Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril.: Eucharistic Doctrine.
Chapter VII.—Eucharistic Doctrine.
We have seen that Cyril makes the consecration of sacramental elements in every case consist in the Invocation of the Holy Ghost, after which the water of Baptism is no longer p. xliv mere simple water 281 , the ointment no longer plain ointment 282 , the bread and the wine no longer plain bread and wine, but the Body and Blood of Christ 283 .
Upon these statements an argument against Transubstantiation has been founded by Bishop Cosin 284 , and adopted both by Dr. Pusey 285 and Dean Goode 286 . It being universally admitted that the substance of the water and of the ointment remains unchanged, it is argued from the identity of the language employed in each case that, according to Cyril, no substantial change takes place in the Bread and Wine. Bishop Cosin quotes the following passage, of which the original is given below: “Take heed thou dost not think that this is a mere ointment only. For as the bread of the Eucharist after the invocation of the Holy Ghost is no longer ordinary bread, but is the body of Christ; so this holy ointment is no longer a bare common ointment after it is consecrated, but is the gift or grace of Christ, which, by His Divine Nature, and the coming of the Holy Ghost, is made efficacious; so that the body is anointed with the ointment, but the soul is sanctified by the holy and vivifying Spirit 287 .”
Bishop Cosin proceeds to argue thus: “Can anything more clear be said? Either the ointment is transubstantiated by consecration into the spirit and grace of Christ, or the bread and wine are not transubstantiated by consecration into the Body and Blood of Christ. Therefore as the ointment retains still its substance, and yet is not called a mere or common ointment, but the Chrism or grace of Christ: so the bread and wine remaining so, as to their substance, yet are not said to be only bread and wine common and ordinary, but also the Body and Blood of Christ.”
Notwithstanding the great authority of Bishop Cosin, and the assent of Theologians of such opposite schools as Dr. Pusey and Dean Goode, it must be admitted that the argument, even as against Transubstantiation, is pressed beyond its just limits. The identity of language extends only to two points, (1) the mode of consecration by Invocation, (2) the effect negatively stated, that the material element in each case is no longer simply a material element. A change, therefore, of some kind has taken place, and we have still to inquire how the change in each case is described by Cyril. “The water acquires a power of sanctity,” otherwise described as “the spiritual grace given with the water 288 .”
“The ointment is Christs gift of grace (Χάρισμα), and becomes effectual to impart by the presence of the Holy Ghost His Divine Nature 289 .” “The Bread becomes the Body and the Wine the Blood of Christ 290 .”
There is here no such identity of language as would justify the assertion that the change described is of the same nature in each case, that because it leaves the substance of the water and the ointment untouched, therefore the substance of the Bread also must, according to Cyril, remain unchanged: this must be proved by other arguments. We must also remember that if this argument based upon the identity of the language used on the two sides of a comparison is trustworthy, there is another passage in Cyril to which it may be applied: “He once, in Cana of Galilee, changed the water into wine akin to blood (οἰκεῖον αἵματι) 291 , and is it incredible that He changed wine into blood?” The change of the water into wine was a change of substance: are we then prepared to agree with the Roman Church that the change of the bread also is a change of substance? Nay further, would the Roman Church itself accept the principle of the argument? For observe that in fact Bishop Cosin himself, when he comes to deal with this passage, gives up his former argument, and distinctly rejects it. p. xlv “Protestants,” he says, “do freely grant and firmly believe that the wine, in the sense already often mentioned, is changed into the Blood of Christ; but every change is not a transubstantiation; neither doth Cyril say that this change (i.e. of the wine) is like that of the water, for then it would appear to our senses; but that He who changed the water sensibly can also change the wine sacramentally, will not be doubted by any 292 .” Again, in describing the act of consecration, Cyril says: “We beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him, that He may make the bread the Body of Christ, and the wine the Blood of Christ, for certainly whatsoever the Holy Ghost has touched, is sanctified and changed (ἡγίασται καὶ μεταβέβληται ) 293 .” Here again, as in the passage quoted from Myst. iii. § 3, a sacramental change of some sort is asserted, but its specific character is not defined.
There is, however, a passage which throws some light on Cyrils conception of the change in Myst. iv. § 3: “In the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood, that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ mightest be made of the same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, His Body and His Blood being distributed to our members (εἰς τὰ ἡμέτερα ἀναδιδομένου μέλη).” Several good MSS read ἀναδεδεγμένοι, which would give the meaning, “having received of His Body and of His blood into our members.” This does not alter the general sense of the passage; but the reading ἀναδιδομένου is supported by another passage, Myst. v. § 15: “Our common bread is not substantial (ἐπιούσιος): but this Holy Bread is substantial, that is, appointed for the substance of the soul. This Bread goeth not into the belly and is not cast out into the draught, but is distributed (ἀναδίδοται) into thy whole system for the benefit of body and soul.”
In order to accommodate these passages to the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation the Benedictine Editor here introduces the idea of species, the outward forms or accidents of the bread. “We must not suppose,” he says, “that Cyril thought the Body of Christ to be divided and digested (digeri) into our body; but by a customary way of speaking he attributes to the Holy Body what is suitable only to the species which conceal it. And he does not deny that the species pass into the draught, but only that the Body of Christ does so.”
But Cyril draws no such distinction between the species and the Body of Christ: to him the Bread and Wine after consecration are the Body and the Blood of Christ. For how could it be said that the species, which in Transubstantiation are the mere outward accidents of bread and wine, are distributed into the whole system for the benefit of body and soul?
In whatever sense the bread and wine become by consecration the Body and Blood of Christ, in that same sense the Body and Blood of Christ are, according to Cyril, distributed to our whole system.
This was no new doctrine: Ignatius, Ephes. xxi., speaks of Christians as “breaking one Bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote that we should not die, but live for ever in Jesus Christ.” This is perhaps the earliest expression of the belief that the resurrection of the body is secured by the communion of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. The manner in which this communion is effected is described by Justin Martyr (Apolog. I. § 66) in language which shews clearly what Cyril meant: “We do not receive these things as common bread and common drink: but in the same way as Jesus Christ our Saviour was made flesh by the Word of God, and took both flesh and blood for our salvation, so we have been taught that the food over which thanksgiving has been made by prayer in the word received from Him (τὴν δι᾽ εὐχῆς λόγου τοῦ παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ εὐχαριστηθεῖσαν τροφήν), from which (food) our blood and flesh are by transmutation (κατὰ μεταβολήν) nourished, is both the Flesh and Blood of Him the Incarnate Jesus.”
Here it is plainly taught that by consecration the Bread and Wine have become the Flesh and Blood of Christ, and that as such they nourish our “blood and flesh” (observe the p. xlvi inverted order) by undergoing a change: in other words, the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ are changed into nourishment of our blood and flesh, by being distributed (as Cyril says) to all our members, that is by being subjected to the natural processes of digestion and assimilation. The unusual order of the words “our blood and flesh” is not accidental, but answers to the process of assimilation, in which the digested food first nourishes the blood and then the blood nourishes the flesh.
The meaning is, as Otto says in his note, “that the divine food passes away into our bodies entire, so that nothing remains:” and Dr. Pusey seems to take the same view, in his note on the words, “from which (food) through transmutation our blood and flesh are nourished: “i.e. the material parts are changed into the substance of the human body 294 .”
Thus then, according to Cyril, the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ are distributed to all our members; His Flesh and Blood pass by a change into our blood and flesh, and we thereby become “of the same body and the same blood with Him 295 :” and “this Bread does not pass into the belly, and is not cast out into the draught 296 ,” but wastes away as the body itself wastes 297 .
However much this view of the Sacramental mystery may differ from later theories, it was certainly held by many of the Greek Fathers. Irenæus, for example, in addition to those already mentioned, thus writes: “When therefore both the mingled cup and the created bread receive the Word of God, and the Eucharist becomes the Body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh increaseth and consisteth, how say they that the flesh is incapable of the gift of God which is eternal life, that flesh which is nourished from the Body and Blood of the Lord, and is already (ὑπάρχουσα) a member of Him?—even as the blessed Paul saith, that we are members of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones 298 .”
That this was also the teaching of Cyrils contemporaries is clear from the famous passage of Gregory of Nyssa, in which this doctrine is fully developed. It will be sufficient to quote here the latter part of the passage, in which Gregory is speaking of the Wine. “Since then that God-containing flesh partook for its substance and support of this particular nourishment also, and since the God who was manifested infused Himself into perishable humanity for this purpose, viz. that by this communion with Deity mankind might at the same time be deified, for this end it is that, by dispensation of His grace, He disseminates Himself in every believer through that flesh whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man too may be a sharer in incorruption. He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which He transelements the natural quality of these visible things to that immortal thing 299 .”
In another remarkable passage 300 Cyril gives a further explanation of the effect of consecration: “In the New Testament there is heavenly Bread and a Cup of salvation, sanctifying soul and body: for as the Bread corresponds to the body, so also the Word (ὁ λόγος) is appropriate to the soul.” With this language of Cyril we may compare further what is said by Gregory of Nyssa in the context of the passage already quoted: “Just then, as in the case of ourselves, as has been repeatedly said already, if a person sees bread he also in a kind of way looks on a human body, for by being within this it becomes this, so in that other case the Body into which God entered (τὸ θεοδόχον σῶμα), by partaking of the nourishment of bread was in a certain sense the same with it, since that nourishment, as we have said, is changed into the nature of the body: for that which is proper to all men is acknowledged also in the case of p. xlvii That Flesh, namely, that That Body too was maintained by bread; which Body also by the indwelling of God the Word was changed into the dignity of Godhead. Rightly then do we believe that now also the bread which is sanctified by the Word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word. For even that Body was once virtually (τῇ δυνάμει) bread, but has been sanctified by the inhabitation of the Word that tabernacled in the flesh.”
In this passage we have the full explanation of what Irenæus meant when he said that the elements “by receiving the Word of God become the Eucharist,” and what Cyril meant by saying that “as the Bread corresponds to the body, so also the Word is appropriate to the soul.” Their common doctrine is, that besides the Body and Blood of Christ, that is, His Humanity offered upon the Cross for our redemption, His Divine Nature, the Word is also present, and that it is by receiving the Divine Word that the Bread is made the Body of Christ. “The fathers,” says Touttée, “often play upon the ambiguity of the term, saying at one time that the Divine Word, at another that the word and oracles of God nourish our soul. Both are true. For the whole life-giving power of the Eucharist is derived from the Divine Word united with the flesh which He assumed: and the whole benefit (fructus) of Eucharistic eating consists in the union of our soul with the Word, by meditation on His mysteries and words, and conformation thereto 301 .” O si sic omnia!
In this view the Bread and Wine are signs or figures of the natural Body of Christ crucified, but they are also much more, they are endued by the Divine Word, and through the operation of the Holy Ghost, with the life-giving power of the same Body and Blood of Christ,—a power which being imparted to the faithful recipient makes him to be “of the same body and the same blood with Christ,” thereby assuring him of the resurrection of the body to eternal life, and at the same time strengthening and refreshing the soul by its being united through faith with the Word, and being thus made “partaker of the Divine nature.”
This is not the language of the Western Church, whether Roman, Lutheran, or Anglican, but it is the language of the earliest Greek Fathers, and of Cyril, as is partly and reluctantly admitted by so cautious a writer as Dr. Waterland. After referring to the passage quoted above from Justin Martyr (Apol. i. 66) he proceeds: “There is another the like obscure hint in Irenæus, which may probably be best interpreted after the same way. He supposes the elements to become Christs body by receiving the word (Word). He throws two considerations into one, and does not distinguish so accurately as Origen afterwards did between the symbolical food and the true food.” The elements, Waterland adds, “are made the representative body of Christ; but they are at the same time, to worthy receivers, made the means of their spiritual union with Christ Himself; which Irenæus points at in what he says of the breads receiving the Logos, but should rather have said it of the communicants themselves, as receiving the spiritual presence of Christ, in the worthy use of the sacred symbols 302 .”
Again, in c. vii., he says more explicitly of Irenæus, what is equally true of Cyril; “Least of all does he favour the figurists or memorialists; for his doctrine runs directly counter to them almost in every line: he asserts over and over, that Christs body and blood are eaten and drunk in the Eucharist, and our bodies thereby fed; and not only so, but insured thereby for a happy resurrection: and the reason he gives is, that our bodies are thereby made or continued members of Christs body, flesh, and bones.”
From this view of Cyrils doctrine concerning the Sacramental elements we can easily understand in what sense he applies the terms “ type” and “antitype” to the Eucharistic elements. “The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist having two parts, an outward and an inward, and the outward part having been instituted by our Blessed Lord with a certain relation to the inward, and gifted with a certain significance of it, nothing is more natural than that the titles, type, antitype, symbol, figure, image, should be given to the outward part 303 .” p. xlviii Add to this that, according to Cyrils doctrine as already explained, the bread after the Invocation, without ceasing to be bread, not only signifies but also is the Body, and we see how natural it was for him to say in one passage that “His Body bore the figure of bread 304 ,” in another that “in the figure of bread the Body is given 305 .” The Body which “is given” cannot be an absent Body of our Lord, but must be that Sacramental Body, of which Cyril goes on to say in the same sentence that it is “distributed to our members.” Thus the Bread broken is a type or figure of Christs Body as crucified for us; and by virtue of its union with the Divine Word it becomes the life-giving Body, which makes the faithful recipient to be, in Cyrils words, “of the same body and same blood with Christ.”
Another term applied by Cyril and other Greek Fathers to the sacramental elements is “antitype.”
In Mystag. ii. § 6, where Baptism is called “the counterpart (ἀντίτυπον) of Christs sufferings,” the meaning is clearly explained by the context: for in § 5 the reality of Christs sufferings is emphatically and repeatedly contrasted with the figurative representation of the same; and this figurative representation no less emphatically contrasted with the real and actual bestowal of the grace of salvation: ἐν εἰκόνι ἡ μίμησις, ἐν ἀληθείᾳ δὲ ἡ σωτηρία,.…ἵνα τῇ μιμήσει τῶν παθημάτων αὐτοῦ κοινωνήσαντες, ἀληθείᾳ τὴν σωτηρίαν κερδήσωμεν.
We have thus a clear distinction of (1) the res sacramenti, Christs Death and Resurrection, (2) the sacramentum or sign, the outward form of Baptism, and (3) the virtus sacramenti, our real participation in the benefits of Christs Passion, “a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness.” Thus, as Cyril adds at the end of the section, Baptism “has the fellowship by representation of Christs true sufferings,” it is the spiritual counterpart in us of that which was actual in Him.
In Mystag. iii. § i, speaking of the Chrism, Cyril says, “Now ye have been made Christs (Χρισοί) by receiving the antitype of the Holy Ghost, and all things have been wrought in you by imitation, because ye are images of Christ:” and again, “there was given to you an Unction, the antitype of that wherewith Christ was anointed, and this is the Holy Ghost.”
Here again we have (1) the res sacramenti, the anointing of Christ with the Holy Ghost at His Baptism, (2) the sacramental sign or figure, the anointing of the baptized, and (3) the spiritual benefit received in the gift of the Holy Ghost, for, as Cyril adds at the end of § 3, “while Thy body is anointed with the visible ointment, thy soul is sanctified by the Holy and Life-giving Spirit.” In these passages we see a distinction between τύπος and ἀντίτυπος. The former is simply the outward sign or figure; the latter includes with the sign the spiritual counterpart in us of the thing signified, the benefits of Christs Passion in the one case, the gift of the Holy Ghost in the other.
It only remains to inquire whether there is the same distinction in the meaning of the words as applied to the Holy Eucharist.
In Mystag. v. § 20, Cyril informs us that during the Administration the words, “O taste and see that the Lord is good,” were sung: and in reference to that passage he adds, “In tasting we are bidden to taste not bread and wine, but the antitypical Body and Blood of Christ.” To taste “the antitypical Body” is therefore to taste “that the Lord is good,” whence it clearly follows that “the antitypical Body” is not the mere sign or figure of Christs own natural Body, but the sacramental and spiritual counterpart of it, by which those who faithfully receive it are so united to Him, that their spirit, and soul, and body, are to be preserved entire without blame at His coming 306 .
Cat. iii. § 3.xliv:282
Mystag. iii. § 3.xliv:283
Mystag. iii. § 3. In the same Lecture, § 7, the consecration of the bread and wine is said to follow “the Invocation of the Holy and Adorable Trinity.”xliv:284
The History of Popish Transubstantiation, Ch. v. § 14.xliv:285
The Doctrine of the Real Presence, pp. 277–281.xliv:286
The Nature of Christs Presence in the Eucharist, p. 483.xliv:287
᾽Αλλ᾽ ὅρα μὴ ὑπονοήσῃς ἐκεῖνο τὸ μύρον ψιλὸν εἶναι. ὥσπερ γὰρ ὁ ἄρτος τῆς εὐχαριστίας μετὰ τὴν ἐπίκλησιν τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος οὐκ ἔτι ἄρτος λιτός, ἀλλὰ σῶμα Χριστοῦ, οὕτω καὶ τὸ ἅγιον τοῦτο μύρον οὐκ ἔτι ψιλόν, οὐδ᾽ ὡς ἂν εἴποι τις κοινὸν μετ᾽ ἐπίκλησιν, ἀλλὰ Χριστοῦ χάρισμα, καὶ Πνεύματος ἁγίου παρουσίᾳ τῆς αὐτοῦ θεότητος ἐνεργητικὸν γινόμενον.xliv:288
Cat. iii. 3.xliv:289
Mystag. iii. 3. On the translation see note on the passage.xliv:290
Ib. i. § 7.xliv:291
On this reading, see Mystag. iv. § 2, note 4.xlv:292
Of Transubstantiation, Ch. vi. § 14.xlv:293
Mystag. v. § 7.xlvi:294
Real Presence, p. 144. See note 8, below.xlvi:295
Mystag. iv. §§ 1, 3.xlvi:296
Ib. v. § 15.xlvi:297
See Pusey, R. P. p. 151, note 3: “Dr. Gaisford, on my applying to him, kindly answered me,—῾συναναλίσκεσθαι. It appears to me that this word can only be explained by a periphrasis. The writer appears to me to mean that the elements are not thrown off like ordinary food, but that they become blended or assimilated to the body, and waste away as the body wastes away. Mr. Field gives the same meaning.xlvi:298
V. ii. § 3.xlvi:299
Oratio Catechetica, c. xxxvii. The whole chapter should be read with the Rev. W. Moores notes in this Series, Vol. V. pp. 504–506.xlvi:300
Mystag. iv. § 5.xlvii:301
Mystag. iv. note 4.xlvii:302
Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist, c. V.xlvii:303
Pusey, R. P. p. 94.xlviii:304
Cat. xiii. § 19: τὸ σῶμα αὔτου κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τύπον ἔφερεν ἄρτου.xlviii:305
Mystag. iv. § 3: ἐν τύπῳ γὰρ ἄρτου δίδοταί σοι τὸ σῶμα.xlviii:306
1 Thess. v. 23, quoted at the end of Mystag. v. § 23.
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