INNOCENT III 1198-1216

The Form of the Eucharistic Sacrament and its Elements *

 

[From the letter “Cum Marthae circa” to a certain John, Archbishop of Lyons, Nov. 29, 1202]

 

414 You have asked (indeed) who has added to the form of the words which Christ Himself expressed when He changed the bread and wine into the body and blood, that in the Canon of the Mass which the general Church uses, which none of the Evangelists is read to have expressed. . . . In the Canon of the Mass that expression, “mysterium fidei,” is found interposed among His words. . . . Surely we find many such things omitted from the words as well as from the deeds of the Lord by the Evangelists, which the Apostles are read to have supplied by word or to have expressed by deed. . . . From the expression, moreover, concerning which your brotherhood raised the question, namely “mysterium fidei,” certain people have thought to draw a protection against error, saying that in the sacrament of the altar the truth of the body and blood of Christ does not exist, but only the image and species and figure, inasmuch as Scripture sometimes mentions that what is received at the altar is sacrament and mystery and example. But such run into a snare of error, by reason of the fact that they neither properly understand the authority of Scripture, nor do they reverently receive the sacraments of God, equally “ignorant of the Scriptures and the power of God” [Matt. 22:29]. . . . Yet “mysterium fidei” is mentioned, since something is believed there other than what is perceived; and something is perceived other than is believed. For the species of bread and wine is perceived there, and the truth of the body and blood of Christ is believed and the power of unity and of love. . . .

 

415 We must, however, distinguish accurately between three things which are different in this sacrament, namely, the visible form, the truth of the body, and the spiritual power. The form is of the bread and wine; the truth, of the flesh and blood; the power, of unity and of charity. The first is the “sacrament and not reality.” The second is “the sacrament and reality.” The third is “the reality and not the sacrament.” But the first is the sacrament of a twofold reality. The second, however, is a sacrament of one and the reality (is) of the other. But the third is the reality of a twofold sacrament. Therefore, we believe that the form of words, as is found in, the Canon, the Apostles received from Christ, and their successors from them. . . .

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