Monday, September 08, 2014
What Saint Augustine, Bishop, Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church Actually Held Pertaining to Transubstantiation: A Continuing Response to TurretinFan’s Commentary on Three Augustinian Texts.
"You know very well what price was paid for you, you know very well what you are approaching, what you about to eat, what you are about to drink, or rather Whom you are about to eat, Whom you are about to drink."
[St. Augustine, Sermon 9:14, Augustine, Edmund Hill, and John E. Rotelle. Sermons (1-19) on the Old Testament. Brooklyn, N.Y.: New City Press, 1990.]
III. Sermon 227: Preached on the Holy Day of Easter to the Infantes, on the Sacraments
The gentleman who goes by the title of TurretinFan asserts on his blog, Thoughts of Francis Turretin, that Saint Augustine of Hippo did not believe in the dogma the Church calls “Transubstantiation.” To support his assertion, he offers his commentary on three Augustinian texts, Sermon 227, Sermon 272, and Letter 36. At the outset, TurretinFan makes no effort to reference to Catholic teaching on Transubstantiation for his readers to use to test his assertion. He cites to no dogmatic pronouncements, encyclicals, or other magisterial documents to provide a means to compare how Saint Augustine’s teaching purportedly varies from present-day Catholic teaching. For that matter, he makes no effort to cite to any of his own denominational writings to show how Saint Augustine’s beliefs are more in line with Presbyterian Eucharistic teaching or to support his additional claim that Eucharistic “bare symbolists” employ the same language as Saint Augustine to describe the sacrament. Sadly, this failure of scholarship renders TurretinFan’s commentary a mere polemical endeavor. I shall strive to give a better account of myself.
TurretinFan’s polemics notwithstanding, I contend there is nothing in any of these three texts he chose that suggest Saint Augustine, a Catholic saint, a doctor of the Church, and s member of its teaching Magisterium itself, did not believe that when the priest consecrates bread and wine during the sacrifice of the Mass their entire substance becomes the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Recapping my discussion of Letter 36, I presented the evidence that Saint Augustine’s held that the sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament prefigured the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Our Lord on the cross and that the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass is a “re-presentation” of that self-same sacrifice on that cross thereby making it real and present in our lives two thousand years later. In my critique of TurretinFan’s commentary on Sermon 272, I showed that Saint Augustine’s mystagogic preaching is entirely consistent with the teaching of the present-day Catholic Church on the dogma of the Real Presence. In fact, as I demonstrated from official doctrinal texts of the Church, Saint Augustine’s teaching contained in Sermon 272 forms an important part of the Eucharistic theology of today’s Catholic Church. See e.g., Section 1396 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
While Sermon 272 and Letter 36 provide important insights into Saint Augustine’s Eucharistic theology, they do not provide direct evidence on the question of whether he believed in the dogma of Transubstantiation. However, I would submit that Sermon 227 does offer direct evidence bearing on the question of whether Saint Augustine believed in the dogma of Transubstantiation. On this occasion, I intend to show Saint Augustine’s Eucharistic theology as contained in Sermon 227 and his other writings do demonstrate he believed that when bread and wine are consecrated at Mass they become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ which is essence of Transubstantiation.
B. The Dogma of Transubstantiation.
To help the reader decide the question of whether Saint Augustine held a belief in Transubstantiation, I offer the following magisterial teaching setting forth what the Catholic Church officially holds in regards to the dogma of Transubstantiation. After all, how can one hope to make a comparison unless they have something to compare with? I also beg the reader’s forgiveness in offering such lengthy selections from the texts set out below, but I thought it important for any non-Catholic readers to better understand what the Church teaches and holds as opposed to opinions, distortions and speculations of those who malign this dogma.
While it is difficult for some to believe in the dogma of Transubstantiation, its definition is not difficult to understand. Here is how the dogma was first defined in Canon 1 of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215:
There is one Universal Church of the faithful, outside of which there is absolutely no salvation. In which there is the same priest and sacrifice, Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine; the bread being changed (transsubstantiatio) by divine power into the body, and the wine into the blood, so that to realize the mystery of unity we may receive of Him what He has received of us. And this sacrament no one can effect except the priest who has been duly ordained in accordance with the keys of the Church, which Jesus Christ Himself gave to the Apostles and their successors. (Emphasis Added.)
At Session XIII of the Council of Trent, the dogma of Transubstantiation was further defined:
But since Christ our Redeemer declared that to be truly His own body which He offered under the form of bread, it has, therefore, always been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy council now declares it anew, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a change is brought about 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 properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation.
Pope Ven. Paul VI in his Encyclical, Mysterium Fidei, provides a modern understanding of what
SYMBOLISM INADEQUATE TO EXPRESS REAL PRESENCE
44. While Eucharistic symbolism is well suited to helping us understand the effect that is proper to this Sacrament—the unity of the Mystical Body—still it does not indicate or explain what it is that makes this Sacrament different from all the others. For the constant teaching that the Catholic Church has passed on to her catechumens, the understanding of the Christian people, the doctrine defined by the Council of Trent, the very words that Christ used when He instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, all require us to profess that "the Eucharist is the flesh of Our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins and which the Father in His loving kindness raised again." To these words of St. Ignatius, we may well add those which Theodore of Mopsuestia, who is a faithful witness to the faith of the Church on this point, addressed to the people: "The Lord did not say: This is symbol of my body, and this is a symbol of my blood, but rather: This is my body and my blood. He teaches us not to look to the nature of what lies before us and is perceived by the senses, because the giving of thanks and the words spoken over it have changed it into flesh and blood."
45. The Council of Trent, basing itself on this faith of the Church, "openly and sincerely professes that after the consecration of the bread and wine, Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is really, truly and substantially contained in the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist under the outward appearances of sensible things." And so Our Savior is present in His humanity not only in His natural manner of existence at the right hand of the Father, but also at the same time in the sacrament of the Eucharist "in a manner of existing that we can hardly express in words but that our minds, illumined by faith, can come to see as possible to God and that we must most firmly believe."
CHRIST PRESENT IN THE EUCHARIST THROUGH TRANSUBSTANTIATION
46. To avoid any misunderstanding of this type of presence, which goes
beyond the laws of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of its kind, we have to listen with docility to the voice of the teaching and praying Church. Her voice, which constantly echoes the voice of Christ, assures us that the way in which Christ becomes present in this Sacrament is through the conversion of the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood, a unique and truly wonderful conversion that the Catholic Church fittingly and properly calls Transubstantiation. As a result of Transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new signification and a new finality, for they are no longer ordinary bread and wine but instead a sign of something sacred and a sign of spiritual food; but they take on this new signification, this new finality, precisely because they contain a new "reality" which we can rightly call ontological. For what now lies beneath the aforementioned species is not what was there before, but something completely different; and not just in the estimation of Church belief but in reality, since once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and the wine except for the species—beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in His physical "reality," corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place. (Emphasis added.)
And again in his Apostolic Letter, Holemni Hac Liturgia (1968):
Sacrifice of Calvary
24. We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.
25. Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine, as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.
26. The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us. (Emphasis Added)
Pope Saint John Paul II writes in his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharista (2003):
15. The sacramental re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice, crowned by the resurrection, in the Mass involves a most special presence which – in the words of Paul VI – “is called ‘real’ not as a way of excluding all other types of presence as if they were ‘not real’, but because it is a presence in the fullest sense: a substantial presence whereby Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present”. This sets forth once more the perennially valid teaching of the Council of Trent: “the consecration of the bread and wine effects the 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. And the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called this change transubstantiation”. Truly the Eucharist is a mysterium fidei, a mystery which surpasses our understanding and can only be received in faith, as is often brought out in the catechesis of the Church Fathers regarding this divine sacrament: “Do not see – Saint Cyril of Jerusalem exhorts – in the bread and wine merely natural elements, because the Lord has expressly said that they are his body and his blood: faith assures you of this, though your senses suggest otherwise”.
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas, we shall continue to sing with the Angelic Doctor. Before this mystery of love, human reason fully experiences its limitations. One understands how, down the centuries, this truth has stimulated theology to strive to understand it ever more deeply.
These are praiseworthy efforts, which are all the more helpful and insightful to the extent that they are able to join critical thinking to the “living faith” of the Church, as grasped especially by the Magisterium's “sure charism of truth” and the “intimate sense of spiritual realities” which is attained above all by the saints. There remains the boundary indicated by Paul VI: “Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, must firmly maintain that in objective reality, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the consecration, so that the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus from that moment on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine”. (Emphasis Added).
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also wrote on the dogma of Transubstantiation in his Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis (2007):
The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist
Jesus and the Holy Spirit
12. With his word and with the elements of bread and wine, the Lord himself has given us the essentials of this new worship. The Church, his Bride, is called to celebrate the Eucharistic banquet daily in his memory. She thus makes the redeeming sacrifice of her Bridegroom a part of human history and makes it sacramentally present in every culture. This great mystery is celebrated in the liturgical forms which the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, develops in time and space. We need a renewed awareness of the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the evolution of the liturgical form and the deepening understanding of the sacred mysteries. The Paraclete, Christ's first gift to those who believe, already at work in Creation (cf. Gen 1:2), is fully present throughout the life of the incarnate Word: Jesus Christ is conceived by the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35); at the beginning of his public mission, on the banks of the Jordan, he sees the Spirit descend upon him in the form of a dove (cf. Mt 3:16 and parallels); he acts, speaks and rejoices in the Spirit (cf. Lk 10:21), and he can offer himself in the Spirit (cf. Heb 9:14). In the so-called "farewell discourse" reported by John, Jesus clearly relates the gift of his life in the paschal mystery to the gift of the Spirit to his own (cf. Jn 16:7). Once risen, bearing in his flesh the signs of the passion, he can pour out the Spirit upon them (cf. Jn 20:22), making them sharers in his own mission (cf. Jn 20:21). The Spirit would then teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Christ had said (cf. Jn 14:26), since it falls to him, as the Spirit of truth (cf. Jn 15:26), to guide the disciples into all truth (cf. Jn 16:13). In the account in Acts, the Spirit descends on the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary on the day of Pentecost (cf. 2:1-4) and stirs them to undertake the mission of proclaiming the Good News to all peoples. Thus it is through the working of the Spirit that Christ himself continues to be present and active in his Church, starting with her vital center which is the Eucharist.
The Holy Spirit and the Eucharistic celebration
13. Against this backdrop we can understand the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic celebration, particularly with regard to transubstantiation. An awareness of this is clearly evident in the Fathers of the Church. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Catecheses, states that we "call upon God in his mercy to send his Holy Spirit upon the offerings before us, to transform the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into the blood of Christ. Whatever the Holy Spirit touches is sanctified and completely transformed". Saint John Chrysostom too notes that the priest invokes the Holy Spirit when he celebrates the sacrifice: like Elijah, the minister calls down the Holy Spirit so that "as grace comes down upon the victim, the souls of all are thereby inflamed”. The spiritual life of the faithful can benefit greatly from a better appreciation of the richness of the anaphora: along with the words spoken by Christ at the Last Supper, it contains the epiclesis, the petition to the Father to send down the gift of the Spirit so that the bread and the wine will become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and that "the community as a whole will become ever more the body of Christ”. The Spirit invoked by the celebrant upon the gifts of bread and wine placed on the altar is the same Spirit who gathers the faithful "into one body" and makes of them a spiritual offering pleasing to the Father.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up what Catholics must believe about the dogma of Transubstantiation succinctly:
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.
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.
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."
(Emphasis added. Footnotes omitted)
Avery Cardinal Dulles addresses some of the difficulties in faith that people voice about the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence and Transubstantiation:
In saying first of all that Christ is truly contained under the Eucharistic species, the Council [of Trent] repudiated the view that the sacrament is a mere sign or figure pointing away from itself to a body that is absent, perhaps somewhere in the heavens.
Secondly, the presence is real. That is to say, it is ontological and objective. Ontological, because it takes place in the order of being; objective, because it does not depend on the thoughts or feelings of the minister or the communicants. The body and blood of Christ are present in the sacrament by reason of the promise of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, which are attached to the proper performance of the rite by a duly ordained minister. In so teaching the Church rejects the view that faith is the instrument that brings about Christ's presence in the sacrament. According to Catholic teaching, faith does not make Christ present, but gratefully acknowledges that presence and allows Holy Communion to bear fruit in holiness. To receive the sacrament without faith is unprofitable, even sinful, but the lack of faith does not render the presence unreal.
Thirdly, Trent tells us that Christ's presence in the sacrament is substantial. The word "substance" as here used is not a technical philosophical term, such as might be found in the philosophy of Aristotle. It was used in the early Middle Ages long before the works of Aristotle were current. "Substance" in common-sense usage denotes the basic reality of the thing, i.e., what it is in itself. Derived from the Latin root "sub-stare", it means what stands under the appearances, which can shift from one moment to the next while leaving the subject intact.
Substance, meaning what a thing is in itself, may be contrasted with function, which has reference to action. Christ is present by His dynamic power and action in all the sacraments, but in the Eucharist His presence is, in addition, substantial. For this reason, the Eucharist may be adored. It is the greatest of all sacraments. After the consecration the bread and wine have become, in a mysterious way, Christ Himself.
The Council of Trent spoke also of the process by which this presence of Christ comes about. It stated that the bread and wine are changed; they cease to be what they were and become what they were not. The whole substance of the bread and wine becomes the substance of the body and blood of Christ and, because Christ cannot be divided, they become also His soul and His divinity. (DS 1640, 1642) The whole Christ is made present under each of the two forms.
The change that occurs in the consecration at Mass is sui generis. It does not fit into the categories of Aristotle, who believed that every substantial change involved a change in the appearances or what he called accidents. When I eat an apple, it loses its perceptible qualities as well as its substance as an apple. It becomes part of me. But in the consecration of bread and wine at Mass, the outward appearances remain unchanged. The Church has coined the term "transubstantiation" to designate the process by which the whole substance, and only the substance, is changed into the substance of Christ's body and blood. A special word is needed to designate a process that is unique and unparalleled.
In teaching that the species are unchanged, the Church indicates that the physical and chemical properties remain those of bread and wine. Not only do they look and weigh the same; they retain the same nutritive value that they had before the consecration. It would be futile to try to prove or disprove the real presence by physical experiments, because the presence of Christ is spiritual or sacramental, not physical in the sense of measurable.
Saint Thomas Aquinas [...] avoids speaking of the Eucharist as a special body (sacramental or mystical), but on the other hand he asserts that the risen and glorified body of Christ has a different existence in heaven and in the sacrament. He contrasts Christ's existence in Himself and His existence under the sacrament as two different states or modes of being. According to His natural mode of existence Christ is in heaven, and according to His Eucharistic mode of existence, He is in the sacrament. The body of Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, but not in the way bodies are in place. Its parts and dimensions cannot be measured against other bodies. His circumference is not that of the host.
In opposition to the naïve realists, therefore, Saint Thomas holds that when we look at the host we do not see the shape and colors that properly belong to the body of Christ, but those of the host itself.
See, Dulles, Avery. Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist: Real, True and Substantial. Adoremus Bulletin, on-line edition (April 2005).
In the above article, Cardinal Dulles answers many of the common objections made against Transubstantiation. He makes it clear that the Catholic Church’s understanding of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist as a result of Transubstantiation rejects the Capharnaite error that the Jesus becomes quantitatively present in the Eucharistic elements in a carnal or in a cannibalistic manner (as does Saint Augustine in his Tractates on the Gospel of John 26:18). He also makes it clear that the Church’s position is that the whole Jesus is present in the Eucharist–a view that runs counter to the faux-Monophysitic arguments sometimes raised against Transubstantiation by certain anti-Catholic polemicists.
C. Background and Context.
Armed with the above representative statements of what "modern Rome" holds in regards to the dogma of Transubstantiation, we shall move on to examine the context and milieu in which Sermon 227 itself was given.
First, it is important to remember that Sermon 227 was preached at an Easter-day Mass. Specifically, the sermon was given at a day-time Mass on Easter Sunday rather than at the Vigil Mass the night before. The former catechumens/competentes, now infantes, are full Christians who have received all three of the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation/Chrismation and the Eucharist during the Easter Vigil Mass. This is only the second time that the infantes had been allowed to be present at a full Mass rather than being ushered out of church before the Universal Prayer also called the Prayers of the People.
In a practice left over the time of the early Church when the faithful were persecuted, the deeper and more important mysteries of the Faith were kept in reserve until the converts were fully initiated into the Church. The practice was retained because it was determined to be desirable to bring learners slowly and by degrees to a full knowledge of the Faith as converts could not profitably assimilate the whole Catholic religion at once. Because of the differences between the Catholic faith and the theology of the many pagan religions which were still prolific at this time, it was important for the catechumens to learn the great truth of the unity of God, and then proceed from there. The doctrines to which the reserve was more especially applied concerned those of the Holy Trinity and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The words of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer were also withheld from those who were not fully instructed. While catechumens were taught the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer before they were baptized (there are wonderful Augustinian sermons on them), the catechumens were not allowed to even speak those prayers aloud until after they received the sacraments of initiation.
The liturgy was divided into parts. The Mass of Catechumens, the portion of the liturgy to which the catechumens, learners and neophytes were admitted, consisted of prayers, readings from Holy Scripture, and at times stories from the lives of martyrs of the early Church, as well as one or more sermons. Thereafter, the uninitiated were bidden to depart escorted by minor clergy called porters. When they had left, the more solemn Mass of the Faithful would begin. A large part of Sermon 227 is an explanation of the meaning of the liturgical rites contained in the Mass of the Faithful about which the newly initiated infantes would have had very little familiarity.
Now it should be acknowledged that scholars dispute over to what extent that the reserve was practiced in the time of Saint Augustine, but there is no doubt that it was practiced to some degree as shown by this passage from Saint Augustine:
Give good heed, my beloved, and understand. If we say to a catechumen, Do you believe in Christ, he answers, I believe, and signs himself; already he bears the cross of Christ on his forehead, and is not ashamed of the cross of his Lord. Behold, he has believed in His name. Let us ask him, Do you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink the blood of the Son of man? He knows not what we say, because Jesus has not trusted Himself to him. (Tractates on John 11:3)
Second, it must be remembered that Saint Augustine himself presided over the liturgy as an ordained bishop of the Catholic Church. Sermon 227 is example of Saint Augustine exercising his Episcopal office to instruct his flock on the importance of the sacrament of the Eucharist, its nature, its purpose and its effect. The liturgical rites and language described in Sermon 227 sixteen hundred years ago are virtually identical to the rites and language used in the Mass of Catholic Church today.
Third, Saint Augustine is providing such instruction within the milieu of the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass. Saint Augustine is not only a preacher, but is the celebrant of the Mass. The importance of this fact cannot be overstated because in Saint Augustine’s world as well in today’s “modern Rome” (as seen from the above explanatory statements on the Church’s teaching on Transubstantiation) if there is no priest or bishop acting in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) consecrating the elements of bread and wine at Mass, there is no Eucharist. And if there is no consecration, there is no Transubstantiation as shown from the magisterial statements I referenced above.
Now some might wish to argue this point as Saint Augustine was the first of the early fathers to discuss the view of a universal priesthood of believers. But while Saint Augustine, as well as the Catholic Church since Vatican II, place a great deal of emphasis on the participation of the laity in Christ’s three-fold office of priest, prophet and king, there is also no doubt that Saint Augustine also believed in a sacramental, sacerdotal priesthood as well:
But if I have by experience learned what is necessary for a man who ministers to a people in the divine sacraments and word, only to find myself prevented from now obtaining what I have learned that I do not possess, do you bid me perish, father Valerius?
[Emphasis Added. N. B.~ This letter was from Saint Augustine to his bishop, Valerius, requesting to take a leave of absence (otium) so he could study the Scriptures to become a better priest.]
But our martyrs are not our gods; for we know that the martyrs and we have both but one God, and that the same. Nor yet are the miracles which they maintain to have been done by means of their temples at all comparable to those which are done by the tombs of our martyrs. If they seem similar, their gods have been defeated by our martyrs as Pharaoh's magi were by Moses. In reality, the demons wrought these marvels with the same impure pride with which they aspired to be the gods of the nations; but the martyrs do these wonders, or rather God does them while they pray and assist, in order that an impulse may be given to the faith by which we believe that they are not our gods, but have, together with ourselves, one God. In fine, they built temples to these gods of theirs, and set up altars, and ordained priests, and appointed sacrifices; but to our martyrs we build, not temples as if they were gods, but monuments as to dead men whose spirits live with God. Neither do we erect altars at these monuments that we may sacrifice to the martyrs, but to the one God of the martyrs and of ourselves; and in this sacrifice they are named in their own place and rank as men of God who conquered the world by confessing Him, but they are not invoked by the sacrificing priest. For it is to God, not to them, he sacrifices, though he sacrifices at their monument; for he is God's priest, not theirs. The sacrifice itself, too, is the body of Christ, which is not offered to them, because they themselves are this body. Which then can more readily be believed to work miracles? They who wish themselves to be reckoned gods by those on whom they work miracles, or those whose sole object in working any miracle is to induce faith in God, and in Christ also as God? They who wished to turn even their crimes into sacred rites, or those who are unwilling that even their own praises be consecrated, and seek that everything for which they are justly praised be ascribed to the glory of Him in whom they are praised?
I would also note that Saint Augustine’s mentor, Saint Ambrose, said this identifying who consecrates the Eucharist:
You may perhaps say: 'My bread is ordinary.' But that bread is bread before the words of the Sacraments; when the consecration has entered in, the bread becomes the flesh of Christ. And let us add this: How can what is bread be the Body of Christ. By the consecration. The consecration takes place by certain words, but whose words? Those of the Lord Jesus. Like all the rest of the things said beforehand , they are said by the pries; praises are referred to God, prayer of petition is offered for the people, for kings, for other persons, but when the time comes for the confection of the venerable Sacrament, then the priest uses not his own words, but the words of Christ. Therefore, it is the word of Christ that confects this Sacrament.
The Sacraments. Book 4, 4:14. [found in Jurgens, William. The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2, The Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN. (1979), at pg. 176.]
Likewise, Saint John Chrysostom, a contemporary of Saint Augustine:
I am about to say what may appear strange, but be not astonished nor startled at it. The Offering is the same, whether a common man, or Paul or Peter offer it. It is the same which Christ gave to His disciples, and which the Priests now minister. This is nowise inferior to that, because it is not men that sanctify even this, but the Same who sanctified the one sanctifies the other also. For as the words which God spoke are the same which the Priest now utters, so is the Offering the same, and the Baptism, that which He gave. Thus the whole is of faith.
These points are important to bear in mind while reading Sermon 227. After all, what would have been the point of requiring the catechumens to leave the Mass before the rites of the Mass of the Faithful were recited if the Eucharist was merely a figurative or symbolic commemoration of the Lord’s Supper? For that matter, why was it necessary for an ordained priest to preside over the Mass or consecrate the Eucharistic elements if Saint Augustine was a mere symbolist or held that the Eucharist was similar to a Calvinist notion about the Real Presence? Simply put, these inferences are further proof that Saint Augustine believed that the change that occurred when bread and wine were consecrated was far more substantial than TurretinFan would have his readers believe.
Finally, before we begin our examination of the text of Sermon 227, we should touch upon Saint Augustine’s usage of the term “sacrament”. In the work On Catechizing the Uninstructed, 26:50, Saint Augustine advises the Deacon Deogratias to teach 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. (Emphasis added).
As noted in my previous article writing about Sermon 272, before the catechumens were baptized or had received the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, they were taught that the signs of divine things are visible, but what is honored in them are the realities underneath them which remain invisible. Catholics, including Saint Augustine, believe that the sacraments are not metaphorical or empty symbols, but confer grace and point to the reality that Our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the sacraments of His Church and is revealed through them. The material elements of the sacraments–water, bread, wine, oil, and ritual– are mysterious signs of His presence underneath the forms to cause us to want to enter further into the mystery to seek Him. Nevertheless, once we enter into the sacramental life, we will find Christ there. Moreover, Catholics do not prefer the Scriptures over the sacraments as the sacraments are the visible expressions or signs of the Word of God to His people, who themselves are part of the Body of Christ.
In case one objects that I am reading too much of modern Rome into Saint Augustine’s writings, I will let the reader judge:
The cleansing [of Baptism], therefore, would on no account be attributed to the fleeting and perishable element, were it not for that which is added, “by the word.” This word of faith possesses such virtue in the Church of God, that through the medium of him who in faith presents, and blesses, and sprinkles it, He cleanses even the tiny infant, although itself unable as yet with the heart to believe unto righteousness, and to make confession with the mouth unto salvation. All this is done by means of the word, whereof the Lord says, “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
2. Teaching Christianity III, 9:13:
The Lord Himself and the discipline of the Apostles have handed down to us just a few signs instead of many, and these are easy to perform, and so awesome to understand, and so pure and chaste to celebrate, such as the sacrament of baptism, and the celebration of the Lord’s body and blood. When people receive these, they have been so instructed that they can recognize to what sublime realities they are to be referred, and they venerate them in a spirit not of carnal slavery, but rather of spiritual freedom.
[Augustine, Edmund Hill, and John E. Rotelle. Teaching Christianity. Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press, 1996.]
3. Expositions on the Psalms 17:12:
He shrouded his sacraments in mystery, willing them to be a hidden hope in the hearts of believers, to make a place where He might hide Himself without in any way abandoning them for in this darkness, where we will walk by faith, not by sight, we wait patiently in hope for what we do not see.
[Augustine, Maria Boulding, and John E. Rotelle. Expositions of the Psalms. Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press, 2000.]
Specifically, we see this same understanding of “sacrament” as the visible sign of an invisible reality in Saint Augustine’s treatment of the Eucharist:
You know that in ordinary parlance we often say, when Easter is approaching, “Tomorrow or the day after is the Lord's Passion,” although He suffered so many years ago, and His passion was endured once for all time. In like manner, on Easter Sunday, we say, “This day the Lord rose from the dead,” although so many years have passed since His resurrection. But no one is so foolish as to accuse us of falsehood when we use these phrases, for this reason, that we give such names to these days on the ground of a likeness between them and the days on which the events referred to actually transpired, the day being called the day of that event, although it is not the very day on which the event took place, but one corresponding to it by the revolution of the same time of the year, and the event itself being said to take place on that day, because, although it really took place long before, it is on that day sacramentally celebrated. Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? And yet, is He not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations; so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance, declares what is strictly true? For if sacraments had not some points of real resemblance to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all. In most cases, moreover, they do in virtue of this likeness bear the names of the realities which they resemble. As, therefore, in a certain manner the sacrament of Christ's body is Christ's body, and the sacrament of Christ's blood is Christ's blood, in the same manner the sacrament of faith is faith. Now believing is nothing else than having faith; and accordingly, when, on behalf of an infant as yet incapable of exercising faith, the answer is given that he believes, this answer means that he has faith because of the sacrament of faith, and in like manner the answer is made that he turns himself to God because of the sacrament of conversion, since the answer itself belongs to the celebration of the sacrament. Thus the apostle says, in regard to this sacrament of Baptism: “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death.” (Romans 6:4) He does not say, “We have signified our being buried with Him,” but “We have been buried with Him.” He has therefore given to the sacrament pertaining to so great a transaction no other name than the word describing the transaction itself..
2) Sermon 57:7:
So the Eucharist is our daily bread; but we should receive it in such a way that our minds and not just our bellies find refreshment. You see, the special property to be understood in it is unity, so that by being digested into his body and turned into his members we may be what we receive. Then it will really be our daily bread.
[Augustine, and John E. Rotelle. Sermons (51-94) on the New Testament. Brooklyn, N.Y.: New City Press, 1991.]
3) Sermon 112:5:
But how, we may ask, did the occasion arise for the Lord to talk about this dinner? One of the guests–he was at a banquet, you see, to which he had been invited–had said, Blessed is the one who eats the bread in the kingdom of God. He was sighing for it as though it were a long way off, and there was the bread itself seated in his presence. What, I mean to say, is the bread of the kingdom of God, but the one who says, I am the living bread, who have come down from heaven (Jn. 6:41)? Don’t get your gullet ready to eat, but your mind. That precisely is the beauty of this supper. We have believed in Christ, I mean, and so we receive with faith. We know what to think about as we receive; we receive a tiny portion, and in our minds we take our fill. So it is not what is seen, but what is believed that feeds us.
[Augustine, and John E. Rotelle. Sermons (94A-147A) on the New Testament. Brooklyn, N.Y.: New City Press, 1992.]
4) Sermon 229A:1:
What you can see on the Lord’s table, as far as the appearance of the things goes, you are also used to seeing on your own tables; they have the same aspect, but not the same value. I mean, you yourselves are the same people as you used to be, you haven’t brought us along new faces, after all. And yet you’re new; the same old people in bodily appearance, completely new ones by the grace of holiness—just as this too is new.
It’s still, indeed, as you can see, bread and wine; come the consecration, and the bread will be the body of Christ, and that wine will be the blood of Christ. This is brought about by the name of Christ, brought about by the grace of Christ, that it should continue to look exactly what is used to look like, and yet should not have the same value as it used to. You see, if was eaten before, it would fill the belly; but now when it’s eaten it nourishes the spirit.
[Augustine, Edmund Hill, and John E. Rotelle. Sermons. III/6 (184-229Z) Brooklyn, N.Y.: New City Press, 1993.]
5) Sermon 272 (revisited):
" ... How can bread be his body? And the cup, or what the cup contains, how can it be his blood?" The reason these things, brothers and sisters, are called sacraments is that in them one thing is seen, another is to be understood. What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is to be understood provides spiritual fruit. 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). 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.
But so far as relates to that death, concerning which the Lord warns us by fear, and in which their fathers died: Moses ate manna, Aaron ate manna, Phineas ate manna, and many ate manna, who were pleasing to the Lord, and they are not dead. Why? Because they understood the visible food spiritually, hungered spiritually, tasted spiritually, that they might be filled spiritually. For even we at this day receive visible food: but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament another.
7) The City of God, 10:5; 10:20.
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.
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.
As shown above, according to the way Saint Augustine uses the word “sacrament,” the visible elements of the Eucharist, the species of bread and wine, after consecration are not the Body and Blood of Christ, but signify, denote, and contain them. The whole reality of Christ's Body and Blood is present beneath their appearances, but are concealed from our senses. Transubstantiation makes the Eucharist a sacrament of faith and is not intended to be a scientific explanation.
The Catholic understanding of the sacraments may have developed since Saint Augustine’s time, but his understanding of what is a sacrament is still reflected in the theology of the Church today:
1333. At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread. . . ." "He took the cup filled with wine. . . ." The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the "work of human hands," but above all as "fruit of the earth" and "of the vine" - gifts of the Creator. The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who "brought out bread and wine," a prefiguring of her own offering.
(Emphasis Added, footnotes deleted).
The Council of Trent’s teaching on the Eucharist shows that this understanding is not an innovation of the 2nd Vatican Council:
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.
The Augustinian understanding of sign and reality is not just set out in the magisterial documents of the Church, but it seen in the Mass itself. Let’s look at how the sign of bread is used in the Mass of “modern” Rome. Even after bread and wine are consecrated and become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Catholics still refer to the outward species as “bread” and the “cup” just as Saint Paul did at 1 Cor. 11:16:
1) At the Mystery of Faith, the congregation prays “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”
2) During the Eucharistic Prayer the priest recites, “Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, the Resurrection from the dead, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty, from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.”
3) Of course, during the Lord’s Prayer the Eucharist is referred to as our “daily bread.”
The Catholic principle of “Lex orandi est lex credendi” or “the law of prayer is the law of belief” compels me as a Catholic to accept the truth the Church teaches that the Eucharist is both sign and reality. The question is whether Saint Augustine held any differently? Based on the above passages, I would emphatically say NO. The dogma of Transubstantiation makes Saint Augustine’s words a reality through faith. Faith penetrates the sacramental signs, seeing under them the mystery-filled Body of Christ. Because of Transubstantiation, the bread and wine are true signs of the reality of Christ's body and blood.
For further reading on this subject, I urge the reader to consider the following articles and books:
Portalie, Eugenie. A Guide to the Thought of St. Augustine. Chicago: H. Regnery Co, 1960, pages 214-215
The Church Fathers on Transubstantiation by Tim Troutman
Sacrifice, Transubstantiation, and Real Presence by Fr. Mark Kirby
Saint Augustine on the Real Presence in the Eucharist by Fr. J. B. Jagger (found on Steve
Ray’s website, Defenders of the Catholic Faith)
St. Augustine’s Belief in the Real Presence by Dave Armstrong.
Biblical Catholic Eucharistic Theology by Dave Armstrong
O'Connor, James T. The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989.
For a contrarian view:
Church Fathers on Transubstantiation by Joseph Mizzi
D. Text and Commentary.
Armed with an understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches on the dogma of Transubstantiation, some information explaining the context in which Sermon 227 was given, and a thumb-nail sketch of Saint Augustine’s sacramental theology, we are now ready to examine the text itself.
As a nota bene, the version of Sermon 227 that TurretinFan uses is from The Works of Saint Augustine III/6. New Rochelle, NY: New City, 1993, pp. 254-255. It is not my favorite English translation of that text. My favorite translation of the text, and the one that I will be using is from Philip Weller’s book, Selected Easter Sermons of Saint Augustine. Saint Louis, Mo.: B. Herder Book Co, (1959). Text of Sermon 227 from that work will be highlighted in red. Mr. Fan's self-expressions, where I have decided to interact with them, will be in green. My commentary will be in standard black.
Text: On the Eucharist ~ Easter Sunday (Migne 227)
Me: The title of the sermon was not provided by Saint Augustine. This information was added by a latter scribe or translator. Migne 227 refers to the numbering given the sermon by the 19th century French priest Fr. Jacques-Paul Migne in his collection of patristic works called The Patrologia Latina.
Interestingly, unlike his apologetical or theological works, Saint Augustine never took stylus or quill in hand to write out the sermons he preached in church. It was not something that professionally trained rhetors did then. That so many of his sermons are extant today is because a bank of scribes sitting in the front of the congregation called notarii would write down what was said (including at times congregational responses) at Mass which was then compared and assembled into a single writing, which in turn, was copied and disseminated to be read in the outlying parishes under the good Bishop of Hippo's charge. Like most bishops in his day, Saint Augustine did not allow priests to give sermons at Mass without his permission.
Text: I remember my promise made to you who have just been baptized, that I would explain in a sermon the sacrament of the Lord's table, which you are even now witnessing and of which you were made partakers last night.
Me: The infantes attended not only the Easter Vigil Mass, but the Mass of Easter day as well. As mentioned previously, before receiving the sacraments of initiation at the previous Easter Vigil Mass, the catechumens would have not ever seen the rites of the Mass of the Faithful prior to the Easter Vigil Mass.
We also see here Augustine’s touching upon the Catholic teaching that Christ is not re-sacrificed again and again at each Mass. Instead, the Eucharistic celebration of the Mass makes Our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross present to us. As partakers in that once-and-for-all sacrifice, we receive the effects and grace from His passion, death and resurrection.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
1330. The Holy Sacrifice makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church's offering. The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, "sacrifice of praise," spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.
Text: Surely you ought to know well what you have received, what you will be receiving, and what you should receive every day.
TF wrote: It seems that Augustine may be advocating daily communion. Perhaps he means "every day" either as hyperbole, or in some spiritual sense, but he may literally mean daily communion. Regardless, this shows that they had received communion the previous day and were about to receive it again.
Me: TurretinFan's perplexity as to whether Saint Augustine here is advocating daily Mass may be a result of his Presbyterian background where liturgical worship is generally reserved as a Sunday-only event. However, in Catholic dioceses which practiced the African form of the Roman rite in the 5th century AD, Mass was celebrated daily, usually in the morning since one was expected to fast prior to Mass. That daily Mass occurred in Hippo in Augustine's day is well attested to by Saint Augustine himself in the texts that follow:
Someone may say, "The Eucharist ought not to be taken every day." You ask, "On what grounds?" He answers, "Because, in order that a man may approach worthily to so great a sacrament, he ought to choose those days upon which he lives in more special purity and self-restraint; for 'whosoever eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself.'" (1 Corinthians 11:29) reminding them that the principal thing is to remain united in the peace of Christ, and that each should be free to do what, according to his belief, he conscientiously regards as his duty. For neither of them lightly esteems the body and blood of the Lord; on the contrary, both are contending who shall most highly honor the sacrament fraught with blessing. There was no controversy between those two mentioned in the Gospel, Zacchæus and the Centurion; nor did either of them think himself better than the other, though, whereas the former received the Lord joyfully into his house, (Luke 19:6) the latter said, "I am not worthy that You should come under my roof,"(Matthew 8:8) — both honoring the Savior, though in ways diverse and, as it were, mutually opposed; both miserable through sin, and both obtaining the mercy they required. We may further borrow an illustration here, from the fact that the manna given to the ancient people of God tasted in each man's mouth as he desired that it might. It is the same with this world-subduing sacrament in the heart of each Christian. For he that dares not take it every day, and he who dares not omit it any day, are both alike moved by a desire to do it honor. That sacred food will not submit to be despised, as the manna could not be loathed with impunity. Hence the apostle says that it was unworthily partaken of by those who did not distinguish between this and all other meats, by yielding to it the special veneration which was due; for to the words quoted already, "eats and drinks judgment to himself," he has added these, "not discerning the Lord's body;" and this is apparent from the whole of that passage in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, if it be carefully studied. (Emphasis Added).
2) Tractates on the Gospel of John 26:15:
But that which they ask, while striving among themselves, namely, how the Lord can give His flesh to be eaten, they do not immediately hear: but further it is said to them, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you will have no life in you." How, indeed, it may be eaten, and what may be the mode of eating this bread, you are ignorant of; nevertheless, "except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you will not have life in you." He spoke these words, not certainly to corpses, but to living men. Whereupon, lest they, understanding it to mean this life, should strive about this thing also, He going on added, "Whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life." Wherefore, he that eats not this bread, nor drinks this blood, has not this life; for men can have temporal life without that, but they can no ways have eternal life. He then that eats not His flesh, nor drinks His blood, has no life in him; and he that eats His flesh, and drinks His blood, has life. This epithet, eternal, which He used, answers to both. It is not so in the case of that food which we take for the purpose of sustaining this temporal life. For he who will not take it shall not live, nor yet shall he who will take it live. For very many, even who have taken it, die; it may be by old age, or by disease, or by some other casualty. But in this food and drink, that is, in the body and blood of the Lord, it is not so. For both he that does not take it has no life, and he that does take it has life, and that indeed eternal life. And thus He would have this meat and drink to be understood as meaning the fellowship of His own body and members, which is the holy Church in his predestinated, and called, and justified, and glorified saints and believers. Of these, the first is already effected, namely, predestination; the second and third, that is, the vocation and justification, have taken place, are taking place, and will take place; but the fourth, namely, the glorifying, is at present in hope; but a thing future in realization. The sacrament of this thing, namely, of the unity of the body and blood of Christ, is prepared on the Lord's table in some places daily, in some places at certain intervals of days, and from the Lord's table it is taken, by some to life, by some to destruction: but the thing itself, of which it is the sacrament, is for every man to life, for no man to destruction, whosoever shall have been a partaker thereof. (Emphasis Added)
3) Sermon 57.7
The Eucharistic bread should be for us daily bread that we eat to make us live. When we have reached Christ himself it will no longer be necessary to receive the Eucharist... So the Eucharist is for us bread for everyday. We must, however, receive it in such a way that we not only get new bodily strength, but also spiritual power. For the power that the Eucharist gives is unity. This means that after we have received Christ's body and become his members, we are what we have received. Only then does the Eucharist really become our daily bread.
However, what I preach to you is also your daily bread. The same holds true for the hymns that you hear and pray. All these things are necessary for our present pilgrim journey through life. When, however, we have reached our destination we will no longer need to hear the book being read. We will see the Word himself, eat, hear and drink him. (Emphasis Added).
[Augustine, and John E. Rotelle. Sermons (51-94) on the New Testament. Brooklyn, N.Y.: New City Press, 1991.]
4) City of God, 10:20:
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. Of this true Sacrifice the ancient sacrifices of the saints were the various and numerous signs; and it was thus variously figured, just as one thing is signified by a variety of words, that there may be less weariness when we speak of it much. To this supreme and true sacrifice all false sacrifices have given place. (Emphasis Added)
For she, when the day of her (Saint Monica) dissolution was near at hand, took no thought to have her body sumptuously covered, or embalmed with spices; nor did she covet a choice monument, or desire her paternal burial-place. These things she entrusted not to us, but only desired to have her name remembered at Your altar, which she had served without the omission of a single day; whence she knew that the holy sacrifice was dispensed, by which the handwriting that was against us is blotted out; (Colossians 2:14) by which the enemy was triumphed over, who, summing up our offenses, and searching for something to bring against us, found nothing in Him (John 14:30) in whom we conquer. (Emphasis Added).
6) Letter to Boniface 98:9.
Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? And yet, is He not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations; so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance, declares what is strictly true?
Daily celebration of the Mass was an occurrence in Hippo long before Saint Augustine was the bishop. Saint Cyprian of Carthage, the favorite saint of the people of Hippo, had this to say in Chapter 18 of his Treatise on the Lord's Prayer written around 252 AD:
As the prayer goes forward, we ask and say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And this may be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding it is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation. For Christ is the bread of life; and this bread does not belong to all men, but it is ours. And according as we say, “Our Father,” because He is the Father of those who understand and believe; so also we call it “our bread,” because Christ is the bread of those who are in union with His body. And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin, by being prevented, as withheld and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread, be separated from Christ's body, as He Himself predicts, and warns, “I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread, he shall live forever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” When, therefore, He says, that whoever shall eat of His bread shall live forever; as it is manifest that those who partake of His body and receive the Eucharist by the right of communion are living, so, on the other hand, we must fear and pray lest anyone who, being withheld from communion, is separate from Christ's body should remain at a distance from salvation; as He Himself threatens, and says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall have no life in you.” And therefore we ask that our bread— that is, Christ— may be given to us daily, that we who abide and live in Christ may not depart from His sanctification and body. (Emphasis Added.)
All of these texts demonstrate that the Catholic Church in Hippo offered the Mass daily. This may seem to be a minor point tom some, but it is a critical piece of evidence that Saint Augustine believed in Transubstantiation and the Real Presence. If Saint Augustine believed that the Eucharist was merely a figurative, metaphorical, or symbolic commemoration of Our Lord’s passion as TurretinFan posits rather than a transubstantial conversion of the elements of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, there would be little point in offering Mass or receiving communion on a daily basis. Daily Mass only makes sense if there was really something or rather Someone, as the introductory quote from Sermon 9 indicates, is offered as a sacrifice. Some of the more radical Protestant reformers, such as Zwingli and his followers, actively sought to eradicate daily liturgical worship and frequent communion during liturgical worship precisely because daily Eucharist was suggestive of a true sacrifice and as such promoted belief in the dogmas of Transubstantiation and the Real Presence.
Text: The bread that you see on the altar, sanctified by God's word, is the body of Christ. The chalice, or rather, its contents. sanctified by God's word, is the blood of Christ.
TF wrote: It may be that Augustine has already consecrated the elements and has now, in essence, interrupted the distribution of the elements to provide this homily. Alternatively, Augustine may not be referring to the consecration at all. He may just be referring to the fact that the word of God is what puts the elements to their sacramental use. [T]he same explanation applied to the cup. Some people seem to be willing to quote this sentence and the prior one in an effort to allege that Augustine held to Transubstantiation. But, of course, such a statement is a statement that could be used by those who are bare symbolists in their view, as well as everyone in between.
Me: It is gratifying to see TurretinFan concede in a round-about manner that Saint Augustine’s language could be read to support a belief in Transubstantiation. However, he claims that certain unnamed Protestant “bare symbolists” also use the same sort of language to describe their understanding of the Eucharist. Unfortunately, he fails to offer any evidence to support his assertion.
Rather than taking TurretinFan’s word for it, let us see what Saint Augustine himself says on the matter. Besides Sermon 227, there are many Augustinian texts that state what happens to bread and wine when they are consecrated by a priest during Mass.
1) Sermon 228B
And therefore receive and eat the body of Christ, yes, you that have become members of Christ in the body of Christ; receive and drink the blood of Christ. In order not to be scattered and separated, eat what binds you together; in order not to seem cheap in your own estimation, drink the price that was paid for you. Just as this turns into you when you eat and drink it, so you for your part turn into the body of Christ when you live devout and obedient lives. He himself, you see, as his passion drew near, while he was keeping the Passover with his disciples, took bread and blessed it, and said, This is my body which will be handed over for you (1 Cor 11:24). Likewise he gave them the cup he had blessed and said, This is my blood of the new covenant, which will be shed for many for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28).
You were able to read or to hear this in the gospel before, but you were unaware that this Eucharist is the Son. But now, your hearts sprinkled with a pure conscience, and your bodies washed with pure water, approach him and be enlightened, and your faces will not blush for shame (Ps 34:5). Because if you receive this worthily, which means belonging to the new covenant by which you hope for an eternal inheritance, and if you keep the new commandment to love one another, then you have life in yourselves. You are then, after all, receiving that flesh about which Life itself says, The bread which I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world; and unless people eat my flesh and drink my blood, they will not have life in themselves (Jn 6:51. 53). (Emphasis Added)
[From The Works of Saint Augustine III/6. New Rochelle, NY: New City, 1993.]
We see Saint Augustine use the Words of Institution by Our Lord to describe how the bread and wine becomes Our Lord Himself and the effects of receiving the sacrament. Moreover, we see a reference to the Reserve which explains that the deeper mysteries of the Eucharist were kept from the catechumens until they were baptized.
2) Sermon 229=Denis 6
What you can see here, dearly beloved, on the table of the Lord, is bread and wine; but this bread and wine, when the word is applied to it, becomes the body and blood of the Word. That Lord, you see, who in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn 1:1), was so compassionate that he did not despise what he had created in his own image; and therefore the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14), as you know. Because, yes, the very Word took to himself a man, that is the soul and flesh of a man, and became man, while remaining God. For that reason, because he also suffered for us, he also presented us in this sacrament with his body and blood, and this is what he even made us ourselves into as well.
[The Works of Saint Augustine III/6. New Rochelle, NY: New City, 1993]
As a footnote, a few scholars contest the authenticity of parts of this sermon, the primary reason being that a portion of the text appears to contain an interpolation. However, the section quoted above is not the part of the text that was disputed. Presuming that this sermon is truly Augustinian, that is, either given by Saint Augustine himself or by one of his disciples, one can readily see how the explanation of the change that occurs when the bread and wine are sanctified pretty much mirrors the formal definition of doctrine of Transubstantiation as held by “modern” Rome. Please note too how ‘substantial’ Saint Augustine’s language here. The substance of bread and wine no longer exist after consecration. Rather they BECOME Body and Blood of a incarnate Christ, both human and divine – the divine Word and the Word made flesh – synonymous with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity terminology modern Rome uses today.
Later in the same Sermon, we see Augustine explaining the rites of the Mass and in the quote below we specifically see him discussing the change effected by the consecration of the elements:
And from there we come now to what is done in the holy prayers which you are going to hear, that with the application of the word we may have the body and blood of Christ. Take away the word, I mean, it's just bread and wine; add the word, and it's now something else. And what is that something else? The body of Christ, and the blood of Christ. So take away the word, it's bread and wine; add the word and it will become the sacrament. To this you say, Amen. To say Amen is to add your signature. Amen means “True” [ ... ].
[Ibid.] (Emphasis Added)
Again, while some have advanced objections against the authenticity of this section, I do not see how such objections can be sustained as Saint Augustine employs almost the identical theological language to explain the reality of the sacrament of Baptism in his treatise Tractates on the Gospel of John:
But it may be one says, Christ does indeed baptize, but in spirit, not in body. As if, indeed, it were by the gift of another than He that any is imbued even with the sacrament of corporal and visible baptism. Would you know that it is He that baptizes, not only with the Spirit, but also with water? Hear the apostle: "Even as Christ," says he, "loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, purifying it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." (Ephesians 5:25-27) Purifying it. How? "With the washing of water by the Word." What is the baptism of Christ? The washing of water by the Word. Take away the water, it is no baptism; take away the Word, it is no baptism.
One can readily see the similarity in sacramental understanding which certainly supports the notion that Sermon 229 is indeed authentic particularly when it follows closely Saint Augustine’s criteria for a sacrament. Following the thought of Saint Augustine himself, rather than the thought of TurretinFan, one would be hard pressed to seriously argue that Augustine did not hold a view of the Real Presence that is very "transubstantial." Not only does Saint Augustine state that bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ when the priest prays over them, he states that the bread and wine become altogether “something else.” Only Transubstantiation can explain what that “something else” is.
Now if TurretinFan truly wants us to believe that Saint Augustine did not believe in the doctrine we now call Transubstantiation, it would behoove him to offer even a single example of from at least one legitimate Calvinist bare symbolist scholar or theologian to describe the Eucharist. Until TurretinFan offers such a rebuttal, one would be hard put to claim that Saint Augustine's language here is anything but "transubstantial".
Now lest one of TurretinFan’s fans argue that I am placing too much weight on a disputed text, let's look at one that scholars agree is authentic:
3) Sermon 229A = Guelferbytanus 7
Listen to me, especially you who are now reborn to a new life and for that reason are called infants, while I explain, as I promised, what-it is that you see before you here on the altar. Pay attention also you, the faithful, who are long accustomed to view this sacred rite, because it is for your benefit, too, that we recall these things, otherwise you might forget them. The food you see here on the Lord's table, you are accustomed to see on your own tables at home, as far as outward appearances go. It has the same appearance, but not the same worth -You, the newly baptized, remain the same individuals you were before; at any rate you do not present different faces before this assembly. Nevertheless, you are indeed new men. Your outward form is the same as before, but you are made new beings through sanctifying grace.
And so this food is likewise something new. Until now, as you see, it is simply bread and wine. But once the Consecration takes place, this bread will be the body of Christ and this wine will be the blood of Christ. It happens in the name of Christ and by the grace of Christ, and even though it looks like it was before, yet its worth is not what it was before. Had you eaten thereof before [the Consecration], it would have supplied food to the stomach, but now when you partake, it gives nourishment to the soul. (Emphasis Added)
Weller, Peter. Selected Easter Sermons of St. Augustine. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co. (1959), p. 100. (Emphasis Added).
Compare this text with what I have already placed before you as to "modern” Rome’s definition of Transubstantiation. Can one truly discern any difference between the two? The physical form or elements of the sacrament are unchanged, but a new reality exists beneath them.
Now compare the realism of Augustine's teaching with what TurretinFan’s Orthodox Presbyterians hold and profess in Chapter 29:5 and 29:6 of their Westminster Confession of Faith:
The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.
That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ's body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthrows the nature of the sacrament, and has been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yes, of gross idolatries.
Here, in order to attack the Holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the Orthodox Presbyterians attack a straw-man argument using pagan Aristotelian notions of substance as opposed to a proper definition of substance that the Catholic Church uses as explained by Cardinal Dulles above. (To be fair, some Catholic scholars and theologians, too, attempt to use the same Aristotelian definitions to explain the sacrament–explanations which in my mind also fall far short of the mark and are not theologically defensible.) Moreover, we see that TurretinFan’s Orthodox Presbyterians do not use Saint Augustine’s definition of sign, using instead a more modern definition that ignores how it was used scripturally or in the early Church. Using such a false definition, it is very understandable why such folks see the dogma of Transubstantiation as too carnal or idolatrous.
4) Sermon 234:2
"The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread [Luke 24:16,30-35]. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, becomes Christ's Body."
The Works of Saint Augustine III/7. New Rochelle, NY: New City, 1993, pp.36-39 (Emphasis Added).
Again, we see Saint Augustine using the traditional definition of Transubstantiation to explain the difference between bread and the bread that receives the blessing from a priest. Anticipating one of TurretinFan’s later claims, the disciples referenced in the above passage from Luke had no less of a teacher of Scripture than Christ Himself. Yet, they did not understand what Jesus telling them until He gave a blessing over bread and broke it. At the moment of Jesus breaking the consecrated bread, the Emmaus disciples recognized Him. The Scriptures can lead one to seek Jesus, but it is in the Eucharist we find Him.
“And was carried in His Own Hands:” how “carried in His Own Hands”? Because when He commended His Own Body and Blood, He took into His Hands that which the faithful know; and in a manner carried Himself, when He said, “This is My Body.”
Note that Augustine teaches here that the bread became Our Lord’s body when He “said” the words, “This is My Body,” the same words that every priest recites in the Eucharistic prayer which transubstantiate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Can TurretinFan identify any Calvinist bare symbolist using the same kind of language here as Saint Augustine?
6) Answer to Faustus, A Manichean. Book XX:13.
But I do not know what Faustus thinks that we practice the same religion with respect to the bread and the cup, since for Manicheans to taste wine is not religious but sacrilegious. For they recognize their God in the grape; they refuse to recognize Him in the cup, as if He had caused them some offense by being crushed and bottled. But our bread and cup, not just any bread and cup, is made sacramental for us by a particular consecration; it is not naturally such, as Manicheans say in their folly on account of Christ, who is supposedly bound in the ears of grain and branches. Hence, what is not consecrated, though it is bread and cup, is food for refreshment, not the sacrament of religion, apart from the fact that we bless and give thanks to the Lord for every gift of his, not only spiritually but also bodily.
The Works of Saint Augustine I/20 [New Rochelle, NY: New City, 1993], pg. 273
We see Saint Augustine here explain how the sacrament of the Eucharist is the visible expression of Christ’s presence in the Church. All sacraments in his mind are visible expressions of the Word of God, the Eucharist especially so.
7) On the Trinity, Book III: 4:10:
If, then the Apostle Paul, though still carrying the burden of the body which is perishing and weighing down the soul (Wis. 9:15), though still only seeing in part and in an riddle (1 Cor. 13:12), still wishing to cast off and be with Christ (Phil 1:23), still groaning in himself, awaiting for the adoption, the redemption of his body (Rom 8:23), if for all that he could use meaningful signs to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ, in one way by using his tongue, in another by writing letters, in another by celebrating the Lord’s body and blood;*
*Note that we do not call Paul’s tongue or his paper and ink the body and blood of Christ, nor the significant sounds made by his tongue, nor the meaningful signs written on the pages of his letters, but only that which is taken from the fruits of the earth and consecrated by mystic prayers, and taken by us for our spiritual salvation in memory of what the Lord suffered for us. The hands of men give this its visible appearance, but it can only be consecrated into being such a great sacrament by the invisible working of the spirit of God. For all the physical movements involved in the whole action are worked by God acting in the first place on what is invisible in the ministers, namely on the souls of men or on the service of the occult spirits who are subject to him.
(N.B. ~ This interlineation was made by Augustine himself to further explain the text.)
need we be surprised if God produces visible and sensible effects as he pleases in sky, earth, sea and air, to signify and show himself as he knows best, without the very substance of his being ever appearing immediately manifest, since it is altogether changeless, and more inwardly and mysteriously sublime than all created spirits?
Here is perhaps the clearest example of Saint Augustine’s belief in the dogma the Church calls Transubstantiation. Saint Augustine presents the mysterious consecration of the Eucharist as the invisible working of God. Man can make bread, and wine, but to change them into so great a Sacrament, the God must operate. If this consecration merely refers to a symbolic or figurative presence, in what way can one say that God is working in the sacrament? Saint Augustine goes so far as to state that what sets the Eucharist apart from God’s use of other material things to give effect to His Will is that God’s very substance is to be found there. The name for the process that makes His substance present in the Eucharist is what the Catholic Church calls “Transubstantiation”.
I have presented eight different texts from the works of Saint Augustine that show how the substance of bread and wine, when consecrated, become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. There are other texts that reveal this thread of thought in Saint Augustine’s Eucharistic theology, but these I think are fairly representative of that thought. One may cherry pick passages from other texts to show that Saint Augustine also believed in a figurative or symbolic presence in the sacrament, but that is not a problem in Catholic Eucharistic theology because the Church teaches that the Eucharist is both sign and symbol. In reality such texts do not pose any problem for the Catholic position when one reads those texts in the context of Saint Augustine’s understanding of the terms “signs” and “sacraments” or for that matter, the modern-day teaching of the Church as seen from Pope Ven. Paul VI’s words in the encyclical Mysterium Fidei previously quoted above:
“[that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist] is called ‘real’ not as a way of excluding all other types of presence as if they were ‘not real’, but because it is a presence in the fullest sense: a substantial presence whereby Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present.”
Now TurretinFan, an Orthodox Presbyterian, who apparently finds the doctrine of the Eucharist as taught by the Catholic Church (as well as by Saint Augustine) to be repugnant to Scripture and contrary to common sense and reason, might ask how is it possible that Jesus be present bodily under the forms of bread and wine? I would respond with another question, how is the transformation of bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood through the invocation of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit any more difficult to accept than God Himself taking on flesh which is what happened at the Annunciation when Mary, though a virgin, conceived Our Lord? Did not Our Lord become incarnate by the power of the Word and the power of the Spirit? That God, of Divine nature and spirit, taking on flesh may seem impossible, yet Christians, whether Catholic, Orthodox and even most Protestants, adhere to it as a bedrock article of faith. God’s plan of salvation called for us to be saved by His Son taking on flesh. He continues to save through that same flesh.
For that matter, how did the Creation come about? God spoke and the world was made ex nihilo through the power of the Word and the Spirit. Once one accepts the truth that through the Word pronounced by God, creation came into being, is it any more difficult to believe that through the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit, the whole Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, comes into being under the appearances of bread and wine, a change the Church appropriately calls “Transubstantiation”.
In case someone believes that I am innovating here, I offer the following from the writings of Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine’s father in faith:
52. We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet's blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Savior operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world: “He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created.” Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them.
53. But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.
54. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: “This is My Body.” (Matthew 26:26) Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.
On the Mysteries, 9:52-54.
(N.B ~ If there is any doubt that Saint Augustine shared Saint Ambrose’s view on the Real Presence compare paragraph 54 of On the Mysteries with Saint Augustine’s Sermon 2229 and Sermon 272 previously cited.)
To sum up before we move to the next passage, I would humbly submit to you the reader that the Augustinian texts cited above conclusively establish that Saint Augustine did believe and teach the dogma of Transubstantiation.
Text: Under these forms Christ our Lord willed to bequeath His own body and the very blood that He shed on our behalf for the forgiveness of sins.
Now the translation of the text that TurretinFan uses in his discussion puts it slightly different:
It was by means of these things that the Lord Christ wished to present us with his body and blood, which he shed for our sake for the forgiveness of sins.
TF wrote: Here's an interesting problem for those who think that Augustine is speaking after the consecration: Augustine is saying that "by means of these things" Christ wanted to present us with his body and blood. "These things" refers to something other than the body and blood. As you can see, Augustine is affirming that the elements are really bread and wine, and yet they present us with Christ's body and his blood that he shed for our sake. If this is after the consecration, then Augustine definitely does not believe in Transubstantiation. But perhaps it is before the consecration, so let us continue.
Me: TurretinFan’s objection that the language used by Saint Augustine here somehow prevents an transubstantial understanding of the Eucharist, but he fails to explain why he thinks that such is the case given Saint Augustine’s view of signs and sacraments or how that this phrase is inconsistent with the modern Catholic understanding of that dogma. Let us test his claim and see if it has any resemblance to a fact.
First, we need to examine text itself. Here is the sentence in Latin:
Per ista voluit Dominus Christus commendare corpus et sanguinem suum, quem pro nobis fudit in remissionem peccatorum.
The Latin phrase which gives Mr. Fan pause is ‘per ista’. Per is a preposition that could mean ‘in’, ‘through’, ‘by’, ‘by means of’, ‘under’, or ‘during’. Ista is a pronoun that could be understood as ‘that’, ‘that of yours’, ‘that which you refer to’ or ‘such’. While per ista could mean “by means of these things,” it could also be understood a bit differently. Let’s see how some Catholic scholars and theologians translate it in context with the rest of the sentence:
1) Pope Benedict XVI:
Christus totus in capite et in corpore
The subject of the liturgy's intrinsic beauty is Christ himself, risen and glorified in the Holy Spirit, who includes the Church in his work. Here we can recall an evocative phrase of Saint Augustine which strikingly describes this dynamic of faith proper to the Eucharist. The great Bishop of Hippo, speaking specifically of the Eucharistic mystery, stresses the fact that Christ assimilates us to himself: “The bread you see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. The chalice, or rather, what the chalice contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. In these signs, Christ the Lord willed to entrust to us his body and the blood which he shed for the forgiveness of our sins. If you have received them properly, you yourselves are what you have received.” Consequently, not only have we become Christians, we have become Christ himself. We can thus contemplate God's mysterious work, which brings about a profound unity between ourselves and the Lord Jesus: one should not believe that Christ is in the head but not in the body; rather he is complete in the head and in the body. (Emphasis Added)
Sacramentum Caritatis 36. (2007)
If anyone would have had a problem with Saint Augustine’s language contradicting the dogma of Transubstantiation, it would have been a pope, and a noted Augustinian scholar to boot. However, since Pope Benedict has interpreted the phrase “per ista” “these things” to mean “In these signs,” there must be a deeper meaning to the phrase than the superficial purely carnal one TurretinFan gives to it.
2) Daniel Sheerin.
Through these Christ Our Lord wished to bequeath His Body and His blood which He shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.
[The Eucharist. Vol.7 of the Fathers of the Church series, pg. 97.]
3) William Jurgens.
Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins.
[Vol. III of the Faith of the Early Fathers, pg. 30.]
4) Philip Weller (the text above).
Under these forms Christ our Lord willed to bequeath His own body and the very blood that He shed on our behalf for the forgiveness of sins.
[Selected Easter Sermons of Saint Augustine. 1959, pg. 104.]
5) Mary Muldowney.
Through those accidents the Lord wished to entrust to us His Body and the Blood which He poured out for the remission of sins.
[The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Vol 38., at pg. 196. (Writings of Saint Augustine)]
6) Tarcisius Jan Van Bavel (another Augustinian scholar).
These things, bread and wine, are what the Lord Christ wanted to entrust to us. They are His body and blood that He shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.
[Quoted in Rolheiser, Ronald, Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist, New York: Image (2011), pg. 125.]
While some of the above translators do translate “per ista” to mean “things”, it becomes obvious reviewing all of the above translations that “things” do not refer to mere bread and wine. All view physical bread and wine as “signs”, “forms”, and “accidents” signifying something more–the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Again, in order to under Saint Augustine’s thought, we need to use his definitions. Remember Saint Augustine’s definition of sacrament: a visible physical sign concealing an invisible reality underneath it. While TurretinFan believes that this language is somehow inconsistent with the Catholic teaching of Transubstantiation, it is a mystery to me why he believes so, particularly when the above texts show that modern Catholics scholars uniformly see the bread and wine as “signs” of something more significant in the same sense that Saint Augustine does. As we have already seen above, Saint Augustine’s understanding of sacrament in his Eucharistic theology poses no difficulty whatsoever for Catholics. In contrast, the realism of Augustine’s Eucharistic theology does pose a great deal of difficulty for Protestants.
In Augustine’s Eucharistic theology:
(1) The Eucharist is adored and not only do we not sin in adoring the Eucharist, we sin by not adoring (Ennarations on Psalm 98:8).
(2) The sacrament operates ex opere operato. (See my discussion of the subject in my last paper on Sermon 272).
(3) Further, the Last Supper is considered as miraculous. Absent a miracle, how else could Jesus carry Himself in His hands? (Ennarations on Psalm 33, Sermon 1:10; Sermon 2:2).
(4) The bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ but only through consecrating prayer of the bishop and priest. (As discussed here in passim).
(5) Unworthy communicants receive the Body and Blood of Christ, but not the grace. If there was no Real Presence in the Eucharist or if one adopts the Calvinist notion of a subjective Real Presence, how could unworthy communicants receive anything more than bread and wine contrary to what Augustine attests? (Sermon 71:11, 17).
(6) Most importantly, it is offered daily as a sacrifice with Christ Himself as both the Offeror and the Offeree. (Confessions, Book 9, 12:32; 13:36; Contra Faustum 20:18; Questiones Evangeliorum ex Matthew et Lucas, Book 2:33; Sermon 227; City of God, Book 10:20; 17, 22:2; Ennarations on Psalm 33, Sermon 1:6).
(7) Not only that, as seen here and elsewhere, it is offered as a sacrifice that brings about the remission of sins including for the dead (Sermon 159:1; Sermon 172.2; City of God, Book 20:9:2; Enchiridion of Faith, Hope and Love, Chapter 110; Questions on the Heptateuch 3:57; On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Book 1, Chapter 34).
One more point that must not be overlooked is that he never once in any of his extant works criticize or correct the more openly “realistic” understanding of the Eucharist taught by his spiritual teacher and mentor, Saint Ambrose of Milan, or of his contemporaries or predecessors, such as Saint John Chrysostom. If their understanding on the power of consecration was not shared by Saint Augustine as well, is there any doubt that he would have corrected it given how Saint Augustine disputed with the Arians, Manicheans, Donatists or the Pelagians? For that matter, if Saint Augustine’s language that TurretinFan finds to be so inimical to the Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation actually undermined it, is it possible that Pope Benedict XVI or any of the other Catholic scholars or clergy listed above would not have tried to offer a rebuttal or a caveat? In short, TurretinFan’s claim is not a substitute for evidence.
Text: Provided you received this sacrament worthily, you are now the very thing you received.
Me: At this point of his catechetical instruction, Saint Augustine tells us that Baptism initiates our unity to Christ and His Church. The sacrament of Chrismation/Confirmation strengthens and deepens that unity so that it will be strong enough not only for our own needs but for the needs of others with whom we shall try to share it. The Eucharist completes our union with Christ. That is the effect or virtue of the sacrament of the Eucharist which Saint Augustine makes clear here.
When Saint Augustine would give Communion to someone for the first time, instead of saying to that person, “The Body of Christ,” he would say to that person, “Receive what you are.” For Catholics, Jesus Christ Himself is the center of our lives, the source and summit of all that we do. By receiving Our Lord in the sacrament of Eucharist, Christ enters into us, and we receive Him into ourselves. He brings His grace of new life into our souls, and makes us more and more like Him.
So many Christians talk about the necessity of having a "personal relationship" with Jesus, and yet, they fail to realize the real intimacy that comes from being united with our Lord in the Eucharist and the transformative power that comes from that intimate union with Christ. Those like TurretinFan, a true son of the Reformation, recognizes the sign in the Eucharist, but not the actual grace that comes from it. By our sharing in that Communion, we do not unite with just Our Lord, we really become united with each other. We become one body, one community, one heart, one spirit with each other.
Saint Paul uses marital language in describing Christ’s union to the Church. In Ephesians he presents marriage between a man and a woman as a type, that is, it is meant to mirror the marriage between Christ and his Church. ”For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” (Ephesians 5:31, 32). By virtue of the Real Presence in the Eucharist made a verity through Transubstantiation, we unite ourselves with Our Lord and become one flesh with Him. Sacramentally the Eucharist understood in transubstantial terms gives verity to the conjugal union between Christ and ourselves. That is what Saint Augustine is referencing here and what “modern Rome” teaches today in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1329. The Lord's Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem. The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meal, when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread, above all at the Last Supper. It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection, and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.
1331 [We call it] Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.
1382 The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord's body and blood. But the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us.
796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist. The Lord referred to himself as the "bridegroom." The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride "betrothed" to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him. The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb. "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her." He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:
This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many...whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? "The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church." And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: "So they are no longer two, but one flesh." They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union, . . . as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself "bride."
This is why Catholics call “the Eucharist the source and summit of the Christian life”. See Catechism of the Catholic Church #1324.
There are many wonderful books that explore more fully this aspect of the sacrament of the Eucharist in the Catholic life. Here are two I especially like: Rolheiser, Ronald, Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist, New York: Image (2011); Vonier, Anscar. A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist. Bethesda, Md: Zaccheus Press (2003).
Text: For as the Apostle says, "We being many are one bread, one body." That is how he interpreted the sacrament of the Lord's table, "We being many are one bread, one body." By means of this bread he impresses on you the high regard you must have for unity. For was this bread made of one grain of wheat? Were not many grains required in its making? Yet before they became one loaf each grain existed separately. Only after they were crushed and mixed with water did they form one loaf. Unless wheat is ground into flour and moistened with water, it never reaches the stage of bread.
TF wrote: Here Augustine is providing the wind-up for his extension of the Pauline metaphor. His listeners, who understand how bread is made, are doubtless nodding along.
Me: If Saint Augustine is boring them with figures of speech instead of verities, Saint Augustine’s listeners would have been nodding off given their participation in the Easter Vigil Mass a few hours earlier.
I have already discussed similar words uttered by Saint Augustine in Sermon 272 in the last article I wrote in this series. I shall not go in detail here again. What TurretinFan describes as a Pauline metaphor, I call an explanation of the power of the grace contained in the sacraments of initiation-the power that makes us Christians, the power to open our hearts to the Word of God, and the power to forgive sins and transform us into an unified community which is truly the Body of Christ Himself. These sacraments are the visible expressions of the Way, Truth and Life that is Jesus Christ Himself.
Text: So you, too, in a certain sense were. first ground by the lowly practice of fasting and by the sacred rite of exorcism.
TF wrote: The exorcism mentioned here is the denunciation of the devil and all his works.
Me: TurretinFan attempts to avoid the “Catholic-ness” of all this. While the catechumens certainly did denounce Satan and all of His works, the exorcisms mentioned here were actually sacramental external rites that the catechumens underwent as a part of their lengthy preparation for reception of the sacrament of baptism. See, for example, Sermon 216. There were several forms of exorcism the catechumens underwent during the course of their preparation for reception of the sacraments of initiation. One of the rites consisted of the signing the cross on the catechumen's forehead, laying on of hands and placing holy salt on the tongue. Another included the rite of ephphetha, a rite in which the bishop sealed the catechumens from demonic possession by blowing air into the catechumen’s face, ears, mouth and nose followed by signing them with the sign of the cross on the forehead, ears and nose. The exorcism rites and rituals performed by the bishop of Hippo and his clergy on the catechumens to prepare them for reception of the sacraments of initiation were performed often during the forty days of Lent leading up to the Easter Vigil Mass. Would TurretinFan have us believe that Saint Augustine would have put the catechumens through all this fuss over a “Pauline metaphor?” Or is it more reasonable to infer that the Church then believed that sacraments offered something more true, real and substantial? Even today, modern “Rome” still performs many of these same rites today as part of catechumenate preparation. These rites are now called “scrutinies”.
TF wrote: One wonders whether the fasting required of those who were about to be baptized was austere or whether the denunciations requested prior to baptism were particularly onerous.
Me: Rather than offering speculation, there are several books out there that describe in detail the rites and practices that leading up to the reception of the sacraments of initiation.