The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
FREE Catholic Classes
In this article we shall consider:
- the fact of the Real Presence , which is, indeed, the central dogma;
- the several allied dogmas grouped about it, namely:
- Totality of Presence,
- Permanence of Presence and the Adorableness of the Eucharist ;
- the speculations of reason, so far as speculative investigation regarding the august mystery under its various aspects is permissible, and so far as it is desirable to illumine it by the light of philosophy.
I. THE REAL PRESENCE AS A FACT
According to the teaching of theology a revealed fact can be proved solely by recurrence to the sources of faith, viz. Scripture and Tradition, with which is also bound up the infallible magisterium of the Church.A. Proof from Scripture
The words of promise (John 6)
By the miracles of the loaves and fishes and the walking upon the waters, on the previous day, Christ not only prepared His hearers for the sublime discourse containing the promise of the Eucharist, but also proved to them that He possessed, as Almighty God-man, a power superior to and independent of the laws of nature, and could, therefore, provide such a supernatural food, none other, in fact, than His own Flesh and Blood. This discourse was delivered at Capharnaum ( John 6:26-72 ), and is divided into two distinct parts, about the relation of which Catholic exegetes vary in opinion. Nothing hinders our interpreting the first part [John 6:26-48 (51)] metaphorically and understanding by "bread of heaven " Christ Himself as the object of faith, to be received in a figurative sense as a spiritual food by the mouth of faith. Such a figurative explanation of the second part of the discourse ( John 6:52-72 ), however, is not only unusual but absolutely impossible, as even Protestant exegetes (Delitzsch, Kostlin, Keil, Kahnis, and others) readily concede. First of all the whole structure of the discourse of promise demands a literal interpretation of the words: "eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood". For Christ mentions a threefold food in His address, the manna of the past ( John 6:31, 32, 49,, 59 ), the heavenly bread of the present ( John 6:32 sq. ), and the Bread of Life of the future ( John 6:27, 52 ). Corresponding to the three kinds of food and the three periods, there are as many dispensers — Moses dispensing the manna, the Father nourishing man's faith in the Son of God made flesh, finally Christ giving His own-Flesh and Blood. Although the manna, a type of the Eucharist, was indeed eaten with the mouth, it could not, being a transitory food, ward off death. The second food, that offered by the Heavenly Father, is the bread of heaven, which He dispenses hic et nunc to the Jews for their spiritual nourishment, inasmuch as by reason of the Incarnation He holds up His Son to them as the object of their faith. If, however, the third kind of food, which Christ Himself promises to give only at a future time, is a new refection, differing from the last-named food of faith, it can be none other than His true Flesh and Blood, to be really eaten and drunk in Holy Communion. This is why Christ was so ready to use the realistic expression "to chew" ( John 6:54, 56, 58 : trogein ) when speaking of this, His Bread of Life, in addition to the phrase, "to eat" ( John 6:51, 53 : phagein ). Cardinal Bellarmine (De Euchar., I, 3), moreover, calls attention to the fact, and rightly so, that if in Christ's mind the manna was a figure of the Eucharist, the latter must have been something more than merely blessed bread, as otherwise the prototype would not substantially excel the type. The same holds true of the other figures of the Eucharist, as the bread and wine offered by Melchisedech, the loaves of proposition ( panes propositionis ), the paschal lamb . The impossibility of a figurative interpretation is brought home more forcibly by an analysis of the following text: "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed" ( John 6:54-56 ). It is true that even among the Semites, and in Scripture itself, the phrase, "to eat some one's flesh", has a figurative meaning, namely, "to persecute, to bitterly hate some one". If, then, the words of Jesus are to be taken figuratively, it would appear that Christ had promised to His enemies eternal life and a glorious resurrection in recompense for the injuries and persecutions directed against Him. The other phrase, "to drink some one's blood", in Scripture, especially, has no other figurative meaning than that of dire chastisement (cf. Isaiah 49:26 ; Apocalypse 16:6 ); but, in the present text, this interpretation is just as impossible here as in the phrase, "to eat some one's flesh". Consequently, eating and drinking are to be understood of the actual partaking of Christ in person, hence literally.
Help Now >
This interpretation agrees perfectly with the conduct of the hearers and the attitude of Christ regarding their doubts and objections. Again, the murmuring of the Jews is the clearest evidence that they had understood the preceding words of Jesus literally ( John 6:53 ). Yet far from repudiating this construction as a gross misunderstanding, Christ repeated them in a most solemn manner, in John (6:54 sqq.). In consequence, many of His Disciples were scandalized and said: "This saying is hard, and who can hear it?" ( John 6:61 ); but instead of retracting what He had said, Christ rather reproached them for their want of faith, by alluding to His sublimer origin and His future Ascension into heaven . And without further ado He allowed these Disciples to go their way ( John 6:62 sqq. ). Finally He turned to His twelve Apostles with the question: "Will you also go away?
Then Peter stepped forth and with humble faith replied: "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God " ( John 6:68 sqq. ). The entire scene of the discourse and murmurings against it proves that the Zwinglian and Anglican interpretation of the passage, "It is the spirit that quickeneth", etc., in the sense of a glossing over or retractation, is wholly inadmissible. For in spite of these words the Disciples severed their connection with Jesus, while the Twelve accepted with simple faith a mystery which as yet they did not understand. Nor did Christ say: "My flesh is spirit", i.e. to be understood in a figurative sense, but: "My words are spirit and life". There are two views regarding the sense in which this text is to be interpreted. Many of the Fathers declare that the true Flesh of Jesus ( sarx ) is not to be understood as separated from His Divinity ( spiritus ), and hence not in a cannibalistic sense, but as belonging entirely to the supernatural economy. The second and more scientific explanation asserts that in the Scriptural opposition of "flesh and blood" to "spirit", the former always signifies carnal-mindedness, the latter mental perception illumined by faith, so that it was the intention of Jesus in this passage to give prominence to the fact that the sublime mystery of the Eucharist can be grasped in the light of supernatural faith alone, whereas it cannot be understood by the carnal-minded, who are weighed down under the burden of sin. Under such circumstances it is not to be wondered at that the Fathers and several Ecumenical councils ( Ephesus, 431; Nicæa, 787) adopted the literal sense of the words, though it was not dogmatically defined (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXI, c. i). If it be true that a few Catholic theologians (as Cajetan, Ruardus Tapper, Johann Hessel, and the elder Jansenius ) preferred the figurative interpretation, it was merely for controversial reasons, because in their perplexity they imagined that otherwise the claims of the Hussite and Protestant Utraquists for the partaking of the Chalice by the laity could not be answered by argument from Scripture. (Cf. Patrizi, "De Christo pane vitæ", Rome, 1851; Schmitt, "Die Verheissung der Eucharistie bei den Vütern", 2 vols., Würzburg, 1900-03.)
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
The words of Institution
The Church's Magna Charta, however, are the words of Institution, "This is my body — this is my blood", whose literal meaning she has uninterruptedly adhered to from the earliest times. The Real Presence is evinced, positively, by showing the necessity of the literal sense of these words, and negatively, by refuting the figurative interpretations. As regards the first, the very existence of four distinct narratives of the Last Supper, divided usually into the Petrine ( Matthew 26:26 sqq. ; Mark 14:22 sqq. ) and the double Pauline accounts ( Luke 22:19 sq. ; 1 Corinthians 11:24 sq. ), favors the literal interpretation. In spite of their striking unanimity as regards essentials, the Petrine account is simpler and clearer, whereas Pauline is richer in additional details and more involved in its citation of the words that refer to the Chalice. It is but natural and justifiable to expect that, when four different narrators in different countries and at different times relate the words of Institution to different circles of readers, the occurrence of an unusual figure of speech, as, for instance, that bread is a sign of Christ's Body, would, somewhere or other, betray itself, either in the difference of word-setting, or in the unequivocal expression of the meaning really intended, or at least in the addition of some such mark as: "He spoke, however, of the sign of His Body." But nowhere do we discover the slightest ground for a figurative interpretation. If, then, natural, literal interpretation were false, the Scriptural record alone would have to be considered as the cause of a pernicious error in faith and of the grievous crime of rendering Divine homage to bread ( artolatria ) — a supposition little in harmony with the character of the four Sacred Writers or with the inspiration of the Sacred Text. Moreover, we must not omit the important circumstance, that one of the four narrators has interpreted his own account literally. This is St. Paul ( 1 Corinthians 11:27 sq. ), who, in the most vigorous language, brands the unworthy recipient as "guilty of body and of the blood of the Lord". There can be no question of a grievous offense against Christ Himself unless we suppose that the true Body and the true Blood of Christ are really present in the Eucharist. Further, if we attend only to the words themselves their natural sense is so forceful and clear that Luther wrote to the Christians of Strasburg in 1524: "I am caught, I cannot escape, the text is too forcible" (De Wette, II, 577). The necessity of the natural sense is not based upon the absurd assumption that Christ could not in general have resorted to use of figures, but upon the evident requirement of the case, which demand that He did not, in a matter of such paramount importance, have recourse to meaningless and deceptive metaphors. For figures enhance the clearness of speech only when the figurative meaning is obvious, either from the nature of the case (e.g. from a reference to a statue of Lincoln, by saying: "This is Lincoln") or from the usages of common parlance (e.g. in the case of this synecdoche: "This glass is wine"), Now, neither from the nature of the case nor in common parlance is bread an apt or possible symbol of the human body. Were one to say of a piece of bread: "This is Napoleon ", he would not be using a figure, but uttering nonsense. There is but one means of rendering a symbol improperly so called clear and intelligible, namely, by, conventionally settling beforehand what it is to signify, as, for instance, if one were to say: "Let us imagine these two pieces of bread before us to be Socrates and Plato ". Christ, however, instead of informing His Apostles that he intended to use such a figure, told them rather the contrary in the discourse containing the promise: "the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world" ( John 6:52 ), Such language, of course, could be used only by a God-man; so that belief in the Real Presence necessarily presupposes belief in the true Divinity of Christ, The foregoing rules would of themselves establish the natural meaning with certainty, even if the words of Institution, "This is my body — this is my blood", stood alone, But in the original text corpus (body) and sanguis (blood) are followed by significant appositional additions, the Body being designated as "given for you" and the Blood as "shed for you [many]"; hence the Body given to the Apostles was the self same Body that was crucified on Good Friday, and the Chalice drunk by them, the self same Blood that was shed on the Cross for our sins, Therefore the above-mentioned appositional phrases directly exclude every possibility of a figurative interpretation.
We reach the same conclusion from a consideration of the concomitant circumstances, taking into account both the hearers and the Institutor, Those who heard the words of Institution were not learned Rationalists, possessed of the critical equipment that would enable them, as philologists and logicians, to analyze an obscure and mysterious phraseology; they were simple, uneducated fishermen, from the ordinary ranks of the people, who with childlike naïveté hung upon the words of their Master and with deep faith accepted whatever He proposed to them, This childlike disposition had to be reckoned with by Christ, particularly on the eve of His Passion and Death, when He made His last will and testament and spoke as a dying father to His deeply afflicted children. In such a moment of awful solemnity, the only appropriate mode of speech would be one which, stripped of unintelligible figures, made use of words corresponding exactly to the meaning to be conveyed. It must be remembered, also, that Christ as omniscient God-man, must have foreseen the shameful error into which He would have led His Apostles and His Church by adopting an unheard-of metaphor; for the Church down to the present day appeals to the words of Christ in her teaching and practice. If then she practices idolatry by the adoration of mere bread and wine, this crime must be laid to the charge of the God-man Himself. Besides this, Christ intended to institute the Eucharist as a most holy sacrament, to be solemnly celebrated in the Church even to the end of time. But the content and the constituent parts of a sacrament had to be stated with such clearness of terminology as to exclude categorically every error in liturgy and worship. As may be gathered from the words of consecration of the Chalice, Christ established the New Testament in His Blood, just as the Old Testament had been established in the typical blood of animals (cf. Exodus 24:8 ; Hebrews 9:11 sqq. ). With the true instinct of justice, jurists prescribe that in all debatable points the words of a will must be taken in their natural, literal sense; for they are led by the correct conviction, that every testator of sound mind, in drawing up his last will and testament, is deeply concerned to have it done in language at once clear and unencumbered by meaningless metaphors. Now, Christ, according to the literal purport of His testament, has left us as a precious legacy, not mere bread and wine, but His Body and Blood. Are we justified, then, in contradicting Him to His face and exclaiming: "No, this is not your Body, but mere bread, the sign of your Body!"
The refutation of the so-called Sacramentarians, a name given by Luther to those who opposed the Real Presence, evinces as clearly the impossibility of a figurative meaning. Once the manifest literal sense is abandoned, occasion is given to interminable controversies about the meaning of an enigma which Christ supposedly offered His followers for solution. There were no limits to the dispute in the sixteenth century, for at that time Christopher Rasperger wrote a whole book on some 200 different interpretations: "Ducentæ verborum, 'Hoc est corpus meum' interpretationes" (Ingolstadt, 1577). In this connection we must restrict ourselves to an examination of the most current and widely known distortions of the literal sense, which were the butt of Luther's bitter ridicule even as early as 1527. The first group of interpreters, with Zwingli, discovers a figure in the copula est and renders it: "This signifies ( est = significat ) my Body". In proof of this interpretation, examples are quoted from scripture, as: "The seven kine are seven years" ( Genesis 41:26 ) or: "Sara and Agar are the two covenants" ( Galatians 4:24 ), Waiving the question whether the verb "to be" ( esse, einai ) of itself can ever be used as the "copula in a figurative relation" (Weiss) or express the "relation of identity in a metaphorical connection" (Heinrici), which most logicians deny, the fundamental principles of logic firmly establish this truth, that all propositions may be divided into two great categories, of which the first and most comprehensive denominates a thing as it is in itself (e.g. "Man is a rational being"), whereas the second designates a thing according as it is used as a sign of something else (e.g, "This picture is my father"). To determine whether a speaker intends the second manner of expression, there are four criteria, whose joint concurrence alone will allow the verb "to be" to have the meaning of "signify". Abstracting from the three criteria, mentioned above, which have reference either to the nature of the case, or to the usages of common parlance, or to some convention previously agreed upon, there remains a fourth and last of decisive significance, namely: when a complete substance is predicated of another complete substance, there can exist no logical relation of identity between them, but only the relation of similarity, inasmuch as the first is an image, sign, symbol, of the other. Now this last-named criterion is inapplicable to the Scriptural examples brought forward by the Zwinglians, and especially so in regard to their interpretation of the words of Institution; for the words are not: "This bread is my Body", but indefinitely: "This is my Body". In the history of the Zwinglian conception of the Lord's Supper, certain "sacramental expressions" ( locutiones sacramentales ) of the Sacred Text, regarded as parallelisms of the words of Institution, have attracted considerable attention. The first is to be found in I Cor. 10:4: "And the rock was [signified] Christ", Yet it is evident that, if the subject rock is taken in its material sense, the metaphor, according to the fourth criterion just mentioned, is as apparent as in the analogous phrase "Christ is the vine". If, however, the word rock in this passage is stripped of all that is material, it may be understood in a spiritual sense, because the Apostle himself is speaking of that "spiritual rock" ( petra spiritalis ), which in the Person of the Word in an invisible manner ever accompanied the Israelites in their journeyings and supplied them with a spiritual fountain of waters. According to this explanation the copula would here retain its meaning "to be". A nearer approach to a parallel with the words of Institution is found apparently in the so-called "sacramental expressions": "Hoc est pactum meum" ( Genesis 17:10 ), and "est enim Phase Domini" ( Exodus 12:11 ). It is well known how Zwingli by a clever manipulation of the latter phrase succeeded in one day in winning over to his interpretation the entire Catholic population of Zurich. And yet it is clear that no parallelism can be discerned between the aforesaid expressions and the words of Institution; no real parallelism, because there is question of entirely different matters. Not even a verbal parallelism can be pointed out, since in both texts of the Old Testament the subject is a ceremony ( circumcision in the first case, and the rite of the paschal lamb in the second), while the predicate involves a mere abstraction (covenant, Passover of the Lord). A more weighty consideration is this, that on closer investigation the copula est will be found to retain its proper meaning of "is" rather than "signifies". For just as the circumcision not only signified the nature or object of the Divine covenant, but really was such, so the rite of the Paschal lamb was really the Passover ( Phase ) or Pasch, instead of its mere representation. It is true that in certain Anglican circles it was formerly the custom to appeal to the supposed poverty of the Aramaic tongue, which was spoken by Christ in the company of His Apostles ; for it was maintained that no word could be found in this language corresponding to the concept "to signify". Yet, even prescinding from the fact that in the Aramaic tongue the copula est is usually omitted and that such an omission rather makes for its strict meaning of "to be", Cardinal Wiseman (Horæ Syriacæ, Rome, 1828, pp. 3-73) succeeded in producing no less than forty Syriac expressions conveying the meaning of "to signify" and thus effectually exploded the myth of the Semitic tongue's limited vocabulary.
A second group of Sacramentarians, with Œcolampadius, shifted the diligently sought-for metaphor to the concept contained in the predicate corpus , giving to the latter the sense of "signum corporis", so that the words of Institution were to be rendered: "This is a sign [symbol, image, type] of my Body". Essentially tallying with the Zwinglian interpretation, this new meaning is equally untenable. In all the languages of the world the expression "my body" designates a person's natural body, not the mere sign or symbol of that body. True it is that the Scriptural words "Body of Christ" not infrequently have the meaning of "Church", which is called the mystical Body of Christ, a figure easily and always discernible as such from the text or context (cf. Colossians 1:24 ). This mystical sense, however, is impossible in the words of Institution, for the simple reason that Christ did not give the Apostles His Church to eat, but His Body, and that "body and blood", by reason of their real and logical association, cannot be separated from one another, and hence are all the less susceptible of a figurative use. The case would be different if the reading were: "This is the bread of my Body, the wine of my Blood". In order to prove at least this much, that the contents of the Chalice are merely wine and, consequently, a mere sign of the Blood, Protestants have recourse to the text of St. Matthew, who relates that Christ, after the completion of the Last Supper, declared: "I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine [ genimen vitis ]" ( Matthew 26:29 ). It is to be noted that St. Luke (22:18 sqq.), who is chronologically more exact, places these words of Christ before his account of the Institution, and that the true Blood of Christ may with right still be called ( consecrated ) wine, on the one hand, because the Blood was partaken of after the manner in which wine is drunk and, on the other, because the Blood continues to exist under the outward appearances of the wine. In its multifarious wanderings from the old beaten path being consistently forced with the denial of Christ's Divinity to abandon faith in the Real Presence, also, modern criticism seeks to account for the text along other lines. With utter arbitrariness, doubting whether the words of Institution originated from the mouth of Christ, it traces them to St. Paul as their author, in whose ardent soul something original supposedly mingled with his subjective reflections on the value attached to "Body" and on the "repetition of the Eucharistic banquet". From this troubled fountain-head the words of Institution first found their way into the Gospel of St, Luke and then, by way of addition, were woven into the texts of St. Matthew and St. Mark . It stands to reason that the latter assertion is nothing more than a wholly unwarrantable conjecture, which may be passed over as gratuitously as it was advanced. It is, moreover, essentially untrue that the value attached to the Sacrifice and the repetition of the Lord's Supper are mere reflections of St. Paul , since Christ attached a sacrificial value to His Death (cf. Mark 10:45 ) and celebrated His Eucharistic Supper in connection with the Jewish Passover, which itself had to be repeated every year. As regards the interpretation of the words of Institution, there are at present three modern explanations contending for supremacy — the symbolical, the parabolical, and the eschatological. According to the symbolical interpretation, corpus is supposed to designate the Church as the mystical Body and sanguis the New Testament. We have already rejected this last meaning as impossible. For is it the Church that is eaten and the New Testament that is drunk? Did St. Paul brand the partaking of the Church and of the New Testament as a heinous offense committed against the Body and Blood of Christ? The case is not much better in regard to the parabolical interpretation, which would discern in the pouring out of the wine a mere parable of the shedding of the Blood on the Cross. This again is a purely arbitrary explanation, an invention, unsupported by any objective foundation. Then, too, it would follow from analogy, that the breaking of the bread was a parable of the slaying of Christ's Body, a meaning utterly inconceivable. Rising as it were out of a dense fog and laboring to take on a definite form, the incomplete eschatological explanation would make the Eucharist a mere anticipation of the future heavenly banquet. Supposing the truth of the Real Presence, this consideration might be open to discussion, inasmuch as the partaking of the Bread of Angels is really the foretaste of eternal beatitude and the anticipated transformation of earth into heaven. But as implying mere symbolical anticipation of heaven and a meaningless manipulation of unconsecrated bread and wine the eschatological interpretation is diametrically opposed to the text and finds not the slightest support in the life and character of Christ.
B. Proof from Tradition
As for the cogency of the argument from tradition, this historical fact is of decided significance, namely, that the dogma of the Real Presence remained, properly speaking, unmolested down to the time of the heretic Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088), and so could claim even at that time the uninterrupted possession of ten centuries. In the course of the dogma's history there arose in general three great Eucharistic controversies, the first of which, begun by Paschasius Radbertus, in the ninth century, scarcely extended beyond the limits of his audience and concerned itself solely with the philosophical question, whether the Eucharistic Body of Christ is identical with the natural Body He had in Palestine and now has in heaven. Such a numerical identity could well have been denied by Ratramnus, Rabanus Maurus, Ratherius, Lanfranc, and others, since even nowadays a true, though accidental, distinction between the sacramental and the natural condition of Christ's Body must be rigorously maintained. The first occasion for an official procedure on the part of the Church was offered when Berengarius of Tours, influenced by the writings of Scotus Eriugena (d. about 884), the first opponent of the Real Presence, rejected both the latter truth and that of Transubstantiation. He repaired, however, the public scandal he had given by a sincere retractation made in the presence of Pope Gregory VII at a synod held in Rome in 1079, and died reconciled to the Church. The third and the sharpest controversy was that opened by the Reformation in the sixteenth century, in regard to which it must be remarked that Luther was the only one among the Reformers who still clung to the old Catholic doctrine, and, though subjecting it to manifold misrepresentations, defended it most tenaciously. He was diametrically opposed by Zwingli of Zurich, who, as was seen above, reduced the Eucharist to an empty, meaningless symbol. Having gained over to his views such friendly contemporary partisans as Carlstadt, Bucer, and Œcolampadius, he later on secured influential allies in the Arminians, Mennonites, Socinians, and Anglicans, and even today the rationalistic conception of the doctrine of the Lord's Supper does not differ substantially from that of the Zwinglians. In the meantime, at Geneva, Calvin was cleverly seeking to bring about a compromise between the extremes of the Lutheran literal and the Zwinglian figurative interpretations, by suggesting instead of the substantial presence in one case or the merely symbolical in the other, a certain mean, i.e. "dynamic", presence, which consists essentially in this, that at the moment of reception, the efficacy of Christ's Body and Blood is communicated from heaven to the souls of the predestined and spiritually nourishes them. Thanks to Melanchthon's pernicious and dishonest double-dealing, this attractive intermediary position of Calvin made such an impression even in Lutheran circles that it was not until the Formula of Concord in 1577 that the "crypto-Calvinistic venom" was successfully rejected from the body of Lutheran doctrine. The Council of Trent met these widely divergent errors of the Reformation with the dogmatic definition, that the God-man is "truly, really, and substantially" present under the appearances of bread and wine, purposely intending thereby to oppose the expression vere to Zwingli's signum , realiter to Œcolampadius's figura , and essentialiter to Calvin's virtus (Sess. XIII, can. i). And this teaching of the Council of Trent has ever been and is now the unwavering position of the whole of Catholic Christendom.
As regards the doctrine of the Fathers, it is not possible in the present article to multiply patristic texts, which are usually characterized by wonderful beauty and clearness. Suffice it to say that, besides the Didache (ix, x, xiv), the most ancient Fathers, as Ignatius (Ad. Smyrn., vii; Ad. Ephes., xx; Ad. Philad., iv), Justin (Apol., I, lxvi), Irenæus (Adv. Hær., IV, xvii, 5; IV, xviii, 4; V, ii, 2), Tertullian (De resurrect. carn., viii; De pudic., ix; De orat., xix; De bapt., xvi), and Cyprian (De orat. dom., xviii; De lapsis, xvi), attest without the slightest shadow of a misunderstanding what is the faith of the Church, while later patristic theology bears witness to the dogma in terms that approach exaggeration, as Gregory of Nyssa (Orat. catech., xxxvii), Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. myst., iv, 2 sqq.), and especially the Doctor of the Eucharist, Chrysostom [Hom. lxxxii (lxxxiii), in Matt., 1 sqq.; Hom. xlvi, in Joan., 2 sqq.; Hom. xxiv, in I Cor., 1 sqq.; Hom. ix, de pœnit., 1], to whom may be added the Latin Fathers, Hilary (De Trinit., VIII, iv, 13) and Ambrose (De myst., viii, 49; ix, 51 sq.). Concerning the Syriac Fathers see Th. Lamy "De Syrorum fide in re eucharisticâ" (Louvain, 1859).
The position held by St. Augustine is at present the subject of a spirited controversy, since the adversaries of the Church rather confidently maintain that he favored their side of the question in that he was an out-and-out "Symbolist". In the opinion of Loofs ("Dogmengeschichte", 4th ed., Halle, 1906, p. 409), St. Augustine never gives, the "reception of the true Body and Blood of Christ" a thought; and this view Ad. Harnack (Dogmengeschichte, 3rd ed., Freiburg, 1897, III, 148) emphasizes when he declares that St. Augustine "undoubtedly was one in this respect with the so-called pre-Reformation and with Zwingli ". Against this rather hasty conclusion Catholics first of all advance the undoubted fact that Augustine demanded that Divine worship should be rendered to the Eucharistic Flesh (In Ps. xxxiii, enarr., i, 10), and declared that at the Last Supper "Christ held and carried Himself in His own hands" (In Ps. xcviii, n. 9). They insist, and rightly so, that it is not fair to separate this great Doctor's teaching concerning the Eucharist from his doctrine of the Holy Sacrifice, since he clearly and unmistakably asserts that the true Body and Blood are offered in the Holy Mass. The variety of extreme views just mentioned requires that an attempt be made at a reasonable and unbiased explanation, whose verification is to be sought for and found in the acknowledged fact that a gradual process of development took place in the mind of St. Augustine. No one will deny that certain expressions occur in Augustine as forcibly realistic as those of Tertullian and Cyprian or of his intimate literary friends, Ambrose, Optatus of Mileve, Hilary, and Chrysostom. On the other hand, it is beyond question that, owing to the determining influence of Origen and the Platonic philosophy, which, as is well known, attached but slight value to visible matter and the sensible phenomena of the world, Augustine did not refer what was properly real ( res ) in the Blessed Sacrament to the Flesh of Christ ( caro ), but transferred it to the quickening principle ( spiritus ), i.e. to the effects produced by a worthy Communion. A logical consequence of this was that he allowed to caro , as the vehicle and antitype of res , not indeed a mere symbolical worth, but at best a transitory, intermediary, and subordinate worth ( signum ), and placed the Flesh and Blood of Christ, present under the appearances ( figuræ ) of bread and wine, in too decided an opposition to His natural, historical Body. Since Augustine was a strenuous defender of personal co-operation and effort in the work of salvation and an enemy to mere mechanical activity and superstitious routine, he omitted insisting upon a lively faith in the real personality of Jesus in the Eucharist, and called attention to the spiritual efficiency of the Flesh of Christ instead. His mental vision was fixed, not so much upon the saving caro , as upon the spiritus , which alone possessed worth. Nevertheless a turning-point occurred in his life. The conflict with Pelagianism and the diligent perusal of Chrysostom freed him from the bondage of Platonism, and he thenceforth attached to caro a separate, individual value independent of that of spiritus, going so far, in fact, as to maintain too strongly that the Communion of children was absolutely necessary to salvation.
If, moreover, the reader finds in some of the other Fathers difficulties, obscurities, and a certain inaccuracy of expression, this may be explained on three general grounds:
- because of the peace and security there is in their possession of the Church's truth, whence resulted a certain want of accuracy in their terminology;
- because of the strictness with which the Discipline of the Secret, expressly concerned with the Holy Eucharist, was maintained in the East until the end of the fifth, in the West down to the middle of the sixth century;
- because of the preference of many Fathers for the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, which was especially in vogue in the Alexandrian School ( Clement of Alexandria , Origen, Cyril ), but which found a salutary counterpoise in the emphasis laid on the literal interpretation by the School of Antioch ( Theodore of Mopsuestia , Theodoret ). Since, however, the allegorical sense of the Alexandrians did not exclude the literal, but rather supposed it as a working basis, the realistic phraseology of Clement (Pæd., I, vi), of Origen (Contra Celsum VIII, xiii 32; Hom. ix, in Levit., x) and of Cyril (in Matt., xxvi, xxvii; Contra Nestor., IV, 5) concerning the Real Presence is readily accounted for. (For the solution of patristic difficulties, see Pohle, "Dogmatik", 3rd ed., Paderborn, 1908, III, 209 sqq.)
The argument from tradition is supplemented and completed by the argument from prescription, which traces the constant belief in the dogma of the Real Presence through the Middle Ages back to the early Apostolic Church, and thus proves the anti-Eucharistic heresies to have been capricious novelties and violent ruptures of the true faith as handed down from the beginning. Passing over the interval that has elapsed since the Reformation, as this period receives its entire character from the Council of Trent, we have for the time of the Reformation the important testimony of Luther (Wider etliche Rottengeister, 1532) for the fact that the whole of Christendom then believed in the Real Presence. And this firm, universal belief can be traced back uninterruptedly to Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088), in fact — omitting the sole exception of Scotus Eriugena — to Paschasius Radbertus (831). On these grounds, therefore, we may proudly maintain that the Church has been in legitimate possession of this dogma for fully eleven centuries. When Photius started the Greek Schism in 869, he took over to his Church the inalienable treasure of the Catholic Eucharist, a treasure which the Greeks, in the negotiations for reunion at Lyons in 1274 and at Florence in 1439, could show to be still intact, and which they vigorously defended in the schismatical Synod of Jerusalem (1672) against the sordid machinations of the Calvinistic -minded Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople (1629). From this it follows conclusively that the Catholic dogma must be much older than the Eastern Schism under Photius. In fact, even the Nestorians and Monophysites, who broke away from Rome in the fifth century, have, as is evident from their their literature and liturgical books, preserved their faith in the Eucharist as unwaveringly as the Greeks, and this in spite of the dogmatic difficulties which, on account of their denial of the hypostatic union , stood in the way of a clear and correct notion of the Real Presence. Therefore the Catholic dogma is at least as old as Nestorianism (A.D. 431). But is it not of even greater antiquity? To decide this question one has only to examine the oldest Liturgies of the Mass, whose essential elements date back to the time of the Apostles ( see articles on the various liturgies ), to visit the Roman Catacombs, where Christ is shown as present in the Eucharistic food under the symbol of a fish ( see E ARLY S YMBOLS OF THE E UCHARIST ), to decipher the famous Inscription of Abercius of the second century, which, though composed under the influence of the Discipline of the Secret, plainly attests the faith of that age. And thus the argument from prescription carries us back to the dim and distant past and thence to the time of the Apostles, who in turn could have received their faith in the Real Presence from no one but Christ Himself.
II. THE TOTALITY OF THE REAL PRESENCE
In order to forestall at the very outset, the unworthy notion, that in the Eucharist we receive merely the Body and merely the Blood of Christ but not Christ in His entirety, the Council of Trent defined the Real Presence to be such as to include with Christ's Body and His Soul and Divinity as well. A strictly logical conclusion from the words of promise: "he that eateth me the same also shall live by me", this Totality of Presence was also the constant property of tradition, which characterized the partaking of separated parts of the Savior as a sarcophagy (flesh-eating) altogether derogatory to God. Although the separation of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Logos, is, absolutely speaking, within the almighty power of God, yet then actual inseparability is firmly established by the dogma of the indissolubility of the hypostatic union of Christ's Divinity and Humanity. In case the Apostles had celebrated the Lord's Supper during the triduum mortis (the time during which Christ's Body was in the tomb ), when a real separation took place between the constitutive elements of Christ, there would have been really present in the Sacred Host only, the bloodless, inanimate Body of Christ as it lay in tomb, and in the Chalice only the Blood separated from His Body and absorbed by the earth as it was shed, both the Body and the Blood, however, hypostatically united to Hi
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Padre Nuestro - Our Father (Lord's Prayer)
- The Apostles' Creed
- Come Holy Spirit
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.