Wednesday, October 05, 2011
I normally do not discuss politics on my blog but the systemic attack on religious freedom by the Obama Administration is something that no Christian should countenance. Former Secretary of State of Ohio Kenneth Blackwell writes about how the Obama adminstration is seeking to force a Catholic University to fund abortions. Apparently, the Bamster doesn't think much of the First Amendment. See, p://www.cnsnews.com/node/122233.
Mr. Hays (a gentleman I often disagree with on issues of faith) on his Triablogue links to another article detailing the government's hatred of Christianity in an article captioned aimply as state churches.
These two incidences are just the tip of very big iceberg. Make no mistake--man-made religious climate change is real and it is happening now! If we Christians do not soon join our voices in prayer and protest, the courts of the United States of America will soon don a new role as the coliseums of tomorrow. And the secularists on the left are not going to distinguish between Catholic and Protestant when they are throwing us to the lions.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
What Saint Augustine, Bishop, Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church Actually Held Pertaining to Transubstantiation: A Response to Turretinfan [Part Two Continued].
"What, after all, is our bread, if not the One who said, I myself am the living bread who have come down from heaven. (Jn. 6:51)" ~Saint Augustine from Sermo 360C:3.
III. Critique of Turretinfan’s Three Commentaries (Cont.)
B. Sermon 272: On the Day of Pentecost to the Infantes, on the Sacrament (Circa. 408 AD)Before we turn to Turretinfan’s comments on Saint Augustine’s Sermon 272, I wanted to offer some prefatory remarks pertaining to this sermon. This sermon falls during St. Augustine’s Donatist Period ( 400 AD and 412 AD). The Donatists were a schismatic sect of rigorists, who held that the true Church must consist of saints only, not sinners, and that the sacraments, such as baptism and the Eucharist, administered by priests outside of a pure church of saints were invalid. This schism originally began because some Carthaginians refused to recognize a bishop who had been consecrated by a bishop who allegedly had been a traditor (a Christian who surrendered the sacred vessels or books of the Scriptures over for public destruction) during the last great persecution of the Church and in his place had another bishop consecrated who had been steadfast in that adversity. The Donatists argued that the efficacy of the sacraments depended on the sanctity of the minister conferring it. If the minister was unworthy, then the sacrament was not valid. In the Donatist thought, if one did not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, how could that person give it to others?
To counter this schism, Saint Augustine stressed that the sinfulness of the minister is not relevant to the sacrament. The minister does not lose his authority of orders because of his sins. The reason for this is that in Augustinian thought, the true minister of the sacraments is not the individual, even if that person is consecrated, but the Church, the spouse of Christ, who sends the priest, deacon or bishop, and ultimately since the Church in a very real way is Christ Himself, it is Jesus Christ who is the priest who works always through the Holy Spirit in the Church and through the Church. For Augustine then, the merit of the sacrament does not come from the person conferring the sacrament, but what the sacrament itself contains. See, On Baptism contra the Donatists, Book IV, 6:10; 10:17. In other words Saint Augustine taught the efficacy of the sacraments in the same manner of the "modern Rome," which is by ex opere operato-that is the efficacy and grace conferred by the sacrament does not depend on the merits of the minister, but on account of the power of the sacrament itself and on account of Jesus Christ who instituted it. See, for instance: Contra Cresconium Book IV, Chapter 16:19. An English translation of the operative sentence in question may be found in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia:
"Baptism consists not in the merits of those by whom it is administered, nor of those to whom it is administered, but in its own sanctity and truth, on account of Him who instituted it."
St. Augustine recognized that the point in contention between the Donatists and the Catholic Church was ecclesiology. To counter the Donatist view of church, the Catholic Bishop of Hippo focused on the presence of Christ in the eucharistic sacrifice. Not only was the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ, it was also the sacrifice of the Church. Because the Church consists of the whole Christ, head and members (Christus totus), the individuals who make up the Church should also see themselves presented on the altar as well. Thus for Augustine, the "Body of Christ" is both sacrament and an ecclesial body. By taking the Eucharist into ourselves, we commune with Our Lord and enter into union with our fellow Catholics. This Pauline/Augustinian theme is continued in Sermon 272 and is still bedrock Catholic doctrine today. As noted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1396, "The Eucharist makes the Church."
With these thoughts in mind, let us look at how Turretinfan sees things.
TF wrote: "Augustine’s Sermon 272 and Transubstantiation."
Me: As I have said before, 272 contains little in way of discussion of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, the changing of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Rather, it assumes that and moves past it to discuss the "why" of Transubstantiation. That said, this wonderful sermon does go to the heart of the mystery of faith of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
TF wrote: Some folks who allege that Augustine shared modern Rome's view of the Eucharist like to point to Sermon 272. Since this sermon is quite short, it will be possible for me to go through the sermon from beginning to end, with my comments interspersed.
Me: Some folks, such as Turretinfan, who allege that Augustine does not share modern Rome's view of the Eucharist like to point to Sermon 272. Since Mr. Fan’s commentary is chock full of errors, my comments will be lengthy and numerous. Before we begin addressing errors and omissions specific to Turretinfan’s commentary on Sermon 272, I would refer the reader to Part I where I have already addressed Mr. Fan’s apparent confusion between the term of "Real Presence" and the term "transubstantiation" in my commentary on his thoughts about Letter 36. I will not revisit that discussion here, but ask the reader to read my previous article.
TEXT: SERMON 272 (ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST TO THE INFANTES, ON THE SACRAMENT)
Me: Mr. Fan fails to provide the reader with the source of his particular translation he uses but I will. The text that he used is from the series, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Sermons, Part 3, Vol. 7, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1993), pp. 300-301. O.S.A., by the way, is the abbreviation for the Order of Saint Augustine, a Catholic monastic society.
TF wrote: The infantes here are those who are newly baptized. Baptism of new converts typically took place at Easter, and Pentecost is only a few weeks later. These are relatively young believers, spiritual infants, though not physical infants. Some scholars seem to suggest that the sermon may actually have been on Easter rather than on Pentecost.
Me: While Mr. Fan is correct that converts were "typically" baptized at Easter, they were typically baptized at other times during the liturgical year as well. The sacrament of Baptism in the African Church in Saint Augustine’s time was offered year round to babies and small children. This is reflected in Saint Augustine’s writings on the importance of not delaying the baptism of babies and children. See, St. Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram, X, 23, 39: PL 34, 426; De peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo parvulorum ad Marcellinum, Book I, 17-19: 22-24; ibid. Book I, 26:; ibid. Book III, 4:7; In Ioannem Tractatus XIII, 7: PL 35, 1496; CCL 36, p. 134; De gratia Christi et de peccato originali, I, XXXII, 35; ibid., 377; De praedestinatione sanctorum, XIII, 25: ibid., 978; Opus imperfectum contra Iulianum, V, 9: PL 45, 1439. Similarly, when an adult was very ill, the sacrament of Baptism would likewise be administered without delay. Moreover, in the very work from which Turretinfan draws the translation of text he is exegeting, the author states in footnote 1 that solemn adult baptisms (baptisms that occur during Mass) were performed at the Mass on Pentecost as well as at the Easter Vigil Mass.
With respect to Mr. Fan’s statements on "infantes," it is true that infantes were neophyte baptized Christians, but in Augustine’s time, the word denoted more than that. An infante was the title given a person who had successfully completed all of the pre-baptism stages of Christian initiation, received the sacraments of initiation (Baptism. Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist) and now was entitled to be instructed in the deeper mysteries, the mystagogy as it were, of the symbols, rites and events in connection with the sacraments of the Church, said instruction being given during the Masses between Easter and Pentecost.
TF wrote: Either way, this is a sermon aimed at those with a relatively small understanding of what is involved in Christianity.
Me: This speculation on the part of Mr. Fan is not backed up by either Saint Augustine’s writings or other patristic writings. In truth, those who sought admittance into the Church in Saint Augustine’s time underwent extensive instruction on "what is involved in Christianity" prior to Baptism.
In a nutshell, there were (as there is today) four stages of adult formation for those who wished to become Catholics as shown in St. Augustine’s writings, particular On the Catechizing of the Uninstructed (De Catechizandis Rudibus) and many of his sermons preached between the beginning of Lent and Pentecost. I have already touched upon the final stage-mystagogic instruction which is what Sermon 272 is foremostly. The first stage was the period of Inquiry or Pre-Catechumenate where the individual would be questioned by a trained catechist. The individual was asked why he or she wanted to be a Christian and be baptized. The inquirer was then introduced to the Catholic faith by hearing a lecture on salvation history with points made from both the Old and New Testaments ending with the a discussion of eschatology and a warning about the "chaff" in the Church. The warning about the "chaff" in the church was to encourage the prospective member look for the wheat in the congregation, but not be discouraged by those in the church who were not living full Christian lives. After hearing this lecture, the inquirer was asked directly if they accepted this basic Christian message. If the person accepted everything that they had heard, some explanation was given about the sacraments they would eventually receive and they then underwent a rite of initiation where they were signed with the cross on their forehead, given a blessing by the laying on of hands, and provided a taste of salt on the tongue. By this preliminary rite, they were now considered as "catechumen members" of the Church. For Saint Augustine, if the sacrament of Baptism gave new birth, this initial rite is analogous to a person’s conception in the Church’s womb.
Once the person was accepted into the Church as a catechumen, they underwent a multi-year instruction and discernment before they could apply for baptism. During this time, the catechumen would hear what the faith and pattern of Christian life should be. This was not a simple altar-call at a store front chapel. The catechumen would attend Mass, or the Divine Liturgy as it was called then, four times a week or more where they listened to the Word of God read from the pulpit and a sermon expounding on what they had heard. After the sermon, they were then blessed and left the service before the liturgy of the Eucharist which was reserved for baptized Catholics only.
This second stage could last for years. In Augustine’s case, he was considered a catechumen into his thirties (much of that time spent as a Manichee or as an unbeliever). In many instances for a variety of reasons, an individual catechumen never proceeded beyond this step.
After two or three years of instruction, discernment, faithful adherence to the teachings of the Church and right living, a catechumen was judged ready to become a full member of the Church and was urged to apply for Baptism. To be baptized at the Easter Vigil Mass, the final instruction occurred before Lent. Saint Augustine would bring all such catechumens together and encouraged them to petition for full admission to the Church and commence final preparation for the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist). A candidate who chose to petition to go forward then would begin final preparation during the Lenten season to baptized.
The catechumens who chose to participate in the third stage of catechetical formation were called "competentes." For competente who going to be baptized at the Easter vigil Mass, they underwent a thorough religious training that included rigorous penitential discipline (fasting, alms-giving, abstaining from sex, several vigils, personal mortifications such as wearing a goat skin under their garments and not bathing) undergoing a scrutiny and a series of exorcisms, and receiving public and private lessons and examinations on the teachings of the Church during the 40 days of Lent.
A couple of weeks before the Easter Vigil liturgy, the competentes participated in a special ritual during the Mass called the handing-over of the Creed (In traditione symboli). Saint Augustine recited it to them, then explained the Creed phrase-by-phrase. See Sermons 212 and 216 for example. On Palm Sunday, the competentes came to the Mass and were required to recite the Creed (In redditione symboli) publicly followed by another creedal sermon from the Bishop of Hippo. See, Sermon 215 for example If the competentes recited the Creed correctly, they were then taught the Lord’s Prayer phrase by phrase in a second sermon given that day by Saint Augustine. See, Sermon 56. Sometime during Holy Saturday prior to Vigil liturgy, the competentes met again and were called upon to recite the Lord’s Prayer back to the Bishop as they had the Creed. Only if an adult competente successfully completed all of the above and demonstrated their competence in the Catholic faith were they ready to be baptized.
One would wish that Turretinfan had received as much instruction in the Catholic faith as did the competentes before setting out to comment erroneously on what he thinks are the teachings of the Church!
For an in-depth discussion of pre and post-baptismal process that catechumens underwent at the time of Saint Augustine, see:
Brown, Chris and Drury, Keith. "Augustine’s Process for Receiving New Members" (Last Accessed: July 18, 2011).
Harmless, William. Augustine and the Catechumenate (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1995).
Merdinger, Jane. "Do you renounce Satan and all his works? :Success and Failure Amongst the Catechumenate in Late Roman Africa" (Last Accessed: July 18, 2011).
Weller, Philip. Selected Easter Sermons of Saint Augustine. Saint Louis, Mo.:B. Herder Book Co, (1959).
TEXT: Date: 408
TF wrote: Of course, the date is not in the original. Nevertheless, this is the approximate date (within a range of about 405 - 411) assigned to this sermon using the best available scholarship.
Me: The date assigned to the sermon by Edmund Hill and John Rotelle falls within Saint Augustine’s Donatist period as noted above.
TEXT: One thing is seen, another is to be understood.
TF wrote: This line serves as key theme of the sermon. It is easy to see how this line, standing alone, might seem to fit well with transubstantiation. Of course, it also fits well with a bare symbolism view, and also with everything in between those two. So, let's read on and see what Augustine says.
Me: This line may fit well with the doctrine of transubstantiation, but this line actually is a paraphrase of the classic Augustinian definition of a sacrament. As noted before, transubstantiation is merely the change to the Eucharistic elements through a blessing into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ; it is not the sacrament itself.
TEXT: What you can see on the altar, you also saw last night; but what it was, what it meant, of what great reality it contained the sacrament, you had not yet heard.
TF wrote: What you can see on the altar is, of course, a reference to the communion elements. Apparently new converts were not given an explanation of the meaning of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper prior to baptism. However, now they are baptized and they are going to be instructed.
Me: If this sermon is being preached at Pentecost, then almost assuredly the infantes had already heard Saint Augustine preach about the Eucharist being the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ (See, Sermons 227, 228B, 229 which were preached to the newly baptized at the Easter day Mass). Moreover, during their time as catechumens, they had even been instructed about the Eucharist before baptism. As noted in On Catechizing the Uninstructed, 26:50, Saint Augustine advises the Deacon Deogratias that he is to teach the catechumens as follows about the sacraments:
At the conclusion of this address the person is to be asked whether he believes these things and earnestly desires to observe them. And on his replying to that effect then certainly he is to be solemnly signed and dealt with in accordance with the custom of the Church. On the subject of the sacrament, indeed, which he receives, it is first to be well impressed upon his notice that the signs of divine things are, it is true, things visible, but that the invisible things themselves are also honored in them, and that species, which is then sanctified by the blessing, is therefore not to be regarded merely in the way in which it is regarded in any common use. And thereafter he ought to be told what is also signified by the form of words to which he has listened, and what in him is seasoned by that (spiritual grace) of which this material substance presents the emblem.In other words, before they ever were baptized or had received the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the catechumens were taught that the signs of divine things are visible, but what we honor in them ARE REALITIES THAT ARE INVISIBLE.. The exact words in Latin are "res ipsas invisibiles." This is not figurative language. Indeed, if one makes a serious inquiry of St. Augustine’s thoughts on the Eucharist, one would see that he focuses primarily on its realism and symbolism, its connection to the Church a.k.a. the Body of Christ (Christus Totus), and the sacrificial nature of the Sacrament-three aspects of the Eucharistic mystery of faith that one would find modern Rome to be in accord with the learned Doctor of Grace.
Contrary to Turretinfan’s notion that "Apparently, new converts were not given an explanation ...," Sermon 272 is not addressed to the ignorant, it is addressed to those who understood through faith the doctrine of the Real Presence but were now ready to receive deeper teaching. This sermon is not about the verity of the Real Presence, as it assumes that truth. Rather Saint Augustine focuses his preaching on the mystagogy of the sacrament–the effects of the grace that comes from receiving it. It is about the grace signified and made present through the matter and form of the sacrament.
TF wrote: Notice Augustine's word: the things on the altar contain the sacrament of a great reality. For Augustine, a sacrament is a picture. It is something that visibly illustrates something spiritual. The sacrament known as the Lord's supper illustrates a great reality that Augustine is about to explain.
For Augustine if something pictures faith, it is the sacrament of faith. If something pictures love, it is the sacrament of love. Likewise, this is the sacrament of something, and that something is what is pictured by the . sacrament.
Me: It is ironic that Turretinfan here paraphrases Saint Thomas Aquinas who wrote that, "The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love; It signifies Love, it produces Love." It is sad though that Turretinfan does not understand what that means. For Mr. Fan, the sacrament may be only a pretty picture, but for Augustine and other Catholics, both in Augustine’s day and in "modern Rome," a sacrament is much more than that for a sacrament actually presents Christ to the recipient. As Saint Thomas indicates, it produces Christ.
For Catholics then, the sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions" (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1131).
"Sacraments are efficacious signs of grace." A sacrament is "efficacious," meaning that work is being done in it. It affects. It produces something. The visible aspects of a sacrament is not a picture at all but a real conduit through which the love of God (grace) is communicated to us to transform us, to sanctify us. As we shall see, there is a good reason why Catholics also call the the sacrament of the Eucharist "Holy Communion."
Thus, God is at work in a sacrament, He works through sacraments (though He works in many other ways as well). For work to occur in a sacrament, the Catholic Church teaches that Christ must be present in it. And where Christ is, there is grace.
For Saint Augustine of Hippo, the Catholic Church’s Doctor of Grace, too, a sign is much more than a picture. In a mysterious and wondrous way, a sign is the thing that it signifies:
And the fact that the ancient church offered animal sacrifices, which the people of God now-a-days read of without imitating, proves nothing else than this, that those sacrifices signified the things which we do for the purpose of drawing near to God, and inducing our neighbor to do the same. A sacrifice, therefore, is the visible sacrament or sacred sign of an invisible sacrifice.Rather than trying to play the symbolic aspects of a sacrament against the reality presented by it, Catholics, such as Saint Augustine and myself, embrace both because the symbol makes the real present to us.
And hence that true Mediator, in so far as, by assuming the form of a servant, He became the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, though in the form of God He received sacrifice together with the Father, with whom He is one God, yet in the form of a servant He chose rather to be than to receive a sacrifice, that not even by this instance any one might have occasion to suppose that sacrifice should be rendered to any creature. Thus He is both the Priest who offers and the Sacrifice offered. And He designed that there should be a daily sign of this in the sacrifice of the Church, which, being His body, learns to offer herself through Him.
Saint. Augustine, The City of God, 10:5; 10:20.
TEXT: So what you can see, then, is bread and a cup; that's what even your eyes tell you; but as for what your faith asks to be instructed about, the bread is the body of Christ, the cup the blood of Christ.
TF writes: You can probably easily see how this lends itself to the view of transubstantiation. After all, if Augustine were to hold to transubstantiation, he could say this. At the same time, though Augustine could say this and hold to a bare symbolic view or to anything in between. So, we must read on.
Me: Yes, Catholics do see how Sermon 272 lends itself to the view that after the words of consecration are spoken at the Mass, that Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is Really and Substantially Present on the altar. What Turretinfan misses out of the above passage is the role that faith plays in understanding the Eucharist. Even though we do not see any change in the bread and wine after consecration, faith tells us that a change does occur, that what we see now is Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Or mirroring Saint Augustine’s teaching above "modern Rome" puts it thusly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1381. "That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that 'cannot be apprehended by the senses,' says St. Thomas, 'but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.' For this reason, in a commentary on Luke 22:19 ('This is my body which is given for you.'), St. Cyril says: 'Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.'" (fn 212)TF wrote: After all, Augustine is merely telling us that there is more to the situation than simply bread and a cup. It's not just a snack.
Fn. 212 St. Thomas Aquinas, S.Th. III,75,1; cf. Paul VI, MF 18; St. Cyril of
Alexandria, In Luc. 22,19:PG 72,912; cf. Paul VI, MF 18.
Me: Of course, if St. Augustine were only speaking figuratively as contended by Turretinfan, then it is merely a snack. However, as Augustine tells us in his writings, the Eucharist is something to be worshipped, to be adored, which he could not truthfully claim if he is talking metaphorically or figuratively:
But consider, brethren, what he commands us to fall down before. In another passage of the Scriptures it is said, "The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool." Isaiah 66:1 Does he then bid us worship the earth, since in another passage it is said, that it is God's footstool? How then shall we worship the earth, when the Scripture says openly, "You shall worship the Lord your God"? (Deuteronomy 6:13) Yet here it says, "fall down before His footstool:" and, explaining to us what His footstool is, it says, "The earth is My footstool." I am in doubt; I fear to worship the earth, lest He who made the heaven and the earth condemn me; again, I fear not to worship the footstool of my Lord, because the Psalm bids me, "fall down before His footstool." I ask, what is His footstool? And the Scripture tells me, "the earth is My footstool." In hesitation I turn unto Christ, since I am herein seeking Himself: and I discover how the earth may be worshipped without impiety, how His footstool may be worshipped without impiety. For He took upon Him earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He received flesh from the flesh of Mary. And because He walked here in very flesh, and gave that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation; and no one eats that flesh, unless he has first worshipped: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord's may be worshipped, and not only that we sin not in worshipping it, but that we sin in not worshipping. " (My Emphasis)In other words, Saint Augustine believed that it was fit and proper to worship the Eucharist because the Incarnational Reality of Jesus is present under the appearances of bread and wine. This would not be the case if the Eucharist was only a picture as Turretinfan claims.
Saint Augustine. Ennarations on the Psalms (Psalms 99:8)
TEXT: It took no time to say that indeed, and that, perhaps, may be enough for faith; but faith desires instruction.
TF writes: Notice that Augustine does not view the instruction and explanation of "this is my body" to be itself an essential. It's enough that we by faith refer to the bread as the body of Christ and to the cup as his blood. Nevertheless, as Augustine observes, faith desires instruction. That instruction may not be strictly necessary, but it is wanted by those who have faith.
Me: Augustine’s definition of theology is faith seeking understanding. If one truly has faith, they will seek understanding. The sentence above shows that Augustine is presuming that his infantes have that sort of faith. While Mr. Fan attempts to downplay what the Bishop of Hippo is teaching here, what Saint Augustine is really saying to the infantes, "You believe that what was bread is now Jesus Christ, what was wine is now Jesus Christ, and because you do believe that to be true, I am going to tell you why this is true."
TEXT: The prophet says, you see, Unless you believe, you shall not understand (Is 7:9).
TF writes: You can see here that Augustine is, to some extent, prooftexting this principle from an Old Testament passage that may not really have been intended to convey such a general truth.
Isaiah 7:3-9You may also note that it appears that Augustine is working with a Latin translation of the Septuagint, rather than a direct translation of the Hebrew original. Nevertheless, Augustine's point (whether or not it is the point of the Hebrew text) is that first you believe, and then afterward you understand.
Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field; and say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, "Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:" thus saith the Lord GOD, "It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established."
Me: It appears that Turretinfan took his Isaiah quote from the KJV. Turretinfan’s
dislike for the Septuagint is irrelevant since the issue here is how Saint Augustine understood and used the Scripture, not whether the version he favored or the one that Turretinfan uses is the better translation of the Old Testament. That said, I would note that this quote from the Septuagint version of Isaiah 7:9 is one of Saint Augustine’s favorite scripture passages. One finds him using it throughout his writings.
In the context of Sermon 272 and one’s sacramental understanding of the Eucharist, what are the implications of "Unless you believe, you will not understand." Saint Augustine is saying here is that it is not possible to truly understand the Eucharist using our reason alone. Our understanding is shaped by and is informed by faith. Faith is the key to the understanding of the sacrament. Of course, if Saint Augustine is talking only figuratively here, if he is only drawing pretty word pictures as Turretinfan claims, why does one need faith at all to understand the Eucharist? What’s the mystery?
TEXT: I mean, you can now say to me, "You've bidden us believe; now explain, so that we may understand."
TF writes: So you see, his point is that people can accept Jesus' words that the bread and cup are his body and blood, but they still may desire (on the foundation of that faith) to have some explanation of those words. Augustine is planning to provide some explanation.
Me: If Saint Augustine is merely speaking metaphorically or figuratively here, he could end the sermon here by saying to his listeners now, "Psych! It is only a metaphor. You can go home now."
TEXT: Some such thought as this, after all, may cross somebody's mind: "We know where our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh from; from the Virgin Mary. ...
TF writes: I interrupt Augustine's multi-sentence hypothetical comment (the "..." thus is my own as it is below, and not in the text). Notice that these new believers are familiar with the virgin birth.
Me: Notice too that his listeners would have been familiar with the Blessed Mother’s
perpetual virginity as well:
Let us rejoice, brothers and sisters, let the nations be glad and exult. It is not this visible sun, but its invisible Creator, Who has consecrated this day, when the virgin mother gave birth from her fertile and unimpaired womb to the One Who became visible for us, by Whom in His invisibility she herself was created, a virgin in conceiving, a virgin giving birth, a virgin when with child, a virgin on being delivered , a virgin for ever.
Saint Augustine. Sermon 186:1 given on Christmas day circa 400 AD.
The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century,John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Sermons, Part 3, Vol. 7, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1993), pp. 24-30.However, Sermon 272 is not about the Blessed Virgin Mary; it is about Jesus. The significance of Saint Augustine’s argument here is to present to the infantes the ultimate, fundamental truth of the Incarnational Reality of Jesus Christ who took on flesh and became human and likewise how that Reality is now to be found in the Eucharist, a truth that Turretinfan might have recognized had he undergone the same training that the infantes had.
TEXT: "... He was suckled as a baby, was reared, grew up, came to man's estate, suffered persecution from the Jews, was hung on the tree, was slain on the tree, was taken down from the tree, was buried; rose again on the third day, on the day he wished ascended into heaven. ...
TF writes: Again, I interrupt the hypothetical comment. Notice how Augustine summarizes the life of Christ. This summary is similar to what we might find in an ancient version of the so-called Apostles' creed. There is no mention of descent into hell (as distinct from burial), but then again there is no reason to think that Augustine is trying to exactly copy the creed in his hypothetical objection.
Me: Of course the Creed that the competentes cum infantes had memorized summarizes the doctrine of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. If Jesus had not taken on flesh, He could not have truly offered Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins, a sacrifice that Saint Augustine taught is still being made present in our lives by the sacrament of the Eucharist. This gift of Christ Jesus is happening eternally always. Praise be to God!
TEXT: " ... That's where he lifted his body up to; that's where he's going to come from to judge the living and the dead; that's where he is now, seated on the Father's right. ...
TF writes: We're almost finished with the objection. This objection fills out the rest of a basic life of Christ. He lived, he died, he was raised, he sits on the Father's right, and he's coming to judge the world.
Me: More of the same by TF. Remember that Saint Augustine is teaching theology here-faith seeking understanding.
TEXT: " ... How can bread be his body? And the cup, or what the cup contains, how can it be his blood?"
TF writes: Here is the question that allows Augustine to affirm transubstantiation, if that is his belief. Alternatively, it allows Augustine to explain that the bread and cup is a symbol or picture, or whatever else Augustine may think. In some sense, it is the perfect question to get at the matter of what the expression "this is my body" means to Augustine.
Me: Mr. Fan overanalyzes the matter at hand. Saint Augustine is preparing his infantes for his explanation how faith should shape their understanding the Eucharist.
TEXT: The reason these things, brothers and sisters, are called sacraments is that in them one thing is seen, another is to be understood.
TF writes: This gets us back to the theme of Augustine's sermon. Augustine is explaining that in every sacrament (in his understanding of sacraments, one thing is seen (the picture) and another thing is understood (the message conveyed by the picture).
Me: Again, TF misunderstands the meaning of sacrament in the thought of Augustine . The thing seen does not only represent the thing invisible, the thing seen re-presents the thing invisible. In the Eucharist, the symbols of bread and wine are visible signs of the invisible reality of Christ’s presence. A sacrament is a symbol through which we can both perceive and receive an invisible Grace. A sacrament signifies a sacred reality and actually puts us in touch with it. It is definitely not just a picture merely conveying a message.
This teaching of "modern Rome" and of Saint Augustine is beautifully summarized by the great Aquinian theologian and scholar, the Abbot Vonier:
Every sacrament, then, has something to declare: it recalls the past, it is the voice of the present, it reveals the future. If the sacrament did not fulfill its function of sign proclaiming something which is not seen, it would not be a sacrament at all. It can embrace heaven and earth, time and eternity, because it is a sign; were it only a grace it would be no more than the gift of the present hour; but being a sign the whole history of the spiritual world is reflected in it: "For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until He comes." What Saint Paul says of the Eucharist about its showing forth a past event is true in other ways of every other sacrament. … If my heart be touched by God’s grace, such a divine action, excellent and wonderful though it be, is not a sign of anything else; it is essentially a spiritual fact of the present moment, and ends, as it were, in itself. It has no relationship of signification to anything else, whether past, present or future. Such is not the case with the sacraments; through them it becomes possible to focus the distant past and future in the actual present; through them historic events of centuries ago are renewed, and we anticipate the future in a very real way. All this is possible only in virtue of the sacramental sign, which not only records the distant event, but, somewhat like the modern film, projects it upon the screen of the present.TF writes: This, incidentally, rules out confession and penance from being a "sacrament" for Augustine. There is nothing in confession and penance that pictures something else, for him. So, even if Augustine had observed a modern Roman rite of confession and penance, he would not have termed it a "sacrament."
Vonier, Anscar. A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist. Bethesda, Md: Zaccheus Press, 2003, p. 14.
Me: The present rite of the sacrament of reconciliation did not come into practice until the 6th century AD. However, we are not talking about the ritual language of the sacrament, but the sacrament itself. Given that Saint Augustine stated above that a visible sacrifice can be a sign for an invisible sacrifice, clearly calls Holy Orders and Marriage sacraments, and the Lord’s Prayer a sacrament because its recital leads to the forgiveness of venial sin (Sermon 213:10), Saint Augustine’s view of what is a sacrament is at least a tad more expansive than what Turretinfan thinks a sacrament is and is in line with the post-Vatican II Church view of what is a sacrament considering that Lumen Gentium or the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church expressly claims that the Church itself is a sacrament:
For Augustine, the matter of a sacrament is the essential symbol or gesture that, along with the form, expresses the core sacramental action. The form of a sacrament is the formula -- the essential words of prayer -- during the sacramental celebration that define or give form to the symbols or gesture that are used. As it pertains to the sacrament of Penance (now more commonly called the Sacrament of Reconciliation) the matter (symbol / sign) of the sacrament is the contrition, confession, and penance on the part of the individual seeking absolution. Those visible symbols determine the nature of the grace being imparted-here the forgiveness of sins, which Augustine teaches as well as "modern Rome":
Augustine, Christian Combat (A.D. 397).
Chapter 65. God Pardons Sins, But on Condition of Penitence, Certain Times for Which Have Been Fixed by the Law of the Church.
But even crimes themselves, however great, may be remitted in the Holy Church; and the mercy of God is never to be despaired of by men who truly repent, each according to the measure of his sin. And in the act of repentance, where a crime has been committed of such a nature as to cut off the sinner from the body of Christ, we are not to take account so much of the measure of time as of the measure of sorrow; for a broken and a contrite heart God does not despise. But as the grief of one heart is frequently hid from another, and is not made known to others by words or other signs, when it is manifest to Him of whom it is said, "My groaning is not hid from You," those who govern the Church have rightly appointed times of penitence, that the Church in which the sins are remitted may be satisfied; and outside the Church sins are not remitted. For the Church alone has received the pledge of the Holy Spirit, without which there is no remission of sins— such, at least, as brings the pardoned to eternal life.Here, we see Saint Augustine teaching that the Church alone has the power to remit the effects of sin based on the exterior element of one making an act of penance.
Saint Augustine. The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love. Chapter 65.
The remission of sins, is the loosing. For what would it have profited Lazarus, that he came forth from the tomb, unless it were said to him, "loose him, and let him go"? (John 11:44) Himself indeed with His voice aroused him from the tomb, Himself restored his life by crying unto him, Himself overcame the mass of earth that was heaped upon the tomb, and he came forth bound hand and foot: not therefore with his own feet, but by the power of Him who drew him forth. This takes place in the heart of the penitent: when you hear a man is sorry for his sins, he has already come again to life; when you hear him by confessing lay bare his conscience, he is already drawn forth from the tomb, but he is not as yet loosed. When is he loosed, and by whom is he loosed? "Whatsoever you shall loose on earth," He says, "shall be loosed in Heaven." (Matthew 16:19) Forgiveness of sins may justly be granted by the Church: but the dead man himself cannot be aroused except by the Lord crying within him; for God does this within him.
Enarrations on the Psalms 102:20.
"I realize what the incontinent can say: ... that if a man, accusing his wife of adultery, kills her, this sin, since it is finished and does not perdure in him [i.e., since he does not keep committing it], if it is committed by a catechumen, is absolved in baptism, and if it is done by one who is baptized, it is healed by penance and reconciliation."Now Fan may interpose an objection and say this is all fine and good but where does Saint Augustine call penance/confession/reconciliation a sacrament? Well, here are some examples:
Adulterous Marriages 2:16:16 (A.D. 419). (From Jurgens. The Faith of the Early Fathers. Vol. 3., pg. 133.
If, therefore, what is said in the gospel, that "God hears not sinners," John 9:31 extends so far that the sacraments cannot be celebrated by a sinner, how then does He hear a murderer praying, either over the water of baptism (sacrament of baptism), or over the oil (sacrament of Confirmation), or over the Eucharist (sacrament of Holy Eucharist), or over the heads of those on whom his hand is laid (sacrament of Penance)? All which things are nevertheless done, and are valid, even at the hands of murderers, that is, at the hands of those who hate their brethren, even within, in the Church itself. Since "no one can give what he does not possess himself," how does a murderer give the Holy Spirit? And yet such an one even baptizes within the Church. It is God, therefore, that gives the Holy Spirit even when a man of this kind is baptizing.
St. Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Book 5, chap. 21:29 (400 AD).Here, Saint Augustine specifically gives the reader a list of sacraments of which the sacrament of Penance is included. Now, Mr. Fan may posit a further objection that rather than the sacrament of Penance, the sacrament Saint Augustine is referring to in his comment about the laying on of hand is the sacrament of Orders, I would ask the reader to take note of Saint Augustine’s comments in Book 3, chap. 16:21 of the same work:
But the laying on of hands in reconciliation to the Church is not, like baptism, incapable of repetition; for what is it more than a prayer offered over a man?
Now lest there is an objection that the above is ambiguous, peruse the following:
For the sake of all sins was Baptism provided; for the sake of light sins, without which we cannot be, was prayer provided. What has the Prayer? "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." Once for all we have washing in Baptism, every day we have washing in prayer. Only, do not commit those things for which you must needs be separated from Christ's body: which be far from you! For those whom you have seen doing penance, have committed heinous things, either adulteries or some enormous crimes: for these they do penance. Because if theirs had been light sins, to blot out these daily prayer would suffice.Under Saint Augustine’s definition of sacrament "one thing is seen, another is to be understood" given in Sermon 272, one thing is seen-confession, repentance of sin; another is to be understood-remittance of sin, healing of soul, reconciliation with the Body of Christ. Thus, reconciliation is indeed a sacrament for Saint Augustine.
In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance; yet God does not remit sins but to the baptized. The very sins which He remits first, He remits not but to the baptized. When? When they are baptized. The sins which are after remitted upon prayer, upon penance, to whom He remits, it is to the baptized that He remits.
A Sermon to Catechumens, on the Creed 7:15, 8:16 (A.D. 395).
TEXT: What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is to be understood provides spiritual fruit.
TF wrote: This provides a slightly more nuanced explanation. There's a spiritual lesson to be drawn from what is understood by the things that are seen. This spiritual lesson provides spiritual fruit to the person.
Me: To escape the Catholic understanding of the matter, Mr. Fan pretends to be a Pelagian here. Contrary to Turretinfan’s commentary, Saint Augustine is not talking about spiritual lessons at all. What Saint Augustine says here is that if one believes that in the invisible reality of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, one receives “spiritual fruit.” another name for grace.
TEXT: So if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the apostle telling the faithful, You, though, are the body of Christ and its members (1 Cor 12:27).
TF wrote: This is really not good news for the transubstantiationists. Augustine's explanation is to provide a spiritual lesson about our (believers') relationship to Christ from this visible illustration of the bread and the cup.
Me: Turretinfan’s bald assertion notwithstanding, he does not attempt to explain why Saint Augustine’s statement here is bad news for “transubstantiationists”. Perhaps someday he will enlighten us with actual argument rather than an appeal to his personal authority as to why he feels Saint Augustine’s statement here is inimical to the Catholic teaching pertaining to transubstantiation.
That said, Saint Augustine’s comments here is actually bad news for those who hold to a figurative or Calvinistic view of the Eucharist. Here Saint Augustine is beginning to explain the greatest mystery of faith contained in this great sacrament-the Eucharist makes the Church. The Church is real because the Body of Christ is real because the Eucharist contains the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. As we shall see, a Real Presence is necessary if the Body of Christ is at the same time Priest, Victim and Communion.
TEXT: So if it's you that are the body of Christ and its members, it's the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord's table; what you receive is the mystery that means you.
Me: At this juncture, there is no point in addressing Mr. Fan’s individual comments on this passage and the passages that follow for it is impossible to do so in a charitable manner without accusing him of either negligence or dishonesty. I will address only one comment since it basically summarizes Turretinfan’s thought here:
TF wrote: So, now Augustine clearly says that "you" have been placed on the Lord's table. And that we receive is "you." He means the believers themselves are on the table and that the believers receive themselves when they commune. If Augustine means this in a transubstantiary way, his view is most curious. Are we transubstantiated into bread and wine? What an odd result!
Me: I interpose this objection to his commentary at this point: I thought that the focus of Mr. Fan’s musings was to illustrate the differences between what Saint Augustine teaches and what the present-day Catholic Church teaches with respect to the Sacrament of the Eucharist for his audience. Rather than offer mocking polemic, would it not be appropriate for Mr. Fan to actually demonstrate how Augustine and “modern Rome” differ in their teachings?
Please allow me to flesh out my objection.
Here is the full pericope from Sermon 272 that Mr. Fan claims provides so much difficulty for Catholics that we will be reviewing:
TEXT: So if it's you that are the body of Christ and its members, it's the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord's table; what you receive is the mystery that means you. It is to what you are that you reply Amen, and by so replying you express your assent. What you hear, you see, is The body of Christ, and you answer, Amen. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make that Amen true.
Me: I noted earlier that Saint Augustine’s writings focus on three aspects of the sacrament: its realism and symbolism, its connection to the Church a.k.a. the Body of Christ (Christus Totus), and the sacrificial nature of the Sacrament. Sermon 272 focuses on the second aspect-how communicating with Our Lord unites us all in His Body, a truth of Catholic teaching that is often lost in apologetic discussions refuting the bundle of heresies called Protestantism because Protestants tend to attack the static aspects of the Eucharist as opposed to the dynamic aspects of that sacrament.
Here Turretinfan wants the reader to believe that Saint Augustine is only speaking metaphorically, that Saint Augustine is telling his flock that when we say “Amen,” it is okay to do so tongue-in-cheek with our fingers crossed behind our backs. However, contrary to the thoughts of Turretinfan, Augustine’s language encourages his readers to look for a deeper meaning, not a lesser one. The presence of Christ that Saint Augustine speaks of in the Eucharist is a Real Presence, not a figurative one or a metaphor. It is as real as you and I are real. If it weren’t real, our “Amen!,” our wholehearted “Yes, it is true!,” would ring hollow, a lie.
In the Eucharist, Jesus Christ makes us, a community of the faithful, His Body-the Church through our participation in the sacrament. Our participation in the sacrament is a sign of a greater reality. Each one of us are called to be a living member of His Body. The very purpose of the Mass is to invite us to receive the Eucharistic Body of Jesus Christ and become His ecclesial Body. By communing with Our Lord, we unite with Him and with each other. By the word of consecration through the Holy Spirit, everything upon the altar is touched, is transformed, and made new. The bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, and we , the members, as the Body of Christ, see ourselves presented there as well. We say our "Amen" to what we are!
“Modern Rome” puts it thusly:
The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church.
Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body—the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body. Fn. 233 The Eucharist fulfills this call: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread:" Fn. 234
If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. To that which you are you respond "Amen" ("yes, it is true!") and by responding to it you assent to it. For you hear the words, "the Body of Christ" and respond "Amen." Be then a member of the Body of Christ that your Amen may be true. Fn. 235 (Emphasis Added).
Fn. 233. Cf. 1 Cor 12:13.
Fn. 234. 1 Cor 10:16-17.
Fn. 235. St. Augustine, Sermo 272: PL 38, 1247.
My, my. Talk about oddities. If this particular passage from Saint Augustine’s sermon so fatally undermines the Catholic teaching of transubstantiation as Turretinfan insists, why does the Catholic Church specifically chooses to quote it word for word in its Catechism? One would have thought that the Church would have ignored this particular passage or claim that it is a spurious text (like Protestants often do with patristic writings that disagree with their particular notions) rather than wholeheartedly embrace it and quote it in its Catechism. One might wonder why Mr. Fan neglects to mention this little fact to his readers. But in truth, those like Turretinfan who mock the sacramental mystery of what takes place on the altar consequently are wholly blind to the sacramental mystery that takes place in the assembly of Christians who partake of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
The sacrament of the Eucharist is also known as Holy Communion for a good reason. Christ gave us this sacrament not merely so we can adore Him by virtue of the Real Presence. Christ’s Real Presence is not a static presence that is in itself its own meaning and completion. Rather, the purpose of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament is bring Christ to us in the act of sacrifice and to give Him to us as food to nourish our Christian life. Christ offered to God His Body and poured out His Blood on the Cross as the perfect sacrifice. As with all sacrifices, the Victim is then given to us what was given first to the Father. By partaking of the Victim, His sacrifice becomes our sacrifice as well. That sacrifice is only real if there really is a victim. The communal celebration and partaking of that sacrifice is only real if there really is a victim. To make that sacrifice and communion real, Christ makes Himself really present to us in the sacrament.
Transubstantiation explains how Christ does so: by the power of His own words through the power of the Holy Spirit in the act of consecration. But it does not end there. By virtue of our baptism, we are ourselves are now part of the mystical Body of Christ. Since Christ offers Himself sacramentally in the Mass, it can rightly be said that we too are offered as part of that sacrifice since we are incorporated into His Body. This is the truth that Saint Augustine expresses elsewhere in his writings as well:
For the whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prayers for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice is offered also in memory of them on their behalf.
Saint Augustine. Sermon 172.2
O Sacrament of piety! O sign of unity! O Bread of love! He who desires life finds here a place to live in and the means to live by. Let him approach, let him believe, let him be incorporated so that he may receive life. Let him not refuse union with the members, let him not be a corrupt member, deserving to be cut off, nor a disfigured member to be ashamed of. Let him be a grateful, fitting and healthy member. Let him cleave to the body, let him live by God and for God. Let him now labor here on earth, that he may afterwards reign in heaven.
St. Augustine, "Homilies on the Gospel of John", 26, 13.
The fact that our fathers of old offered sacrifices with beasts for victims, which the present-day people of God read about but do not do, is to be understood in no way but this: that those things signified the things that we do in order to draw near to God and to recommend to our neighbor the same purpose. A visible sacrifice, therefore, is the sacrament, that is to say, the sacred sign, of an invisible sacrifice. . . . Christ is both the Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the sacramental sign of this should be the daily sacrifice of the Church, who, since the Church is His body and He the Head, learns to offer herself through Him.
St. Augustine, The City of God, 10:5; 10:20.Here is “modern Rome’s” take on the matter:
Pope Pius XII:
103. Let this, then, be the intention and aspiration of the faithful, when they offer up the divine Victim in the Mass. For if, as St. Augustine writes, our mystery is enacted on the Lord's table, that is Christ our Lord Himself, [fn. 96] who is the Head and symbol of that union through which we are the body of Christ [fn. 97] and members of His Body;[fn. 98] if St. Robert Bellarmine teaches, according to the mind of the Doctor of Hippo, that in the sacrifice of the altar there is signified the general sacrifice by which the whole Mystical Body of Christ, that is, all the city of redeemed, is offered up to God through Christ, the High Priest:[fn. 99] nothing can be conceived more just or fitting than that all of us in union with our Head, who suffered for our sake, should also sacrifice ourselves to the eternal Father. For in the sacrament of the altar, as the same St. Augustine has it, the Church is made to see that in what she offers she herself is offered.[fn. 100]
96. Cf. Sermo. 272.
97. Cf. 1 Cor. 12:27.
98. Cf. Eph. 5:30.
99. Cf. Saint Robert Bellarmine, De Missa, 2, c. 8.
100. Cf. De Civitate Dei, Book 10, c. 6.Bl. Pope John Paul II:
Ven. Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei (1947)
40. The Eucharist creates communion and fosters communion. Saint Paul wrote to the faithful of Corinth explaining how their divisions, reflected in their Eucharistic gatherings, contradicted what they were celebrating, the Lord's Supper. The Apostle then urged them to reflect on the true reality of the Eucharist in order to return to the spirit of fraternal communion (cf. 1 Cor 11:17- 34). Saint Augustine effectively echoed this call when, in recalling the Apostle's words: “You are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12: 27), he went on to say: “If you are his body and members of him, then you will find set on the Lord's table your own mystery. Yes, you receive your own mystery”. (fn 84) And from this observation he concludes: “Christ the Lord... hallowed at his table the mystery of our peace and unity. Whoever receives the mystery of unity without preserving the bonds of peace receives not a mystery for his benefit but evidence against himself”. (fn. 85)
84 Sermo 272: PL 38, 1247.
85 Ibid., 1248.
Pope John Paul II. Ecclesia De Eucharistia (2003)One more magisterial teaching:
Let us not forget that the Risen One has no other mediation to reveal Himself to the world and to pursue his work of salvation than the body he gives today to the community of His disciples, the Church. In the Eucharist, Christ makes the community of His disciples He has gathered His ecclesial Body. And each one is called to being a living member of this body. At the heart of the liturgy of the Mass, Eucharistic prayer invites us to receive the Eucharistic body of the Lord and to become His ecclesial body in the world. Saint Augustine said to the newly baptized: “You hear ‘the Body of Christ’ and you answer ‘Amen’. Be a member of the body of Christ so that your ‘amen’ may be true” (Sermon 272).
Most. Rev. Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux, The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church (2005)In short, Saint Augustine’s teaching is “modern Rome’s” teaching. ‘Nuff said. Let us continue on...
TEXT: So why in bread? Let's not bring anything of our own to bear here, let's go on listening to the apostle himself, who said, when speaking of this sacrament, One bread, one body, we being many are (1 Cor 10:17).
Me: Saint Augustine verifies from the Scriptures how his teaching above is true. As shown in the Catechism #1396, “modern Rome” verifies that this teaching above is true today.
TEXT: Understand and rejoice. Unity, truth, piety, love.
Me: Saint Augustine now lists the graces that one receives when worthily receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist. The teaching of Saint Augustine here and that of “modern Rome” for that matter is that the res sacramenti of the Eucharist is unity.
TEXT: One bread; what is this one bread? The one body which we, being many, are. Remember that bread is not made from one grain, but from many. When you were being exorcized, it's as though you were being ground. When you were baptized it's as though you were mixed into dough. When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, it's as though you were baked. Be what you can see, and receive what you are.
Me: Saint Augustine here shows his listeners how they were incorporated into the mystical Body of Christ-through the sacramental action of the Church. The foolish nowadays call this sacramental action a treadmill; Augustine and I call it “a place to live in and the means to live by.” . This theme used by Saint Augustine in Sermon 227 as well is one that is still used today by “modern Rome”:
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood. Corpus Christi, the name given to this feast in the West, is used in the Church’s tradition to designate three distinct realities: the physical body of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, his eucharistic body, the bread of heaven which nourishes us in this great sacrament, and his ecclesial body, the Church. By reflecting on these different aspects of the Corpus Christi, we come to a deeper understanding of the mystery of communion which binds together those who belong to the Church. All who feed on the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist are “brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit” (Eucharistic Prayer II) to form God’s one holy people. Just as the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, so too the same Holy Spirit is at work in every celebration of Mass for a twofold purpose: to sanctify the gifts of bread and wine, that they may become the body and blood of Christ, and to fill all who are nourished by these holy gifts, that they may become one body, one spirit in Christ.Given that Pope Benedict XVI cites Saint Augustine’s Sermon 272, perhaps Turretinfan will now write a commentary claiming that he, like Augustine, denies the doctrine of transubstantiation too.
St. Augustine expresses this process beautifully (cf. Sermon 272). He reminds us that the bread is not made from a single grain, but many. Before all these grains become bread, they must be ground. He is referring here to the exorcism which catechumens must undergo before their baptism. Each of us who belong to the Church needs to leave the closed world of his individuality and accept the 'companionship' of others who "break bread" with us. We must think not in terms of 'me' but 'we'. That's why every day we pray 'our' Father, 'our' daily bread. Breaking down the barriers between us and our neighbors is the first prerequisite for entering the divine life to which we are called. We need to be liberated from all that imprisons us and isolates us: fear and mistrust towards others, greed and selfishness, unwillingness to run the risk of vulnerability to which we expose ourselves when we are open to love”.
The grains of wheat, once crushed, are mixed into the dough and baked. Here, Augustine refers to immersion in the baptismal waters followed by the sacramental gift of the Holy Spirit, which inflames the heart of the faithful with the fire of God's love. This process unites and transforms a single isolated grain into bread, it gives us an evocative image of the unifying action of the Holy Spirit upon the church members, made so prominent in the celebration of the Eucharist. Those who take part in this great sacrament become the Body of Christ’s Church, so they feed his Eucharistic Body. "Be what you can see," says St. Augustine encouraging, "and receive what you are."
These strong words invite us to respond generously to the call to "be Christ" to those around us. We are his body now on earth. To paraphrase a famous remark attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila, we are the eyes with which he looks with compassion on those in need, we are the hands with which he seeks to bless and to heal, we are the feet that on which he walks to do well, and we are the lips by which his Gospel is proclaimed. However, it is important to understand that when we participate in his healing work, we are not honoring the memory of a dead hero in extending what he did: on the contrary, Christ is alive in us, his body, the Church, his priestly people. By feeding on Him in the Eucharist and receiving the Holy Spirit in our hearts we truly become the Body of Christ that we receive, we are truly in communion with him and with each other, and we truly become instruments, in witness to him before the world.
Pope Benedict XVI - Homily at Nicosia Sports Centre given June 6, 2010.
TEXT: That's what the apostle said about the bread. He has already shown clearly enough what we should understand about the cup, even if it wasn't said. After all, just as many grains are mixed into one loaf in order to produce the visible appearance of bread, as though what holy scripture says about the faithful were happening: They had one soul and one heart in God (Acts 4:32); so too with the wine. Brothers and sisters, just remind yourselves what wine is made from; many grapes hang in the bunch, but the juice of the grapes is poured together in one vessel. That too is how the Lord Christ signified us, how he wished us to belong to him, how he consecrated the sacrament of our peace and unity on his table.
Me: Saint Augustine again emphasizes the mystagogic meaning of the sacrament and the grace that comes from worthy participation in the Eucharistic celebration that is the Mass is unity with Christ and unity with each other. When grapes are made into the wine, they become indistinguishable from one another. Once the juice from the grapes become wine, the grapes can never be separated. That is the sort of unity that Jesus calls us to. By Jesus, through Jesus and in Jesus, our unity should be that indivisible and that strong. Notice how active, how dynamic Saint Augustine’s language is here. Saint Augustine is not taking pictures here but teaching theology!
TEXT: Any who receive the sacrament of unity, and do not hold the bond of peace, do not receive the sacrament for their benefit, but a testimony against themselves.
Me: Our Lord teaches in His masterful Sermon on the Mount that when we offer our sacrifice and remember that we have something against our brother or sister, we must leave and reconcile with our neighbor before coming back to the sacrifice (Mt. 5:23-24). Similarly, Saint John tells us that we are liars if we claim to love God, but hate our brothers and sisters (1 Jn. 4:2-21). Saint Paul brings these two truths together stating that we must eat Christ's flesh and blood worthily, recognizing the body. To combat the divisions that plagued the Church of Corinth, Saint Paul emphasized the unity that is found in the Eucharist. (1 Cor. 11:17-34). Saint Augustine alludes to that verity here.
The point of Saint Augustine Sermon 272 was to expose his infantes to the deeper mysteries of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The real meaning of communion is unity in and with the Church. As mentioned before, Jesus did not give us this sacrament to turn bread and wine into his body and blood. As Saint Augustine affirms, that occurs, but that is not the purpose of the Eucharist. The purpose of the Eucharist is to transform us into the Body of Christ. When we were baptized, we became members of Christ's Body. The Eucharist renews and strengthens the unity of the body of Christ. When we come to the table and share the Body and Blood of the Lord, we are committing ourselves to live as the Body of Christ. As St. Augustine put it above, we reply “Amen” to that which we are, and in doing so we are consenting to and committing ourselves to the unity that comes from being a part of the Body of Christ.
In his apostolic letter titled Dies Domini, Bl. Pope John Paul II tells us “to be ever mindful that communion with Christ is deeply tied to communion with our brothers and sisters.” Dies Domini, # 44. When we receive the sacrament of the Eucharist not only are we brought into an intimate union with Our Lord, but also with every member of the Body of Christ. That's the point of the Eucharist, and that is why the sacrament is also called Communion. This truth is as vibrant and real for “modern Rome” as it was for Saint Augustine.
TEXT: Turning to the Lord, God the Father almighty, with pure hearts let us give him sincere and abundant thanks, as much as we can in our littleness; beseeching him in his singular kindness with our whole soul, graciously to hearken to our prayers in his good pleasure; also by his power to drive out the enemy from our actions and thoughts, to increase our faith, to guide our minds, to grant us spiritual thoughts, and to lead us finally to his bliss; through Jesus Christ his Son. Amen.
TF writes: These are not so much concluding thoughts as they are a general exhortation to godliness and piety. I’m tempted to try to tie these comments back into the main discussion of the sermon, but I think it would be a mistake not to treat them as more or less a general doxology.
Me: Actually, this conclusion is a liturgical prayer and not part of the sermon at all. The phrase Conversi ad Dominum is Latin for “turn to the Lord.” We find appended to many of St. Augustine’s sermons this prayer which was a signal to the congregation to stand up, face east and while he recites the prayer. In the Eucharistic liturgy celebrated at the time both the priest and the congregation faced east during the Eucharistic Prayer and Consecration of the bread and wine.
Saint Augustine explains the purpose of the prayer:
“When I say Conversi ad Dominum, let us bless His name, that He may grant us perseverance in His commandments, help us to walk in the right way as He has instructed us, and to please Him in every good work, and other requests of a like nature. Moreover, we acknowledge that all of this lies within our powers. Let us both you and I, be on our guard lest we ask the blessing in vain, or you subscribe your Amen in vain. My brethren, your Amen signifies that you subscribe to the prayer, it is your consent, your stipulation.”
See, Saint Augustine. Sermonum quorumdam qui adhuc disiderantur fragmenta.
In conclusion, it is my fervent contention that there is nothing in Saint Augustine’s Sermon 272 that would lead the reader to believe that his views on the Eucharist are opposed to those of “modern Rome”. How could one seriously claim otherwise when Saint Augustine’s views contained in that sermon have been expressly adopted as part of the Church’s official teaching on the Eucharist as I have demonstrated above?
With that, I close my review of Mr. Fan’s commentary of Saint Augustine’s Sermon 272. I apologize for its length, however I felt that such an effort was necessary in order for the reader to have something more real to consider than the unsupported opinion of a Calvinist e-pologist that Saint Augustine did not share “modern Rome’s view of the Eucharist” particularly when Mr. Fan offers to the reader nothing as to what “modern Rome’s view” actually is in order to make that comparison.
Now I suppose it is fair to debate what Saint Augustine held in regards to the Eucharist. After all folks have been doing that since the days of St. Paschasius Radbertus (785-860) and Ratramnus of Corbie (unk-868?). But if someone is going to compare what they think Augustine believed with what the Church holds now, should not one at least examine and consider what the Church teaches today before making up one’s mind as to whether Saint Augustine’s views coincide with it? In that respect whether one agrees with me or not, it is my sincere hope that my over-exuberance in putting forth “modern Rome’s views” in this regard makes up for the dearth of material provided by Turretinfan.
We shall next examine Mr. Fan’s treatment of Saint Augustine’s Sermon 227 which actually does contain something that gives the reader some insight as to whether Saint Augustine held to the doctrine of transubstantiation. Until we meet again, God bless you and yours!
"Recognize in this bread what hung on the cross, and in this chalice what flowed from His side... whatever was in many and varied ways announced beforehand in the sacrifices of the Old Testament pertains to this one sacrifice which is revealed in the New Testament." ~Saint Augustine, Sermon 3:2.
Friday, July 08, 2011
What Saint Augustine, Bishop, Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church Actually Held Pertaining to Transubstantiation: A Response to Turretinfan [Parts One and Two].
Recently, I came across a troika of postings by the Reformed Presbyterian apologist who goes by the sobriquet of Turretinfan over at his blog “Thoughts of Francis Turretin” in which he denigrates the Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist and its associated doctrine of Transubstantiation. Mr. Fan’s first post is entitled: Augustine’s Sermon 272 and Transubstantiation; the second: Augustine’s Sermon 227 and Transubstantiation; and the third: Augustine’s Letter 36 and Transubstantiation. I found it rather troubling that Turretinfan sought to compare the teachings of St. Augustine with what “modern Rome” teaches yet did not take the time to explain to the reader what he thought “modern Rome” actually teaches in order for the reader to determine whether Turretinfan’s comparison is a fair one. Instead, Mr. Fan apparently relies on his reader’s own understanding (or lack thereof) upon which to form the conclusion that St. Augustine did not hold to the doctrine of Transubstantiation without any actual evidence to support that conclusion. Without such evidence, the argument presented in Mr. Fan’s “commentary” is not a real commentary at all, but in actuality is nothing more than a dressed-up “letter to the editor” type opinion. When I attempted to point out this rather serious flaw to Mr. Fan in a comment I made on his blog in the hope that he would take the time to correct it, Mr. Fan chose to delete it instead.
Because Turretinfan decided to delete my comment, I decided to make the effort to post a more detailed response here because I could not allow Mr. Fan’s misstatements in regards to either the teachings of the Catholic Church or its Doctor of Grace go unchallenged. I hope and pray that the reader find this offering to be a worthy defense of the verity of the real and substantial Presence of Our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. Adoro te devote, latens Deitas!
II. The Dogmas of the Real Presence and Transubstantiation.
Since I have criticized Mr. Fan for his failure to offer the reader what “modern Rome” teaches in regards to the doctrine of Transubstantiation, I will attempt to supply what is missing from his argument and set before the reader what “modern Rome” teaches before I make the effort to engage Mr. Fan’s treatment of the three Augustinian texts he selected to attack Catholic teaching.
Many people misunderstand what the doctrine of Transubstantiation is and believe that terms Transubstantiation and the Real Presence are interchangeable. They are not. To be clear, the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharistic sacrifice is NOT synonymous with the teaching of the Church in regards to Transubstantiation. It is possible for a Christian to hold to the belief in the Real Presence and not hold to the doctrine of Transubstantiation. For instance, the Catholic Church, the churches that follow the Orthodox tradition and many “high-church” Anglicans believe in both doctrines (although the Orthodox do not label their dogmatic understanding as “transubstantiation”). Lutherans believe in the Real Presence but do not believe in the dogma of transubstantiation. Rather they hold to the notion of consubstantiation, that the substance of Our Lord is impanated or united with the substances of bread and wine. Many of the Presbyterian-type denominations hold to a form of the Real Presence, but like the progenitor of their religion, John Calvin, they are rather fuzzy on the details:
Now, should any one ask me as to the mode, I will not be ashamed to confess that it is too high a mystery either for my mind to comprehend or my words to express; and to speak more plainly I rather feel than understand it. The truth of God, therefore, in which I can safely rest, I here embrace without controversy. He declares that his flesh is the meat, his blood the drink, of my soul; I give my soul to him to be fed with such food. In his sacred Supper he bids, me take, eat, and drink his body and blood under the symbols of bread and wine. I have no doubt that he will truly give and I receive. Only, I reject the absurdities which appear to be unworthy of the heavenly majesty of Christ, and are inconsistent with the reality of his human nature. Since they must also be repugnant to the word of God, which teaches both that Christ was received into the glory of the heavenly kingdom, so as to be exalted above all the circumstances of the world, (Luke 24: 26,) and no less carefully ascribes to him the properties belonging to a true human nature. This ought not to seem incredible or contradictory to reason, (Iren. Lib. 4 cap. 34;) because as the whole kingdom of Christ is spiritual, so whatever he does in his Church is not to be tested by the wisdom of this world; or, to use the words of Augustine "this mystery is performed by man like the others, but in a divine manner, and on earth, but in a heavenly manner." Such, I say, is the corporeal presence which the nature of the sacrament requires, and which we say is here displayed in such power and efficacy, that it not only gives our minds undoubted assurance of eternal life, but also secures the immortality of our flesh, since it is now quickened by his immortal flesh, and in a manner shines in his immortality. Those who are carried beyond this with their hyperboles, do nothing more by their extravagancies than obscure the plain and simple truth. If any one is not yet satisfied, I would have him here to consider with himself that we are speaking of the sacrament, every part of which ought to have reference to faith. Now by participation of the body, as we have explained, we nourish faith not less richly and abundantly then do those who drag Christ himself from heaven. Still I am free to confess that mixture or transfusion of the flesh of Christ with our souls which they teach I repudiate, because it is enough for us, that Christ, out of the substance of his flesh, breathes life into our souls, nay, diffuses his own life into us, though the real flesh of Christ does not enter us. I may add, that there can be no doubt that the analogy of faith by which Paul enjoins us to test every interpretation of Scripture, is clearly with us in this matter. Let those who oppose a truth so clear, consider to what standard of faith they conform themselves: "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God," (1 John 4: 23; 2 John ver. 7.) These men, though they disguise the fact, or perceive it not, rob him of his flesh.
Calvin, John. Institutes, Book IV, chapter 17:32.
While one may believe in the Real Presence without believing in Transubstantiation, the converse is not true. No one can believe in Transubstantiation without believing in the doctrine of Real Presence.
For Catholics anyway, the dogma of the Real Presence in a nutshell is the belief that the Christ really being present in the consecrated bread and wine. We do not call Jesus a liar, but accept Him at His word when He said:
"I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world....
"For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink" (John 6:51, 55).
Simply stated, the Catholic Church holds that the Holy Eucharist is nothing less than Jesus Christ Himself.
Here is how the dogma of the Real Presence is defined at the Council of Trent:
If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema. (Canon I, Thirteenth Session, Council of Trent) (Emphasis Added).
In its Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Council Fathers stated the following:
CHAPTER I. On the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist.
In the first place, the holy Synod teaches, and openly and simply professes, that, in the August sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things. For neither are these things mutually repugnant,-that our Savior Himself always sitteth at the right hand of the Father in heaven, according to the natural mode of existing, and that, nevertheless, He be, in many other places, sacramentally present to us in his own substance, by a manner of existing, which, though we can scarcely express it in words, yet can we, by the understanding illuminated by faith, conceive, and we ought most firmly to believe, to be possible unto God: for thus all our forefathers, as many as were in the true Church of Christ, who have treated of this most holy Sacrament, have most openly professed, that our Redeemer instituted this so admirable a sacrament at the last supper, when, after the blessing of the bread and wine, He testified, in express and clear words, that He gave them His own very Body, and His own Blood; words which,-recorded by the holy Evangelists, and afterwards repeated by Saint Paul, whereas they carry with them that proper and most manifest meaning in which they were understood by the Fathers,-it is indeed a crime the most unworthy that they should be wrested, by certain contentions and wicked men, to fictitious and imaginary tropes, whereby the verity of the flesh and blood of Christ is denied, contrary to the universal sense of the Church, which, as the pillar and ground of truth, has detested, as satanical, these inventions devised by impious men; she recognizing, with a mind ever grateful and unforgetting, this most excellent benefit of Christ.
CHAPTER II. On the reason of the Institution of this most holy Sacrament.
Wherefore, our Savior, when about to depart out of this world to the Father, instituted this Sacrament, in which He poured forth as it were the riches of His divine love towards man, making a remembrance of his wonderful works; and He commanded us, in the participation thereof, to venerate His memory, and to show forth his death until He come to judge the world. And He would also that this sacrament should be received as the spiritual food of souls, whereby may be fed and strengthened those who live with His life who said, He that eateth me, the same also shall live by me; and as an antidote, whereby we may be freed from daily faults, and be preserved from mortal sins. He would, furthermore, have it be a pledge of our glory to come, and everlasting happiness, and thus be a symbol of that one body whereof He is the head, and to which He would fain have us as members be united by the closest bond of faith, hope, and charity, that we might all speak the same things, and there might be no schisms amongst us.
CHAPTER III. On the excellency of the most holy Eucharist over the rest of the Sacraments.
The most holy Eucharist has indeed this in common with the rest of the sacraments, that it is a symbol of a sacred thing, and is a visible form of an invisible grace; but there is found in the Eucharist this excellent and peculiar thing, that the other sacraments have then first the power of sanctifying when one uses them, whereas in the Eucharist, before being used, there is the Author Himself of sanctity. For the apostles had not as yet received the Eucharist from the hand of the Lord, when nevertheless Himself affirmed with truth that to be His own body which He presented (to them). And this faith has ever been in the Church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, the veritable Body of our Lord, and His veritable Blood, together with His soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine; but the Body indeed under the species of bread, and the Blood under the species of wine, by the force of the words; but the body itself under the species of wine, and the blood under the species of bread, and the soul under both, by the force of that natural connexion and concomitancy whereby the parts of Christ our Lord, who hath now risen from the dead, to die no more, are united together; and the divinity, furthermore, on account of the admirable hypostatical union thereof with His body and soul. Wherefore it is most true, that as much is contained under either species as under both; for Christ whole and entire is under the species of bread, and under any part whatsoever of that species; likewise the whole (Christ) is under the species of wine, and under the parts thereof.
And since Turretinfan in his trio of articles states the problem in terms of making a comparison of what St. Augustine, the Catholic Bishop of Hippo and its Doctor of Grace believes with what “modern Rome” holds and teaches, it behooves us to look at what “modern Rome” teaches. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, promulgated and approved by the Blessed Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter, Laetamur Magnopere (Aug. 15, 1997) the Church teaches:
The presence of Christ by the power of his word and the Holy Spirit
1373 "Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: (FN 197) in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name," (FN 198) in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, (FN 199) in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But "he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species." (FN 200)
1374 The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." (FN 201) In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." (FN 202) "This presence is called ‘real'—by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present." (FN 203)
197. Rom 8:34; cf. Lumen Gentium 48.
198. Mt 18:20.
199. Cf. Mt 25:31-46.
200. Sacrosanctum concilium 7 (NB-which incidently references St. Augustine’s Tractatus in Ioannem, VI, n. 7)
201. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Book III, 73:3c.
202. Council of Trent, Session Thirteen (October 1551): Denzinger-Schömetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum, defintionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum 1651 (1965).
203. Pope Paul VI, Mysterium fidei 39.
Now that we have summarized the teaching of the Church in regards to the doctrine of the Real Presence, let us move on to the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Simply put, the doctrine of Transubstantiation is the change or conversion, (by the action of the Holy Spirit at the moment that the words of institution are pronounced) of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ, with only the appearances or accidents of bread and wine remaining. This doctrine emphasizes the aspect of the doctrine of the Real Presence of Our Lord being “Substantially Present.” When the Church speaks of “Substantially Present” it is stating that the bread and wine offered in the sacrifice of the Mass are substantially changed by the words of consecration. We don’t believe that after the bread and wine are consecrated, we are eating Jesus in a carnal way, because, to all outward appearances, what one sees, smells, touches, and tastes is still bread and wine. However, on a deeper metaphysical level (“substance"), that which makes bread, bread, and wine, wine, has been done away with, and the very Substance of Jesus Christ, His Body, His Blood, His Soul, and His Divinity, takes its place. The doctrine of Transubstantiation does not seek to explain “how” the bread and wine are changed, only the fact that they are substantially changed.
Here again is the teaching of the Council of Trent on this point:
If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular CONVERSION of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which CONVERSION indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.
but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema. (Canon II, Thirteenth Session, Council of Trent) (Emphasis Added).
In its Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Council Fathers stated the following on the dogma of Transubstantiation:
CHAPTER IV. On Transubstantiation.
And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.
And since the issue of what “modern Rome” teaches in regards to this doctrine is a paramount issue for Mr. Fan, here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states on the matter:
1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. the Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares:
It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. the priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things
offered. (FN 202)
and St. Ambrose says about this conversion:
Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. the power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed.... Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature. (FN 203)
1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation." (FN 204)
202 St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Treachery of Judas (407 AD) 1:6: PG 49, 380.
203 St. Ambrose, De Mysteriis 9:50; 52: PL 16, 405-407.
204 Council of Trent, Session Thirteen (October 1551): Denzinger-Schömetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum, defintionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum 1642 (1965); cf. Mt. 26:26 ff.; Mk. 14:22 ff.; Lk. 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor. 11:24 ff.
There is much more that I could say on these two related, but separate doctrines. Books upon books have been written about these two aspects of this great sacrament of unity. Whole lives have been devoted to the contemplation and study of these great mysteries. What I have written here barely touches the surface of a fathomless ocean. That said, I hope that I have offered the reader sufficient information to see how these two separate doctrines are used together to explain how in the liturgy of the Mass in the act of consecration during the Eucharist the "substance" of the bread and wine is changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the "substance" of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is the change at the level of substance from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ that is called "transubstantiation," not the Substantial Presence of Our Lord Himself in the sacrament. According to Catholic faith, we can speak of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because this transubstantiation has occurred (CCC No. 1376).
III. Critique of Turretinfan’s Three Commentaries.
Now that we have discussed what “modern Rome” actually teaches in regards to both the doctrines of the Real Presence and of Transubstantiation, let’s move on to discuss the three Augustinian texts that Mr. Fan picked to “prove” that St. Augustine did not hold to the notion of Transubstantiation. Or to clarify the issue in contention here: Does St. Augustine believe that when the bread and wine are consecrated in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy (i.e. the Mass), undergoes a change into the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ? I shall undertake to show that he did so believe.
The path that I have chosen to take to prove that St. Augustine did in fact believe in Transubstantiation, that the during the act of consecration, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, will be as follows. First, we shall review the texts that Mr. Fan chose to show that St. Augustine did not so believe and then after critiquing Mr. Fan’s commentaries, I shall present the reader with a number of texts from his writings to demonstrate that he did so believe.
A. Letter 36 From Augustine to Casulanus.
We shall start with Mr. Fan’s choice of St. Augustine’s Letter 36 to a fellow priest, Casulanus who was seeking some advice. First, it must be said that the text does not provide the reader with any insight whatsoever as to St. Augustine’s thought as to whether he believed that a conversion of the Eucharistic elements from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Our Lord occurs at the part of the Mass when the priest pronounces the words of institution. Moreover, I must point out that in my researches I could not find a single instance where Letter 36 is cited to by any real scholar or theologian, Catholic or Protestant, as proof or disproof of any of the three principle Eucharistic mysteries embodied in Catholic teaching: 1) the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; 2) the Eucharist as a true sacrifice of Christ and his Church; or 3) the Eucharist as the Sacrament of Unity. Given the total dearth of discussion by Turretinfan of what he seems to think that “modern Rome” teaches in regards to the Eucharist that is at odds with one of its bishops, saints, and doctors or how he perceives that “modern Rome’s doctrinal statements on the Eucharist are negated by the selected text he references, I am unable to discern the thought process behind his selection of this particular letter to declaim against the teaching of the Catholic Church in regards to the dogma of Transubstantiation.
That said, folks do cite to Letter 36 for a variety of reasons. Letter 36's claim to fame is that it is the source of the famous saying, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ (See, Letter 36, 13:32) It is also cited to as proof of St. Augustine’s view that the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament are indeed Scripture, particularly since he cites in this Letter to passages from three different deuterocanonical books as Scripture: Daniel 3:23-93 (Letter 36, 7:16); Tobit 12:8 (Letter 36, 8:18); Sirach 3:1 (Letter 36, 11:26).
From a theological standpoint, some Protestant sects cite to Letter 36 as proof that the Sunday observance of the Lord’s Day was a Roman invention, a perversion of the scriptural observance of the Sabbath on Saturday. Some Orthodox apologists point to this letter touching on the Roman Church’s practice of fasting on Saturdays as proof of the errors of Rome since the practice of Saturday fasting (other than on Holy Saturday) was condemned at the Council of Trullo at the end of the 7th century AD. Some Catholic writers cite to Letter 36 because in it we see the early development of the liturgical year focusing on “the celebration throughout the year of the mysteries of the Lord's birth, life, death, and Resurrection in such a way that the entire year becomes a 'year of the Lord's grace' ... with its focal point at Easter" (CCC §1168). Throughout this letter, St. Augustine mentions the observance of the feasts of Easter and Pentecost by name, the fifty days of Easter, and the Church’s celebration or saints’ feast days and solemnities.
Moving on to the letter’s content, this letter was written sometime after April 397 AD during the time St Augustine was confronting those who adhered to the heresy of Manichaeism (which he had formerly espoused himself). One of the central features of the Manichaean heresy was the rejection and ridiculing of the Old Testament Scriptures. To confront these heretics, St. Augustine insisted on the unity of the Old Testament and the New Testament. His writings of that time period, even those which were not directed to Manichaeans, often emphasized that the Old Testament was nothing less than prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ and that the sacrifices of Old Law are to be understood as types (figures) of the unique sacrifice of Our Lord and of the Eucharist which is a sacramental celebration of that singular sacrifice. As we shall see, this is a theme that is repeated in Turretinfan’s selection from Letter 36.
From a moral standpoint, St. Augustine’s letter to Casulanus stresses the importance of following one’s bishop in the observance of differing liturgical and disciplinary practices, traditions, and observances followed by the different sees of the Church. In this letter, the disciplinary custom or tradition that was being discussed was fasting. Should Casulanus follow the Roman custom of fasting on Saturdays or the custom followed by his own bishop? Augustine offers the same answer he was given by St. Ambrose of Milan, Augustine’s spiritual father and teacher when he asked the same question:
“When I (Ambrose) am here (in Milan), I do not fast on the Sabbath; when I am in Rome, I fast on the Sabbath. And to whatever church you come, observe its custom, if you do not want to be scandalized or to give scandal.”
See, Augustine, John E. Rotelle, and Roland Teske. Letters 1-99. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001, pg. 142.
To which St. Augustine added:
“Hence, if you willingly accept my advice, especially since I have probably said more than enough on this topic, at your request and under pressure from you, do not oppose your bishop on this matter, and follow what he himself does without any worry or quarrel.”
St. Augustine’s view on the importance of following one’s bishop is one that has been embodied in the teachings of the Catholic Church even today. Each individual bishop's authority to ordain, and confirm, and judge as iudex ordinarius is well-defined and established under canon law and in the magisterial authority of the Church. Further, each bishop possesses the right to exercise his authority in matters that do not touch the common heritage of the faith and discipline of the Church. A bishop can order the details of worship in the churches under his authority in his diocese in matters which do not conflict with the common law of Church.
Now that we have gleaned how this letter has been used by the Church and those who oppose her, addressing the portion of the text of Letter 36 that Turretinfan seeks to use in refuting the doctrine of Transubstantiation, I offer the following commentary using an alternate translation from a book I own:
But, this fellow who says that the old things have passed away in the sense that “ in Christ
the sacrificial table has yielded to the altar sword to fasting, fire to prayers, animal to bread and blood to the cup,” does not know that the term “altar” is used more frequently in the writings of the law and the prophets, and that an altar to God was first set up in the tabernacle that Moses erected. “Sacrificial table” is also found in the apostolic writings where the martyrs cry out beneath the sacrificial table of God (Rev. 6:9-10) . He says that the sword has yielded to fasting, not recalling that sword of the gospel with which the soldiers of both testaments are armed, a sword with a double edge (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). He says the fire has given place to prayers, as if prayers were also not offered in the temple and as if fire has not now been sent into the world by Christ (Lk. 12:49). He says that animals have yielded to bread, as if he did not know that even then the loaves of proposition used to be put on the Lord’s table (Ex. 25:30), and that now he partakes of the body of the immaculate Lamb (1 Pt. 1:19; Mt. 26:26-28; Mk. 14:22-24; Lk. 22:17-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25) . He says that blood has yielded to the cup, not thinking that even now he receives the blood in the cup. How much better and more appropriately would he say that the old things have passed away and new ones have come to be in Christ in such a way that altar yields to altar, the sword to the sword, fire to fire, bread to bread, animal to animal, and blood to blood. We, of course, see that the carnal old condition yields in all of these to the spiritual new condition. In that way, then, we should understand that on this passing seventh day whether people eat or some also fast, the carnal Sabbath has yielded to the spiritual Sabbath. When in this latter we desire everlasting and true rest, we scorn in the former the temporal abstinence from work, which is now superstitious.
See, Augustine, John E. Rotelle, and Roland Teske. Letters 1-99. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001, pg. 137.
As I noted earlier, St. Augustine wrote Letter 36 in response to a request for advice from a young priest named Casulanus. Apparently, Casulanus had read a treatise written by a priest residing in Rome claiming that it was incumbent on all Christians to follow the Roman custom of fasting on the Sabbath. Yet, Casulanus’ bishop followed a different custom of fasting on days different from what the treatise’s author had advocated. Who’s right-Casulanus’ bishop or the priest from Rome?
Saint Augustine starts out his letter stating that it was lawful for a person to fast on the Sabbath as the Scriptures tell us that Moses, Elijah and Our Lord did so. That said, St. Augustine then moves on to the question of whether one should fast on the Lord’s Day. St. Augustine replies that this cannot be done without causing scandal to the Church because even though the Scriptures give no certain definitive answer on this point, the custom or tradition (small “t”) of the people of God, or the decisions of our forefathers, must be regarded as the law.
Like Turretinfan, I will not go into detail on the manner of St. Augustine’s refutation of the writer’s treatise. But unlike Turretinfan, I will offer the reader a little bit of the argument that Urbicus, the pseudonym that Casulanus charitably gives the author of the treatise, makes so one can understand the point that St. Augustine refutes in Chapter 24 of Letter 36 so to provide some context.
In furtherance of his argument, Urbicus borrows a page from Origen and argues that all things Hebrew must be tossed out of the Christian religion. He claims that all Christians must fast on the Sabbath like the Romans do because it is the duty of Christians to be as unlike Jews as much as possible. To fast on the Sabbath is a rejection of everything Jewish and the Law of the Old Testament which Our Lord Himself had done away with. To buttress this line of argumentation, Urbicus emphasizes the differences between the sacrifices of Israel and that of the Church . Urbicus argues that the Jewish Ara (sacrificial table) had been replaced by the Christian Altare (altar); that the Jewish sacrifice of the flesh of animals had been supplanted by the Christian sacrifice of the bread; and that the Jewish offering of the blood of the animal victim had been replaced with the wine of the chalice.
In the passage I quote above, St. Augustine criticizes these distinctions as inaccurate. St. Augustine points out that the term Altare occurs constantly in the Old Testament (Law and the Prophets) and the Altare of God stood in the Tabernacle erected by Moses himself. St. Augustine notes that the term Ara (sacrificial table) occurs in the apostolic writings and gives the example of the Holy Martyrs pleading under the Ara Dei (Rev. 6:9-10). In the Old Testament, show bread was offered on the Table of the Lord. Now we partake of the Body of the Immaculate Lamb. Thusly, St. Augustine argues that Urbicus would have been better served if he had argued that the things of the Old Testament were all made new in Christ; that the Altare of the Jews had succeeded to another Altare of the Church, one Bread to another, one Lamb to another, etc.... Rather than trying to differentiate between the various aspects of the Hebrew sacrifice and the Church’s sacrifice, St. Augustine argues that Urbicus fails to realize that what is important is how we understand them through the transition from the carnal (temporal) reality of the Old Testament to the spiritual (eternal) realities of the New. Thus, regardless of whether one fasted on the Sabbath or not, the carnal meaning of the day had already yielded to the new meaning provided by Jesus Christ and was no longer relevant for Christians.
Now Turretinfan claims that the way that Augustine's argument here makes the most sense:
“is if Augustine understands "Lamb" and "blood" non-literally, but figuratively. A carnal sword with a spiritual sword, carnal fire with literal fire, carnal bread with spiritual bread, carnal victim with spiritual victim, carnal blood with spiritual blood, and (drumroll please!) therefore a carnal sabbath with a spiritual sabbath. In that spiritual sabbath we look forward to a true and eternal rest, not placing our hope in mere physical rest.”
Unfortunately, by foisting a Protestant hermeneutic on St. Augustine’s argument, Mr. Fan makes the same mistake as Urbicus by making such artificial distinctions. In truth, Augustine points out that while our understanding of these rites have changed, the rites themselves are the same. In other words, St. Augustine is employing typology to interpret Scripture.
Typology is the discernment of persons, events, or things in the Old Testament which prefigured, and thus served as a "type" (or archetype or prototype) of, the fulfillment of God's plan in the person of Christ. That which is prefigured is referred to as an "antitype." The typology of the Old Testament which is made clear in the New Testament demonstrates the dynamic unity of the divine plan or what we Catholics call the Divine Economy.
Typology is the method the Catholic Church has historically employed to understand the historical and theological relationships between people and events recorded in Sacred Scripture. Typology guides the exegete to look at each event and person in salvation history as that person or event may be linked to what preceded in the biblical record and linked to what came after, uniting the reader to the divine mystery of the progression of God's plan for the salvation of mankind. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, the Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God's works of the Old Covenant prefiguration of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his Incarnate Son (CCC#128).
Quoting St. Augustine, CCC # 129 notes the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New:
"It is not the Old Testament that is abolished in Christ but the concealing veil, so that it may be understood through Christ. That which without Christ is obscure and hidden is, as it were, opened up.. It is not the case, therefore, that by the grace of the Lord that which was covered has been abolished as useless; rather, the covering which concealed useful truth has been removed. This is what happens to those who earnestly and piously - not proudly and wickedly - seek the sense of the Scripture. To them is carefully demonstrated the order of events, the reasons for deeds and words, and the agreement of the Old Testament with the New, so that not a single point remains where there is not complete harmony. The secret truths are conveyed in figures that are brought to light by interpretation." De Utilitate Credendi 9.
Augustine replied: No one doubts that promises of temporal things are contained in the Old Testament, for which reason it is called the Old Testament; or that the kingdom of heaven and the promise of eternal life belong to the New Testament. But that in these temporal things were figures of future things which should be fulfilled in us upon whom the ends of the ages have come, is not my fancy, but the judgment of the apostle, when he says of such things, "These things were our examples;" and again, "These things happened to them for an example, and they are written for us on whom the ends of the ages have come." (1 Cor. 10:6, 11) We receive the Old Testament, therefore, not in order to obtain the fulfillment of these promises, but to see in them predictions of the New Testament; for the Old bears witness to the New. Whence the Lord, after He rose from the dead, and allowed His disciples not only to see but to handle Him, still, lest they should doubt their mortal and fleshly senses, gave them further confirmation from the testimony of the ancient books, saying, "It was necessary that all things should be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets and Psalms, concerning me." (Lk. 24:44) Our hope, therefore, rests not on the promise of temporal things. Nor do we believe that the holy and spiritual men of these times— the patriarchs and prophets— were taken up with earthly things. For they understood, by the revelation of the Spirit of God, what was suitable for that time, and how God appointed all these sayings and actions as types and predictions of the future. Their great desire was for the New Testament; but they had a personal duty to perform in those predictions, by which the new things of the future were foretold. So the life as well as the tongue of these men was prophetic. The carnal people, indeed, thought only of present blessings, though even in connection with the people there were prophecies of the future. Contra Faustus 4:2
If, therefore, it was mainly for this purpose that Christ came, to wit, that man might learn how much God loves him; and that he might learn this, to the intent that he might be kindled to the love of Him by whom he was first loved, and might also love his neighbor at the command and showing of Him who became our neighbor, in that He loved man when, instead of being a neighbor to Him, he was sojourning far apart: if, again, all divine Scripture, which was written aforetime, was written with the view of presignifying the Lord's advent; and if whatever has been committed to writing in times subsequent to these, and established by divine authority, is a record of Christ, and admonishes us of love, it is manifest that on those two commandments of love to God and love to our neighbor hang not only all the law and the prophets, which at the time when the Lord spoke to that effect were as yet the only Holy Scripture, but also all those books of the divine literature which have been written at a later period for our health, and consigned to remembrance. Wherefore, in the Old Testament there is a veiling of the New, and in the New Testament there is a revealing of the Old. According to that veiling, carnal men, understanding things in a carnal fashion, have been under the dominion, both then and now, of a penal fear. According to this revealing, on the other hand, spiritual men,— among whom we reckon at once those then who knocked in piety and found even hidden things opened to them, and others now who seek in no spirit of pride, lest even things uncovered should be closed to them—understanding in a spiritual fashion, have been made free through the love wherewith they have been gifted. Consequently, inasmuch as there is nothing more adverse to love than envy, and as pride is the mother of envy, the same Lord Jesus Christ, God-man, is both a manifestation of divine love towards us, and an example of human humility with us, to the end that our great swelling might be cured by a greater counteracting remedy. For here is great misery, proud man! But there is greater mercy, a humble God! Take this love, therefore, as the end that is set before you, to which you are to refer all that you say, and, whatever you narrate, narrate it in such a manner that he to whom you are discoursing on hearing may believe, on believing may hope, on hoping may love. On the Catechising of the Uninstructed 4:8
Thus when St. Augustine speaks of “how much better and more appropriately would he say that the old things have passed away and new ones have come to be in Christ in such a way that altar yields to altar, the sword to the sword, fire to fire, bread to bread, animal to animal, and blood to blood,” he is not talking about these things non-literally or figuratively as Turretinfan mistakenly claims, he is stating that these aspects of the Old Testament sacrifices were made new through Jesus Christ and are now reflected in the liturgy of the Church.
The above passage in Letter 36 shows us that the sacrifices of the Old Covenant are expressed typologically in the Eucharist. Moreover, the tenor of the entire letter shows us that the events of the Old Covenant feasts, as celebrated in the liturgy of the chosen people of the Old Covenant, annually relive the past events of the Exodus experience in the present of each new generation of covenant believers, just as our liturgical year allow Catholics to relive the past events of the birth of Jesus, His Resurrection, the coming of God the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, etc. and place those significant past events in the context of the present so that each of those events are as real and as present for us as they were when they originally happened. This “re-presentation” includes the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior on the Cross, which is made real and present in each and every Eucharistic celebration around the world at every hour of the day.
This is what is important about Letter 36-to fully appreciate the revelation of God to man through the unfolding of salvation history it must be understood as a real unity between the Old and New Testaments, not a mere figurative one as suggested by Turretinfan. What Letter 36 teaches, “modern Rome” still teaches today. God bless!
O my God, I firmly believe that You are really and corporally present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. I adore You here present from the very depths of my heart, and I worship Your Sacred Presence with all possible humility. O my soul, what joy to have Jesus Christ always with us, and to be able to speak to Him, heart to Heart, with all confidence. Grant, O Lord, that I, having adored Your Divine Majesty here on earth in this wonderful Sacrament, may be able to adore It eternally in heaven.
O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine,
all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine! Amen.