"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!