The Trinity and Knowability

The Trinity is a mystery that is dogma and must be believed for one to call themselves a Christian.  This is a leap of faith, because though we know it is true, we are not able to understand everything about it.  Do we need to understand everything about it in order to believe?  Some would say that to believe we must have absolute knowledge of the subject.  To not have this knowability is a contradiction in eyes of many.

There are many things that we have knowledge of, but we do not know absolutely.  The medical field is constantly changing and filled with new advances, but just a few decades ago the damage of cigarettes on the human body was not well known.  Is this a contradiction in the medical field?  Do we not adhere to the advice of our doctor because we do not have an absolute knowledge of his field?  To have that line of thinking borders on insanity.

There is no tension between the trinity and its knowability.  The Trinity was revealed very slowly in scripture because to reveal it right away would lead Israel into Tritheism.  They simply would not have understood it.  The members of the Trinity were together at one time at the baptism of Christ, and Christ mentioned all three.  For those who have issues believing the Trinity, St. Augustine asks a very interesting question.  Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead though you have never seen anyone else do the same (Augustine 7.5)?  We love the Lord Jesus though we have never seen him, and we love the other members of the Trinity as well.  We see the handiwork of the Trinity all around us.  The Trinity is one God with three persons, and we love them because they are God.  It does take an element of faith like most things in life.  That illumination that faith provides assists in understanding it a bit more.  If we fully understand everything there is to know about God, then he ceases being God.

 

Works Cited

Augustine of Hippo. Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130101.htm&gt;, accessed November 11, 2018.

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Patristic Testimony and the Trinity

If the Trinity is of such vital important to the faith and to the Christian life, what did the testimony of the patristic fathers have to say about it?  This question is asked because it is a question asked by some skeptics of the Trinity dogma.  While the Faith is explained in a plain and direct manner in the first centuries, the substance of the mystery is rightly shown in the following centuries.  The patristic testimony regarding the Trinity, has a definite influence on the doctrinal and liturgical life of the church now as it did then.

The work of the early church fathers can be divided in what is called Anti-Nicene and Post-Nicene.  The reason for these distinctions is because the Council of Nicea was a sort of dividing line because after Nicea the dogma of the Trinity was formally defined (Preuss 142).  At any rate, the first four centuries were crucial as dogma was not only defined, but even before then we see development and manifestation of the dogma in the liturgy (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).

At mass there are two creeds that can be said after the homily.  One is the Nicean creed, and the other is the Apostle creed.  The Apostles creed is only slightly older than its Nicean counterpart, but in it we profess the Trinity.  Though it is made up of a few lines it declared the divinity of all three persons of the Godhead, and it is a creed that we still profess today (Preuss 144).  Regarding this Garrigou-Lagrange states, “according to the arrangement of the Apostles’ Creed is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and those things attributed to them in the order of salvation” (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. 1).

The creed itself is an extension of the sacrament of Baptism.  In Baptism, one is immersed, or water is poured on the head, three times in the name of each person of the Trinity (Lecture Notes).  The Trinitarian formula of baptism has biblical roots in such places as Matthew 28, but it was carried on into the liturgy and the writings of the Fathers.  Tertullian, a second century Christian writer, stated that the Trinity itself is the substance of the New Testament (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch.1).

There is also evidence of Patristic testimony in the doxologies in the early church and those in use today.  As was the case with Baptism, origins of these doxologies have their roots in the Pauline epistles where St. Paul writes the earliest doxologies.  The prayer that we sometimes call the “Glory Be” (Gloria Patra) today, has very ancient Christian roots (Lecture Notes).  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  World without end, amen.  This prayer reflected the publicly professed faith of the early Christians, and early Christian writers (Preuss 146).  It is one of the basic prayers taught to children at an early age to teach them the dogma of the Trinity.  It is one that links us today with great saints such as St. Justin Martyr, wo also was familiar with this doxology (Preuss 146).

The doctrine of the Trinity is echoed in the confessions of the early martyrs.  Patristic testimony celebrated these martyrs as heroes of the faith, and in some cases the patristics were among these martyrs.  These martyrs are celebrated in the liturgy on various feast days throughout the liturgical calendar.  St. Polycarp was martyred in 166 A.D., and before his martyrdom he gave glory all here persons of the Trinity (Preuss 145).  There were many others with St. Epipodeus and St, Euplus of Cantonia just to name a couple more.  These holy martyrs died for the Trinity because it was true.  Just because the dogma had not been formally defined does not mean that it had not always been taught.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018.

Preuss, Arthur. The Divine Trinity.  https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog, accessed November 12, 2018.

The Need For Grace

In the beginning of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he lays out a case about the desire for people to know God.  He says that by nature they can know things about God and God has shown them.  The verse in question is from Romans 1:19 which states, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (NRSV).  We see that there is something else higher than ourselves, and we long to know what it is.  In contrast with this desire to know something higher than ourselves, there is a desire to sin.

The “something higher” that I am referencing is God.  Many of us have heard of God from an early age, and in different Christian assemblies.  Though many have heard of God they fall into the error of thinking that Heaven is within reach simply by doing good.  This is part of the equation.  There is a synergy between us and God.  Our natures are wounded from the fall, not totally destroyed as the Protestant reformers taught (Lubac 122).  We realize in ourselves that we do things that we do not want to do.  This is also echoed by St. Paul in Romans 7:15 where he writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (NRSV).  We know that we are unable to do it on our own and that eventually brings us to the knowledge that we need God.  We need his grace, his mercy, and his forgiveness.  Without his supernatural grace it is impossible to enter the beatific vision.  This grace is a gift that we need from God to enter into eternal life (STII, Q114, A2).

In a way the position I hold follows along with Henri De Lubac.  This position was arrived at through my journey through a few Christian denominations and reinforced through study of church teaching.  Man is not capable of heaven strictly on his own merit.  Man is wounded, not depraved, and able to see that he needs the help of God.  He uses his will to accept the grace needed to get to Heaven and live the Christian life.

 

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed September 28, 2018.

Lubac, Henri De.  A Brief Catechesis on Nature & Grace.  San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 1984.

Apollinaris and Christology

Apollinaris is a figure in the early church that certainly has his share of controversy.  At the young age of twenty, he was excommunicated for singing a hymn to the Greek god Dionysius.  He eventually would come back to Christianity and confessed the newly formed Nicean creed under the tutelage of Basil of Caesarea.  In 360AD, he became bishop of Laodicea and was a supporter of St. Athanasius in his battle against the Arians.

Apollinaris sought to circumvent the Arian view that Christ was a created being.  He sought to deny the notions that the Logos dwelled within human nature of Christ, and wanted to establish and affirm the two natures, human and divine, of Christ.  He argued that Christ’s humanity could only result through divine union.  In his letter On the Union of Christ in the Godhead Apollinaris writes, “And in this regard, he differs from every other body, for he was conceived in his mother not in separation from the Godhead but in union with it” (Norris 103).  In his view this had to happen then the Logos would have descended upon a man, and that would mean that Jesus was just an ordinary man.  This is the adoptionist mentality that Apollinaris was seeking to avoid.

As seen above, his views of Christ appear to be orthodox, but he would later stray.  His desire to oust the Arian view would lead him into a bit of Christological trouble himself.  This all comes down to his definition of man.  In the orthodox view, man is made up of flesh and a soul.  Apollinaris took this a step further and taught a two-soul theology.  In his view, man has an animal soul and a rational soul.  Regarding this Apollinaris writes, “But the flesh is not soulless, for it is said to fight against the spirit and to resist the law of the intellect, and we say that even the bodies of beasts without reason are endowed with a soul” (Norris 108).  To complete the humanity of Christ Apollinaris says the animal soul was necessary, but the unity with the Godhead came to be when the rational soul of Christ became unified with the Logos.  This unity replaced, even eliminated, the human soul of Christ.

This position was rejected, but some explanation must be made as to why.  The human soul, as most of us can vouch for, is weak and can be swayed.  In the view of Apollinaris, this soul, as previously stated, was replaced by a unity with the Logos.  If the human soul of Christ was replaced, that would mean that Christ was not completely human.  He may have had flesh, but if his soul was replaced by a unity with the Logos then Jesus would lack a basic humanity.  In short, he would not be able to identify with what we go through as Hebrews 4:15 states.  Therefore, humanity is in the same condition it was before because the human nature of Christ was eliminated.

Works Cited

Norris, Richard A.  The Christological Controversy.  Fortress Press Philadephia: PA, 1980.  Print.

Questions and Christological Development

Children are full of questions.  They are beautiful little creatures as babies who make cute sounds.  When they reach the toddler age they start to ask more questions.  When they reach the age of five or six the questions come at a rapid-fire pace.  This happens as their brains develop, and they are starting to learn and investigate the word around them.  As a child asked many questions to learn, the Church did something similar when developing a proper Christology.  The role of questions in the development of New Testament Christology is something that cannot be underestimated.  In his book, Jesus:  A Portrait, Gerald O’Collins examines seven key questions that helps establish who Jesus was.

The questions that O’Collins discusses in his section titled “Jesus the Questioner” come from the Gospel of John.  John is laid out in such a way that it makes a clear statement about the divine nature of Christ (O’Collins 202).  The first questions that Jesus poses in the Gospel in found in John 1:38. Jesus simply asks Andrew “What are you looking for?” (NRSV). In the early Church they were striving to understand Christ in a deeper way.  It is important to note that when these questions were being asked the whole New Testament had not been formally compiled.  So, looking solely to scripture would not have been possible, but apostolic tradition played a big role in the process.  We are all looking for something, and that something is the savior.  Jesus asks this question in such a way that he is not forcing himself on anyone but challenges us (O’Collins 203).

The above question is only one that Christ asks in the Gospel of John.  The following are the remaining six questions:

Will you also go away (John 6:67)?  Do you believe this (John 11:26)?  Do you know what I have done for you (John 13:12)?  Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Phillip (John 14:9)?  Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for (John 20:15)?  Do you love me (John 21:15-17)?

Questions in the Bible are not an obtuse thought or a New Testament invention.  Many questions are asked, and many truths and commands are conveyed through their use (O’Collins 202).  Christ was God incarnate, came to earth, and started asking questions.  O’Collins brilliantly states, “The God who says to Adam ‘Where are you?’, and to Job ‘I will question you’, has come among us and slips at once into the divine habit of asking questions” (O’Collins 202).

Likewise, the Church followed the example of its founder and started asking questions.  These questions led to inquiry, scriptural exegesis, and a deeper consultation of Sacred Tradition.  Because of questions there were various heresies that popped up.  Some of these, such as Arianism, were very popular and lasted longer than anyone would have thought.  These heresies also brought up more questions about the nature of Christ, and the Church was forced to answer more questions.  This led to a better understanding of Christology and served as the foundation for our understanding today.  Questions were vital in this process.

Works Cited

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013.  Print

Eucharist: Body and Blood of Christ or a Symbol

When Christians discuss Christianity, it is common to ask where one goes to church.  One person may say they go to a Baptist church, another the Methodist church, and yet another will say the Roman Catholic Church.  Protestants and Catholics believe in the incarnation, the virgin birth, the crucifixion, and resurrection.  This is great, and they must be believed, but when it comes to the Eucharist the tide of the conversation shifts.  There are questions as to what the Eucharist is, and why the catholic church will not allow non-Catholics to partake of it.

Though we are all Christians, there is a line in the sand between Catholics and Protestants as to what the Eucharist is. Catholics hold that a miracle takes place and the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ.  Many Protestants look at the elements as a symbol, and a memorial meal for us to remember the last supper.  If the Catholic church is correct, then Protestants are missing a crucial aspect of Christian worship.  If Protestants are right, then Catholics are guilty of the horrible sin of idolotry.

In this paper the church teaching of the Eucharist will be looked at in detail.  This detail will include looking at sacred scripture, the catechism, the writings of early church fathers, church councils, and the first eucharistic controversies.  Through it all this paper will shatter the myth that says that the catholic church started believing in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist after the Forth Lateran Council in 1215.  The research will show that, not only is the Eucharist the real body and blood of Christ, but it was a constant teaching of the church since the time of the Apostles.

 

WHAT IS THE EUCHARIST?

When the liturgy of the Eucharist is happening every Christian, regardless of denominational affiliation, will recognize the words spoken by the priest.  These words are scriptural and can be found in many places.  One such place in Luke 22:19-20 which states, “Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’  And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (NRSV).  The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word Eucharista which means thanksgiving.

The catholic church states that the bread and wine present on the altar become the real body and blood of our lord Jesus Christ.  It is our participation in worship that is happening in heave, and our participation in the heavenly banquet on earth.  As such the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the Eucharist as “The source and summit of our faith” (CCC 1324).  It contains Christ himself and it his efficacious sign to be with us until the end of time and allows us to maintain unity with his people and church.

As previously states, Catholics believe that a miracle takes place when the bread and wine are consecrated.  Within the Liturgy of the Eucharist this takes place in the section titled The Institution Narrative and Consecration (Liturgy of the Eucharist).  In this institution narrative the priest says the words uttered by Christ on that fateful night in the upper room.  Just as Christ gave his himself under the species of bread and wine the priest does the same in the liturgy of the Eucharist when he acts in persona Christi, or in the person of Christ.  Regarding this the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states, “that Sacrifice is effected which Christ himself instituted during the Last Supper, when he offered his Body and Blood under the species of bread and wine, gave them to the Apostles to eat and drink, and leaving with the latter the command to perpetuate this same mystery” (USCCB).

The quotation given above makes mention of the body and blood of Christ being offered under the species of bread and wine.  The church has always taught this, but thanks to Eucharistic controversies that were becoming prevalent, the church had to formally define this miraculous change.  At the Fourth Lateran Council the church formally defined this with a word known as transubstantiation, and this became a dogma and a definitive teaching that must be believed (Howell page 126).

Transubstantiation is the process by which the substance of the bread and wine vanishes in a way that makes room for the body and blood of Christ, and when this happens the appearance of bread and wine remains (Pohl & Preuss page 107).  Since the appearance of the bread and wine remain this allows us to consume the sacrament.  In short, the substance of the material has changed but the appearance stays the same.  This understanding grew over the years as Aristotelian language became more mainstream and understood in a deeper way.  In his magnificent work the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas started to define these terms even if the official word of transubstantiation had not yet been defined.  Regarding the change that occurs with the elements Aquinas writes “The presence of Christ’s true body and blood in this sacrament cannot be detected by sense, nor understanding, but by faith alone, which rests upon Divine authority” (STIII q.75 a.1 resp.).  He shows us his flesh, though it may be in an invisible manner, as a way to strengthen us for the journey of life and to perfect us in faith.

Though the word transubstantiation did not come about until 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council that does not mean that the church started teaching it then.  Some protestants believe this, but history shows another story.  Church history shows that from the time of the apostles until the ninth century that the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was unchallenged.

 

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE EUCHARIST

Some claim that the doctrine of the Eucharist is not found in scripture, but this outlook is an indication of one reading scripture through a denominational lens.  The last supper narratives all describe Jesus as saying “this is my body, this is my blood” in Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-25, Luke 22:7-20, and John 13:1-30.  St, Paul also writes about the body and blood of Christ in the breaking of bread in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.  Perhaps the strongest biblical evidence is from Christ himself in John 6:22-59 which is known as the bread of life discourse.  In this discourse Christ loses follows because he is speaking literally about his body and blood.

To understand these verses fully we must look at some Old Testament passages because these New Testament verses employ a theological term known as typology.  Typology studies events and institution that foreshadow something greater that is to come.  Regarding this Dr. Scott Hahn writes, “The basis of such study is the belief that God, who providentially shapes and determines the course of human events, infuses those events with a prophetic and theological significance” (Catholic Bible Dictionary page 929).  Understanding typology helps us understand salvation history as something fluid, and not as periods that are broken up independent of each other.  God does not change, and the subtle clues that he gives us in the Old Testament find heir final fulfillment in the pages of the New Testament.  With that said we see the beginnings of the Eucharist in the pages of the Old Testament, and there are two items that are significant for our purposes here.  Those two things are the bread of the presence in the Temple and the manna in the desert.

The story of the manna in the desert takes place in the book of Exodus.  Moses, through the grace of God, led the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.  Though they were in bondage in Egypt they ate well.  They roamed through the desert and they began to complain about how much better off they were in Egypt.  In Exodus 16:2 we read, “The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness” (NRSV).  They were understandably afraid and did not know where the next meal was coming from because it was always provided in Egypt.  Moses took their concerns before the Lord and the Lord responds.  The says to Moses in Exodus 16:4, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not” (NRSV).  This miraculous bread was brought down from heaven every morning, and the Israelites were to pick as much as they needed for the day.  This is a foreshadowing of what Christ says in the Bread of life discourse in John chapter 6.  In that discourse Jesus says that he is the true manna that came down from Heaven (Barber 65).

The bread of life discourse takes up most of John 6, but only a few verses will be covered so the relations between the manna and the Eucharist can be established.  In John 6:32 Jesus tells the Jews that Moses was not the one that gave the bread from heaven, but the Father gives them “true bread” from heaven.  Jesus is using present tense verbs, and not past tense if he were simply discussing what Moses did.  The Jews long for the bread that Jesus describes, and he shifts the conversation from the manna that gave the Israelites life to the true bread.  Jesus says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (NRSV).  In John 6:41 the Jews are complaining to Jesus because he said that he is the bread of life.  When Jesus is encountered the Jews could not understand that they would be feeding on the living God (Benedict XVI para 53). Both John 6:41 and Exodus 16:2 state that he Jews started complaining.  They both started complaining over something that they believed to be literal.  The manna in the desert was a real event as was Jesus saying that his flesh must be eaten.

Though the Jews were complaining, just like the Israelites in the wilderness, he repeats himself.  In John 6:51 Christ says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (NRSV).  It is interesting to note that the Jews not only complained but became indignant.  They asked among themselves How Christ could give his flesh to eat (John 6:52).  This leads to a very important question that is at the heart of this research.  If our Lord were speaking metaphorically why would the Jews take him literally?  The question they asked among themselves is literal in nature.

Jesus understood their confusion and raised the ante again.  In fact, with his next phrase he would erase all doubt and his audience would know exactly what he meant.  In John 6:53 Jesus states, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (NRSV).  In this verse Jesus uses a different Greek verb for the word “eat”.  The verb used by Christ is the Greek word trogo and it means “to gnaw, munch, crunch” (Thomas #5176).  This word is never meant as a literary metaphor in the Greek language and is always used in a literal fashion.  At this saying many of those who were following Jesus left.  They left because they knew what he meant, and that meaning was literal.  He then turned to the twelve disciples in John 6:61 and asked if they were offended and wanted to leave.  Many will say that Jesus also said that he was a door and a vine, and he did say those things.  However, he never willingly lost followers over those statements.  The comparison between Exodus 16 and John 6 shows that manna was a prefiguration of the Eucharist.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI states, “The mystery of the Eucharist reveals the true manna, the true bread of heaven: it is God’s Logos made flesh, who gave himself up for us in the paschal mystery” (Verbum Domini para 54).

The bead of the presence is also a foreshadowing of the Eucharist in the Old Testament.  According to Exodus 25:30 this bread was to be continually before the Lord.  This bread stood as a reminder to al who saw it that God was continually present.  The bread was placed on a golden table outside of the Holy of Holies, and every Sabbath new bread would be placed, and priests would eat the old (Hahn 929).  Four times per year, on major feast days, the bread of the presence was shown to the people to remind them that God was with them.

The bread of the presence reaches its fulfillment in Christ who institutes it in the Eucharistic celebration as it is Christ who sustains our spiritual life.  The connection between the bread of the presence and is not lost on our Protestant brethren.  Protestant biblical scholar Paul Karleen states, “The specially made bread that lay on an ornate table in the Holy Place in the Tabernacle; pictures Christ as the one who sustains (spiritual) life” (Karleen 359).  The bread consisted of twelve loaves for the twelve tribes of Israel.  In the New Covenant Jesus has twelve disciples to represent the same.  As the Priests in the Old Testament lifted the bread to show the people that God was with them, Jesus does the same at the last supper.  Using the principles of typology and what Jesus stated in John chapter 6 we see Jesus, in his role as high priest, offer himself to be eaten by his disciples.  This is done every day in the celebration of the Eucharist at Holy Mass.

This far two Old Testament preludes to the Eucharist have been detailed, but what about the New Testament?  For this we will look to the last supper narratives in the New Testament, but specifically the Gospel of Matthew.  The sequence of events is familiar as Jesus takes the bread as says in Matthew 26:26 “Take, eat; this is my body” (NRSV).  The word “is” is a crucial component of the study of the Eucharist.  The Greek word used is esti which is a third person singular verb which means “to be” (Thomas #1510).  What is even more interesting, as far as this word is concerned, is its origins. The word esti has its root in the present infinitive Greek verb einai “to be, to exist, to be present” (Thomas #1510).  In Matthew 26:27 Jesus then states, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (NRSV).

A study of the Greek language is a good stating point, but it has a very real connection to Passover.  The Gospels are clear, and state that the Jesus and the disciples gathered to celebrate the Passover.  The Passover meal was done to remember the exodus event and was a sacrificial meal in its own right.  Prior to Passover a lamb would be slaughtered and the whole lamb had to be consumed.  The Passover was a community feast and parallels the gathering that we see with Jesus and the disciples.  During the meal the head of the table would make comments and was ritualistic in nature.  There was a formula that was followed.  Jesus did not follow the prescribed formula and said the words mentioned above in Matthew 26:26-27.  He also commanded the disciples to follow his lead and to do this act in the future.  There are a couple other ways in the which last supper deviate from the traditional Passover meal.  Conspicuous in its absence is the roasted lamb.  This is important because Jesus took the place of the Passover lamb (Zizoulas 5).  When Christ said the words of institution the bread and wine that were present became his body which was the sacrifice of the New Covenant given for the sins of the world.  Regarding the connection between the Passover and the Eucharist John Zizoulas writes, “To understand the remembrance in this way makes the Eucharist not only a re-presentation of the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, but also a foretaste of the Kingdom to come” (Zizoulas 5).

 

EVIDENCE FROM THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS

In the previous paragraphs a very brief look at scripture shows that Jesus was being literal, and that Christ is the Pasqual lamb that died for the sins of the word.  What did the earliest Christian followers believe?  Did the early church believe that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ?  To answer this question the writings of the following four early church fathers will be discussed:  St. Ignatius of Antioch who lived from approximately 35-108 A.D., St. Justin Martyr who lived from 100-165 A.D., St. Irenaeus who lived from 130-202 A.D., and St. Augustine who lived from 354-430 A.D.  There are many more who write about the subject, but this is a small sampling.

St. Ignatius of Antioch is an individua who has several distinctions in Church history.  He learned the faith directly from St. John, but he also was the second bishop of Antioch after St. Peter (Johnson 46).  While he was being led to Rome for his eventual martyrdom he wrote seven letters to a series of Christian communities.  At the time he wrote these letters there was a dangerous heresy known as Docetism that was gaining steam.  This dangerous error taught that Jesus was not really a human, and what people saw only seemed to be human.  In many ways it was similar to Gnosticism in it view of who Jesus was.  St. Ignatius warned against this false teaching in a very strong manner.  One of the ways he refuted this teaching was in the Eucharist.  In his letter to the Smyrneans St. Ignatius writes, “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again” (Ignatius of Antioch 89).  To defend the orthodox teaching of who Christ is he states that the Eucharist is the body of Christ who suffered for our sins.  If it was a just a symbol, then this teaching on the Eucharist would have meant nothing to combat the Docetic heresy.

In his letter to the Philadelphians, St. Ignatius writes about the importance of unity.  He writes about union with the Bishop, avoiding schism, and how there is only one Eucharist.  Regarding the Eucharist St. Ignatius writes, “Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons” (Ignatius of Antioch 81).  Here we see a bold claim, at least in today’s world, that there is one true Christian church and that the Eucharist is at the center of its sacramental life (CCC 1407).  St. Ignatius also sees the Eucharist as not only the body and blood of Christ, but as a connection to him (Stone 73).  In addition to being the true body and blood of Christ, the Eucharist is a source of unity and strength to continue the Christian journey.  For St. Ignatius, the grace given through the God in the Eucharist helped him to proceed to his eventual martyrdom.  The sacramental worldview involves seeing God work through ordinary things, and through his grace the Eucharist becomes what Christ says it is and helps us through life.

Another church father that taught that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ is St. Justin Martyr.  St. Justin was a philosopher by trade, and the first of the layman apologists.  In his First Apology, St. Justin writes to the emperor to defend Christianity from misconceptions that were spreading in the Roman empire (Kreider 233).  In this apology he lays out the order of mass in striking detail and addresses the charge of cannibalism that was often levied against Christians.  He states that no one can receive the Eucharist unless they believe what the church teaches and only after baptism.  Regarding the Eucharist St. Justin states, “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh” (Justin Martyr 185).  The charge of cannibalism was serious offense on the Roman Empire, and Justin clarifies what the Eucharist is to eliminate doubt.  However, he still says that it is the flesh and blood of Jesus.

In the early church the Gnostic heresy was a big problem and had become popular.  St. Irenaeus of Lyons was concerned for the souls which he was responsible for.  He wrote an excellent treatise titled Against Heresies in which he took the teaching of Gnosticism to task.  The Gnostics taught that all matter was evil and that the true teaching of Christ was past down in secret, and salvation can only be attained by attaining this secret knowledge.  To combat this heresy, he said that all true churches have a rule of faith that was passed down via apostolic succession.  Essentially, he stated that all bishops can trace their lineage to the Apostles.  This is still the teaching of the Catholic church today.  Another was he defended the church was in relation to the Eucharist.  St. Irenaeus the sacrament allowed the Lord to shine through the follies of human weakness and strengthen us on the road to heaven, or immortality as he called it.  He argues that Jesus was real person with flesh and bones, and he gave his flesh to nourish the body and soul of his followers.  Regarding this St. Irenaeus writes, “He does not speak these words of some spiritual and invisible man, for a spirit has not bones nor flesh; but [he refers to] that dispensation [by which the Lord became] an actual man, consisting of flesh, and nerves, and bones,—that [flesh] which is nourished by the cup which is His blood, and receives increase from the bread which is His body” (Irenaeus 528).

The last church father to be discussed regarding the Eucharist is the great St. Augustine of Hippo.  St. Augustine was familiar with the gnostic movement as he was a member of the gnostic movement known as Manichaeism (Hitchcock 91).  He understood the gnostic movements teaching of all material matter being evil.  He probably had a deeper appreciation of the sacraments and of the sacramental worldview.  St. Augustine was a prolific writer and homilist, and as such he said and wrote much about the Eucharist.

In one of his sermons he was instructing a group that had just received the sacrament of baptism.  Augustine had promised to explain the nature of the Eucharist after they had been washed from the stain of original sin and received the seal of the Holy Spirit in confirmation.  Regarding the Eucharist St. Augustine states in sermon 227. “The bread you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. The chalice, or rather, what is in the chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ” (Akin 297).  Augustine goes on to say that our eyes see ordinary bread and wine, but when they are consecrated our faith obligates us to believe that they are the true body and blood of Christ.

St. Augustine wrote much more about the Eucharist, but from the quotation above we can deduce two things.  Firstly, he strongly believed that the Eucharist was the literal body and blood of Christ and it was something that must be believed.  Secondly, that the ordinary elements are transformed when God sanctifies them.  God uses ordinary elements, infuses his grace, and takes material things that cause us to sin and transforms them to become a cause for our sanctification.

 

WHEN DID THE TEACHING OF THE EUCHARIST BEGIN TO BE CHALLENGED?

Thus far we have seen the testimony of sacred scripture and four fathers of the church in regard to the Eucharist.  The language used by all the great early church theologians spoke in literal terms.  In fact, the teaching that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ would go unchallenged until the 9th century.  It was then that a monk by the name of Ratramnus wrote a book titled On the Body and Blood of the Lord, and in that book he wrote that Christ was present in the Eucharist only “in a spiritual sense to the faith of believers” (Schaff 550).  In the view of Ratramnus, the Eucharist is a spiritual reality and is not a physical one.  In doing so he was the first to deny the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Ratramnus had a monk who was his superior by the name of St. Paschasius.  St. Paschasius also wrote a book titled On the Body and Blood of the Lord, and it was published before Ratramnus’s work.  St. Paschasius held to the orthodox teaching of the real presence and for a time the view of Ratramnus was no longer a threat. That us until Berengar of Tours revitalized the controversy in 1050.

Berengar of Tours was a skilled scholar who had real concerns about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in the cases of sacrilege and automatic salvation (Radding & Newton 7).  Is it proper for Christ to pass through the digestive system?  What if a mouse got into the tabernacle and ate the consecrated hosts?  Berengar of Tours also had the false assumption that all one had to do was to consume the Eucharist and one would be automatically saved.  If this were the case, then there would be no need for faith.

Around this same time Aristotelian language was starting to be understood more, and this led to an opportunity for the church to clarify Eucharistic language.  The church works on the language at the regional Council of Vercelli in 1050.  It was here that the views of Berengar of Tours was condemned.  He did recant, but later fell back into his error (Thein 101).  In 1054 he signed another profession of faith in which he recanted of his error.  Berengar of Tours would pass to his eternal reward in communion with the church in 1088.

As is often the case, the church does not formally define something at a council until a controversy arises.  Though the error of Ratramnus and Berengar of Tours were handled correctly, the error regarding the Eucharist continued with other groups such the Waldensians, Albigensians, and Cathars.  The Fourth Lateran council met, and it was at this council that the word transubstantiation was used to describe what happened when the bread and wine are consecrated and does so in philosophical categories (Armstrong 54).  This formal definition answered the question how the bread and wine maintain its physical appearance and taste and how they can be transformed.

 

CONCLUSION

At the beginning of sacred scripture, we read about man be tempted with physical matter by Satan.  It was through material matter that sin entered the world, and through the longing for it that most problems in the world are present.  God knows that we are physical being and need to see things to comprehend and remember their significance.  In this regard he established the seven sacraments to infuse grace and help get us to heaven.  This where the sacramental worldview begins to take shape, especially in regard to the Eucharist.  At the words of consecration, the physical element of bread and wine are infused with the grace of God.

In the sacrament we are declaring are unity with each other, unity with the church, and that Christ is fully present in the sacrament.  It is something bigger than us and is a reminder about his death and resurrection that redeemed us all.  We consume Christ and he changes us from the inside out and conforms us more to his image.

The question being answered in this paper is if the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ or a mere symbol?  The conclusion is that that it has been the constant teaching of the church, since apostolic times, that the Eucharist is the body and blood or Christ.  This has been demonstrated using examples from writings of four church fathers.  There are several more quotations about the Eucharist from the fathers that were quoted.  However, there are many more writings from other fathers not mentioned that describe the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ.

Sacred scripture was also utilized to show how the manna in the desert and the bread of the presence prefigured the Eucharist.  The last supper was discussed, and scripture shows how Christ is the fulfillment of the Pasqual lamb.  Lastly the bread of life discourse in John chapter 6 was detailed.  In particular was the literal language that Christ used in the Greek.  Is the protestant view of the Eucharist being a symbol the view of the early church?  Not at all.  That view did not come about until the 9th century, and even then it was condemned.

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Works Cited

Akin, Jimmy. The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church. San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers, 2010. Print.

Armstrong, Dave. Biblical Catholic Eucharistic Theology. Dave Armstrong, 2011. Print.

Benedict XVI. Verbum Domini. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2010. Print.

Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd Ed. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000. Print.

Hahn, Scott, ed. Catholic Bible Dictionary 2009: n. pag. Print.

Hitchcock, James. History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012. Print.

Howell, Kenneth J. The Eucharist for Beginners: Sacrament, Sacrifice, and Communion. San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers, 2006. Print.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/order-of-mass/liturgy-of-the-eucharist/

Ignatius of Antioch. “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæans.” The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

Irenaeus of Lyons. “Irenæus against Heresies.” The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

Johnson, Lawrence J. Worship in the Early Church: An Anthology of Historical Sources. Vol. 1. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009. Print.

Justin Martyr. “The First Apology of Justin.” The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

Karleen, Paul S. The Handbook to Bible Study: With a Guide to the Scofield Study System. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Print.

Kreider, Alan. The Origins of Christendom in the West. Edinburgh; New York: T&T Clark, 2001. Print.

Pohle, Joseph, and Arthur Preuss. The Sacraments: A Dogmatic Treatise. Vol. 2. St. Louis, MO; London: B. Herder, 1917. Print. Dogmatic Theology.

Radding, Charles, and Francis Newton, Theology, Rhetoric, and Politics in the Eucharistic Controversy, 1078-1079: Alberic of Monte Cassino Against Berengar of Tours. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Schaff, Philip, and David Schley Schaff. History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910. Print.

Stone, Darwell. The Eucharistic Sacrifice. London; Milwaukee: R. Scott; Morehouse Pub. Co., 1920. Print. Handbooks of Catholic Faith and Practice.

Thein, John. Ecclesiastical Dictionary: Containing, in Concise Form, Information upon Ecclesiastical, Biblical, Archæological, and Historical Subjects 1900: n. pag. Print.

Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. London: Burns Oates & Washbourne. Print.

Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries: updated edition 1998: n. pag. Print.

Zizioulas, John D. The Eucharistic Communion and the World. Ed. Luke Ben Tallon. London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011. Print.

The Jewishness of Christ

Within theology there are many different topics.  One such topic is known as Christology, and it deals with who Jesus is.  It deals with his nature, divinity, and how it is portrayed within the New Testament.  There are many views of Christology that have been debunked over the years, and some are still taught today.  Who was Jesus, and how does his Jewish heritage affect our understanding of the New Testament? 

When we read the New Testament, we tend to read it through modern eyes.  We read the Gospel accounts and see the divinity of Christ, but we often overlook key aspects that assist us in understanding him in a deeper way.  We may have a good understanding of the doctrines that Christ preached, but pay little attention to his relationships and social interactions (Carter 150).  In fact, understanding the Jewishness of Christ will have a big impact on our exegesis of the New Testament.  By viewing the Jewishness of Christ, we are removing the presuppositions of western culture, and placing the New Testament back into its cultural and societal context.

One thing that many see Jesus as doing is abolishing the law, but is this really accurate?  Certainly, there are some things a that are no longer applicable under the New Covenant, but Jesus tells us himself that he came to fulfill the law in Matthew 5:17.  This seems to indicate that He recognized his Jewishness and embraced it.  Regarding this Gerald Collins writes, “We throw away any right to comment on the way Jesus perceived reality, if we ignore the earthly particularity of his language (Collins 47).

Jesus spoke in a manner in which his Jewish audience would understand.  Like other Rabbis of the time, he taught lessons by telling a story.  One example is His example of putting new wine into old wineskins in Luke 5:36. A surface reading of the text suggests a disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees in regard to Jewish dietary laws.  These parables give us peeks into Jewish culture, and a proper understanding of them assists us in understanding the New Testament in a fuller way.

As previously stated, we tend to read these parables within the context of our western culture, but to do so is to miss the point.  By reading scripture in this manner we run the risk of coming to a conclusion that in totally foreign to the intention of the text.  That has ramifications for how we engage the rest of the New Testament. 

Jesus was Jewish, and the first Christians were Jewish.  The worshipped in the synagogue, kept kosher dietary laws, and strove to keep other aspects of the law.  Most Christians are gentiles, and as a result it becomes hard to imagine Jesus as a Jewish man.  We say it, but it is something that comes from our mouth with little understanding of the ramifications.  This means that the Gospels should be seen as a conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders of his day, particularly in regard to the interpretation of the law.  It also means that we measure what Jesus said with the understanding that he was a Jewish Rabbi in 1st century Palestine.  These two things may be difficult for us to grasp, but when we do so we see the New Testament in its proper context, and the message of scripture become more fully alive.

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Works Cited

Carter, Warren. “Proclaiming (in/against) Empire Then and Now,” Word & World 25/2 (2005) 149-158.

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Mystery and Sacraments

When one begins to study sacred scripture the idea of mystery becomes very apparent.  The New Testament and Septuagint speak of the Greek word Mysterion.  When St. Jerome was translating the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into what would be the Latin Vulgate, he used the word sacramentum, or sacrament in English. In fact, the sacraments are celebrations of the mysteries of God. The Old Testament has no shortages of these mysteries that give us clues of the nature of God and the sacred mysteries.  This paper will seek to define mysterion, give examples of how these mysteries help reveal God’s identity, the role of ritual and sacrifice, and how God chooses to communicate with His people.

The word mystery is an anomaly of sorts.  In some circles it is something that is not to be questions, but to be accepted.  To others it is an invitation to explore, learn, and grow.  At most basic level a mystery is something hidden, and the information needed to understand is not available.  When it comes to God it is the opposite.  God is not some cosmic force that wants to remain hidden from us.  He was us to know Him, and he wants to be known by us.  We come to know these mysteries of God through our senses, reason, and faith.

It is through our physical senses that we get to know the word around us.  We learn what things smell like, we can see, hear, and see that this amazing world came from something.  Science tells us that everything has an origin and cannot come from nothing.  It is in this way that our senses testify to the existence of a creator.  Secondly, we come to know these mysteries through the uses of our reason.  We come to knowledge of the meaning and purpose of creation, even the creation of our own human lives, through our ability to reason.  Through reason we enter into relationship with God.  Lastly, the third way we understand the mysteries is through faith.  The utilization of faith informs reason and is necessary for a personal relationship with God.

In the Old Testament there are many examples of how these mysteries reveal God’s identity, his relationship with humanity, and the nature and destiny of humanity.  God’s identity is perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of all because he is transcendent and outside of time.  We get a clue in the book of Exodus when God and Moses are interacting.  The passage in question is Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks for God’s name, and God relies “This is what you shall tell the Israelites I AM sent me to you” (NAB).  He also has power over creation as he can calm the storms and cause beasts to retreat. This reveals a God who is creator or all and nothing is above him.  This has huge implications when it comes to God’s relationship with humanity.  God is not inaccessible and not wanting to be discovered, but quite the contrary.  Humanity was made in the image of him who is existence itself.  We read this in Genesis 1:27 which states, “God created man in his image; I the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (NAB).  This shows that we were made to be in relationship with God.  When we are in proper relationship we are that image of the divine creator, but when we sin and reject him we die.  We have turned our back on God as is seen in Genesis 3:19. The nature and destiny of humanity is to live.  God created man in his image, and he uses our physical senses to make him.  He uses all means or creation, including the human body, to make himself known.

Within the Old Testament there are also many lessons regarding the priesthood and the role of ritual sacrifice and offerings.  Regarding the priesthood, it is vital to understand that it is God who chooses and calls an individual to the priesthood.  It is through the priesthood that pleasing sacrifices are offered to God to maintain the Abrahamic and Noahic covenants.  In Numbers chapter 16 Moses describes the corrupt priests Korah who stood against Moses and Aaron.  Not everyone has a claim to the priesthood because it is God who calls him.  Scripture states this very clearly in Numbers 16:5 when Moses states, “May the Lord make known tomorrow morning who belongs to him and who is the holy one and whom he will have draw near to him!” (NAB).  Later is verse 10 Moses states that it is God who allows the priests to approach him, and all the evil priests of Korah were destroyed.  In Genesis 8:20 Noah offered a burnt offering for the Lord made a covenant to never destroy the Earth by flood.  Likewise Abraham, then known as Abram, built an altar and offered a burnt offering to God and God made a covenant with him.  This shows that ritual and sacrifice are important ways in which God communicates with his people through his priesthood.

In the Old Testament God also uses special ways to communicate with his people.  One such example is with Moses in the book of Exodus.  In Exodus 3:3 God uses the burning bush to communicate with Moses.  Moses was intrigued by the site of a bush that was on fire but was not being destroyed.  When Moses approached God told him to take his sandals off because it was holy ground.  Another example with Moses is seen in Exodus 4:1-4.  Moses was balking at the mission that God gave him to do.  God told Moses to throw down the staff that he gave him, and the staff turned into a snake.  God then told him to pick it up by the tail, and it turned back inti a staff.  This got the attention if Moses, and Moses returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh.  Another example of God communicating with his people is the prophet Daniel.  In Daniel chapter 2:19-23 God communicated with Daniel in a dream.  In fact, there are many times in sacred scripture where God communicates through dreams.  One has to be in close relationship with God to discern if it is truly God speaking.

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Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

Holy Bible, New American Bible

St. Irenaeus and the Rule of Faith

In the second century Gnosticism threatened to tear the young church apart.  It was a heresy that taught that all matter was evil, Jesus was spirit, and that true salvific doctrine was passed down through a secret oral tradition[1].  To combat this growing problem the early church father Irenaeus wrote a lengthy treatise titled Against Heresies.  One of the methods used by the great church father was the rule of faith.  In describing the rule of faith Irenaeus writes, “The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation [2].”  This rule of faith would lay the groundwork for what would become the Apostles’ Creed.  Ireneaus argues that the faith was given by Christ to the Apostles, and then to the bishops to whom the disciples appointed.  This is what we now call Apostolic Succession.

The rule of faith also shows that Christ was truly incarnate, and that matter was created by an eternal God and not evil.  The rule of faith was a vital part in combating gnostic teaching because it showed that they had no historical, scriptural, or apostolic support for the claims that they were making.  It helped expose their schismatic and anti-scriptural view of Christianity.  Irenaeus also appealed to Ephesians 1:10 in his refutation of Gnosticism.  That passage of scripture states, “as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth [3].”  The church was to be a unified body of believers with Jesus Christ as its head and the gnostic heresy was causing division.  It is linked with the rule of faith in that there was only one faith handed down from Christ.  There was not one faith for one group, and a special secret faith for a select few.  The faith in Christ is available to all people and in that we should be unified.

The rule of faith previously cited is a great tool in confronting false doctrines in our own times, and in our churches.  There is no shortage of false doctrine and some of these groups are outpacing evangelical churches in evangelization even though there number are smaller.  The rule of faith is a great tool because it shows that the faith is not a new invention, but was passed down by Christ himself.  It shows that Christ is God incarnate, and firmly teaching that the Trinity is one being with three distinct persons.  Many of these groups deny the Trinity and showing scriptural support, and that it was taught from the beginning is good place to start.   Whether it be in person, phone, or email dialogue about the truth can mean a lot to someone caught in false doctrine.  It gives them someone to ask questions to and the Holy Spirit can plant a seed.

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Works Cited

1.  Olsen, Roger E.  The Story of Christian Theology:  Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform.  (Downers Grove, IL:  IVP Academic, 1999), 29.

2.  Irenaeus.  Against Heresies.  Christian Classics Etherreal Library, retrieved May 19, 2018

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.ii.xi.html

3.  Ephesians 1:10, New Revised Standard Version

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