of "the parable" which they had misunderstood, Our Lord is recorded as having defiantly challenged those who remained "Do you also wish to go away?"
It should give pause for thought that the language that Jesus uses is in fact stronger than that the Catholic Church allows to be used, for She upholds the following two propositions.
It should be noted, however, that some notable Patristic authorities have on occasion interpreted the sixth Chapter of St John's Gospel in an entirely symbolic manner.
The Eucharist was not a subject of theological controversy and ecclesiastical action till the ninth century. Hence the early church did not formalize any agreed summary of belief regarding the Eucharist. This means that any consensus in language that emerges is especially significant, as it cannot be explained as resulting from formal discussion and debate. In point of fact, in the question of the Eucharist, two divergent tendencies can be discerned. These are the realistic mode of expression, typical of Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus of Lyons; and the allegorical mode of expression, typical of the North African writers: Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian and Cyprian of Carthage.
The existence of two modes of expression might be explained in two broad ways.
It is important not to read the Fathers too "technically". They are writing generally as practical apologists, or catechists, or preachers: not professional theologians or philosophers. They are often making terminology up "on the hoof" and should not be held to an exact account. It is especially foolish to interpret their words as relating to concepts used in philosophical systems that had not yet been developed. Hence, while as a Platonist I will leap on any use of "participation" or "form" and related words as showing a use of the Theory of Ideas, I would caution against over zealous interpretation of the word "substance" as playing the role that it was later given in Medieval Scholastic Aristotelianism.
In the matter of the Eucharist - and all the sacraments - there is an additional complication. Because there is no doubt that each of the sacraments is a symbol (the Orthodox Catholic contention is that each of the sacraments is an effective symbol, an objective carrier of grace: not that it is not a symbol) it is always possible and often proper to talk of a sacrament as a symbol, or to discuss the symbolism of the sacrament, or to apply the sacramental symbol analogously to some related matter. The fact that a Father does any of these things is no evidence whatsoever that he believed that the sacrament was only a symbol. The clearest example of this is the work of Cyril of Jerusalem, who - perhaps most clearly - proclaims the Orthodox Catholic doctrine while making much use of the word "figure", with the ostensible meaning of "symbol".
In what follows, I have tended to favour the Eastern rather than the Western Fathers, as being generally more theologically sophisticated. In fact, the writings of the lesser Western Fathers add nothing to the tenor of what follows: they generally write in the realistic mode, and favour the Orthodox Catholic doctrine. I have terminated my review with Theodoret, Augustine and Pope Gelasius as these are the three main Fathers that Protestants like to quote, and for that very reason it would be wrong to exclude them from consideration. Of course, the idea that these three (as any witness writing after 200 AD) give us much information as to the original explicit belief of the Early Church is absurd. In order to keep this section to a reasonable size, I have relegated the later authors to an appendix.
"They [the Docetae] keep away from the Eucharist and from the Prayers, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sin, and whom the Father in his goodness raised from the dead." [Smyrn. 7]
"Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is one body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with His Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice - even as there is but one bishop, with hiis clergy and my own fellow servitors the deacons." [Philad. 4]
"This food is called with us the Eucharist ...... we do not receive them as ordinary food or ordinary drink; but as by the word of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also, we are taught, the food blessed by the prayer of the word which we received from Him, by which, through its transformation, our blood and flesh is nourished: this food is the Flesh and Blood of Jesus who was made flesh."
[First Apology lxvi]
"And He also counselled His disciples to offer to God the first fruits of His creatures ..... when He took bread, of the natural creation, and gave thanks, and said 'this is my Body' .... This oblation the Church receives from the Apostles and throughout the whole world she offers it to God, who supplies as our nourishment the first fruits of His gifts in the New Covenant. Concerning this, Malachi prophesied ..... by this He quite clearly means that the former people will cease to offer to God, but in every place a sacrifice will be offered, and that a 'pure' sacrifice; while his name is 'glorified among the gentiles'" [Adv. haer. IV xvii 4]
"There are oblations there and oblations here; sacrifices among the chosen people, sacrifices in the Church. Only the kind of sacrifice is changed, for now sacrifice is offered not by servants but by sons."Moreover, he uses the fact that even the Gnostics were known to believe in the Real Presence to argue for an orthodox theology of the incarnation of God the Word and the redemption of Man.
[Adv. haer. IV xviii 2]
"We are bound to make our oblation to God and thus to show ourselves in all things thankful to him as our Creator .... it is only the Church which offers a pure oblation to the Creator, presenting an offering from His creation, with thanksgiving .... How can they [the Gnostics] consistently suppose that the bread over which thanksgiving has been said is the Body of their Lord, and that the chalice is the chalice of His Blood, if they say that He is not the son of the creator of the world ..... How, again, can they say that the flesh which is nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord passes into corruption and attains not unto eternal life?Finally, he attributes the fact that Eucharistic elements become the Body and Blood of Christ to the consecratory words of the priest.
Let them either change their opinion or abstain from making the oblations of which we have been speaking. But our belief is in accord with the Eucharist, while the Eucharist confirms our opinion. For we offer to Him the things that are His own, proclaiming harmoniously the unity of flesh and spirit. For as the bread of the earth, receiving the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but Eucharist: consisting of two things, an earthly and a heavenly; so also our bodies, partaking of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of eternal resurrection." [Adv. haer. IV xviii 4-5]
"If the flesh is not to be saved, then the Lord did not redeem us by His Blood, nor is the 'cup of blessing the partaking of His Blood', nor is the 'bread which we break the partaking of His Body' [1Cor 10:16] .... the drink, which is part of His creation, He declared to be His own Blood; and by this He enriches our blood; and the bread, which comes from His creation, He affirmed to be His own Body; and by this He nourishes our bodies. Whenever then the cup that man mixes and the bread that man makes receives the words of God, the Eucharist becomes the Body of Christ and by these elements the substance of our flesh receives nourishment and sustenance. How then can they allege that the flesh is incapable of the gift of God, which is eternal life, seeing that the flesh is fed on the flesh and blood of the Lord and is a member of Him?" [Adv. haer. V ii 2-3]
"He makes the word of his discourse [John 6] to be the giver of life, because that word is spirit and life; He says the same of His Flesh, because 'The Word became flesh'. Therefore, for the sake of obtaining life, we must hunger for the Word, devour it with with our hearing, chew over it with our intellect, digest it with our faith ...."In the next passage, Tertullian confuses the issue further by stating first that Jesus "made" bread into "His own Body" and then explaining this as "the figure" of His Body. Now, this problem might be resolved by taking his word figure as a synonym for "form", in which case Tertullian is not saying that Jesus was using a "figure of speech", but rather that Jesus had transfigured the bread into the Form of His Body. However, the plausibility of this explanation is limited by the fact that Tertullian is known to have been hostile to Platonism, as every form of secular philosophy [De praescriptione haereticorum vii]. Of course, he may have changed his opinion in this matter as he certainly did on many others. Tertullian goes on to say that Jesus "called the bread His Body" and finally uses the ambiguous phrase "consecrate His Blood in wine".
[De Resurrectione Carnis 37]
"Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own Body, by saying, 'This is My Body', that is, the figure [figura] of My Body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable Body. An empty thing, or phantom, is incapable of a figure. If, however - as Marcion might say - He pretended the bread was His Body, because He lacked the truth of bodily substance, it follows that He must have given bread for us. It would contribute very well to the support of Marcion's theory of a phantom body, that bread should have been crucified!....Of course, in this text, Tertullian never says that the consecrated bread and wine were only figures. Moreover, the character of his argument - which is intended to establish that Jesuus had a physical body and was not some sort of apparition or semblance - would best be served by the notion that the consecrated bread and wine were in fact the true Body and Blood of Christ. Indeed, when he treats directly of the resurrection of the body, he speaks of the body of the Christian feeding on the Body and Blood of Christ so that his soul might feed on God. This pattern of thought is repeated by Cyril of Jerusalem and Gregory of Nyssa.
And thus, casting light, as He always did, upon the ancient prophecies, He declared plainly enough what He meant by the bread, when He called the bread His own Body. He likewise, when mentioning the cup and making the new testament to be sealed 'in His Blood', affirms the reality of His Body. For no blood can belong to a body which is not a body of flesh.....
Thus did He now consecrate His Blood in wine, who then (by the patriarch) used the figure of wine
[Gen 49: 11]to describe His Blood." [Adversus Marcionem iv 40]
"The flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ that the soul may be fattened on God."
[De Resurrectione Carnis 8]
"In another place, the Lord also expressed this in a different symbolism, when, in John's Gospel, He says 'Eat my Flesh and drink my Blood'. The metaphor of drinking, applied to faith and the promise, clearly means that the Church, consisting, like a human being, of many members, is refreshed and grows, is compacted and welded together, by both these, faith being the body and hope the soul; just as the Lord was made of flesh and blood." [Paedagogus I vi 38]
"You cannot understand? Perhaps you may if I express it more generally. Put it this way: 'My flesh' is an allegory for the Holy Spirit, for the flesh is His handiwork. 'Blood', by analogy stands for the Word, for the Word is like rich blood poured into our life." [Paedagogus I vi 43]It is also important to note that this passage arises in a context not where - as it might be thought - John's Gospel is being discussed, but rather where the image of "spiritual milk" is being tossed backwards and forwards. Similarly, the following passage is taken from a context not where - as it might be thought - the Eucharist is being discussed, but where the right attitude to the drinking of wine is being dealt with.
"And the Blood of the Lord is twofold. For there is His Fleshly Blood, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and the spiritual, that by which we are anointed. And to drink the Blood of Jesus, is to become partaker of the Lord's immortality; the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of flesh. As wine is mixed with water so, by analogy, the Spirit is with man. The mixture nourishes man to faith; the Spirit guides to immortality. The mingling of both - the water and the Word - is called Eucharist, a grace of praise and beauty. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and soul ...." [Paedagogus II ii 20]
In the following passage, Origen explicitly, directly and categorically denies that Jesus "called" the bread and wine that He held in his hands His Body and Blood. This seems to be contrary to all sense, as the synoptic Gospels all clearly record Jesus as doing exactly what Origen seems to specifically deny. I suggest that this tension can be resolved by taking note that Origen qualifies the words bread and wine with the word visible. Hence his meaning is that when Jesus nominated bread that He held in His hands to be His Body and when He nominated wine that He held in a cup to be His Blood, He was not referring to the observable bread and wine but rather to their underlying reality (whatever exactly this might mean) and this underlying reality became the Word Himself.
"That bread which God the Word owns to be His Body, is the Word which nourishes the soul, the Word which proceeds from God the Word, and that bread from the Bread of Heaven which is placed upon the table, of which it is written: 'You have prepared a table before me, against them that afflict me' [Ps. 22:5]. And that drink, which God the Word owns to be His Blood, is the Word which saturates and inebriates the hearts of those that drink it. They drink in that cup of which it is said: 'How goodly is Your inebriating chalice' [Ps. 22:5] ....In the following passage, Origen says the Christians are "said" (though whether accurately or inaccurately; really or metaphorically he does not make clear) to drink the Blood of Christ in holy communion and also (here it can be presumed to be metaphorically, I suppose) when they accept and believe the Gospel.
Not that visible bread, which he held in His hands, did the divine Logos call His Body, but the Word, in the mystery of which the bread was to be broken. Not that visible drink did he call his Blood, but the Word, in the mystery of which this drink was to be poured out.
For the Body of the divine Logos or His Blood, what else can they be than the Word which nourishes and the Word which gladdens the heart?" [Com in Matt. 85]
"We are said to drink the Blood of Christ, not only in the rite of the mysteries, but also when we receive His words in which life consists, just as He says, 'The words which I have spoken are spirit and life' [John 6:63]"In the following passages, Origen clearly attributes to the Eucharistic elements an intrinsic and objective vitality and worth.
[Hom in Num. xvi 9]
"You who are wont to assist at the divine Mysteries, know how, when you receive the Body of the Lord, you take reverent care, lest any particle of it should fall to the ground and a portion of the consecrated gift escape you. You consider it a crime, and rightly so, if any particle thereof fell down through negligence." [Hom in Exod. xiii 3]I am something at a loss in understanding the final sentence. My best guess is that Origen is pointing out that while simple believers only risk profaning "the bread and chalice" by abuse of the Holy Eucharist: which is quite bad enough, those who are more theologically sophisticated (such as himself) risk a second profanation of "the bread and chalice" - understood allegorically - by heresy.
"As 'he who unworthy eats the bread of the Lord or drinks His chalice .... eats and drinks to his judgement'
[1Cor 11:27,29], as the greater force, which is in the bread and the chalice, effects good things in a good soul and evil things in a bad, the morsel given by Jesus was of the same kind; that which He gave to the other apostles saying 'Take and eat' [Mat 26:26] was salvation for them, but judgement for Judas, so that 'after the morsel Satan entered into him' [Jn 13:27].
The bread and chalice are understood by the more simple people in the ordinary meaning of 'Eucharist', but by those who have acquired a higher knowledge in the more divine meaning of 'the nourishing truth of the Word'."
[Com in Joan. xxxii 24]
"If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is himself the high priest of God the Father, and first offered himself as a sacrifice to God the Father, and commanded this to be done in remembrance of himself, then assuredly the priest acts truly in Christ's stead, when he reproduces what Christ did, and he then offers a true and complete sacrifice to God the Father, if he begins to offer as he sees Christ himself has offered."
[Epistle lxiii 14]
"Since then .... the great and precious ransom has been found for Jews and Greeks alike .... by Whose inspired and mystic teaching all we .... have procured the forgiveness of our former sins .... daily celebrating His memorial, the remembrance of His Body and Blood, and are admitted to a greater sacrifice than that of the ancient law, we do not reckon it right to fall back upon the first beggarly elements, which are symbols and likenesses but do not contain the truth itself ....
And after all this when He had offered such a wondrous offering and choice victim to the Father, and sacrificed for the salvation of us all, He delivered a memorial to us to offer to God continually instead of a sacrifice ....
As we have received a memorial of this offering which we celebrate on a table by means of symbols of His Body and saving Blood according to the laws of the new covenant, we are taught again by the prophet David to say: 'Thou hast prepared a table before me in the face of my persecutors. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and thy cup cheers me as the strongest' [Ps. 22:5]. Here it is plainly the mystic Chrism and the holy Sacrifices of Christ's Table that are meant, by which we are taught to offer to Almighty God through our great High Priest all through our life the celebration of our sacrifices, bloodless, reasonable, and well-pleasing to Him ....
We sacrifice, therefore, to Almighty God a sacrifice of praise. We sacrifice the divine and holy and sacred offering. We sacrifice anew according to the new covenant the pure sacrifice ....
So, then, we sacrifice and offer incense: On the one hand when we celebrate the Memorial of His great Sacrifice according to the Mysteries He delivered to us, and bring to God the Eucharist for our salvation with holy hymns and prayers; while on the other we consecrate ourselves to Him alone and to the Word His High Priest, devoted to Him in body and soul." [Demonstratio Evangelica book 1 Ch 10]
"After having spoken thus, the Lord rose up from the place where He had made the Passover and had given His Body as food and His Blood as drink, and He went with His disciples to the place where He was to be arrested. But He ate of His own Body and drank of His own Blood, while He was pondering on the dead. With His own hands the Lord presented His own Body to be eaten, and before He was crucified He gave His blood as drink..." [Treatises 12:6]
Unlike any other sacrifice, the Mass is a rational service. This is because it is under-written by God HimSelves. All other sacrifices are irrational, because the offering made is incommensurate with the purpose in view. An infinite and impassible God cannot possibly be interested in any gift that is the product of human labour or of the natural order. In the Eucharist a gift of infinite worth, namely God Himself, is passed back and forth:
Jesus was a "Victim" in at least three ways, because His Life conformed to at least three of the sacrificial types that featured in Levitical Ritual:
It is dishonest for someone to share in the common meal who does not accept the values that define the Church community, because the meal - quite apart from its sacramental character - is a statement of a fellowship defined by those Gospel values. Of course, in these days when the definition of these values is impaired by the ambiguities of history, one must face the uncomfortable reality that in practice various people honestly adhere in good conscience to competing versions of those Gospel values that in theory uniquely define the Church of God. It is for this reason that the Catholic Church has recently adopted the practice of limited inter-communion with various other "Ecclesial Communities", such as the Copts and "Nestorians".
"Wherefore, O Father, We thy humble servants,The reckless and profligate generosity of The Blessed Trinity is beyond all words. That the Impassible God should care for His creatures of clay is beyond all understanding. That He should condescend to become man is absurd. That He should put himself into the hands of human beings, and make Himself their property, is simply irresponsible.
here bring before Thee Christ Thy well beloved,
All Perfect Offering, Sacrifice Immortal, Spotless Oblation"
[W H H Jervois (1852-1905), no. 335 in The English Hymnal]
"The great deceit is that God hates us,
and that we are not good enough for God just as we are.
So God Himself became our last and perpetual Sacrifice.
This perpetual Sacrifice is re-presented in earthly space and time at Holy Mass,
but even more illustratively,
as in the Mass God is not only present and offering Himself to us
with His divinity and crucified/glorified humanity,
but adding yet another dimension to His Everlasting Sacrifice,
He presents Himself as a host,
reducing Himself even further in size:
the Unlimited making His Sacred Humanity even more limited,
the Highest making Himself even lower,
the Greatest making Himself even smaller
in order to offer His humanity (and by analogy ours)
to the Blessed Trinity
- which includes Himself -
and in order to have sacred intercourse with us.
I can only understand Holy Communion, wherein Christ comes into my body, stays a while, then leaves without being consumed by me - as only the accidents are consumed - as a sort of intimate or spiritual coitus. In coitus too, the two are joined for a while, give each other pleasure and comfort, then take leave of each other without having been consumed." [A priest friend, spring 2005]
In stark contrast, the traditional anaphora of the Roman Church is not called the Anaphora of Peter and Paul - as one might have expected - but, literally "The Roman List" or compilation - for that is what a "canon" is: a list of names or propositions. The fact that it is a conflation of separate prayers is made obvious by the fact that it is punctuated by the tell-tale phrase "Through Christ Our Lord, Amen". It is natural to suppose that the Roman Canon is a sequence of "favourite prayers" for use at the Eucharist collected from a number of sources and authors over an extended period of time by various editors: most plausibly early Popes. All we know definitely of the evolution of the Canon (apart from the recent addition of the reference to St Joseph, at the instigation of Pope John XXIII) is that Pope Gregory the Great added the phrase "may you order our days in Thy peace" to the "Hanc Igitur". From that time it remained unchanged in all of the Western Rites of Mass.
The Roman Canon has nothing remotely like an Epiklesis. Its closest approximation is the blessing of the gifts just prior to the Words of Institution, but in this blessing no mention of Holy Spirit is made. Of course, the offertory prayer "Come O Sanctifier" is of the form of an Epiklesis: but it is not part of the Eucharistic prayer, has never been thought to be consecratory in effect and is very late in composition.
Now, as will be seen on even a brief study of its text, the doctrine that it contains is very "Catholic" indeed. It is pretty explicit in its understanding of the Eucharistic Elements as being objectively transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ and that the Eucharist is an expiatory oblation. Hence, the prayer is no kind of embarrassment to an Orthodox Catholic doctrine of the nature of the Mass, but only to the two official theories of the formalism of the consecration of the bread and wine.
There are basically three ways to view this problem.
"As controversies arose over the centuries and the contents of the faith had to be clarified and defended, the Church needed to find suitable vocabulary to express these deeper theological insights in an orthodox way. To this holy end She adopted many terms from various philosophies. One such term is transubstantiation. The term was originally scholastic or aristotelian, if you prefer, but is long no longer bound to one or another philosophy, as it is a canonized Catholic expression. The doctrine behind the term is certainly de fide catholica et definita, and cannot be denied. The Doctrine does not tell us in what wonderful way the change occurs, as that remains a divine mystery, but the doctrine does tell us what takes place: the whole substance of the bread [and wine] is changed into the Body of Christ etc. Of the bread [and wine] only the outward accidents remain.
Substance and accident are convenient terms to use in precise theological language. The same idea can be conveyed in simpler terms, as in the various catechisms for the folk: the whole being of the bread is changed and no longer exists, as Christ exists in its place. Only the outward appearance of bread remains - the smell, taste, shape, colour. I persoonally have never found the words substance and accidents a problem, I have always know what they meant. To me the substance is the inner reality, the accidents are the outward appearances. That is how I explain it to people, and ordinary Catholics have never found this unbelievable or incomprehensible. Granted, most ordinary Catholics are not philosophers or scientists!
Whatever terms one uses, the doctrine must be uncompromised. It seems dangerous in the extreme to me to stigmatize canonized theological expressions as belonging to one or another philosophy and therefore out-dated or no longer true. One could begin by reviewing the terms: person, nature, consubstantial, matter, form, grace, and so scan the whole history of christendom for terms not belonging to our favourite philosophy and scrap them all, but what then would be left of the contents of the faith, should it be deprived of the vehicles used to express it?
Language is important. One does not scrap vehicles without first developing better ones to take their place (which, I admit, is possible. Alas, we have presently few if any contemporary orthodox theologians busy with developing acceptable modern terminology). St. Augustine said that we must use as precise language as possible when speaking of matters of faith. I know that the eastern orthodox distance themselves in public from the term ''transubstantiation'', partly because they are eager to deny any connexion with Roman Catholicism. But the fact is that they do believe in the Real (and abiding) Presence and in the Eucharistic Sacrifice regardless of differences in terminology.
Not so, however, with our own modernist (ex-)Catholic brethren and with the Old Catholics. The modernists tried introducing transsignification and other terms in an effort to deny the doctrine self, under the guise that the term ''transubstantiation'' no longer meant anything to anyone. That is the fear of the Church's magisterium (and my fear), that the real intention behind a dislike for the term, is a dislike of the doctrine of faith itself.
The articles of Union of Utrecht state that the old Catholic Church denies the term Transubstantiation but does confess the Real Presence, and denies the Roman concept of Sacrifice, but does admit that the Mass is some sort of Sacrifice. What this in reality has come to mean, is that the Old Catholic Church does not believe in the Real Presence nor in the Sacrifice of the Mass at all anymore. They threw out first the terminology, claiming to believe in a way other than Rome, then eventually came to deny the whole doctrine behind the Roman terminology. They now admit only of 'A real presence' (a vague kind of moral presence) and celebrate the Mass as a memorial banquet." [A priest friend, Spring 2005]In my view, it would be a healthy exercise for the Church to review its philosophical and theological vocabulary. Words such as: person, nature, consubstantial, matter, form and grace; should be looked at, and it be decided whether they are helpful or not. Personally, I think that many of them are problematic, in any number of ways: not least in forming a barrier to the effective evangelization of modern man. This may make me sound like a modernist, but I'm not. The Modernist's plan is to maintain an appearance of continuity while entirely adapting the meaning to his own purposes. This is deeply dishonest. What matters is unchanging objective reality, not superficial formulaic conformity.
My purpose is not be to deprive the Church of the vehicles She uses to express Her Faith, but to attempt to provide Her with better ones. It shouldn't need to be said that one doesn't junk one's present vehicle (even when painfully aware that it is getting a bit shabby) before one has a tested alternative with which to replace it. My concern is to penetrate to the root of the original, Traditional meaning and then seek out whatever contemporary words and patterns of thought that best communicate this radical meaning with most clarity. This is identical to the task that Origen first attempted and that St Thomas Aquinas set himself in his day. One of the problems that holds the Church back is that no-one has dared to repeat the process since Aquinas' death. It is long over-due!
The image that forces itself on my mind - perhaps unfairly - is that of an bag or balloon, having a particular colour, surface texture and elasticity which is filled out by some liquid or gas. The bag is a compendium of the accidental properties of some object and the fluid is the substance which gives material reality to them. This image is not really accurate, as it is difficult to see how the accidents - apart from colour - are easier to change than the substance. Moreover, it is difficult to see how changing one substance for another would affect many of the accidents.
All that we can ever experience of a thing is its "accidents" (physicists call them observables) and I don't like to disparage them. As a physicist, I am familiar and comfortable with observables and know that they can reveal mysteries beyond one's wildest imaginings: if only one takes them seriously and grants them significance. As for substance, I have yet to meet either it or anyone who has gained any wisdom or insight from thinking or speaking of it.
As a physicist, I know that physical change is to do with the reorganization of lower level structures that themselves remain constant. This is the Atomic Theory that was first enunciated by Democritus. It is now backed by huge amounts of experimental evidence and is one of the cornerstones of all Natural Science. This means that change is always continuous, and on this basis an Aristotelian account of "substances" and "substantial change" as applied to ordinary physical phenomena is simply false.
It is true that phase changes, such as the freezing of water, involve large discontinuities in thermodynamic functions. Nevertheless, viewed as a process in time, such transformations are still continuous: the discontinuities are only between the initial and final steady-state situations. The transformation of one form of matter into another is - by its very nature - not a steady-state, and the time dependence destroys the apparent discontinuity. In effect, as well as there being such a thing as solid ice and such a thing as liquid water, there are also such things as "water in the process of freezing" and "ice in the process of melting", though these last two things have extremely short lifetimes.
Given that Physics knows of no constitution for a material object other than the observable (accidental) pattern of mass-energy that organizes it, it is impossible to make any sense of the notion of "substance".
As far as the Eucharistic transformation is concerned, not a single electron changes its motion as a result of the consecration - except in the case, one presumes, of the rare Eucharistic Miracle. This is because all statements of physics are best understood to be concerned with observables and St Thomas - uncontroversially - tells us that as far as all possible sensory (and I presume experimental) perception is concerned, the Eucharistic Elements remain observationally bread and wine.
As a theologian, I know that even on the "Declaratory Theory" of the Eucharist, there is a (short) extended period of time during which the status of the Eucharistic Elements is ambiguous. There are a whole series of unedifying questions associated with the issue of what should be done if a priest dies while celebrating Mass. These get particularly awkward and unpleasant as consideration is given to the remote possibility of a priest having started to enunciate the words of consecration but failing to finish them. While from a practical point of view it might be entirely adequate to say that: "before the words of consecration are enunciated the elements are natural bread and wine and after the words of consecration are enunciated they are the Body and Blood of Christ", from a theoretical point of view this is inadequate. So inadequate, in fact, as - it seems to me - that:
if no better account is forthcoming,
grave doubt is thrown on the very idea
that any objective change whatsoever occurs.
The danger is, it seems to me, that clinging to the terminology of "transubstantiation" to describe the objective change in the Eucharistic elements risks reducing the doctrine to a nonsense. In the end one will be heard to say that "it is the (non-existent) substance of the bread and wine that are replaced by the (non-existent) substance of the Body and Blood of Christ" in other words: "nothing happens whatsoever". Of course, there is little harm in using a word as long as it is eviscerated of all associations with the false philosophy that gave rise to it. On the other hand, there is little utility in continuing its use; and the abiding danger that the associations that it once had will revive.
Different forms participate in reality to different extents; just as any real object participates imperfectly and variously in all those forms that characterize its existence. The role of the forms is to give significance, intelligibility, coherence, order, actuality and particularity to inchoate being: matter-energy, which is of itself pure potentiality.
Simple forms, such as "the Triangle", have a robust existence. Clearly the forms of mathematical entities do not rely for their existence on being materially exemplified. They are adequately defined and so substantiated within abstract axiomatic systems. Intermediate forms, such as the Chair, have an intermediate kind of reality. They only exist relative to a subject able to conceive of and make use of them. So, if the only form of intelligent life in the Cosmos was the Dalek, there would be no chairs or stairs, and "the Chair" and "the Staircase" would be fleeting possibilities among a myriad of others in the inscrutable mind of God. The most complex forms are particular and only exist in one instance. Every thing is made an individual by virtue of its sharing in a particular combination of various forms, which are real in themselves. For example, a certain thing is: male; four limbed; warm-blooded; blue-eyed; breathing; sentient; wise; Greek and so on. It is the man called Socrates.
In discussing the ontology of the Eucharist it is important to contrast what the Eucharistic elements are objectively from what we can subjectively know about them. So, if a priest starts but fails to complete the consecration, while it will simply be either true or false that the elements have become the Body and Blood of Christ, it may be impossible for anyone to know whether the transformation has occurred. Such an "invincible ignorance" says nothing about the objective state of affairs, but only expresses in a particular context the general problem of human knowledge and uncertainty.
Usually, in mathematics, if some function is continuous in some range (subdomain) of a variable, it is continuous throughout the entire range (domain) of that variable. This tends to mean that it cannot ever be precisely constant at any time if it is to vary at all at any other time. In control theory - and more generally in the theory of linear differential equations - this gives rise to the phenomena of "oveershoot" and "peaking".
At root, I suspect that it was a deep intuition on the part of Aristotle that it is difficult for something which had been constant to start to be variable, that led him to conclude that substantial change must be discontinuous. In fact, this is mistaken. There is a category of functions, such as exp(-1/t2), which are everywhere continuous and smooth (are infinitely differentiable) and yet allow for adjacent subdomains to be entirely disconnected.
Consider the function:
If the cause of such a transformation were to be removed before the process was completed, then three objective outcomes are possible. The process might:
In the case of the Eucharist, one would say that:
Originally, Transsignification and Transfinalization were two theories formulated in the 1960's by the modernist theologian Edward Schillebeeckx. They are founded on the idea that what a thing is (its Form) is based on:
When the bread and wine are consecrated:
For if God HimSelves declares, owns, under-stands and insists
that particular objects have the significance and finality of
the Body and Blood of Christ,
as Jesus did of
the Bread and Wine
that He gave thanks over at His Last Supper:
then who would dare to argue
and what else is there to say?
"Our Lord Jesus took in His hands what in the beginning was only bread .... He called the bread His living Body, and did Himself fill it with Himself and the Spirit. And extending His hand, He gave them the Bread which His right hand had made holy:
'Take, all of you eat of this, which My word has made holy. Do not now regard as bread that which I have given you; but take, eat this Bread, and do not scatter the crumbs; for what I have called My Body, that it is indeed. One particle from its crumbs is able to sanctify thousands and thousands, and is sufficient to afford life to those who eat of it. Take, eat, entertaining no doubt of faith, because this is My Body, and whoever eats it in belief eats in it Fire and Spirit. But if any doubter eat of it, for him it will be only bread. And whoever eats in belief the Bread made holy in My name, if he be pure, he will be preserved in his purity; and if he be a sinner, he will be forgiven.'
But if anyone despise it or reject it or treat it with ignominy, it may be taken as a certainty that he treats with ignominy the Son, who called it and actually made it to be His Body.
After the disciples had eaten the new and holy Bread, and when they understood by faith that they had eaten of Christ's body, Christ went on to explain and to give them the whole Sacrament. He took and mixed a cup of wine. Then He blessed it, and signed it, and made it holy, declaring that it was His own Blood, which was about to be poured out .... Christ commanded them to drink, and He explained to them that the cup which they were drinking was His own Blood:'This is truly My Blood, which is shed for all of you. Take, all of you, drink of this, because it is a new covenant in My Blood. As you have seen Me do, do you also in My memory. Whenever you are gathered together in My name in Churches everywhere, do what I have done, in memory of Me. Eat My Body, and drink My Blood, a covenant new and old.'"[Homilies 4:4; 4:6]
"Moreover, the things which are hung up at idol festivals .... are reckoned in the pomp of the devil. For as the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist before the invocation of the Holy and Adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, while after the invocation the Bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ, so in like manner such meats belonging to the pomp of Satan, though in their own nature simple, become profane by the invocation of the evil spirit." [Catechetical lecture xix 7]
"Then follows 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."Although in the following passage Cyril talks of figures, he speaks of the consecrated bread and wine in these terms, rather than the Body and Blood of Our Lord.
[Catechetical lecture xxiii 7]
"Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, 'This is My Body', who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, 'This is My Blood', who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?
He once in Cana of Galilee, turned the water into wine, akin to blood, and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood? When called to a bodily marriage, He miraculously wrought that wonderful work; and on the children of the bride chamber, shall He not much rather be acknowledged to have bestowed the fruition of His Body and Blood?
Wherefore with full assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mayest be made of the same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are distributed through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we became partakers of the divine nature.
Christ on a certain occasion discoursing with the Jews said, Except ye eat My flesh and drink My blood, ye have no life in you. They not having heard His saying in a spiritual sense were offended, and went back, supposing that He was inviting them to eat flesh....
Consider therefore the Bread and the Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggests this to thee, yet let faith establish thee. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been vouch-safed to thee.....
Having learned these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ ......
mayest thou reflect as a mirror the glory of the Lord, and proceed from glory to glory, in Christ Jesus our Lord."
[Catechetical lecture xxii]
"Here [John 6] He has employed two terms about Himself, flesh and spirit; and He has distinguished spirit from flesh, so that they might believe not only in so much of Him as was apparent to sight, but also in what was invisible, and thus might learn that what He was saying was not fleshly but spiritual..... The reason for His mention of the ascension.... was in order to draw them away from the material notion; that thenceforward they might learn that the flesh He spoke of was heavenly food from above and spiritual nourishment given from Him."However, when writing directly about the Eucharist, he reverts to an uncompromisingly realistic mode of speech.
[Fourth Epistle to Serapionem 19]
"You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.... When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body." [Sermon to the Newly Baptized]
"Rightly, then, do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the Word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word. For that Body was once, by implication, bread [because Jesus ate bread as food] .... in this case the bread .... is at once changed into the body by means of the Word, as the Word itself said, 'This is My Body'..... Since, then .... the God who was manifested infused Himself into perishable humanity .... that by this communion with Deity mankind might at the same time be deified .... He disseminates Himself in every believer through that flesh, whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption. He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which He transforms the natural quality of these visible things to that immortal thing." [The Great Catechism 37]Interestingly, in the following passage he associates the sacred Chrism with the Eucharistic elements. While it is Catholic doctrine that Chrism is a means of grace because it is a sacramental, it is not believed that it becomes anything other than the oil that it was before it is consecrated: though after its consecration it certainly does have "its own superior operation". The case of priesting is interesting, for Catholic belief is that the soul of a presbyter is indelibly imprinted with the Form of the Priesthood: so in a sense he is transformed from one thing to another.
He offered Himself for us, Victim and Sacrifice, and Priest as well, and 'Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world'. When did He do this? When He made His own Body food and His own Blood drink for His disciples; for this much is clear enough to anyone, that a sheep cannot be eaten by a man unless its being eaten be preceded by its being slaughtered. This giving of His own Body to His disciples for eating clearly indicates that the sacrifice of the Lamb has now been completed. [Sermon One: on the Resurrection of Christ]
"The bread again is at first common bread; but when the mystery sanctifies it, it is called and actually becomes the Body of Christ. So too the mystical oil, so too the wine; if they are things of little worth before the blessing, after their sanctification by the Spirit each of them has its own superior operation. This same power of the word also makes the priest venerable and honourable, separated from the generality of men by the new blessing bestowed upon him." [Sermon on the Day of Lights or On the Baptism of Christ]
"We see that the Saviour took in His hands, as it is in the Gospel, when He was reclining at the supper; and He took this, and giving thanks, He said: 'This is really Me'. And He gave to His disciples and said: "This is really Me". And we see that It is not equal nor similar, not to the incarnate image, not to the invisible divinity, not to the outline of His limbs. For It is round of shape, and devoid of feeling. As to Its power, He means to say even of Its grace, 'This is really Me'; and none disbelieves His word. For anyone who does not believe the truth in what He says is deprived of grace and of Saviour." [The Man Well Anchored 57]
"Let us therefore in all respects put our faith in God and contradict Him in nothing, even if what is said seems to be contrary to our reasonings and to what we see. Let His word be of superior authority to reason and sight. This too be our practice in respect to the Mysteries, not looking only upon what is laid out before us, but taking heed also of His words. For His word cannot deceive; but our senses are easily cheated. His word never failed; our senses err most of the time.
When the Word says, 'this is My Body', be convinced of it and believe it, and look at it with the eyes of the mind. For Christ did not give us something tangible, but even in His tangible things all is intellectual. So too with Baptism: the gift is bestowed through what is a tangible thing, water; but what is accomplished is intellectually perceived: the rebirth and the renewal ....
How many now say, 'I wish I could see his shape, His appearance, His garments, His sandals.'
Only look! You see Him! You touch Him! You eat Him!"
[Homilies on Matthew 82:4]
"When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that Precious Blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven? [Priesthood 3:4:177]
"For it is not a man who makes the sacrificial gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He that was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest stands there carrying out the action, but the power and the grace is of God, 'This is my Body', he says. This statement transforms the gifts."In the following passage he answers one of the apparent difficulties of Augustine.
[Homilies on the Treachery of Judas 1:6]
"We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one Sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the Sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one Body. And just as He is one Body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one Sacrifice."
[Homilies on Hebrews 17]
"He did not say, 'This is the symbol of My Body, and this, of My Blood', but 'This is My Body and My Blood', teaching us not to look upon the nature of what is set before us, but that it is transformed by means of the Eucharistic action into Flesh and Blood." [Commentary on Matthew 26:26]
"It is proper, therefore, that when He gave the Bread He did not say, 'This is the symbol of My Body', but, 'This is My Body'. In the same way when He gave the Cup He did not say, 'This is the symbol of My Blood', but, 'This is My Blood'; for He wanted us to look upon them after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit not according to their nature, but receive them as they are: the Body and Blood of our Lord. We ought .... not regard them merely as bread and cup, but as the Body and Blood of Christ, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit." [Catechetical Homilies 5]
"At first [the offering] is laid upon the altar as mere bread, and wine mixed with water; but by the coming of the Holy Spirit it is transformed into the Body and the Blood, and thus it is changed into the power of a spiritual and immortal nourishment." [Catechetical Homilies 16]
“The mystical emblems of the body and blood of Christ continue in their original essence and form, they are visible and tangible as they were before; 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.”
[Dialogue ii, Opera ed. Hal. tom. iv p. 126]
In summary, one can say that Augustine often explicitly treats of the Eucharist in figurative terms and makes other assertions about the present real location of the Body of Christ being in Heaven rather than anywhere on Earth.
"Who is the bread of the Kingdom of God, but He who says: 'I am the living Bread which came down from heaven?' Do not get your mouth ready, but your heart. On this occasion it was that the parable of this supper was set forth.However, on many other occasions, he writes in a manner much more in keeping with the other Fathers.
Lo, we believe in Christ, we receive Him with faith. In receiving Him we know what to think of. We receive but little, and are nourished in the heart. It is not then what is seen, but what is believed, that feeds us. Therefore we too have not sought for that outward sense. This is then to eat the meat, not that which perishes, but that which endures unto eternal life. To what purpose do you make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and you have eaten already." [Tractate 25:12]
Personally, along with the Eastern Church, I am no great fan of Augustine, his ethics or his theology. Hence, it is no great surprise to me that he is somewhat confused and a little out of tune with the rest of the Church Fathers. Just as his theology of grace was an intemperate reaction to the errors of Pelagius and eventually led to Calvin's repudiation of the doctrine of human Free Will and Jansenism; so Augustine's equivocal theology of the Eucharist prefigured Calvin's rejection of all sacramentalism.
"Surely, the sacrament we take of the Lord's body and blood is a divine thing, on account of which, and by the same we partake of the Divine nature; and yet the substance of the bread and wine does not cease to be. And certainly the image and similitude of Christ's body and blood are celebrated in the action of the mysteries: it is therefore shewn to us evidently enough that the same is to be felt by us in the Lord Christ Himself which we profess, celebrate, and are. Just as they [the bread and wine] pass into the Divine substance by the operation of the Holy Spirit, while nevertheless remaining in the peculiarity of their nature, such is the principal mystery itself [the incarnation] whose efficacy and virtue they truly represent"
["Tractatus de duabus naturis in Christo, Adversus Eutychen et Nestorium" 14 (slightly reconstructed)]
I do not believe for a moment that this version of the anaphora is ancient. It is much too elaborate and protracted, in my view. The facts that - even though it has been much elaborated over time - it contains neither the Words of Institution nor a proper Epiklesis is surely significant.
Presbyter: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all,
now, always, and for ever and ever."
[He signs over the Mysteries]
Presbyter: "Let your minds be above."
People: "With you, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Israel,
O glorious King."
Presbyter: "The oblation is offered to God, the Lord of all."
People: "It is meet and right."
Deacon: "Peace be with us."
Presbyter: [Adds incense to the thurible, kneels and prays in his heart, and says this kushapa softly:]
"Lord, Lord, grant us boldness before you, that with the confidence which is from Thee,
we may fulfil this awful and divine sacrifice with consciences free from all iniquity and bitterness.
Sow in us, O Lord, affection, peace, and concord towards each other, and toward every one.
[He rises, kisses the altar and continues in secret, his hands outstretched]
Worthy of glory from every mouth, and of thanksgiving from all tongues,
and of adoration and exaltation from all creatures,
is the adorable and glorious name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
who didst create the world through His grace, and its inhabitants through His clemency,
who didst save men through His mercy, and didst show great favour towards mortals.
Thy majesty, O Lord, thousands of thousands of heavenly spirits,
and ten thousand myriads of holy angels, hosts of spirits, ministers of fire and spirit,
bless and adore; with the holy cherubim and the spiritual seraphim
they sanctify and celebrate Thy name,
crying and praising, without ceasing crying unto each other.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts,
for heaven and earth are full of his praises,
and of the nature of his being,
and of the excellency of his glorious splendour.
Hosanna in the heights.
Hosanna to the son of David.
Blessed is he who came and comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the heights."
[With each cry of "holy" the priest genuflects before the altar.
Then he kneels and says this kushapa.]
Thou art holy, God the Father of truth, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and earth is named.
Thou art holy, Eternal Son, by whose hand everything came to be.
Thou art holy, Holy and Eternal Spirit, through whom all things are hallowed.
Woe is me! Woe is me! For I am amazed. For I am a man of unclean lips,
and I dwell among a people whose lips are unclean, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
How terrible is this place, for today I have seen the Lord face to face,
and this is nothing if not the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
And now let Thy grace be upon us, O Lord, and cleanse our uncleanness, and hallow our lips, and,
O my Lord, mingle the voices of our feebleness with the hallowing of the seraphim and the praises of the angels.
Glory be to Thy tender mercies, for Thou hast associated creatures of dust with spiritual beings.
[He rises and says]
Bless, O my Lord, bless, O my Lord, bless, O my Lord, my brothers, pray for me.
[He bows and recites this gehantha softly]
And with the heavenly hosts we give thanks to Thee, O my Lord,
even we, your insignificant, pithless and feeble servants,
for Thou hast brought about great grace in us which cannot be repaid,
for Thou didst cloth Thyself with our humanity, that Thou mightest make us alive by Thy Godhead.
Thou hast exalted our humble state, raised up our ruined condition, given new life to our mortality,
forgiven our debts, set right our sinfulness, enlightened our minds, and, our Lord and our God,
Thou hast condemned our enemy, and granted victory to the feebleness of our unworthy nature
in the abundant mercies of your grace.
And for all your aids and graces towards us we will lift up to you
praise, honour, confession, and worship, now, always, and for ever and ever."
[He signs over the Mysteries]
Deacon: "Pray in your minds. Peace be with us."
Presbyter: [Kneels and adds this kushapa secretly]
"O Lord God of hosts, accept this oblation (from my unworthy hands) for all the holy Catholic Church,
for all the just and righteous fathers who were well-pleasing before Thee,
for all the prophets and apostles, for all the martyrs and confessors,
for all the mourning and distressed, for all the needy and harassed,
(for all priests, kings, and rulers,) for all the ill and afflicted,
for all the departed who have died and gone out from among us,
for all that ask a prayer from our weakness,
and for my unworthiness, misery, and poverty.
Yea, our Lord and our God, according to Thy mercies and the abundance of Thy kindness,
deal with your people and with my misery, not according to my sins and offences,
but may I and they be deemed worthy of the pardon of debts and the forgiveness of sins
through this holy Body which in true faith we receive through the grace which is from you.
[He rises and says]
O my Lord, in Thy many ineffable mercies, make this a good and acceptable memorial
for all the just and righteous fathers who were well-pleasing before Thee
through the commemoration of the Body and Blood of Thy Christ
which we offer you upon Thy pure and holy altar, as Thou hast taught us.
Bring to pass your tranquillity and peace in us all the days of the world.
Yea, our Lord and our God, bring to pass your tranquillity and peace in us all the days of the world,
that all the inhabitants of the earth may know Thee,
that Thou alone art the only true God the Father,
and that Thou didst send our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son and Thy Beloved,
and He, our Lord and our God, came and taught us in his life-giving gospel all purity and holiness.
Remember the prophets and apostles, the martyrs and confessors,
the bishops and teachers, of the presbyters and deacons,
and of all the children of the holy Catholic Church,
who have been signed with the living seal of holy Baptism.
[He signs the throne from below upward and from the right to the left while bowing.
He then prostrates himself upon his face and says]
We too, my Lord, your feeble, unworthy, and miserable servants
who are gathered in Thy name and stand before Thee at this hour,
and have received by Tradition the example which is from you,
while rejoicing, glorifying, exalting, and commemorating,
perform this great, fearful, holy, life-giving, and divine Sacrament
of the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ."
Deacon: "In silence and awe stand and pray. Peace be with us."
Presbyter: [Rises and lifts up his hands above]
"And may there come, O my Lord, Thy Holy Spirit,
and may He rest upon this oblation of Thy servants.
May He bless it and hallow it, and may it be for us, O my Lord,
for the pardon of debts, the forgiveness of sins, the great hope of resurrection from the dead,
and for new life in the Kingdom of Heaven with all who have been well-pleasing before you.
And for all this great and marvellous dispensation towards us
we shall give thanks to you and praise you without ceasing in Thy Church,
which is saved by the precious blood of your Christ
with unclosed mouth and open face, while lifting up praise, honour, confession, and worship
to your living, holy, and life-giving name, now, always, and for ever and ever.
[He signs over the Mysteries]
The principal issue for the Catholic Church in agreeing to this request, related to the question of the validity of the Eucharist celebrated with the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, one of the three Anaphorae traditionally used by the Assyrian Church of the East. The Anaphora of Addai and Mari is notable because, from time immemorial, it has been used without a recitation of the Institution Narrative. As the Catholic Church considers the words of the Eucharistic Institution a constitutive and therefore indispensable part of the Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer, a long and careful study was undertaken of the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, from a historical, liturgical and theological perspective, at the end of which the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on January 17th, 2001 concluded that this Anaphora can be considered valid. H.H. Pope John Paul II has approved this decision. This conclusion rests on three major arguments.With this kind of double-think, the Vatican will eventually be able to claim that it never condemned homosexuality, but only the practice of a man having sex as a woman!
- In the first place, the Anaphora of Addai and Mari is one of the most ancient Anaphorae, dating back to the time of the very early Church; it was composed and used with the clear intention of celebrating the Eucharist in full continuity with the Last Supper and according to the intention of the Church; its validity was never officially contested, neither in the Christian East nor in the Christian West.
- Secondly, the Catholic Church recognizes the Assyrian Church of the East as a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession. The Assyrian Church of the East has also preserved full Eucharistic faith in the presence of our Lord under the species of bread and wine and in the sacrificial character of the Eucharist. In the Assyrian Church of the East, though not in full communion with the Catholic Church, are thus to be found "true sacraments, and above all, by apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist" (U.R., n. 15).
- Finally, the words of Eucharistic Institution are indeed present in the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, not in a coherent narrative way and ad litteram, but rather in a dispersed euchological way, that is, integrated in successive prayers of thanksgiving, praise and intercession.
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