III. OF THE MANNER IN WHICH JESUS CHRIST IS IN THE EUCHARIST. THE PHILOSOPHICAL OBJECTIONS OF THE SACRAMENTARIANS ANSWERED.
- Before we reply in detail to the philosophical objections of the Sacramentarians relative to the manner in which the body of Jesus Christ is in the Sacrament, we should reflect that the Holy Fathers in matters of faith do not depend on philosophical principles, but on the authority of the Scriptures and the Church, knowing well that God can do many things which our weak reason cannot comprehend. We never will be able to understand the secrets of nature in created things; how, then, can we comprehend how far the power of the Almighty, the Creator of nature, itself, extends ? We now come to their objections. First, they say that, although God is omnipotent, he cannot do anything which is repugnant in itself, but it is repugnant, they say, that Christ should be in heaven and on earth, at the same time, really and truly, as he is according to our belief, and not alone in one, but in many places, at the same time. Hear what the Council of Trent says on this subject (Sess. xiii, c. 1) : ” Nec enim hæc inter se pugnant, ut ipse Salvator noster semper ad dexteram Patris in cœlis assideat, juxta modum existendi naturalem; et ut multis nihilominus aliis in locis sacramentaliter præsens sua substantia nobis adsit, ex existendi ratione; quam etsi verbis exprimere vix possumus, possibilem tamen esse Deo, cogitatione per fidem illustrata, assequi possumus, et constantissime credere debemus.” The Council, therefore, teaches, that the body of Jesus Christ is in heaven in a natural manner, but that it is on earth in a sacramental or supernatural manner, which our limited understanding cannot comprehend, no more than we can understand how the three Divine Persons in the Trinity are the same essence, or how, in the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus Christ there is but one Divine Person and two Natures, the Divine and human.
- It is impossible, they say also, for a human body to be in several places at once. We believe, however, that the body of Christ is not multiplied in the Eucharist, for our Lord is not there present definitively, or circumscribed to that place and to no other, but sacramentally, under the appearance of bread and wine, so that wherever the species of the consecrated bread and wine are, there Jesus Christ is present. The multiplicity of the presence of Christ, therefore, does not proceed from the multiplication of his body in many places, but from the multiplicity of the consecrations of the bread and wine, performed by the priests in different places. But how is it possible, say they, that the body of Christ can be in several places at once, unless it is multiplied ? We answer, that before our adversaries can prove this to be impossible, they should have a perfect knowledge of place and of glorified bodies; they should know distinctly what place is, and what existence glorified bodies have. When such knowledge, however, surpasses our weak understandings, who shall have the hardihood to deny, that the body of our Lord can be in several places at once, since God has revealed in the Holy Scriptures that Jesus Christ really exists in every consecrated Host ? But, they reply, we cannot understand this. We answer again, that the Eucharist is a mystery of Faith, since our understanding cannot comprehend it, and as we never can do so, it is rashness to say that it cannot be, when God has revealed it, and when we know we cannot decide by reason what is beyond the power of reason.
- They assert, besides, that it is repugnant to reason to say that the body of Jesus Christ exists under the species, without extension or quantity, for both extension and quantity are essential qualities of bodies, and God himself cannot deprive things of their essences, therefore, say they, the body of Christ cannot exist without filling a space corresponding to its quantity, and, therefore, it cannot be in a small Host, and in every particle of the Host, as Catholics believe. We reply to this, that although God cannot deprive things of their essence, still he can deprive them of the property of their essence; he cannot take away from fire the essence of fire, but he can deprive fire of the essential quality of burning, as he did in the case of Daniel and his companions, who were unharmed in the furnace. Thus, in like manner, though God cannot make a body to exist without extension and quantity, still he can make it, so that it will not occupy space, and that it will be entire in every part of the sensible species which contain it as a substance; the body of Christ, therefore, into which the substance of the bread is changed, does not occupy place, and is whole and entire in every part of the species. Here is how St. Thomas explains it (1):
” Tota substantia corporis Christi continetur in hoc Sacramento post consecrationem, sicut ante consecrationem continebatur ibi tota substantia panis. Propria autem totalitas substantial continetur indifferenter in pauca vel magna quantitate, unde et tota substantia corporis et sanguinis Christi continetur in hoc Sacramento.”
- That being the case, it is not the fact that the body of Christ in the Eucharist exists without quantity; the whole quantity is there, but in a supernatural, not a natural manner. It does not exist, then, drcumscriptive, that is, according to the measure of the proper quantity corresponding to the quantity of space; but it exists sacramentaliter sacramentally, after the manner of a substance. Hence it is that Jesus Christ, in the Sacrament, does not exercise any action dependent on the senses; and although he exercises the acts of the intellect and of the will, he does not exercise the corporal acts of the sensitive life, which require a certain sensible and external extension in the organs of the body.
- Neither is it true that Jesus Christ exists in the Sacrament without extension. His body is there, and it has extension; but this extension is not external, or sensible and local, but internal, in ordine ad se, so that although all the parts are in the same place, still one part is not confused with the other. Thus Jesus Christ exists in the Sacrament with internal extension; but as to external and local extension, he is inextended, and indivisible, and whole, and entire, in each particle of the Host, as a substance, as has been already said, without occupying space. Hence it is, that as the body of our Lord does not occupy space, it cannot be moved from one place to another, but is moved only per accidens, when the species are moved under which it is contained, just as happens to ourselves, that when our bodies are moved from one place to another, our souls are also moved, per accidetis, though the soul is incapable of occupying any space. In fine, the Eucharist is a Sacrament of Faith, misterium Fidei, and as we cannot comprehend all the matters of faith, so we should not pretend to understand all that faith, through the Church, teaches us concerning this Sacrament.
(1) St. Thom p. 3, q. 76, a. 1,
- But how, say they, can the accidents of bread and wine exist without their substance, or subject, as it is called? We answer the question whether accidents are distinct from matter has been already mooted; the most general opinion is in the affirmative; the Councils of Lateran, Florence, and Trent, how ever, keeping clear of the controversy altogether, call the accidents species. In the ordinary course of things these accidents, or species, cannot exist without the subject, but they can in a supernatural and extraordinary manner. In the ordinary course of things, humanity cannot exist without its proper subsistence (subsistentia); but, notwithstanding, faith teaches us that the humanity of Christ had not human, but Divine subsistence, that is, the Person of the Word. As the humanity of Christ, there fore, united to the Word hypostatically, subsists without the human person, so, in the Eucharist, the species can exist without the subject, that is, without the substance of bread, because their substance is changed into the body of Christ. These species, therefore, have nothing of reality, but by Divine power they represent their former subject, and appear still to retain the substance of bread and wine, and may even become corrupted, and worms may be generated in them, but, then, it is from a new matter, created by the Almighty, that these worms spring, and Jesus Christ is no longer present, as St. Thomas teaches (2). As far as the sensations of our organs go, the body of Christ in the Eucharist is neither seen or touched by
us immediately in itself, but only through the medium of those species under which it is contained, and it is thus we should understand the words of St. John Chrysostom (3) : ” Ecce eum vides, Ipsum tangis, Ipsum manducas.”
- It is, then, an article of faith, that Jesus Christ is permanently in the Eucharist, and not alone in the use of the communion, as the Lutherans say, and this is the doctrine of the Council of Trent, which also assigns the reason : “In Eucharistia ipse auctor ante usum est, nondum enim Eucharistiam de manu Domini Apostoli susceperant, cum vere tamen ipse affirmavet corpus suum esse, quod prebebat” (Sees, xiii, cap. 3).
(2) St. Thom 3 p. qu. 76, a. 5, ad. 3. (3) St. Chrysost. Horn. 60, ad Pap.
And as Jesus Christ is present before the use of the Sacrament, so he is also present after it, as the Fourth Canon expresses it : ” Si quis dixerit …… in Hostiis, seu particulis consecratis, quæ es communionem reservantur, vel supersunt, non remanere verum corpus Domini; anathema sit.”
- This is proved, not alone by reason and authority, but by the ancient practice of the Church, likewise; for in the early ages, on account of the persecution, the Holy Communion was given in private houses and in caverns, as Tertullian testifies (4) : ” Non sciet Maritus, quid secreto ante omnem cibum gustes : et si sciverit panem, non ilium esse credat, qui dicitur.” St. Cyprian (5) tells us, that in his time the faithful used to bring home the Eucharist to their houses, to communicate at the proper time. St. Basil (6), writing to the Patrician Cesaria, exhorts her, that as she could not, on account of the persecution, attend the public communion, she should carry it along with her, to communicate in case of danger. St. Justin, Martyr (7), mentions that the Deacons used to carry the communion to the absent. St. Iræneus (8) laments to Pope Victor, that having omitted to celebrate the Pasch, he deprived several Priests of the communion on that account, who could not come to the public meetings, and he therefore sent the Eucharist in sign of peace to those who were prevented from attending : ” Cum tamen qui te præcesse-runt, Presbyteris, quamvis id minime observarent, Eucharistiam transmiserunt.” St. Gregory of Nazianzan(9) relates that her sister Orgonia, standing with great faith nigh to the Sacrament, which was concealed, was freed from a disease under which she was labouring; and St. Ambrose (10) tells us that St. Satirus, having the Eucharist suspended round his neck, escaped shipwreck.
(4) Tertul. l. 2, ad Uxor. c. 5.(5) St. Cypri. Tract, de Lapsis. (6) St. Basil, Ep. 289 ad Cesar. Patriciam (7) St. Justin. Apol. 2, p. 97. (8) St. Iræn. Ep. ad Vic. Pon. (9) St. Greg. Nazian. Orat. 11. (10) St. Ambr. Orat. De obitu fratris Satyri.
- Father Agnus Cirillo, in his work entitled ” Ragguagli Teologici” (p. 353), adduces several other examples to the same effect, and proves that an anonymous author, who lately taught that it was not lawful to give communion with particles previously consecrated, and preserved in the tabernacle, is totally wrong. The learned Mabillon (11) shows that the practice of giving communion when Mass was not celebrated had its origin in the Church of Jerusalem, and existed in the days of St. Cyril, as it was not possible to say Mass each time that the numerous pilgrims frequenting the Holy City required communion. From the Eastern this custom was introduced into the Western Church, and Gregory XIII., in 1584, laid down in his Ritual the mode to be observed by the Priest in the administration of the holy communion, when Mass was not said. This Ritual was confirmed, subsequently, by Paul V., in 1614, and in the chapter de Sac. Eucharis., it is ordered that, ” Sacerdos curare debet, ut perpetuo aliquot particulæ consecratao eo numero, quæ usui infirmorum, et aliorum (mark this) Fidelium communioni satis esse possint, conserventur in pixide.” Benedict XIV., in his Encyclical Letter of the 12th November, 1742, approves of giving communion when Mass is not celebrated : ” De eodem Sacrificio participant, præter eos quibus a Sacerdote celebrante tribuitur in ipsa Missa portio Victimæ a se oblatæ, ii etiam quibus Sacerdos Eucharistiam præservari solitam ministrat.”
- We may as well remark here, that a certain Decree of the Congregation of Rites, dated 2nd September, 1741, was circulated, by which it was prohibited to give communion to the people at the Masses for the dead, with pre-consecrated particles, and taking the pixis from the tabernacle, because the usual benediction cannot be given in black vestments to those who communicate; but Father Cirillo (p. 368) says that this Decree is not obligatory, as it was not sanctioned by the reigning Pope, Benedict XIV. There is, certainly, one very strong argument in his favour, and it is this, that Benedict, while Archbishop of Bologna, in his work on the Sacrifice of the Mass, approved of the opinion of the learned Merati, that communion might be given, at the Masses for the dead, with pre-consecrated particles, and when he was afterwards Pope, and re-composed the same treatise on the Sacrifice of the Mass, he never thought of retracting his opinion, which he would have done had he considered the Decree we mentioned valid, and he would have given it his approbation, as published during his Pontificate. Father Cirillo adds, that one of the Consultors of the Congregation told him that, although the Decree was drawn up, yet several of the Consultors refused to sign it, and thus it was held in abeyance, and never published.
(11) Miibill. Liturg. Gallic. l. 2, r. 0, n. 20.
- To come back to the sectaries who deny the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, unless in the use alone, I know not how they can answer the First Council of Nice, which ordains (Can. 13), that communion should be administered to the dying at all times, and it would be impossible to do that if the Eucharist was not preserved. The Fourth Council of Lateran expressly ordains the same thing (Can. 20): “Statuimus quod in singulis Ecclesiis Chrisma, et Eucharistia sub fideli custodia conserventur ;” and this was confirmed by the Council of Trent (Sess. xiii, c. 6). From the earliest ages the Greeks preserved the Eucharist in silver ciboriums, made in the form of a dove, or of a little tower, and suspended over the altar, as is proved from the life of St. Basil, and the Testament of Perpetuus, Bishop of Durs(12).
- Our adversaries object that Nicephorus (13) relates, that in the Greek Church it was the custom to give the children the fragments that remained after communion; therefore, they say, the Eucharist was not preserved. We answer, that this was not done every day, only on Wednesdays and Fridays, when the pixis was purified; and it was, therefore, preserved on the other days, and, besides, particles were always preserved for the sick. They object, besides, that the words, ” This is my body,” were not pronounced by Christ before the manducation, but after it, as appears from St. Matthew (xxvi, 26) : ” Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke; and gave to his disciples, and said : Take ye, and eat : This is my body.” We answer, with Bellarmin, that in this text the order of the words is not to be regarded, for the order is different with each of the Evangelists. St. Mark, speaking of the consecration of the chalice, says (xiv, 23, 24) : ” Having taken the chalice they all drank of it. And he said to them : This is my blood.” Now, it would appear from this, also, that the words, ” This is my blood,” were said after the sumption of the chalice; but the context of all the Evangelists show that both ” This is my body,” and ” This is my blood,” was said by our Lord before he gave them the species of bread and wine.
(12) Tournelly, t. 2, de Euch. p. 105, n. 5. (13) Niceph. Histor. I 17, c. 25.