St. Paul and the Eucharist

One of the central themes in all of Christendom is that of unity.  Though there are many denominations Christians everywhere consider themselves to be in the family of God.  However within the Catholic Church we have something that the other denominations do not.  We have the body, soul, and divinity of Christ present with us in the Eucharist.  In the Catholic Church we are a family, and in that family there are disagreements.  However when we receive the Eucharist we are submitting to our Lord and we become one with Him and with each other.  This unity is important in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  This is a nice introduction.

During the course of St. Paul’s missionary journeys he founded the church in Corinth.  The community seemed to have a problem with individuality, but it is not what we think individuality to be.  This was not someone expressing their personality, but individuals who were selfish and put themselves before the welfare of the community.  Laurance states “Many of the Corinthian Christians believe that all that is important is to know the fact of their salvation, and that this fact liberates them from duties of love to their fellow Christians or even to Christ (Laurence, Page 71). There was an individual who was fornicating with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1).  This is bad enough, but the church did nothing to correct the issue.  This vital issue had the potential of ending the young church.  They were taking each other to court instead of working things out internally (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).  How does this look to the unbelievers around them?  They were not setting themselves about and living the example of Christ and their beloved Apostle Paul.  There were many other things wrong with the church, but when it came to the Eucharist.  Many within the church strayed from what they believed and received in an unworthy manner.

Paul is begins his lesson by reminding the Corinthians of Christ.  Laurance states “Contrary to all worldly wisdom and all expectations, God’s power is manifested in Christ’s humbling of himself and finally acceptance of death (Laurance, page 71).”  As previously stated the Corinthians were worrying about their own desires and seemed to forget about the fundamentals of the Gospel.  We are to act like Christ, and they were doing everything but that.

Christ loved us so much that He humbled himself and died for our sin.  Paul was reminding the Corinthians of this and the duty to love others more than yourself.  This is important in preparation to receive the Eucharist.  In mass we offer each other a sign of peace and we pray for each other.  It is in these prayers and offerings of peace that we humble ourselves and place ourselves at the service of others.  Paul was trying to emphasize the importance of this in proper Christian living.

To go along with this the Corinthians were not coming together properly to celebrate the Eucharist.  1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 says “When you meet in one place, then it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.”  Those that were well off in the world were flaunting it in the faces of those that had nothing.  This had the effect of making those less fortunate feel ashamed and it brought disgrace on the Church (1 Corinthians 11:22).  Paul, as a disappointed father, tells them he is ashamed.  Laurence states in plainly “To celebrate it (Eucharist) in a context of selfishness and division is to violate its very nature, to reject Christ who at the Last Supper and in his death shared himself completely.  Such a violation results in condemnation rather than blessing (Laurance, page 72).”

One could get the feeling from reading Paul’s letter that the community was in peril.  Someone was concerned enough to leak this information to Paul, and he swiftly wrote this epistle condemning their behavior.  Paul does this is a way that a father corrects a child.  He does it with love and he is trying to teach them by example.

Paul is telling the Corinthians, and us, that the Eucharistic meal is one which is firmly rooted in family.  In 1 Corinthians 11:26 Paul writes “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”  After performing the first mass at the Last supper our Lord was betrayed.  He was whipped, beaten, and had nails driven through His hands and feet.  To take this lightly one may as well be at the scene of the crucifixion with a hammer in hand.  We gather to remember that the Lord gave Himself for us and we are to follow His example by giving ourselves to each other.  If a member of the church lost a loved one then we all did.  If a member of the church is sick we are to all pray.  We are to help each other get to heaven, not step all over each other so we can get there first.

Paul reiterates the point of the Eucharist as a means of bringing the community together in 1 Corinthians 11:33, 34.  These verses read “Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.  If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so your meetings may not result in judgment.  The other matters I shall set in order when I come.”  Remember that there were certain members of the congregation that were using the church meeting as their own personal buffet.  This passage is not saying that one should not feed someone who is hungry, but is saying that everyone should get a portion of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the high point of the church meeting.  We recall how unworthy we are to receive the Blessed Sacrament, and ask God to forgive us of our shortcoming and fill us with His grace.  We ask for the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they ask the same of us.  Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians that we are in this race together, and is beneficial and necessary that we help each other as a family.

Image result for st paul

Reference

1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:26 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:33, 34 New American Bible

Laurance, John D., S.J., ED.  Introduction to Theology. (Revised Second Edition)  Boston:  Pearson Custom Publishing, 2008.

Advertisements

The Meaning of Sacrament (From a Linguistic View)

In the study of linguistics, it is normal to see that the meaning of words may change over time.  One such word that fits the category is the word “sacrament”.  When we hear that word, we think of the seven sacraments administered by the church.  They are a promise from Christ to show that he is still among us.  To do this properly we look to the Latin term sacramentum.

What does the word sacramentum mean?  To the Roman soldier it is a solemn obligation to carry out one’s duty even to the point of death.  It is similar to the oath that soldiers in the 21st century make in the United States.  They take an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all foreign and domestic enemies.  An oath is made to obey the orders of the President of the United States and those officers appointed over them.  When the Roman soldier enters military service an oath is made to the Senate and the People.  As the American soldier is called to make the ultimate sacrifice, the Roman soldier by virtue of his oath will fulfill his service to the point of death.

In regard to the sacraments it is a solemn pledge from God to us.  We are physical creatures, and sacramentum shows a personal relationship through physical matter.  God gave us an oath at the beginning of salvation history and carried it out to death on the cross.  The sacraments are a continued sign that he is always with us.

What is Pelagianism?

Many Protestant Christians say that the Catholic church teaches Pelagianism, or at the very least semi-Pelagianism.  This line of reasoning shows a fundamental misunderstanding of not only what the church teaches, but what Pelagianism is.  Pelagianism is a heresy that was condemned by the church and is superfluous for beatitude.

What is Pelagianism?  It is a system that relies on the sufficiency of man’s will (Hardon).  Pelagianism was started by a Bishop named Julian who had been a friend of St. Augustine.  It would later become more popular by a British theologian by the name of Pelagius.  At the heart of the movement were two issues:  the denial “for the need of divine grace and the doctrine of the generative transmission of original sin” (Ireland 38).

As noted above, Pelagianism teaches that original sin does not exist and that Adam left us a bad example.  Since his sin was merely a bad example, our nature is not corrupted, and we acquire the penalty of sin by our misdeeds.  This has huge ramifications when it comes to the concept of grace.  At its root it teaches the unrealistic thought that we can get to heaven by what we do, without the help of God.  Regarding this John Hardon writes, “We can always will and do good, even when de facto we will and do otherwise, depending entirely on our own moral strength” (Hardon).

Since we can do it on our own it lends to the ineffectiveness of sacraments, particularly that of baptism.  In this system baptism becomes a public declaration of faith and an incorporation into the church.  In fact, this is eerily similar to most Protestant denominations today.  Pelagianism makes grace superfluous to beatitude because it removes the need for grace.  If one can do it himself what is the need for God to be involved.  It makes Jesus into a wise moral teacher instead of the divine Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

Image result for pelagianism

Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Ireland, Patricia.  Guardian of a Pure Heart: St. Augustine on the Path to Heaven.  Staten Island:  St. Pauls/Alba House, 2009.

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.

              Image result for eucharist

 

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 Cathars and Transubstantiation

The Cathars are another famous sect in history that denied the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  The Cathars were dualists as they believed in One god who was evil, and another that was good.  The movement was essentially a revived type of Gnosticism as physical matter was also deemed evil (Lecture Note).  They denied that Jesus ever had a human body, and as result they would deny that the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ.  They denied all sacraments because of the physical properties contained within them. The Cathars thrived in Southern France between the 12th and 14th centuries.

 The church had to respond swiftly as Catharism was a growing movement.  The church used Aristotelian terms such as “substance” and “accidents” to describe the Eucharist.  The distinction between ‘substance’ and ‘accident’ gave the Church language to describe its belief that what looked like bread and wine were, in fact, the Body and Blood of Christ.  This language brought forth a term that we use still today.  The term “transubstantiation” was used against the Cathars at the fourth Lateran Council in 1215. 

It was at this council that the teaching of the Cathars was formally condemned.  The terminology that was developed during the controversy with the Cathars changed the landscape of Catholic theology.  Transubstantiation may have been a new term to describe the miracle that happens on the altar, but it was by no means a new idea.  Transubstantiation was the term coined at the council, but not when the teaching started being taught.  The church has always taught that the Eucharist was the body and blood of the Lord.  Transubstantiation just gives the term to describe how it can be the body and blood of the lord and still look like bread and wine.

Image result for cathars and the eucharist

Ratramnus and the First Eucharistic Controversy

From the time of the apostles until the 9th century the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was unchallenged.  It was accepted as fact, and the faithful never questioned it. Paschasius Radbertus and Ratramnus were the two central figures in this first eucharistic controversy.  St Paschasius was abbot of Corbie in the early 9th century, and he wrote extensively about the Eucharist in his work On the Body and Blood of the Lord .  He wrote that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ and that he dwells in us.  He dwells in us because we partake of him, and because of that we are one with Christ.  In writing to a monk under his tutelage he writes, “Christ however lives on account of the father, because he was born the only begotten one of the father, and we live on account of him, because we eat him”.  St. Paschasius came to this conclusion from sacred scripture and testimony of the Church Fathers (Catholic Encyclopedia).  This view would be challenges by a fellow monk by the name of Ratramnus.

Ratramnus was monk whose superior was St. Paschasius.  Ratramnus’s view on the Eucharist was quite different that his superior and is documented in his work also titled “On the Body and Blood of the Lord”.  He explained, as most Protestants do today, that in the body of Christ is received “in figure”.  It is not a physical manifestation but is a spiritual reality.  He denies the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and insists that Christ is present in faith.

In these two men we see a conflict of two worldviews.  In Ratramnus we see a separation from the sacramental worldview that had been firmly established.  We see the separation of physical and spiritual realities in which God has interacted with man since the beginning of creation.  This separation has a domino effect and centuries down the road would manifest itself in humanism and a materialist worldview, though that was not his intention.  In St. Paschasius we see that the physical contact with the risen Christ was part of what salvation was.  Through that physical contact of consuming him we came into union with the Holy one.  He is in us working to transform us and make us like him.

 

Works Cited

Pohle, Joseph. “St. Paschasius Radbertus.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 23 May 2018 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11518a.htm&gt;.

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.

Image result for sacrament

Works Cited

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

Holy Bible, New American Bible

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑