Continuing with our article in the previous issue of theStandard Bearer, to the effect that the doctrine of transubstantiation was not the accepted doctrine of the Church during this particular period of the history of the Church, we concluded with the remark that we would quote from Reinhold Seeberg as he has written on Augustine’s view of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. We quote him as follows: “The peculiarities of the separate sacraments may be briefly stated. Baptism, as the sacramentum remissionsis peccatorum, works the forgiveness of sins, primarily the forgiveness of the guilt of original concupiscence; in this consists its chief efficacy. Augustine frequently speaks of a blotting out of sin (e.g., by baptism . . . sins are destroyed . . .). Discrimination is to be made between this forgiveness once granted and the recurring of daily sins in response to the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Augustine, however, made the latter dependent upon the former: “by that which is given once it comes to pass that pardon of any sins whatsoever, not only before but also afterward, is granted to believers.” Prayer, alms, and good works would bring no forgiveness to the Christian if he were not baptized. But this idea was obscured by the penitential discipline land by the relatively unimportant place of the forgiveness of sins in the consciousness of Augustine. In contradistinction from Ambrose (e.g., “through the mystery of the sacred prayer they are transfigured into flesh and blood”), the symbolical character of the sacraments comes in Augustine into distinct prominence: “the Lord did not hesitate to say, ‘This is my body,’ when He gave the sign of His body. The blessing; or gift, of the sacrament is conceived in harmony with this. The body of the Lord is the mystic body, or the church: “hence he wishes the food and drink to be understood as the fellowship of His body and of His members, which is the holy church (or, this is, therefore, to eat that food and to drink that drink—to remain in Christ and to have Him remaining in us). Augustine can even say that the eating of the body of the Lord is “delightfully and profitably to store away in memory that his flesh was wounded and crucified for us.” It is true, there are not wanting passages in which Augustine expresses himself differently and more fully, speaking of the reception of the body of Christ; but his real thought is even here not that which the words seem to convey, although he still has in mind the bestowal and reception of a real gift. Thus Augustine’s theory of the Lord’s Supper has more of a really religious character through his doctrines of baptism and grace, since the personal nature of fellowship with God here finds due recognition. It is to be observed, further, that in the view of Augustine, Christ is, indeed, omnipresent according to his divine nature, but according to his human nature he is in one place in heaven. In this again we see the model after which the medieval theories were patterned. The genius of Augustine is manifest in his interpretation of the sacrifice of the mass: the sanctified congregation presents itself to God in good works, under its head, Christ. “This is the sacrifice of Christians: Many one body in Christ.” Of which thing (the sacrifice of Christ) he wished the sacrifice of the church (which, since it is the body of Him, the head, teaches that it offers itself through him) to be a daily sacrament (symbolical imitation).”—end of quote.
The idea of sacrifice.
The idea of sacrifice, is still emphasized in connection with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper during this second period even as it received emphasis during the first period of the Church in the New Dispensation. However, the term does not convey the same meaning in this period which the Roman Catholic Church attaches to it. It was rather conceived of as a thank offering, consisting in prayers, alms, etc. This appears from the quotation from Augustine which appeared in our previous article in which the eminent church father declares that the sanctified congregation presents itself to God in good works under its Head, Christ, adding: “This is the sacrifice of Christians: Many one body in Christ.” Toward the end of this period, however, Gregory the Great speaks of the eucharist as a sacrifice which we offer.
Of interest is the view of the eucharist as set forth by John of Damascus. John of Damascus was the last great theologian of the Eastern Church. He, the last of the Greek Fathers and the most authoritative theologian for the whole Eastern Church, was born presumably in Damascus before 700 A.D. and in all probability died shortly before 754. Reading this lengthy quotation from John of Damascus the readers should have no difficulty recognizing a striking similarity between the view as set forth by this last Eastern theologian and the idea of the Popish Mass in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Eucharist by John of Damascus.
God, who is good and altogether good and more than good, who is goodness throughout, by reason of the exceeding riches of His goodness did not suffer Himself, that is His nature, only to be good, with no other to participate therein, but because of this He made first the spiritual and heavenly powers: next the visible and sensible universe: next man with his spiritual and sentient nature. All things, therefore, which he made, share in His goodness in respect of their existence. For He Himself is existence to all, since all things that are, are in Him, not only because it was He that brought them out of nothing into being, but because His energy preserves and maintains all that He made; and in especial the living creatures. For both in that they exist and in that they enjoy life they share in His goodness. But in truth those of them that have, reason have a still greater share in that, both because of what has been already said and alsobecause of the very reason which they possess. For they are somehow more clearly akin to Him, even though He is incomparably higher than they.
Man, however, being endowed with the reason and free will, received the power of continuous union with God through his own choice, if indeed he should abide in goodness, that is in obedience to his maker. Since, however, he transgressed the command of his creator and became liable to death and corruption, the creator and maker of our race, because of His bowels of compassion, took on our likeness, becoming man in all things but without sin, and was united to our nature. For since He bestowed on us His own image and His own spirit and we did not keep them safe, He took Himself a share in our poor and weak nature, in order that He might cleanse us and make us incorruptible, and establish us once more as partakers of His divinity.
For it was fitting that not only the first-fruits of our nature should partake in the higher good but every man who wished it, and that a second birth should take place and that the nourishment should be new and suitable to the birth, and thus the measure of perfection be attained. Through His birth, that is, His incarnation, and baptism and passion and resurrection, He delivered our nature from the sin of our first parent and death and corruption, and became the first fruits of the resurrection, and made Himself the way and image and pattern, in order that we, too, following in His footsteps, may become sons and heirs of God and joint heirs with Him. He gave us therefore, as I said, a second birth in order that, just as we who are born of Adam are in his image and are the heirs of the curse and corruption, so also being born of Him we may be in His likeness and heirs of His incorruption and blessing and glory.
Now seeing that this Adam is spiritual, it was meet that both the birth and likewise the food should be spiritual too. But since we are of a double and compound nature, it is meet that both the birth should be double and likewise the food compound. We were therefore given a birth by water and Spirit: I mean, by the holy baptism: and the food is the very bread of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven. For when He was about to take on Himself a voluntary death for our sakes, on the night on which He gave Himself up, He laid a new covenant on His holy disciples and apostles, and through them on all who believe on Him. In the upper chamber, then, of holy and illustrious Sion, after He had eaten the ancient Passover with His disciples and had fulfilled the ancient covenant, He washed His disciples’ feet in token of the holy baptism. Then having broken bread, He gave it to them saying, Take, eat, this is My body broken for you for the remission of sins. Likewise also He took the cup of wine and water and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it: for this is My blood, the blood of the New Testament which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do ye in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the death of the Son of man and confess His resurrection until He come.
If then the Word of God is quick and energizing, and the Lord did all that He willed; if He said, Let there be light and there was light, let there be a firmament and there was a firmament; if the heavens were established by the Word of the Lord and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth; if the heaven and the earth, water and fire and air and the whole glory of these, and, in sooth, this most noble creature, man, were perfected by the Word of the Lord; if God the Word of His own will became man and the pure and undefiled blood of the holy and ever virginal one made His. flesh without the aid of seed, can He not then make the bread His body, and the wine and water His blood? He said in the beginning, Let the earth bring forth grass, and even until this present day, when the rain comes it, brings forth its proper fruits, urged on and strengthened by the divine command. God said, This is my body, and This is my blood, and this do ye in remembrance of Me, And so it is at His omnipotent command until He come: for it was in this sense that He said until He come: and the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit becomes through the invocation the rain to this new tillage. For just as God made all that He made by the energy of the Holy Spirit, so also now the energy of the Spirit performs those things that are supernatural and which it is not possible to comprehend unless by faith alone. How shall this be, said the holy virgin, seeing I know not a man? And the archangel Gabriel answered her: The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee. And now you ask, how the bread became Christ’s body and the wine and water Christ’s blood. And I say unto thee, “The Holy Spirit is present and does those things which surpass reason and thought.”
Further, bread and wine are employed. For God knoweth man’s infirmity: for in general man turns away discontentedly from what is not well-worn by custom. And, so with His usual indulgence He performs His supernatural works through familiar objects. And just as, in the case of baptism, since it is man’s custom to wash himself with water and anoint himself with oil, He connected the grace of the Spirit with the oil and the water and made it the water of regeneration. In like manner since it is man’s custom to eat and to drink water and wine, He connected His divinity with these and made them His body and blood in order that we may rise to what is supernatural through what is familiar and natural. The Lord willing, we will continue with this quotation from John of Damascus in our following article.