Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Promise Of Our Divine Saviour to give to men His very Flesh to eat and His very Blood to drink. part 6


St. Paul refers to the Real Presence in another passage of the same epistle in which he says: " The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all who partake of one bread " (i Cor. 10: 16, 17). 

In this passage St. Paul states in the plainest words that the chalice really and substantially contains the blood of Christ, and that the real body of the Lord is received under the appearances of bread. But this is not all. St. Paul even goes so far as to declare that those who partake of the Eucharist become one body with Christ and with one another. In his epistles he maintains that the Christians with Jesus Christ form but one (mystical) body, of which Jesus is the Head and the individual Christians are the members. And here he tells us that the Eucharist, that is, the body of Christ received by the faithful, is the vital principle of the Christian body, the bond of union between all who partake of it and makes of them but one (mystical) body; and therefore the reception of the Eucharist is rightly called Communion, the efficient bond of the common union of the faithful with one another in Christ. Those who deny the Real Presence, deny not only the clear teaching of St. Paul, but also these effects attributed to Holy Communion by St. Paul who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, " the Spirit of Truth." 

Only a divine food is able to produce such admirable supernatural results of the mystical union of the faithful in one body among themselves and with Jesus Christ.

Next to the Scriptural proofs of the Real Presence, omitting for the present the dogmatical definitions of the Church, comes the testimony of all the various ancient liturgies. All of them, even the most ancient that can be traced back to the apostolic age, all testify to the faith in the Real Presence. The very offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass prescribed in them proves beyond all doubt the belief in the Real Presence. Moreover, the ancient liturgies and writings of Fathers of the Church testify to the faith of the primitive Christians in the Real Presence. What we now believe about the Real Presence and the other doctrines of the Catholic Church, is identically the very same that has been believed in all ages of the Church from the time of the apostles, for, like truth itself which is ever one and unchangeable, the doctrines of the Catholic Church have always been the same and have ever remained unchanged. This is easily proved by the testimony, the writings of the Fathers of the Church. But some one may say: " What do I care about what those ancient writers, the Fathers of the Church, wrote on any subject? 

Their views can have no bearing on what we are to believe." To such a one we give this answer: The writings of the Fathers of the Church are of the greatest importance in religious matters, for they testify as to what was the faith of the Church at the time in which they were written; they are the competent witnesses of what the Christians believed in their time. He who reads these writings, finds out exactly what the Christians then believed, how they understood the various texts of Scripture, the words of our divine Savior and the writings of the apostles. The writings of the Fathers of the Church are unquestionable witnesses that, like Jesus Christ, her Founder, the Catholic Church is " the same yesterday, today and for ever " (Hebr. 13:8). Why should we not be allowed to adduce the testimony of the Fathers of the Church in favor of our holy faith? Why should we be permitted to believe historians narrating events they themselves have not witnessed, and be forbidden to believe and adduce the testimony of those learned, holy and conscientious writers who testify to what they themselves have seen and personally known and believed. If lawyers and judges prove their views and their decisions by adducing the testimony of those who framed the laws and of those who preceded them on the bench, why should not we be allowed to prove the oneness and sameness, in one word, the perfect identity of the Catholic faith in all centuries by the testimony and decisions of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church? If we find in their writings the identical doctrines which the Catholic Church now holds and teaches, it is a most conclusive proof that the faith of the Catholic Church has never varied, that it is unchangeable, and, therefore, true. This is in accordance with the teaching of even human reason and common sense.

The testimonies of the Fathers of the Church on the Real Presence would be far more numerous than they are, had it not been for the " discipline of the secret." In what did this discipline consist? The ancient pagans, like our modern atheists, were in their views so gross, coarse and material, that the Church, enlightened by God and by a wise experience, did not consider it prudent to publish to the pagan world some of the deepest mysteries of divine revelation, for fear of their being entirely misunderstood and shockingly misrepresented. The ineffable mystery of the Real Presence was one of these; its very meaning was entirely beyond the grasp, the comprehension of the base minds of the pagans, just as it is now perfectly incomprehensible to our modern infidels. When writing on or referring to the Blessed Eucharist the early Christians of the first three centuries were usually so guarded in their words, that the pagans could not understand what they were referring to. Even converts were not instructed in this mystery until they had been baptized and had given proofs of fidelity to their faith. And yet history tells us that something of this grand mystery leaked out among the pagans, for they accused the Christians of feasting, at their religious meetings, on the flesh of an infant. Such was the explanation the pagans gave of the faith of the Christians in the Real Presence and of Holy Communion. This very calumny is a capital and conclusive proof of the faith of the early Christians in the Real Presence.

In some of the most ancient liturgies, containing the prayers, ceremonies, etc., of the Mass, we find, after the prayer to be delivered from evil, this invocation : " Christ Jesus, we eat Thy body crucified for us, we drink Thy blood shed for us." The meaning conveyed by these words clearly denotes faith in the Real Presence. The Fathers of the Church in their writings warn their readers and hearers not to credit the testimony of their corporal senses, but to believe unhesitatingly and firmly the words of Christ declaring that what seems to be only bread and wine, is really His body and His blood; they admonish the faithful that Jesus wished to give Himself to us under the appearances of bread in order to enable us to submit our reason to faith in His words, and not to yield to the testimony of our senses, for were He to give Himself to us in His human nature as our food, it would be too repulsive to us. The Holy Fathers all declare the Blessed Eucharist a great miracle, an awe-inspiring mystery, an adorable, living inconsumable food, a most holy and incorruptible Bread, and that the Lord Himself enters into all who eat it. They unanimously require all Christians to adore, that is, to pay divine honor to the Blessed Eucharist. They expressly teach that they who receive it, are incorporated in Christ, that Christ, at the Last Supper, after consecrating the bread and wine, actually held Himself in His hands; that they who hold the Eucharist in their hands, really handle Jesus Christ Himself, and that the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion impress immortality in the recipients and, as it were, ferment in them into a glorious resurrection at the last day. The teaching of the Holy Fathers on the Blessed Eucharist is therefore identical with the faith and teaching of the Catholic Church in our own day.

We can draw another proof of the truth and unchangeableness of the Catholic doctrine of the Blessed Eucharist from the very enemies of the Catholic Church. All the ancient Christian sects, separated from the Catholic Church, that believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, also believe most firmly in the doctrine of the Real Presence; this proves that when they, each in its own time, left the Church, the universal belief of the Church in the Real Presence was the same as it is now; hence the faith of the Church in the Blessed Eucharist has never changed, and, consequently, it is the same as Jesus Himself taught His Apostles, and is true beyond all reasonable doubt.