Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 12.



II. Origen, one of the greatest geniuses the world has ever seen, was born in the year 185 at Alexandria in Egypt. His father, the martyr St. Leonidas, caused him from his very boyhood to study daily a chapter of the Bible, and to learn how to explain it. He was not quite seventeen years old when a violent persecution broke out and his father was arrested as a Christian and put to the torture to compel him to give up his faith. Origen was so eager for martyrdom that he intended to go to the pagan magistrate and publicly proclaim himself a Christian, and thus have himself arrested and put to death for the faith, and so share his father's martyrdom. But he was prevented from doing so by his mother, who hid his clothes so well that Origen could not leave the house. But Origen wrote a beautiful and eloquent letter to his father to encourage him to suffer and die for the faith of Jesus Christ. So great was Origen's learning and ability that when he was only eighteen years old, the Bishop of Alexandria placed him in charge of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, which had acquired great celebrity under the famous Clement of Alexandria.

Origen not only kept up the renown of the school, but even greatly increased it by his able lectures on philosophy and religion. Not only Christians, but also pagans flocked to it in great numbers, even from distant countries, and very many were the conversions of pagans; and there came forth from Origen's school many saints, martyrs, prominent bishops and priests and learned teachers. He was over sixty-five years old in 251 when the persecution broke out; he was imprisoned and courageously underwent fearful tortures for the faith, and finally at the end of the persecution he was set free, indeed, but his health was shattered and he died in consequence two or three years later. The authority of Origen in testifying to the faith and practice of the Church in his time, is so weighty that no sane man can gainsay his testimony. In his Homily on the cure of the centurion's servant by our divine Savior he says:

1. " When thou enjoyest the bread and beverage of life (that is, Holy Communion), thou eatest and drinkest the body and blood of the Lord; then does the Lord enter under thy roof; and thou, therefore, humbling thyself, imitate the centurion and say: ' Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof/ When the Lord enters an unworthy recipient (communicant), He enters to pass judgment" (that is, condemnation). These words of Origen prove that the Christians of his days held the doctrine of the Real Presence, and firmly believed that the words of Jesus Christ, * This is My body, This is My blood/ were to be taken in their plain, literal sense; and that those who received Holy Communion unworthily profaned the very body and blood of Jesus Christ and, as St. Paul de clares, ' ate and drank their own condemnation/ '

2. In the early days of the Church the custom in receiving the body of our Lord in holy Communion was to receive it in one's hand; then men received it from the celebrant in their bare hand, the women in their hand covered with a veil or a fine piece of linen; and in times of persecution they were allowed to bring the Sacred Host to their homes and to communicate themselves. This was, of course, not allowed to the catechumens, but only to the baptized.

In fact, in the first four centuries none but the baptized were even instructed in the holy Eucharist and permitted to assist at holy Mass after the Offertory. In the following passage from Origen, taken from one of his sermons, he addresses only the baptized, saying: " You who are wont to assist at the divine mysteries know how, when receiving the body of Christ, you preserve it with all care and veneration, lest any particle of it should fall down, lest any part of the consecrated gift should slip away, for you charge yourself as guilty of sin, if any of it falls down through your carelessness."

This wonderful reverence of the early Christians is an unquestionable proof of their firm belief in the Real Presence. Similar passages may be found in the works of other Christian writers.

3. In another work Origen speaks of the manna, the daily food which God gave the Israelites journeying for forty years in the desert on their way to the Promised Land, as a figure of the Holy Eucharist, the food which Jesus Christ gives our soul on her way to heaven, her Promised Land. Among other things Origen says: " Therefore the manna is a food figuratively; but now the flesh of the Word of God (Jesus Christ) is in the species (of bread) a true food, as He Himself says: ' My flesh is meat indeed.'' The contrast which Origen makes between the manna and the Blessed Eucharist is an evident proof of his belief that the flesh of Jesus Christ is really present as food in the Holy Eucharist.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 11.



The principal writers in the third century who testified to the faith of the Church in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist are: the martyr, St. Hippolytus of Rome; St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage and martyr; and Origen of Alexandria, the most celebrated of the three.

I. St. Hippolytus, who suffered a most painful martyrdom in the year 235, was one of the ablest writers of his century. He refers in one of his books to the Holy Eucharist in the following words: " The Word (that is, the Son of God) prepared His precious and immaculate body and His blood, which are daily prepared (that is, offered) as a sacrifice on the mysterious divine table (altar) in commemoration of that first table of the mystic divine Supper (the Lord's Supper), saying: 'Come, eat My bread and drink the wine which I have mingled for you' He hath given us His own divine flesh and His own precious blood to eat and drink."

These words of St. Hippolytus clearly denote not merely that our divine Savior actually gave to His apostles at the Last Supper His true body and His true blood to eat and drink, but also that the very same was then done in the Church in the holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a renewal and commemoration of that which our Lord Jesus Christ had done at the Last Supper. This is a proof that the doctrine and practice of the Church in the third century was essentially the same as it is in our own time.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 10.


TESTIMONY OF TERTULLIAN: Tertullian lived in the second half of the second century and in the first quarter of the third. Before becoming a priest he had been married and had practised law. He was a man of great talent and learning. His great work is entitled, " On Prescription/' against heresies, refuting them by the argument known in judiciary proceedings by the name of Prescription, or as we popularly express it: " Possession is nine points of the law, and a person in possession of a thing cannot be lawfully dispossessed of it without clear and adequate proof that he has no right to it." In this work Tertullian proves that heresy can not claim to be the doctrine of Christ, because the Church from the beginning has possessed the true doctrine of Christ. But Tertullian, in spite of his learning and masterly ability, had failed to master himself, and therefore being disappointed in his ambitious aspiration and spurred on by his excessive rigorism, he fell into heresy, teaching among other errors that there should be no forgiveness to those who had fallen into great crimes, such as apostasy, murder, etc. He had previously refuted in his great work " On Prescription" his own errors. Nevertheless, in his former orthodox works, he is a genuine witness of the faith of the early Church in the Real Presence. " Christ," he writes, "taking bread and distributing it to His disciples, made it His own body by saying: ' This is My body/ . . . Our flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, in order that our soul may thrive on God/' By these words he clearly declares that the Holy Eucharist is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ and the spiritual nourishment of our souls. This is the very teaching of the Church on the Real Presence.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 9.


TESTIMONY OF ST. IRENAEUS, BISHOP OF LYONS AND MARTYR : This saint was born in Asia Minor about the year 130. He was a disciple of St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who had been one of the favorite disciples of St. John the Evangelist, and for this reason was looked upon with great veneration by the whole Church in the second century. Irenaeus was among the first missionaries sent into Gaul in the second half of the second century to convert its inhabitants to the Christian religion. When St. Pothinus, the first Bishop of Lyons, with a number of Christians, had suffered martyrdom for the faith, St. Irenaeus was chosen to succeed him. In the year 204, he, with thousands of Christians, suffered martyrdom in the persecution of the Emperor Septimius Severus. Among his writings is a very important book entitled, " Against Heresies," in which he enumerates and refutes the heresies of his time and takes the stand that " no one can be orthodox in the faith, unless he be in communion with the Bishop of Rome." In this work there are two passages relating to the Real Presence, in which he says: " How do those heretics say that that flesh which is nourished with the Lord's blood and body, becomes corrupt and does not receive life? . . .

How do they deny that our flesh, which is nourished with the Lord's blood and body, is capable of receiving the gift of God, namely, eternal life?" To understand the saint's meaning, we should bear in mind that among the heretics St. Irenaeus was refuting, there were some who denied the resurrection of the body and the capability of the body to enjoy the happiness of heaven. To refute them the saint recalled the fact, taught by Jesus Himself, that man's flesh (that is, body), which in Holy Communion is nourished with the body and blood of Christ, is thereby rendered capable of resurrection and of enjoying heavenly bliss, for, he says, " Did not the Savior Himself tell us that the reception of His body and blood would be the pledge of a glorious resurrection and of the consequent enjoyment of life everlasting? ' This is the will of my Father, who sent Me, that every one who seeth the Son and believeth in Him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day. I am the Bread of life. ... If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live forever, and the Bread which I will give is My flesh for the life of the world. ... He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6.) All this shows us clearly that the early Christians not only believed in the Real Presence, but also considered Holy Communion as the pledge of a glorious resurrection and of the heavenly reward, just as our Catechism now teaches us.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 8.


TESTIMONY OF ST. JUSTIN, MARTYR: Let us now turn our attention to the writings of St. Justin, who also sealed his faith with his blood. He lived in the first half of the second century. He was a philosopher of the school of Plato. After due investigation and instruction he became a Christian. After his conversion he continued to profess philosophy and wear the usual philosopher's mantle. He had many controversies with pagan philosophers, and became an acknowledged champion of the Christian religion. When accused of being a Christian, he defended his faith even before the Roman Senate. He addressed two apologies of the Christian religion to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and wrote several other works in defense of the Christian religion. His bold profession and defense of the faith were the cause of his martyrdom in the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the year 165. In Chapter 66 of his First Apology he speaks of the Holy Eucharist as follows: " This food, which we call the Eucharist, no one is permitted to partake of, unless he believes that our teaching is true and has submitted to the ablution for the forgiveness of sins (that is, has been baptized) and regeneration, and lives as Christ has commanded (that is, faithfully keeps the commandments), for we take this food, not as common bread, nor as common drink, but as Jesus Christ, our Savior, made flesh by the Logos (Word) had flesh and blood to effect our salvation, so have we been taught that also the food consecrated by the word of prayer ordained by Him, by which our blood and flesh are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. This the apostles have handed down in their memoirs, called Gospels (declaring), that they were commanded to do this by these words: 'Do this in commemoration of Me, for this is My Body'; and in the same manner He took the chalice, and gave thanks and said: ' This is My blood' and then gave them all to drink thereof."

This extract from St. Justin's First Apology testifies to the belief of the early Christians, one hundred years after our divine Savior's death, in the Real Presence. Every word of his unmistakably indicates this, for he plainly declares that in Holy Communion not mere bread and wine are received, but the very flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, " the Divine Word made flesh " for our salvation, and that our own flesh and blood are nourished in Holy Communion with the very flesh and blood of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. In fact, if St. Justin were now living among us as one of us, he could not speak more clearly and more forcibly to express the faith of the Catholic Church in the Real Presence.