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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VIII:
The Letters.: To the Patrician Cæsaria, concerning Communion.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Letter XCIII. 2328

To the Patrician Cæsaria2329 concerning Communion.

It is good and beneficial to communicate every day, and to partake of the holy body and blood of Christ.  For He distinctly says, “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life.” 2330   And who doubts that to share frequently in life, is the same thing as to have manifold life.  I, indeed, communicate four times a week, on the Lord’s day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on the Sabbath, and on the other days if there is a commemoration of any Saint. 2331   It is needless to point out that for anyone in times of persecution to be compelled to take the communion in his own hand without the presence of a priest or minister is not a serious offence, as long custom sanctions this practice from the facts themselves.  All the solitaries in the desert, where there is no priest, take the communion themselves, keeping communion at home.  And at Alexandria and in Egypt, each one of the laity, for the most part, keeps the communion, at his own house, and participates in it when he likes.  For when once the priest has completed the offering, and given it, the recipient, participating in it each time as entire, is bound to believe that he properly takes and receives it from the giver.  And even in the church, when the priest gives the portion, the recipient takes it with complete power over it, and so lifts it to his lips with his own hand.  It has the same validity whether one portion or several portions are received from the priest at the same time. 2332


Footnotes

179:2328

Placed in 372.

179:2329

Two mss. read Cæsarius.

179:2330

John vi. 54.

179:2331

A various reading is “martyr.”  In Letter cxcvii. to S. Ambrose, S. Basil, states that the same honour was paid to S. Dionysius of Milan in his place of sepulture as to a martyr.  So Gregory Thaumaturgus was honoured at Neocæsarea, and Athanasius and Basil received like distinction soon after their death.

179:2332

The custom of the reservation of the Sacrament is, as is well known, of great antiquity.  cf. Justin Martyr, Apol. i. 85; Tertull., De Orat. xix. and Ad Ux. ii. 5; S. Cyprian, De Lapsis cxxxii.; Jerome, Ep. cxxv.  Abuses of the practice soon led to prohibition.  So an Armenian Canon of the fourth century (Canones Isaaci, in Mai, Script. Vet. Nov. Coll. x. 280) and the Council of Saragossa, 380; though in these cases there seems an idea of surreptitious reservation.  On the doctrine of the English Church on this subject reference may be made to the Report of a Committee of the Upper House of the Convocation of Canterbury in 1885.

The Rubric of 1549 allowed reservation, and it does not seem to have been prohibited until 1661.  Bishop A. P. Forbes on Article xxviii. points out that in the Article reservation is not forbidden, but declared not to be of Christ’s institution, and consequently not binding on the Church.  The distinction will not be forgotten between reservation and worship of the reserved Sacrament.


Next: To Elias, Governor of the Province.

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