Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Catholic Doctrine Of The Eucharist. Part 26.



The same arguments, therefore, by which the celebrated Lanfrank, the thirty-third Bishop of Canterbury, who was in great esteem with William the Conqueror, and who was Regent of the Kingdom during his absence, and a man of great abilities, had used to oblige Berengarius to abjure his error regarding this great mystery, ought equally to convince sincere Protestants of the present day: " A doctrine," said the Archbishop, "which has always been received by the whole Church, must undoubtedly be derived from Jesus Christ and his Apostles: now it is certain that this dogma of the real presence has been, at all times, believed by the universal Church. Ask all the nations of the earth, who make profession of believing in Jesus Christ; inquire whether the Greeks and Latins do not speak the same language respecting this article. They certainly do; and therefore it is fair to conclude that the Church has never varied in this point. Had she varied, how could there be this general uniformity of doctrine ? If," continued the learned prelate, " it had been a recent opinion, and but lately introduced in opposition to the ancient doctrine, surely some period might be assigned which gave birth to such a novelty By what miracle could the commencement and progress of such an innovation, have escaped the notice and researches of all historians ? How is it possible, that in all the Churches of the world, we find not a single trace of such an extraordinary change having taken place? Most assuredly, a change of this nature must have been noticed—a change so difficult, so surprising, and therefore so well calculated to leave in the minds of the people the most durable impressions. ¹

¹Lanfrancus, Lib. de Corpore et Sanguine Christi Domini, cap. 22. Erasmus, in his letter to Balthazzar, highly commends these writers, who, in the eleventh century, had, both by argument and authority, solidly confuted the heresy of Berengarius. Against the Sacramentarians he opposes the same arguments, namely, the words of Christ—of St. Paul—the authority of the holy Fathers— the uniform decision of Councils—and the general consent of the Christian world. The same general principles here recognised by Erasmus in support of Transubstantiation, the intelligent reader will easily apply to other points of religious controversy. I give the following extract of this interesting letter of Erasmus, from the English translation of Du Pin's Ecclesiastical History of the Sixteenth Century, p. 306.

" It is said in the gospel, This is my body, which is given for you,' and St. Paul says,  I have received of the Lord that which I have taught you: and he that shall eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus Christ unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is our foundation, which cannot be shaken. Some of the ancient doctors of the church seem to have spoken, sometimes obscurely, and sometimes differently, of this sacrament. Their obscurity ought to be attributed either to the depth of the mystery, or to the precautions which they took; for as they were often speaking before a mixt assembly of Jews, Gentiles, and Christians, they would not give that which was holy unto dogs. The seeming differences that are found among them, proceed from this—that the sacramental species are sometimes called symbol*, sometimes the communion; —besides, because the body of Jesus Christ is hidden under those signs, that which belongs to the signs is attributed to the body, as to be broken and bruised. The body, then, which is in the sacrament, is the same in substance with that which was nailed to the cross; but it is not the same as to its qualities, because it is glorified and spiritual. —In a word, by the body of Christ is sometimes meant his natural body, which was born of the blessed Virgin, and sometimes his mystical body, which is the church; and-which has made some readers, through inadvertency, believe that the fathers said some things which did not agree together. But having so positive a testimony from Jesus Christ and St. Paul, and being assured that the ancient fathers, to whom the church, with good reason, has ascribed so much authority, have unanimously acknowledged that the true substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ is in the Eucharist; and the constant authority of councils, and the unanimous consent of Christians being joined to these, let us unanimously agree about this divine mystery, and let us here, under this veil, take the bread and cup of our Lord, till we eat and drink it in another manner in the kingdom of heaven. And would to God, that those who have followed the errors of Berengarius, would imitate his repentance, and that their obstinacy would happily yield to the truth which is taught in the gospel. There are an infinite number of questions concerning this sacrament, as how transubstantiation is wrought, &c. But it is sufficient for the ordinary sort of Christians to believe that the true body and blood of Christ are there; that they cannot be divided, nor subject to any accident, whatever may happen to the species. —In a word, we ought to satisfy all the difficulties that can arise in our minds, by having recourse to the infinite power of God, to whom nothing is impossible, and to whom every thing is easy. We ought likewise to consider the qualities of a glorified body, and especially those of the body of Jesus Christ, nor have we any thing to do, but worthily to celebrate this mystery according to our faith, and to make that faith appear by our actions."