The body which is born of the virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s body and blood. But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy mother of God through, the Spirit. And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energizes and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out. But one can put it well thus, that just as in nature the bread by the eating and the wine and the water by the drinking are changed into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, and do not. become a different body from the former one, so the bread of the table and the wine and the water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, and are not two but one and the same (this may appear to be subtle and clever reasoning on the part of John of Damascus). It is true, of course, that the process whereby our bodies are strengthened by the bread and water we eat and drink is something which far transcends our human understanding. But we should bear in mind the following. The bread and water we eat and drink are earthly substances and our bodies are earthly. Hence, we eat bread and drink water and wine and these substances are used by the Lord to strengthen our mortal bodies, then no radical change of the substances occurs. But when the bread and wine we eat and drink are changed into the body and blood of the living God (John of Damascus writes, does he not, that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s body and blood) then a radical change does occur. And it makes no difference whether this is applied to Christ’s human body or to His divinity. If applied to His divinity then it must be plain that a radical change occurs if and when the bread and wine are changed into His body and blood. But we must remember that Christ’s glorified human body is no longer earthly but heavenly and, spiritual—see I Cor. 15:42-45. And then it is also true that, when earthly bread and wine are changed into this heavenly and spiritual body of the Lord, a radical change occurs.—H.V.).
Wherefore to those who partake worthily with faith, it is for the remission of sins and for life everlasting and for the safe-guarding of soul and body; but to those who partake unworthily without faith, it is for chastisement and punishment, just as also the death of the Lord became to those who believe life and incorruption for the enjoyment of eternal blessedness; while to those who do not believe and to the murderers of the Lord it is for everlasting chastisement and punishment.
The bread and the wine are not merely figures of the body and blood of Christ (God forbid!) but the deified body of the Lord itself: for the Lord has said, “This is My body,” not, this is a figure of My body: and “My blood,” not, a figure of My blood. And on a previous occasion He had said to the Jews, Except ye eat of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. For My flesh is meat indeed and My blood is drink indeed. And again, He that eateth Me, shall live. (We can well understand why the Roman Catholic Church should appeal to statements such as these. Here the writer declares very plainly and without reservation that the bread and wine are changed into the deified body of the Lord itself. And he appeals to the fact that the Lord speaks here of the flesh of the Son of Man, and also overlooking the fact that, should these words be explained literally, as they would maintain, then they would have to be interpreted as referring to the body of the Son of Man prior to His final suffering and death upon the cross. But we can surely understand how these words give support to the Roman Catholic theory of the present day.—H.V.).
Wherefore with all fear and a pure conscience and certain faith let us draw near and it will assuredly be to us as we believe, doubting nothing. Let us pay homage to it in all purity both of soul and body: for it is twofold. Let us draw near to it with an ardent desire, and with our hands held in the form of the cross let. us receive the body of the crucified one: and let us apply our eyes and lips and brows and partake of the divine coal, in order that the fire of the longing, that is in us, with the additional heat derived from the coal may utterly consume our sins and illumine our hearts, and that we may be inflamed and deified by the participation in the divine fire. Isaiah saw the coal. But coal is not plain wood but wood united with fire: in like manner also the bread of the communion is not plain bread but bread united with divinity. But a body which is united with divinity is not one nature, but has one nature belonging to the body and another belonging to the divinity that is united to it, so that the compound is not one nature but two.
With bread and wine Melchisedek, the priest of the most high God, received Abraham on his return from the slaughter of the Gentiles. That table pre-imaged this mystical table, just at that priest was a type and image of Christ, the true high-priest. For thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek. Of this bread the show-bread was an image. This surely is that pure and bloodless sacrifice the Lord through the prophet said is offered to Him from the rising to the setting of the sun. (Notice that here we have an expression which the Roman Catholic Church of today has Also incorporated into its teaching, namely: the pure and bloodless sacrifice of the Lord.—H.V.)
The body and blood of Christ are making for the support of our soul and body, without being consumed or suffering corruption, not making for the draught (God forbid!) but for our being and preservation, a protection against all kinds of injury, a purging from all uncleanness: should one receive base gold, they purify it by the critical burning lest in the future we be condemned with this world. They purify from diseases and all kinds of calamities; according to the words of the divine apostle, For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. This too is what he says, So that he that partaketh of the body and blood of Christ unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself. Being purified by this, we are united to the body bf Christ and to His Spirit and become the body of Christ.
This bread is the first-fruits of the future bread which is epiousios, i.e., necessary for existence. For the word epiousion signifies either the future, that is Him who is for a future age, or else Him of whom we partake for the preservation of our essence. Whether then it is in this, sense or that, it is fitting to speak so of the Lord’s body. For the Lord’s flesh is life-giving spirit because it was conceived of the life-giving Spirit. For what is born of the Spirit is spirit. But I do not say this to take away the nature of the body, but I wish to make clear its life-giving and divine power.
But if some persons called the bread and the wine antitypes of the body and blood of the Lord, as did the divinely inspired Basil, they said so not after the consecration but before the consecration, so calling the offering itself. (This is another statement of John of Damascus which gives considerable support to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. When Basil spoke of the bread and wine as antitypes of the body and blood of the Lord, this is evidently no support for the doctrine of transubstantiation, inasmuch as he distinguished sharply between the bread and wine and the body of the Lord. But John of Damascus declares that this statement of Basil refers to the bread and wine before: the consecration and therefore before they are changed into the body and blood of Christ. Hence, after the consecration the bread and wine are no longer mere antitypes of Christ’s body and blood.—H.V.)
Participation is spoken of; for through it we partake of the divinity of Jesus. Communion, too, is spoken of, and it is an actual communion, because through it we have communion with Christ and share in His flesh and His divinity: yea, we have communion and are united with one another through it. For since we partake of one bread, we all become one body of Christ and one blood, and members one of another, being of one body with Christ.
With all our strength, therefore, let us beware lest we receive communion from or grant it to heretics; Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, saith the Lord, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest we become partakers in their dishonor and, condemnation. For if union is in truth with Christ and with one another, we are assuredly voluntarily united also with all those who partake with us. For this union is effected voluntarily and not against our inclination.For we are all one body became we partake of the one bread, as the divine apostle says.
Further, antitypes of future things are spoken of, not as though they were not in reality Christ’s body and blood, but that now through them we partake of Christ’s divinity, while then we shall partake mentally through the vision alone.—end of quotation.
In connection with this quotation of John of Damascus I would like to make a remark about that author’s use of the word “antitype,” as in the last paragraph. He speaks of “antitypes of future things,” and he evidently refers to the bread and. wine whereof we partake in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. I am not in a position to say whether this word, antitype, was used in former times in the sense in which it is used m this quotation. The word does not have that connotation today. We speak of types and antitypes. The dictionary defines this word as that which a type or symbol represents, the original of a type, and the dictionary continues by adding: specifically, a person or event in the New Testament prefigured by one in the Old Testament. This is the meaning which the word has today. Hence, the bread and wine are not antitypes but types or symbols. Christ is the antitype, that whereof the bread and wine are symbols, their original.
And another remark which we wish to make has already been made during this quotation of John of Damascus. We can easily understand how the view of transubstantiation came more and more into prominence and why the Roman Catholic Church could appeal to a quotation of this nature. John speaks of the bloodless sacrifice of the Lord. He also declares that the bread and the wine are not merely figures of the body and blood of Christ but the deified body of the Lord itself. And he interprets the well-known passage: “This is My body,” in harmony with the view of transubstantiation. Later we will have opportunity to refer to the emphasis which Martin Luther, the German Reformer, placed upon this passage. In our following articles we will present the development of this doctrine concerning the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper as it appears in the writings of Philip Schaff.