And, in the second place, we may also state that, although the term, “sacrifice,” was used in connection with the celebration of this sacrament, it was used in an altogether different sense than its present use in the Roman Catholic Church. According to this early view of the Church, not Christ was offered but the Church offered itself, its prayers and thanksgiving, etc. Cyprian, however, because of his hierarchical tendencies (it was his basic teaching that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church is in the bishop, and that salvation without the Church and the bishop is impossible) already expresses the idea that not the Church but the priest offers an imitation of the sacrifice of the Lord. 

As far as the second period of the Church is concerned, we may remark that the doctrine of Transubstantiation was not the accepted doctrine of the Church at this time. The union of Christ and the signs in the Lord’s Supper were often compared to the union of the two natures in Christ. Corresponding to the mysterious union between the two natures of Christ in one and the same person, was the idea of a mystical connection subsisting between the body of Christ and the bread in the Lord’s Supper, and between His blood and the wine. The deeply mysterious and often fantastic rhetoric of the fathers, the mysterious language in which they often express themselves makes it extremely difficult to understand them. But we may definitely say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation was surely not at this time as yet a part of the accepted doctrine of the Church. Eusebius of Caesarea (bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and father of church history) must have spoken of thesymbols of Jesus’ body and blood. And, in connection with John 6, he must have stated that Jesus’ words are His flesh and blood. This is a far cry from the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation. And Augustine writes that Christ’s declaration that He would give us His flesh to eat must not be understood in the literal sense: “His grace is not consumed by tooth biting.” And as far as the idea of the sacrifice is concerned, the term, although used, did not convey the same meaning which the Roman Catholic Church of the present day attaches to it. 

Rome’s view of the Eucharist today, briefly stated

The word “eucharist,” by which one of Rome’s seven sacraments is designated, is derived from the Greek word which means “gratitude, thanksgiving.” As such it was the common Greek and ecclesiastical designation of the Lord’s Supper. When, therefore, we speak of the Eucharist we refer, we understand, to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. 

The Roman Catholic Church, we must understand, distinguishes between the Popish Mass and the Popish Communion. These are not to be identified. Luther accepted, in principle, the Roman Catholic Communion, but he did not accept the Popish Mass. Yet, according to Rome, they are inseparably connected. The Mass is always first, is called, with Communion, the Holy Eucharist, makes Communion possible. 

The Roman Catholic Mass is constituted of three elements. There is, first of all, the element of consecration, the blessing of the signs. Upon the Roman Catholic altar, peculiar to all Roman Catholic churches, are the bread and the wine. The bread is called the “host,” having the form and size of a “gingersnap” cookie. This consecration effects the change of these substances. This must not be understood as though the Roman Catholic priest effects this change, but the change is brought about by God through the prayer of the priest. Through this blessing of the priest the host and the wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. And then it is not Jesus’ earthly flesh and blood that now appear upon the altar, but the Savior as exalted, as He has become grace and life, omnipresent, almighty, spiritual and heavenly. That Jesus Christ, full of grace and life, takes the place of the host and the wine, and this must be understood in the sense that every bit of the host is the full and complete Christ. 

The second element of the Popish Mass is that of the sacrifice, intimately connected with the element of consecration. Inasmuch as Rome views death as separation of body and soul and the host and wine lie separate upon the altar, Rome can speak of Jesus’ death in the sacrifice in the Mass. We must understand that this sacrifice is not another sacrifice than that upon the cross, but it is the cross-death as continued in an unbloody manner. Only, this continual sacrifice is just as real as the Lord’s death upon the cross. The cross has power only inasfar as the Lord repeats His death throughout the ages. This conception of the Popish Mass is wholly in harmony with Rome’s doctrine of justification. Rome advocates a justification upon the condition of faith, regards faith .as the means whereby we perform good works which merit justification. Rome curses anyone who denies that faith has any meritorious value, can merit eternal life, can effect our justification before God. However, this doing of good works is possible only by the grace of Jesus Christ who must be imparted unto us. Man must eat the sacrificed Christ, and thereunto Christ offers Himself daily. Through that eating and drinking of Christ we receive daily the power to do good works, and so we are justified before God.

The third element in the Popish Mass is that of worship and adoration. This lies in the very nature of the case. We must remember that, upon the standpoint of Rome, Rome does not worship the human nature of Christ. The full and complete Christ lies upon the altar. This means that Jesus, according to body and soul, but also according to His Divine nature, lies sacrificed upon the altar. Rome, therefore, worships, not the bread and wine (we understand this as from the viewpoint of Rome), but the Divine nature of the Christ. There is no bread and no wine upon the altar; these elements have merely the form and taste and effect of bread and wine. The Roman Catholic claims to eat and drink actually the Lord Jesus Christ. 


The Roman Catholic development of the doctrine of Transubstantiation implies that, according to Rome, the heart of the Eucharist was shifted from the sacrament to the sacrifice. We will recall that the term, “sacrifice,” had already been in use in the earlier years of the Church in the New Dispensation, but then this term did not have the meaning which it now received. This doctrine of Transubstantiation was fixed as a dogma by Rome at the fourth Lateran Council in 1215, during the pontificate of Innocent III. But the concept as such had already been taught and set forth a few hundred years before this council convened. Paschasius Radbertus was the first to teach unequivocally the complete dogma of Transubstantiation. 

Paschasius Radbertus (as set forth in the New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia). Paschasius Radbertus was a medieval abbot who was born at or near Soissons (some fifty-six miles northeast of Paris) about 786, and who died at Corbie (nine miles east of Amiens) about 865. He lived therefore in the ninth century and was one of the most distinguished writers of the Carolingian period (of or pertaining to the dynasty or family of Charlemagne or a sovereign in that line—H.V.). The little that is known of his life is derived from scattered notices in his own writings and from a panegyric on him by Bishop Engelmodus of Soissons. Brought up by the Benedictine nuns of Soissons, he entered the monastery of Corbie in Picardy under the Abbot Adalhard, and gained early distinction for his theological learning, piety, and moral enthusiasm; his range of familiarity with classical authors was remarkable for that period, also with the Fathers and the leading authorities of the Eastern and Western churches; but he probably knew neither Greek nor Hebrew. Because of his wealth of learning he became the instructor of the young monks at Corbie and had a large number of distinguished pupils; but notwithstanding his eminence he never became a priest. He was abbot in 844-851, but retired on account of difficulties arising from efforts to reform the lax discipline. Of his writings are extant his expositions of Matthew in twelve books, and other writings . . . . . 

In exegesis Radbertus was not original even in aim. His work on faith, hope, and love shows him to be a follower of St. Augustine, and it consists mostly of repetitions of the latter’s sentences. His character as traditionalist appears still more pronounced in De corpore, the first comprehensive treatise on the Lord’s Supper written in the Christian Church, and the cause of the first controversy over the Eucharist, establishing his reputation for orthodoxy securely in the eyes of the future. 

Radbertus combined the symbolic idea of Augustine with the transformation doctrine of others; but he was thoroughly convinced himself that Augustine believed’ that the true historic body of Christ was present in the Eucharistic elements. Such thoughts of Radbertus as these exhibit Augustine’s standpoint: Christ and his flesh constitute not a material but a spiritual and divine sustenance and serve only as objects of a purely spiritual partaking (V. 1-2). To eat the flesh of the Lord and drink his blood means nothing else than that the believer abides in Christ and Christ in him (vi-vii). Only faith enables to transcend the visible and to apprehend from within what the fleshly mouth does not touch or the fleshly eye does not see (viii. 2). Christ is food only for the elect, and only they are worthy to partake of him who are of his body (xxxi. 5, vii. 13. The partaking of the flesh of Christ by the unworthy seemed to him impossible, hence he accepted Augustine’s distinction between the sacrament or mystery and the virtue of the same. Under the term virtue he included not, as in his later works, only the vitalizing power of the flesh of Christ, but, in Augustinian mode of speech, what was offered in the symbols to faith, or the content of the sacrament, that is, the flesh of Christ itself with the fullness of his saving virtues. Accordingly, the unworthy receive not anything but bread and wine. The priest indeed distributes to all alike; the high priest, however, distinguishes between the worthy and unworthy; and the latter receive the sacrament or mystery only to judgment, the former receive the virtue. Spiritual sustenance in Christ effects the forgiveness of sins (iv. 3, vi. 1, xv. 3)) union with Christ (iii. 4), and spiritual sustenance of the whole man to eternal life (xi. 2-3, xix. 1-2, xx. 2). So far the points are Augustinian; parallel with these he places a thought-series teaching a transubstantiation represented in the pseudo-Ambrosian writings. This teaching is carried by him to its full conclusion. What by faith is received in the sacrament is the body born of Mary that suffered on the cross and rose from the grave (i. 2). It is the body and blood; not the virtue of the body and blood; the sacramental body must be regarded as the natural body of Christ, which does not exclude it from being considered as in the state of glorification (vii. 2). In the consecration the sensible properties remain unchanged, but the substance of the bread and wine within are efficaciously changed into the real body and blood of Christ (VIII. 2). The Lord willing, we will conclude this quotation in our following article.