Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 13.



III. St. Cyprian was converted from paganism to Christianity by Cecilius, a priest of Carthage. In the course of time he was ordained a priest, and after a few years he became Bishop of Carthage, and governed his diocese with great zeal and wisdom. When the persecution broke out in the year 251, after the Church had been left in peace for thirty-eight years and the number of Christians had greatly increased in the meantime, then the saying of the prophet was verified: " Thou hast multiplied the nation, and hast not increased the joy " (Is. 9:3), for the faith, virtue and constancy of the Christians did not increase in the same proportion as their number. Far from it, for in that persecution many apostatized, especially in Northern Africa. Some openly apostatized, gave up the faith and actually took part in the idolatrous pagan rites, rather than suffer the torments of martyrdom. Others even forestalled their arrest as Christians and went and declared themselves as pagans and offered incense to the idols. Others again betook themselves to the magistrates, and bribed them to give them a certificate of having offered incense to the idols, although they had not done so. When the persecution began to relax, the majority of these apostates, without doing any of the penances required for such crimes, insisted on assisting at the Holy Sacrifice and partaking of Holy Communion. Some priests were weak enough to yield to their demands. Moreover, a number of the apostates had obtained from one of the martyrs, after he had already undergone torments, and before his execution, a writing recommending the indulgence of the Church towards said apostates, and these per sons insisted that, by virtue of said recommendation, they should be dispensed from all penance and be admitted at once to receiving Holy Communion.

St. Cyprian, as his duty required, did all he could by preaching and by writing to put an end to such abuses and profanations. He relates a number of examples of divine punishment of the guilty. A man was struck dumb immediately after his apostasy. Another apostate, having tasted a piece of one of the victims of the pagan sacrifices, at once went mad and gnawed off his own tongue. In St. Cyprian's own presence an infant, that his nurse had brought to a pagan altar to taste of the idolatrous sacrifice, was brought to receive Holy Communion, as was often done in the early ages of the Church in the case of infants; but at once, as if in great torture, it threw up the Sacred Species. An old woman, who had apostatized, fell down in convulsions in venturing to receive Holy Communion. In his writings against the apostates, St. Cyprian declares that " these people assail the body of the Lord; they do violence to His body and blood; and now with their hands (in which the Holy Eucharist is placed) and mouth they sin far more against the Lord than when they denied Him" (that is, apostatized).

The belief in the Real Presence can hardly be more strongly or more clearly expressed. By receiving Holy Communion unworthily, says St. Cyprian, those apostates attack and do violence to the Lord Himself; but this they could not do unless the Lord's body and blood are really and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. Moreover, how could an unworthy Communion be a greater crime than the denial of Jesus Christ through fear of torment, if the Savior's true body and true blood are not really present in the Holy Eucharist?

In another work St. Cyprian gives an explanation of the Lord's Prayer. In explaining the petition: " Give us this day our daily bread," St. Cyprian says: " We beg our bread, that is, Christ Himself, that He may be given to us every day, in order that we, who remain and live in Christ, may not recede from His sanctification and His body." By these words St. Cyprian asserts his belief in the Real Presence, and that he considers the Holy Eucharist as the daily nourishment of our soul, and as a necessary means to keep our soul in sanctification, that is, in the state of grace, and preserve it as a living member of the body of Christ, that is, of the Church, of which Jesus Himself is the head and we are the members. Do not these words of St. Cyprian remind us of our late Holy Father Pius X who so strenuously recommends to us all daily Holy Communion ?

St. Cyprian in the next persecution could have concealed himself, but he would not and was there fore apprehended and in the year 258 suffered martyrdom by being beheaded for the faith he had so zealously upheld and defended.

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.