The Real Presence of God, Jesus Christ, body and blood, under the appearance of bread and wine.
What is the Eucharist?
The Eucharist is the Real Presence of God, Jesus Christ, body and blood, under the appearance of bread and wine. Read more about the Eucharist—what the Real Presence is, the Church’s apologetical defenses of the Eucharist through the ages, and more—in the encyclopedia entry below.
Eucharist (Gr. eucharistia, thanksgiving), the name given to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar under its twofold aspect of sacrament and Sacrifice of the Mass, and in which, whether as sacrament or sacrifice, Jesus Christ is truly present under the appearances of bread and wine. Other titles are used, such as the “Lord’s Supper” (Coena Domini), “Table of the Lord” (Mensa Domini), the “Lord’s Body” (Corpus Domini), and the “Holy of Holies” (Sanctissimum), to which may be added the following expressions, now obsolete and somewhat altered from their primitive meaning: “Agape” (Love-Feast), “Eulogia” (Blessing), “Breaking of Bread”, “Synaxis” (Assembly), etc.; but the ancient title “Eucharistia”, appearing in writers as early as Ignatius, Justin, and Irenaeus, has taken precedence in the technical terminology of the Church and her theologians. The expression “Blessed Sacrament of the Altar”, introduced by Augustine, is at the present day almost entirely restricted to catechetical and popular treatises. This extensive nomenclature, describing the great mystery from such different points of view, is in itself sufficient proof of the central position the Eucharist has occupied from the earliest ages, both in the Divine worship and services of the Church and in the life of faith and devotion which animates her members.
The Church honors the Eucharist as one of her most exalted mysteries, since for sublimity and incomprehensibility it yields in nothing to the allied mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation. These three mysteries constitute a wonderful triad, which causes the essential characteristic of Christianity, as a religion of mysteries far transcending the capabilities of reason, to shine forth in all its brilliance and splendor, and elevates Catholicism, the most faithful, guardian and keeper of our Christian heritage, far above all pagan and non-Christian religions. The organic connection of this mysterious triad is clearly discerned, if we consider Divine grace under the aspect of a personal communication of God. Thus in the bosom of the Blessed Trinity, God the Father, by virtue of the eternal generation, communicates His Divine Nature to God the Son, “the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father” (John, i, 18), while the Son of God, by virtue of the hypostatic union, communicates in turn the Divine Nature received from His Father to His human nature formed in the womb of the Virgin Mary (John, i, 14), in order that thus as God-man, hidden under the Eucharistic Species, He might deliver Himself to His Church, who, as a tender mother, mystically cares for and nurtures in her own bosom this, her greatest treasure, and daily places it before her children as the spiritual food of their souls. Thus the Trinity, Incarnation, and Eucharist are really welded together like a precious chain, which in a wonderful manner links heaven with earth, God with man, uniting them most intimately and keeping them thus united. By the very fact that the Eucharistic mystery does transcend reason, no rationalistic explanation of it, based on a merely natural hypothesis and seeking to comprehend one of the sublimest truths of the Christian religion as the spontaneous conclusion of logical processes, may be attempted by a Catholic theologian.
The modern science of comparative religion is striving, wherever it can, to discover in pagan religions “religio-historical parallels”, corresponding to the theoretical and practical elements of Christianity, and thus by means of the former to give a natural explanation of the latter. Even were an analogy discernible between the Eucharistic repast and the ambrosia and nectar of the ancient Greek gods, or the haoma of the Iranians, or the soma of the ancient Hindus, we should nevertheless be very cautious not to stretch a mere analogy to a parallelism strictly so called, since the Christian Eucharist has nothing at all in common with these pagan foods, whose origin is to be found in the crassest idol- and nature-worship. What we do particularly discover is a new proof of the reasonableness of the Catholic religion, from the circumstance that Jesus Christ in a wonderfully condescending manner responds to the natural craving of the human heart after a food which nourishes unto immortality, a craving expressed in many pagan religions, by dispensing to mankind His own Flesh and Blood. All that is beautiful, all that is true in the religions of nature, Christianity has appropriated to itself, and like a concave mirror has collected the dispersed and not unfrequently distorted rays of truth into their common focus and again sent them forth resplendently in perfect beams of light.
It is the Church alone, “the pillar and ground of truth”, imbued with and directed by the Holy Spirit, that guarantees to her children through her infallible teaching the full and unadulterated revelation of God. Consequently, it is the first duty of Catholics to adhere to what the Church proposes as the “proximate norm of faith” (regula fidei proxima), which, in reference to the Eucharist, is set forth in a particularly clear and detailed manner in Sessions XIII, XXI, and XXII of the Council of Trent. The quintessence of these doctrinal decisions consists in this, that in the Eucharist the Body and Blood of the God-man are truly, really, and substantially present for the nourishment of our souls, by reason of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and that in this change of substances the unbloody Sacrifice of the New Testament is also contained. Since the Eucharistic Sacrifice is to be treated in the article Sacrifice of the Mass. there remain here for a more detailed consideration two principal truths: (I) The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and (II) The Eucharist as a Sacrament.
I. THE REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST
In this section we shall consider, first, the fact of the Real Presence, which is, indeed, the central dogma; then the several allied dogmas grouped about it, namely, the Totality of Presence, Transubstantiation, Permanence of Presence and the Adorableness of the Eucharist; and, finally, the speculations of reason, so far as speculative investigation regarding the august mystery under its various aspects is permissible, and so far as it is desirable to illumine it by the light of philosophy.
(1) The Real Presence as a Fact
According to the teaching of theology a revealed fact can be proved solely by recurrence to the sources of faith, viz. Scripture and Tradition, with which is also bound up the infallible magisterium of the Church.
This may be adduced both from the words of promise (John, vi, 26 sqq.) and, especially, from the words of Institution as recorded in the Synoptics and St. Paul (I Cor., xi, 23 sqq.). By the miracles of the loaves and fishes and the walking upon the waters, on the previous day, Christ not only prepared His hearers for the sublime discourse containing the promise of the Eucharist, but also proved to them that He possessed, as Almighty God-man, a power superior to and independent of the laws of nature, and could, therefore, provide such a supernatural food, none other, in fact, than His own Flesh and Blood. This discourse was delivered at Capharnaum (John, vi, 26-72), and is divided into two distinct parts, about the relation of which Catholic exegetes vary in opinion. Nothing hinders our interpreting the first part [John, vi, 26-48 (51)] metaphorically and understanding by “bread of heaven” Christ Himself as the object of faith, to be received in a figurative sense as a spiritual food by the mouth of faith. Such a figurative explanation of the second part of the discourse (John, vi, 52-72), however, is not only unusual but absolutely impossible, as even Protestant exegetes (Delitzsch, Köstlin, Keil, Kahnis, and others) readily concede. First of all the whole structure of the discourse of promise demands a literal interpretation of the words: “eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood”. For Christ mentions a three-fold food in His address, the manna of the past (John, vi, 31, 32, 49, 59), the heavenly bread of the present (John, vi, 32 sq.), and the Bread of Life of the future (John, vi, 27, 52). Corresponding to the three kinds of food and the three periods, there are as many dispensers—Moses dispensing the manna, the Father nourishing man’s faith in the Son of God made flesh, finally Christ giving His own Flesh and Blood. Although the manna, a type of the Eucharist, was indeed eaten with the mouth, it could not, being a transitory food, ward off death. The second food, that offered by the Heavenly Father, is the bread of heaven, which He dispenses hic et nunc to the Jews for their spiritual nourishment, inasmuch as by reason of the Incarnation He holds up His Son to them as the object of their faith. If, however, the third kind of food, which Christ Himself promises to give only at a future time, is a new refection, differing from the last-named food of faith, it can be none other than His true Flesh and Blood, to be really eaten and drunk in Holy Communion. This is why Christ was so ready to use the realistic expression “to chew” (John, vi, 54, 56, 58: trogein) when speaking of this, His Bread of Life, in addition to the phrase, “to eat” (John, vi, 51, 53: phagein). Cardinal Bellarmine (De Euchar., I, 3), moreover, calls attention to the fact, and rightly so, that if in Christ’s mind the manna was a figure of the Eucharist, the latter must have been something more than merely blessed bread, as otherwise the prototype would not substantially excel the type. The same holds true of the other figures of the Eucharist, as the bread and wine offered by Melchisedech, the loaves of proposition (panes propositionis), the paschal lamb. The impossibility of a figurative interpretation is brought home more forcibly by an analysis of the following text: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed” (John, vi, 54-56). It is true that even among the Semites, and in Scripture itself, the phrase, “to eat some one’s flesh”, has a figurative meaning, namely, “to persecute, to bitterly hate some one”. If, then, the words of Jesus are to be taken figuratively, it would appear that Christ had promised to His enemies eternal life and a glorious resurrection in recompense for the injuries and persecutions directed against Him. The other phrase, “to drink some one’s blood”, in Scripture, especially, has no other figurative meaning than that of dire chastisement (cf. Is., xlix, 26; Apoc., xvi, 6); but, in the present text, this interpretation is just as impossible here as in the phrase, “to eat some one’s flesh”. Consequently, eating and drinking are to be understood of the actual partaking of Christ in person, hence literally.
This interpretation agrees perfectly with the conduct of the hearers and the attitude of Christ regarding their doubts and objections. Again, the murmuring of the Jews is the clearest evidence that they had understood the preceding words of Jesus literally (John, vi, 53). Yet far from repudiating this construction as a gross misunderstanding, Christ repeated them in a most solemn manner, in the text quoted above (John, vi, 54 sqq.). In consequence, many of His Disciples were scandalized and said: “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (John, vi, 61); but instead of retracting what He had said, Christ rather reproached them for their want of faith, by alluding to His sublimer origin and His future Ascension into heaven. And without further ado He allowed these Disciples to go their way (John, vi, 62 sqq.). Finally He turned to His twelve Apostles with the question: “Will you also go away?” Then Peter stepped forth and with humble faith replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God” (John, vi, 68 sqq.). The entire scene of the discourse and murmurings against it proves that the Zwinglian and Anglican interpretation of the passage, “It is the spirit that quickeneth”, etc., in the sense of a glossing over or retractation, is wholly inadmissible. For in spite of these words the Disciples severed their connection with Jesus, while the Twelve accepted with simple faith a mystery which as yet they did not understand. Nor did Christ say: “My flesh is spirit”, i, e. to be understood in a figurative sense, but: “My words are spirit and life”. There are two views regarding the sense in which this text is to be interpreted. Many of the Fathers declare that the true Flesh of Jesus (sarks) is not to be understood as separated from His Divinity (spiritus), and hence not in a cannibalistic sense, but as belonging entirely to the supernatural economy. The second and more scientific explanation asserts that in the Scriptural opposition of “flesh and blood” to “spirit”, the former always signifies carnal-mindedness, the latter mental perception illumined by faith, so that it was the intention of Jesus in this passage to give prominence to the fact that the sublime mystery of the Eucharist can be grasped in the light of supernatural faith alone, whereas it cannot be understood by the carnal-minded, who are weighed down under the burden of sin. Under such circumstances it is not to be wondered at that the Fathers and several ecumenical councils (Ephesus, 431; Nicaea, 787) adopted the literal sense of the words, though it was not dogmatically defined (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXI, c. i). If it be true that a few Catholic theologians (as Cajetan, Ruardus Tapper, Johann Hessel, and the elder Jansenius) preferred the figurative interpretation, it was merely for controversial reasons, because in their perplexity they imagined that otherwise the claims of the Hussite and Protestant Utraquists for the partaking of the Chalice by the laity could not be answered by argument from Scripture. (Cf. Patrizi, “De Christo pane vitae”, Rome, 1851; Schmitt, “Die Verheissung der Eucharistie bei den Vätern”, 2 vols., Würzburg, 1900-03.)
The Church‘s Magna Charta, however, are the words of Institution, “This is my body—this is my blood”, whose literal meaning she has uninterruptedly adhered to from the earliest times. The Real Presence is evinced, positively, by showing the necessity of the literal sense of these words, and negatively, by refuting the figurative interpretations. As regards the first, the very existence of four distinct narratives of the Last Supper, divided usually into the Petrine (Matt., xxvi, 26 sqq.; Mark, xiv, 22 sqq.) and the double Pauline accounts (Luke, xxii, 19 sq.; I Cor., xi, 24 sq.), favors the literal interpretation. In spite of their striking unanimity as regards essentials, the Petrine account is simpler and clearer, whereas the Pauline is richer in additional details and more involved in its citation of the words that refer to the Chalice. It is but natural and justifiable to expect that, when four different narrators in different countries and at different times relate the words of Institution to different circles of readers, the occurrence of an unusual figure of speech, as, for instance, that bread is a sign of Christ’s Body, would, somewhere or other, betray itself, either in the difference of word-setting, or in the unequivocal expression of the meaning really intended, or at least in the addition of some such remark as: “He spoke, however, of the sign of His Body.” But nowhere do we discover the slightest ground for a figurative interpretation. If, then, the natural, literal interpretation were false, the Scriptural record alone would have to be considered as the cause of a pernicious error in faith and of the grievous crime of rendering Divine homage to bread (artolatria)—a supposition little in harmony with the character of the four Sacred Writers or with the inspiration of the Sacred Text. Moreover, we must not omit the very important circumstance, that one of the four narrators has interpreted his own account literally. This is St. Paul (I Cor., xi, 27 sq.), who, in the most vigorous language, brands the unworthy recipient as “guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord”. There can be no question of a grievous offense against Christ Himself, unless we suppose that the true Body and the true Blood of Christ are really present in the Eucharist. Further, if we attend only to the words themselves, their natural sense is so forceful and clear that even Luther wrote to the Christians of Strasburg in 1524: “I am caught, I cannot escape, the text is too forcible” (De Wette, II, 577). The necessity of the natural sense is not based upon the absurd assumption that Christ could not in general have resorted to the use of figures, but upon the evident requirements of the case, which demand that He did not, in a matter of such paramount importance, have recourse to meaningless and deceptive metaphors. For figures enhance the clearness of speech only when the figurative meaning is obvious, either from the nature of the case (e.g. from a reference to a statue of Lincoln, by saying: “This is Lincoln”) or from the usages of common parlance (e.g. in the case of this synecdoche: “This glass is wine”). Now, neither from the nature of the case nor in common parlance is bread an apt or possible symbol of the human body. Were one to say of a piece of bread: “This is Napoleon”, he would not be using a figure, but uttering nonsense. There is but one means of rendering a symbol improperly so called clear and intelligible, namely, by conventionally settling beforehand what it is to signify, as, for instance, if one were to say: “Let us imagine these two pieces of bread before us to be Socrates and Plato”. Christ, however, instead of informing His Apostles that he intended to use such a figure, told them rather the contrary in the discourse containing the promise: “the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world” (John, vi, 52). Such language, of course, could be used only by a God-man; so that belief in the Real Presence necessarily presupposes belief in the true Divinity of Christ. The foregoing rules would of themselves establish the natural meaning with certainty, even if the words of Institution, “This is my body—this is my blood”, stood alone. But in the original text corpus (body) and sanguis (blood) are followed by significant appositional additions, the Body being designated as “given for you” and the Blood as “shed for you [many]”; hence the Body given to the Apostles was the selfsame Body that was crucified on Good Friday, and the Chalice drunk by them, the selfsame Blood that was shed on the Cross for our sins. Therefore the above-mentioned appositional phrases directly exclude every possibility of a figurative interpretation.
We reach the same conclusion from a consideration of the concomitant circumstances, taking into account both the hearers and the Institutor. Those who heard the words of Institution were not learned Rationalists, possessed of the critical equipment that would enable them, as philologists and logicians, to analyze an obscure and mysterious phraseology; they were simple, uneducated fishermen, from the ordinary ranks of the people, who with childlike naïveté hung upon the words of their Master and with deep faith accepted whatever He proposed to them. This childlike disposition had to be reckoned with by Christ, particularly on the eve of His Passion and Death, when He made His last will and testament and spoke as a dying father to His deeply afflicted children. In such a moment of awful solemnity, the only appropriate mode of speech would be one which, stripped of unintelligible figures, made use of words corresponding exactly to the meaning to be conveyed. It must be remembered, also, that Christ as omniscient God-man must have foreseen the shameful error into which He would have led His Apostles and His Church by adopting an unheard of metaphor; for the Church down to the present day appeals to the words of Christ in her teaching and practice. If then she practices idolatry by the adoration of mere bread and wine, this crime must be laid to the charge of the God-man Himself. Besides this, Christ intended to institute the Eucharist as a most holy sacrament, to be solemnly celebrated in the Church even to the end of time. But the content and the constituent parts of a sacrament had to be stated with such clearness of terminology as to exclude categorically every error in liturgy and worship. As may be gathered from the words of consecration of the Chalice, Christ established the New Testament in His Blood, just as the Old Testament had been established in the typical blood of animals (cf. Ex., xxiv, 8; Heb., ix, 11 sqq.). With the true instinct of justice, jurists prescribe that in all debatable points the words of a will must be taken in their natural, literal sense; for they are led by the correct conviction, that every testator of sound mind, in drawing up his last will and testament, is deeply concerned to have it done in language at once clear and unencumbered by meaningless metaphors. Now, Christ, according to the literal purport of His testament, has left us as a precious legacy, not mere bread and wine, but His Body and Blood. Are we justified, then, in contradicting Him to His face and exclaiming: “No, this is not your Body, but mere bread, the sign of your Body!”
The refutation of the so-called Sacramentarians, a name given by Luther to those who opposed the Real Presence, evinces as clearly the impossibility of a figurative meaning. Once the manifest literal sense is abandoned, occasion is given to interminable controversies about the meaning of an enigma which Christ supposedly offered His followers for solution. There were no limits to the dispute in the sixteenth century, for at that time Christopher Rasperger wrote a whole book on some 200 different interpretations: “Ducentae verborum, `Hoc est corpus meum’ interpretationes” (Ingolstadt, 1577). In this connection we must restrict ourselves to an examination of the most current and widely known distortions of the literal sense, which were the butt of Luther’s bitter ridicule even as early as 1527. The first group of interpreters, with Zwingli, discovers a figure in the copula est and renders it: “This signifies (est=signi ficat) my Body”. In proof of this interpretation, examples are quoted from Scripture, as: “The seven kine are seven years” (Gen., xli, 26) or: “Sara and Agar are the two covenants” (Gal., iv, 24). Waiving the question whether the verb “to be” (Lat., esse, Gk., einai) of itself can ever be used as the “copula in a figurative relation” (Weiss) or express the “relation of identity in a metaphorical connection” (Heinrici), which most logicians deny, the fundamental principles of logic firmly establish this truth, that all propositions may be divided into two great categories, of which the first and most comprehensive denominates a thing as it is in itself (e.g. “Man is a rational being”), whereas the second designates a thing according as it is used as a sign of something else (e.g. “This picture is my father”). To determine whether a speaker intends the second manner of expression, there are four criteria, whose joint concurrence alone will allow the verb “to be” to have the meaning of “signify”. Abstracting from the three criteria, mentioned above, which have reference either to the nature of the case, or to the usages of common parlance, or to some convention previously agreed upon, there remains a fourth and last of decisive significance, namely: when a complete substance is predicated of another complete substance, there can exist no logical relation of identity between them, but only the relation of similarity, inasmuch as the first is an image, sign, symbol, of the other. Now this last-named criterion is inapplicable to the Scriptural examples brought forward by the Zwinglians, and especially so in regard to their interpretation of the words of Institution; for the words are not: “This bread is my Body”, but indefinitely: “This is my Body”. In the history of the Zwinglian conception of the Lord’s Supper, certain “sacramental expressions” (locutions sacramentales) of the Sacred Text, regarded as parallelisms of the words of Institution, have attracted considerable attention. The first is to be found in I Cor., x, 4: “And the rock was [signified] Christ”. Yet it is evident that, if the subject rock is taken in its material sense, the metaphor, according to the fourth criterion just mentioned, is as apparent as in the analogous phrase: “Christ is the vine”. If, however, the word rock in this passage is stripped of all that is material, it may be understood in a spiritual sense, because the Apostle himself is speaking of that “spiritual rock” (petra spiritalis), which in the Person of the Word in an invisible manner ever accompanied the Israelites in their journeyings and supplied them with a spiritual fountain of waters. According to this explanation the copula would here retain its meaning “to be”. A nearer approach to a parallel with the words of Institution is found apparently in the so-called “sacramental expressions”: “Hoc est pactum meum” (Gen., xvii, 10), and “est enim Phase Domini” (Ex., xii, 11). It is well known how Zwingli by a clever manipulation of the latter phrase succeeded in one day in winning over to his interpretation the entire Catholic population of Zurich. And yet it is clear that no parallelism can be discerned between the aforesaid expressions and the words of Institution; no real parallelism, because there is question of entirely different matters. Not even a verbal parallelism can be pointed out, since in both texts of the Old Testament the subject is a ceremony (circumcision in the first case, and the rite of the paschal lamb in the second), while the predicate involves a mere abstraction (covenant, Passover of the Lord). A more weighty consideration is this, that on closer investigation the copula est will be found to retain its proper meaning of “is” rather than “signifies”. For just as the circumcision not only signified the nature or object of the Divine covenant, but really was such, so the rite of the paschal lamb was really the Passover (Phase) or Pasch, instead of its mere representation. It is true that in certain Anglican circles it was formerly the custom to appeal to the supposed poverty of the Aramaic tongue, which was spoken by Christ in the company of His Apostles; for it was maintained that no word could be found in this language corresponding to the concept “to signify”. Yet, even prescinding from the fact that in the Aramaic tongue the copula est is usually omitted and that such an omission rather makes for its strict meaning of “to be”, Cardinal Wiseman (Home Syriaca., Rome, 1828, pp. 3-73) succeeded in producing no less than forty Syriac expressions conveying the meaning of “to signify” and thus effectually exploded the myth of the Semitic tongue’s limited vocabulary.
A second group of Sacramentarians, with Ecolampadius, shifted the diligently sought for metaphor to the concept contained in the predicate corpus, giving to the latter the sense of “signum corporis”, so that the words of Institution were to be rendered: “This is a sign [symbol, image, type] of my Body”. Essentially tallying with the Zwinglian interpretation, this new meaning is equally untenable. In all the languages of the world the expression “my body” designates a person’s natural body, not the mere sign or symbol of that body. True it is that the Scriptural words “Body of Christ” not unfrequently have the meaning of “Church“, which is called the mystical Body of Christ, a figure easily and always discernible as such from the text or context (cf. Col., i, 24). This mystical sense, however, is impossible in the words of Institution, for the simple reason that Christ did not give the Apostles His Church to eat, but His Body, and that “body and blood”, by reason of their real and logical association, cannot be separated from one another, and hence are all the less susceptible of a figurative use. The case would be different if the reading were: “This is the bread of my Body, the wine of my Blood”. In order to prove at least this much, that the contents of the Chalice are merely wine and, consequently, a mere sign of the Blood, Protestants have recourse to the text of St. Matthew, who relates that Christ, after the completion of the Last Supper, declared: “I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine [genimen vitis]” (Matt., xxvi, 29). It is to be noted that St. Luke (xxii, 18 sqq.), who is chronologically more exact, places these words of Christ before his account of the Institution, and that the true Blood of Christ may with right still be called (consecrated) wine, on the one hand, because the Blood was partaken of after the manner in which wine is drunk, and, on the other, because the Blood continues to exist under the outward appearances of the wine. In its multifarious wanderings from the old beaten path, being consistently forced with the denial of Christ’s Divinity to abandon faith in the Real Presence also, modern criticism seeks to account for the text along other lines. With utter arbitrariness, doubting whether the words of Institution originated from the mouth of Christ, it traces them to St. Paul as their author, in whose ardent soul something original supposedly mingled with his subjective reflections on the value attached to “Body” and on the “repetition of the Eucharistic banquet”. From this troubled fountain-head the words of Institution first found their way into the Gospel of St. Luke and then, by way of addition, were woven into the texts of St. Matthew and St. Mark. It stands to reason that the latter assertion is nothing more than a wholly unwarrantable conjecture, which may be passed over as gratuitously as it was advanced. It is, moreover, essentially untrue that the value attached to the Sacrifice and the repetition of the Lord’s Supper are mere reflections of St. Paul, since Christ attached a sacrificial value to His Death (cf. Mark, x, 45) and celebrated His Eucharistic Supper in connection with the Jewish Passover, which itself had to be repeated every year. As regards the interpretation of the words of Institution, there are at present three modern explanations contending for supremacy—the symbolical, the parabolical, and the eschatological. According to the symbolical interpretation, corpus is supposed to designate the Church as the mystical Body and sanguis the New Testament. We have already rejected this last meaning as impossible. For is it the Church that is eaten and the New Testament that is drunk? Did St. Paul brand the partaking of the Church and of the New Testament as a heinous offense committed against the Body and Blood of Christ? The case is not much better in regard to the parabolical interpretation, which would discern in the pouring out of the wine a mere parable of the shedding of the Blood on the Cross. This again is a purely arbitrary explanation, an invention, unsupported by any objective foundation. Then, too, it would follow from analogy, that the breaking of the bread was a parable of the slaying of Christ’s Body, a meaning utterly inconceivable. Rising as it were out of a dense fog and laboring to take on a definite form, the incomplete eschatological explanation would make the Eucharist a mere anticipation of the future heavenly banquet. Supposing the truth of the Real Presence, this consideration might be open to discussion, inasmuch as the partaking of the Bread of Angels is really the foretaste of eternal beatitude and the anticipated transformation of earth into heaven. But as implying a mere symbolical anticipation of heaven and a meaningless manipulation of unconsecrated bread and wine, the eschatological interpretation is diametrically opposed to the text and finds not the slightest support in the life and character of Christ.
(b) Proof from Tradition
As for the cogency of the argument from tradition, this historical fact is of decided significance, namely, that the dogma of the Real Presence remained, properly speaking, unmolested down to the time of the heretic Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088), and so could claim even at that time the uninterrupted possession of ten centuries. In the course of the dogma’s history there arose in general three great Eucharistic controversies, the first of which, begun by Paschasius Radbertus, in the ninth century, scarcely extended beyond the limits of his audience and concerned itself solely with the philosophical question, whether the Eucharistic Body of Christ is identical with the natural Body He had in Palestine and now has in heaven. Such a numerical identity could well have been denied by Ratramnus, Rabanus Maurus, Ratherius, Lanfranc, and others, since even nowadays a true, though accidental, distinction between the sacramental and the natural condition of Christ’s Body must be rigorously maintained. The first occasion for an official procedure on the part of the Church was offered when Berengarius of Tours, influenced by the writings of Scotus Eriugena (d. about 884), the first opponent of the Real Presence, rejected both the latter truth and that of Transubstantiation. He repaired, however, the public scandal he had given by a sincere retractation made in the presence of Pope Gregory VII at a synod held in Rome in 1079, and died reconciled to the Church. The third and the sharpest controversy was that opened by the Reformation in the sixteenth century, in regard to which it must be remarked that Luther was the only one among the Reformers who still clung to the old Catholic doctrine, and, though subjecting it to manifold misrepresentations, defended it most tenaciously. He was diametrically opposed by Zwingli of Zurich, who, as was seen above, reduced the Eucharist to an empty, meaningless symbol. Having gained over to his views such friendly contemporary partisans as Carlstadt, Bucer, and Oecolampadius, he later on secured influential allies in the Arminians, Mennonites, Socinians, and Anglicans, and even today the rationalistic conception of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper does not differ substantially from that of the Zwinglians. In the meantime, at Geneva, Calvin was cleverly seeking to bring about a compromise between the extremes of the Lutheran literal and the Zwinglian figurative interpretations, by suggesting instead of the substantial presence in one case or the merely symbolical in the other, a certain mean, i.e. dynamic, presence, which consists essentially in this, that at the moment of reception, the efficacy of Christ’s Body and Blood is communicated from heaven to the souls of the predestined and spiritually nourishes them. Thanks to Melanchthon’s pernicious and dishonest double-dealing, this attractive intermediary position of Calvin made such an impression even in Lutheran circles that it was not until the Formula of Concord in 1577 that the “crypto-Calvinistic venom” was successfully rejected from the body of Lutheran doctrine. The Council of Trent met these widely divergent errors of the Reformation with the dogmatic definition, that the God-man is “truly, really, and substantially” present under the appearances of bread and wine, purposely intending thereby to oppose the expression vere to Zwingli’s signum, realiter to Oecolampadius’s figura, and essentialiter to Calvin’s virtus (Sess. XIII, can. i). And this teaching of the Council of Trent has ever been and is now the unwavering position of the whole of Catholic Christendom.
As regards the doctrine of the Fathers, it is not possible in the present article to multiply patristic texts, which are usually characterized by wonderful beauty and clearness. Suffice it to say that, besides the Didache (ix, x, xiv), the most ancient Fathers, as Ignatius (Ad. Smyrn., vii; Ad. Ephes., xx; Ad. Philad., iv), Justin (Apol., I, lxvi), Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., IV, xvii, 5; IV, xviii, 4; V, ii, 2), Tertullian (De resurrect. earn., viii; De pudic., ix; De orat., xix; De bapt., xvi), and Cyprian (De orat. dom., xviii; De lapsis, xvi), attest without the slightest shadow of a misunderstanding what is the faith of the Church, while later patristic theology bears witness to the dogma in terms that approach exaggeration, as Gregory of Nyssa (Orat. catech., xxxvii), Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. myst., iv, 2 sqq.), and especially the Doctor of the Eucharist, Chrysostom [Hom. lxxxii (lxxxiii), in Matt., 1 sqq.; Hom. xlvi, in Joan., 2 sqq.; Hom. xxiv, in I Cor., 1 sqq.; Hom. ix, de poenit., 1], to whom may be added the Latin Fathers, Hilary (De Trinit., VIII, iv, 13) and Ambrose (De myst., viii, 49; ix, 51 sq.). Concerning the Syriac Fathers, see Th. Lamy, “De Syrorum fide in re eucharisticae” (Louvain, 1859). The position held by St. Augustine is at present the subject of a spirited controversy, since the adversaries of the Church rather confidently maintain that he favored their side of the question in that he was an out-and-out “Symbolist”. In the opinion of Loofs (“Dogmengeschichte”, 4th ed., Halle, 1906, p. 409), St. Augustine never gives the “reception of the true Body and Blood of Christ” a thought; and this view Ad. Harnack (Dogmengeschichte, 3rd ed., Freiburg, 1897, III, 148) emphasizes when he declares that St. Augustine “undoubtedly was one in this respect with the so-called pre-Reformation and with Zwingli”. Against this rather hasty conclusion Catholics first of all advance the undoubted fact that Augustine demanded that Divine worship should be rendered to the Eucharistic Flesh (In Ps. xxxiii, enarr., i, 10), and declared that at the Last Supper “Christ held and carried Himself in His own hands” (In Ps. xcviii, n. 9). They insist, and rightly so, that it is not fair to separate this great Doctor‘s teaching concerning the Eucharist from his doctrine of the Holy Sacrifice, since he clearly and unmistakably asserts that the true Body and Blood are offered in the Holy Mass. The variety of extreme views just mentioned requires that an attempt be made at a reasonable and unbiased explanation, whose verification is to be sought for and found in the acknowledged fact that a gradual process of development took place in the mind of St. Augustine. No one will deny that certain expressions occur in Augustine as forcibly realistic as those of Tertullian and Cyprian or of his intimate literary friends, Ambrose, Optatus of Mileve, Hilary, and Chrysostom. On the other hand, it is beyond question that, owing to the determining influence of Origen and the Platonic philosophy, which, as is well known, attached but slight value to visible matter and the sensible phenomena of the world, Augustine did not refer what was properly real (res) in the Blessed Sacrament to the Flesh of Christ (caro), but transferred it to the quickening principle (spiritus), i.e. to the effects produced by a worthy Communion. A logical consequence of this was that he allowed to caro, as the vehicle and antitype of res, not indeed a mere symbolical worth, but at best a transitory, intermediary, and subordinate worth (signum), and placed the Flesh and Blood of Christ, present under the appearances (figuroe) of bread and wine, in too decided an opposition to His natural, historical Body. Since Augustine was a strenuous defender of personal cooperation and effort in the work of salvation and an enemy to mere mechanical activity and superstitious routine, he omitted insisting upon a lively faith in the real personality of Jesus in the Eucharist, and called attention to the spiritual efficiency of the Flesh of Christ instead. His mental vision was fixed, not so much upon the saving caro, as upon the spiritus, which alone possessed worth. Nevertheless a turning-point occurred in his life. The conflict with Pelagianism and the diligent perusal of Chrysostom freed him from the bondage of Platonism, and he thenceforth attached to caro a separate, individual value independent of that of spiritus, going so far, in fact, as to maintain too strongly that the Communion of children was absolutely necessary to salvation. If, moreover, the reader finds in some of the other Fathers difficulties, obscurities, and a certain inaccuracy of expression, this may be explained on three general grounds: (I) because of the peace and security there is in their possession of the Church‘s truth, whence resulted a certain want of accuracy in their terminology; (2) because of the strictness with which the Discipline of the Secret, expressly concerned with the Holy Eucharist, was maintained in the East until the end of the fifth, in the West down to the middle of the sixth, century; (3) because of the preference of many Fathers for the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, which was especially in vogue in the Alexandrian School (Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyril), but which found a salutary counterpoise in the emphasis laid on the literal interpretation by the School of Antioch (Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret). Since, however, the allegorical sense of the Alexandrians did not exclude the literal, but rather supposed it as a working basis, the realistic phraseology of Clement (Paed., I, vi), of Origen (Contra Celsum, VIII, xiii, 32; Hom. ix, in Levit., x), and of Cyril (In Matt., xxvi, xxvii; Contra Nestor., IV, 5) concerning the Real Presence is readily accounted for. (For the solution of patristic difficulties, see Pohle, “Dogmatik”, 3rd ed., Paderborn, 1908, III, 209 sqq.)
The argument from tradition is supplemented and completed by the argument from prescription, which traces the constant belief in the dogma of the Real Presence through the Middle Ages back to the early Apostolic Church, and thus proves the anti-Eucharistic heresies to have been capricious novelties and violent ruptures of the true faith as handed down from the beginning. Passing over the interval that has elapsed since the Reformation, as this period receives its entire character from the Council of Trent, we have for the time of the Reformation the important testimony of Luther (Wider etliche Rottengeister, 1532) for the fact that the whole of Christendom then believed in the Real Presence. And this firm, universal belief can be traced back uninterruptedly to Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088), in fact—omitting the sole exception of Scotus Eriugena—to Paschasius Radbertus (831). On these grounds, therefore, we may proudly maintain that the Church has been in legitimate possession of this dogma for fully eleven centuries. When Photius started the Greek Schism in 869, he took over to his Church the inalienable treasure of the Catholic Eucharist, a treasure which the Greeks, in the negotiations for reunion at Lyons in 1274 and at Florence in 1439, could show to be still intact, and which they vigorously defended in the schismatical Synod of Jerusalem (1672) against the sordid machinations of the Calvinistic-minded Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople (1629). From this it follows conclusively that the Catholic dogma must be much older than the Eastern Schism under Photius. In fact, even the Nestorians and Monophysites, who broke away from Rome in the fifth century, have, as is evident from their literature and liturgical books, preserved their faith in the Eucharist as unwaveringly as the Greeks, and this in spite of the dogmatic difficulties which, on account of their denial of the hypostatic union, stood in the way of a clear and correct notion of the Real Presence. Therefore the Catholic dogma is at least as old as Nestorianism (431 A.D.). But is it not of even greater antiquity? To decide this question one has only to examine the oldest Liturgies of the Mass, whose essential elements date back to the time of the Apostles (see articles on the various liturgies), to visit the Roman Catacombs (see Roman Catacombs), where Christ is shown as present in the Eucharistic food under the symbol of a fish (see Early Symbols of the Eucharist), to decipher the famous Inscription of Abercius of the second century, which, though composed under the influence of the Discipline of the Secret, plainly attests the faith of that age. And thus the argument from prescription carries us back to the dim and distant past and thence to the time of the Apostles, who in turn could have received their faith in the Real Presence from no one but Christ Himself.
(2) The Totality of the Real Presence
In order to forestall at the very outset the unworthy notion, that in the Eucharist we receive merely the Body and merely the Blood of Christ but not Christ in His entirety, the Council of Trent defined the Real Presence to be such as to include with Christ’s Body and Blood His Soul and Divinity as well. A strictly logical conclusion from the words of promise: “he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me”, this Totality of Presence was also the constant property of tradition, which characterized the partaking of separated parts of the Savior as a sarcophagy (flesh-eating) altogether derogatory to God. Although the separation of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Logos, is, absolutely speaking, within the almighty power of God, yet their actual inseparability is firmly established by the dogma of the indissolubility of the hypostatic union of Christ’s Divinity and Humanity. In case the Apostles had celebrated the Lord’s Supper during the triduum mortis (the time during which Christ’s Body was in the tomb), when a real separation took place between the constitutive elements of Christ, there would have been really present in the Sacred Host only the bloodless, inanimate Body of Christ as it lay in the tomb, and in the Chalice only the Blood separated from His Body and absorbed by the earth as it was shed, both the Body and the Blood, however, remaining hypostatically united to His Divinity, while His Soul, which sojourned in Limbo, would have remained entirely excluded from the Eucharistic presence. This unreal, though not impossible, hypothesis, is well calculated to throw light upon the essential difference designated by the Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, c. iii), between the meanings of the words ex vi verborum and per concomitantiam. By virtue of the words of Consecration, or ex vi verborum, that only is made present which is expressed by the words of Institution, namely the Body and the Blood of Christ. But by reason of a natural concomitance (per concomitantiam), there becomes simultaneously present all that which is physically inseparable from the parts just named, and which must, from a natural connection with them, always be their accompaniment. Now, the glorified Christ, Who “dieth now no more” (Rom., vi, 9), has an animate Body through whose veins courses His life’s Blood under the vivifying influence of the soul. Consequently, together with His Body and Blood and Soul, His whole Humanity also, and, by virtue of the hypostatic union, His Divinity, i.e. Christ whole and entire, must be present. Hence Christ is present in the sacrament with His Flesh and Blood, Body and Soul, Humanity and Divinity.
This general and fundamental principle, which entirely abstracts from the duality of the species, must, nevertheless, be extended to each of the species of bread and wine. For we do not receive in the Sacred Host one part of Christ and in the Chalice the other, as though our reception of the totality depended upon our partaking of both forms; on the contrary, under the appearance of bread alone, as well as under the appearance of wine alone, we receive Christ whole and entire (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, can. iii). This, the only reasonable conception, finds its Scriptural verification in the fact, that St. Paul (I Cor., xi, 27, 29) attaches the same guilt “of the body and the blood of the Lord” to the unworthy “eating or drinking”, understood in a disjunctive sense, as he does to “eating and drinking”, understood in a copulative sense. The traditional foundation for this is to be found in the testimony of the Fathers and of the Church‘s liturgy, according to which the glorified Savior can be present on our altars only in His totality and integrity, and not divided into parts or distorted to the form of a monstrosity. It follows, therefore, that supreme adoration is separately due to the Sacred Host and to the consecrated contents of the Chalice. On this last truth are based especially the permissibility and intrinsic propriety of Communion only under one kind for the laity and for priests not celebrating Mass (see Communion under Both Kinds). But in particularizing upon the dogma, we are naturally led to the further truth, that, at least after the actual division of either Species into parts, Christ is present in each part in His full and entire essence. If the Sacred Host be broken into pieces or if the consecrated Chalice be drunk in small quantities, Christ in His entirety is present in each particle and in each drop. By the restrictive clause, separatione factae, the Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, can. iii) rightly raised this truth to the dignity of a dogma. While from Scripture we may only judge it improbable that Christ consecrated separately each particle of the bread He had broken, we know with certainty, on the other hand, that He blessed the entire contents of the Chalice and then gave it to His disciples to be partaken of distributively (cf. Matt., xxvi, 27 sq.; Mark, xiv, 23). It is only on the basis of the Tridentine dogma that we can understand how Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech. myst. v, n. 21) obliged communicants to observe the most scrupulous care in conveying the Sacred Host to their mouths, so that not even “a crumb, more precious than gold or jewels”, might fall from their hands to the ground; how Caesarius of Arles taught that there is “just as much in the small fragment as in the whole”; how the different liturgies assert the abiding integrity of the “indivisible Lamb“, in spite of the “division of the Host”; and, finally, how in actual practice the faithful partook of the broken particles of the Sacred Host and drank in common from the same cup.
While the three foregoing theses contain dogmas of faith, there is a fourth proposition which is merely a theological conclusion, namely, that even before the actual division of the Species, Christ is present wholly and entirely in each particle of the still unbroken Host and in each drop of the collective contents of the Chalice. For were not Christ present in His entire Personality in every single particle of the Eucharistic Species even before their division took place, we should be forced to conclude that it is the process of dividing which brings about the Totality of Presence, whereas according to the teaching of the Church the operative cause of the Real and Total Presence is to be found in Transubstantiation alone. No doubt this last conclusion directs the attention of philosophical and scientific inquiry to a mode of existence peculiar to the Eucharistic Body, which is contrary to the ordinary laws of experience. It is, indeed, one of those sublime mysteries, concerning which speculative theology attempts to offer various solutions [see below under (5)].
Before proving dogmatically the fact of the substantial change here under consideration, we must first outline its history and nature.
(a) The scientific development of the concept of Transubstantiation can hardly be said to be a product of the Greeks, who did not get beyond its more general notes; rather, it is the remarkable contribution of the Latin theologians, who were stimulated to work it out in complete logical form by the three Eucharistic controversies mentioned above. The term transubstantiation seems to have been first used by Hildebert of Tours (about 1079). His encouraging example was soon followed by other theologians, as Stephen of Autun (d. 1139), Gaufred (1188), and Peter of Blois (d. about 1200), whereupon several ecumenical councils also adopted this significant expression, as the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215), and the Council of Lyons (1274), in the profession of faith of the Greek Emperor Michael Palaeologus. The Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, cap. iv; can. ii) not only accepted as an inheritance of faith the truth contained in the idea, but authoritatively confirmed the “aptitude of the term” to express most strikingly the legitimately developed doctrinal concept. In a closer logical analysis of Transubstantiation, we find the first and fundamental notion to be that of conversion, which may be defined as “the transition of one thing into another in some aspect of being”. As is immediately evident, conversion (conversio) is something more than mere change (mutatio). Whereas in mere changes one of the two extremes may be expressed negatively, as, e.g., in the change of day and night, conversion requires two positive extremes, which are related to each other as thing to thing, and must have, besides, such an intimate connection with each other, that the last extreme (terminus ad quem) begins to be only as the first (terminus a quo) ceases to be, as, e.g., in the conversion of water into wine at Cana. A third element is usually required, known as the commune tertium, which, even after conversion has taken place, either physically or at least logically unites one extreme to the other; for in every true conversion the following condition must be fulfilled: “What was formerly A, is now B.” A very important question suggests itself as to whether the definition should further postulate the previous non-existence of the last extreme, for it seems strange that an existing terminus a quo, A, should be converted into an already existing terminus ad quem, B. If the act of conversion is not to become a mere process of substitution, as in sleight-of-hand performances, the terminus ad quem must unquestionably in some manner newly exist, just as the terminus a quo must in some manner really cease to exist. Yet as the disappearance of the latter is not attributable to annihilation properly so called, so there is no need of postulating creation, strictly so called, to explain the former’s coming into existence. The idea of conversion is amply realized if the following condition is fulfilled, viz., that a thing which already existed in substance, acquires an altogether new and previously non-existing mode of being. Thus in the resurrection of the dead, the dust of the human bodies will be truly converted into the bodies of the risen by their previously existing souls, just as at death they had been truly converted into corpses by the departure of the souls. This much as regards the general notion of conversion. Transubstantiation, however, is not a conversion simply so called, but a substantial conversion (conversio substantialis), inasmuch as one thing is sub stantially or essentially converted into another. Thus from the concept of Transubstantiation is excluded every sort of merely accidental conversion, whether it be purely natural (e.g. the metamorphosis of insects) or supernatural (e.g. the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor). Finally, Transubstantiation differs from every other substantial conversion in this, that only the substance is converted into another—the accidents remaining the same—just as would be the case if wood were miraculously converted into iron, the substance of the iron remaining hidden under the external appearance of the wood.
The application of the foregoing to the Eucharist is an easy matter. First of all the notion of conversion is verified in the Eucharist, not only in general, but in all its essential details. For we have the two extremes of conversion, namely, bread and wine as the terminus a quo, and the Body and Blood of Christ as the terminus ad quem. Furthermore, the intimate connection between the cessation of one extreme and the appearance of the other seems to be preserved by the fact, that both events are the results, not of two independent processes, as, e.g. annihilation and creation, but of one single act, since, according to the purpose of the Almighty, the substance of the bread and wine departs in order to make room for the Body and Blood of Christ. Lastly, we have the commune tertium in the unchanged appearances of bread and wine, under which appearances the pre-existent Christ assumes a new, sacramental mode of being, and without which His Body and Blood could not be partaken of by men. That the consequence of Transubstantiation, as a conversion of the total substance, is the transition of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, is the express doctrine of the Church (Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, can. ii). Thus were condemned as contrary to faith the antiquated view of Durandus, that only the substantial form (forma substantialis) of the bread underwent conversion, while the primary matter (materia prima) remained, and, especially, Luther’s doctrine of Consubstantiation, i.e. the coexistence of the substance of the bread with the true Body of Christ. Thus, too, the theory of Impanation advocated by Osiander and certain Berengarians, and according to which a hypostatic union is supposed to take place between the substance of the bread and the God-man (impanatio= Deus pans factus), is authoritatively rejected. So the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation sets up a mighty bulwark around the dogma of the Real Presence and constitutes in itself a distinct doctrinal article, which is not involved in that of the Real Presence, though the doctrine of the Real Presence is necessarily contained in that of Transubstantiation. It was for this very reason that Pius VI, in his dogmatic Bull “Auctorem fidei” (1794) against the Jansenistic pseudo-Synod of Pistoia (1786), protested most vigorously against suppressing this “scholastic question”, as the synod had advised pastors to do.
(b) In the mind of the Church, Transubstantiation has been so intimately bound up with the Real Presence, that both dogmas have been handed down together from generation to generation, though we cannot entirely ignore a dogmatico-historical development. The total conversion of the substance of bread is expressed clearly in the words of Institution: “This is my body”. These words form, not a theoretical, but a practical proposition, whose essence consists in this, that the objective identity between subject and predicate is effected and verified only after the words have all been uttered, not unlike the pronouncement of a king to a subaltern: “You are a major”, or, “You are a captain”, which would immediately cause the promotion of the officer to a higher command. When, therefore, He Who is All Truth and All Power said of the bread: “This is my body”, the bread became, through the utterance of these words, the Body of Christ; consequently, on the completion of the sentence the substance of bread was no longer present, but the Body of Christ under the outward appearance of bread. Hence the bread must have become the Body of Christ, i.e. the former must have been converted into the latter. The words of Institution were at the same time the words of Transubstantiation. Indeed the actual manner in which the absence of the bread and the presence of the Body of Christ is effected, is not read into the words of Institution but strictly and exegetically deduced from them. The Calvinists, therefore, are perfectly right when they resect the Lutheran doctrine of Consubstantiation as a fiction, with no foundation in Scripture. For had Christ intended to assert the coexistence of His Body with the substance of the bread, He would not have expressed a simple identity between hoc and corpus by means of the copula est, but would have resorted to some such expression as: “This bread contains my body”, or, “In this bread is my body.” Had He desired to constitute bread the sacramental receptacle of His Body, He would have had to state this expressly, for neither from the nature of the case nor according to common parlance can a piece of bread be made to signify the receptacle of a human body. On the other hand, the synecdoche is plain in the case of the Chalice: “This is my blood”, i.e. the contents of the Chalice are my blood, and hence no longer wine.
Regarding tradition, the earliest witnesses, as Tertullian and Cyprian, could hardly have given any particular consideration to the genetic relation of the natural elements of bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ, or to the manner in which the former were converted into the latter; for even Augustine was deprived of a clear conception of Transubstantiation, so long as he was held in the bonds of Platonism. On the other hand, complete clearness on the subject had been attained by writers as early as Cyril of Jerusalem, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, and Cyril of Alexandria in the East, and by Ambrose and the later Latin writers in the West. Eventually the West became the classic home of scientific perfection in the difficult doctrine of Transubstantiation. The claims of the learned work of the Anglican Dr. Pusey (The Doctrine of the Real Presence as contained in the Fathers, Oxford, 1855), who denied the cogency of the patristic argument for Transubstantiation, have been met and thoroughly answered by Cardinal Franzelin (De Euchar., Rome, 1887, thes. xiv). The argument from tradition is strikingly confirmed by the ancient liturgies, whose touching and beautiful prayers express the idea of conversion in the clearest manner. Many examples may be found in Renaudot, “Liturgiae orient.” (2nd ed., Frankfort, 1847); Assemani, “Codex liturg.” (13 vols., Rome, 1749-66); Denzinger, “Ritus Orientalium” (2 vols., Würzburg, 1864). Concerning the Adduction Theory of the Scotists and the Production Theory of the Thomists, see Pohle, “Dogmatik” (3rd ed., Paderborn, 1908), III, 237 sqq.
(4) The Permanence and Adorableness of the Blessed Eucharist
Since Luther arbitrarily restricted the Real Presence to the moment of reception (in usu, non extra), the Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, can. iv) by a special canon emphasized the fact, that immediately after the Consecration Christ is truly present and, consequently, does not make His Presence dependent upon the act of eating or drinking. On the contrary, He continues His Eucharistic Presence even in the consecrated Hosts and Sacred particles that remain on the altar or in the ciborium after the distribution of Holy Communion. In the deposit of faith the Real Presence and the Permanence of Presence are so closely allied, that in the mind of the Church both continue on as an undivided whole. And rightly so; for just as Christ promised His Flesh and Blood as meat and drink, i.e. as something permanent (cf. John, vi, 50 sqq.), so, when He said: “Take ye, and eat. This is my body”, the Apostles received from the hand of the Lord His Sacred Body, which was already objectively present and did not first become so in the act of partaking. This non-dependence of the Real Presence upon the actual reception is manifested very clearly in the case of the Chalice, when Christ said: “Drink ye all of this. For [enim] this is my Blood.” Here the act of drinking is evidently neither the cause nor the conditio sine quae non for the presence of Christ’s Blood.
Much as he disliked it, even Calvin had to acknowledge the evident force of the argument from tradition (Instit. IV, xvii, §39). Not only have the Fathers, and among them Chrysostom with special vigor, defended in theory the permanence of the Real Presence, but the constant practice of the Church has also established its truth. In the early days of the Church the faithful frequently carried the Blessed Eucharist with them to their homes (cf. Tertullian, “Ad uxor.”, II, v; Cyprian, “De lapsis”, xxvi) or upon long journeys (Ambrose, De excessu fratris, I, 43, 46), while the deacons were accustomed to take the Blessed Sacrament to those who did not attend Divine service (cf. Justin, Apol., I, n. 67), as well as to the martyrs, the incarcerated, and the infirm (cf. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., VI, xliv). The deacons were also obliged to transfer the particles that remained to specially prepared repositories called Pastophoria (cf. Apostolic Constitutions, VIII, xiii). Furthermore, it was customary as early as the fourth century to celebrate the Mass of the Presanctified (cf. Synod of Laodicea, can. xlix), in which were received the Sacred Hosts that had been consecrated one or more days previously. In the Latin Church the celebration of the Mass of the Pre-sanctified is nowadays restricted to Good Friday, whereas, ever since the Trullan Synod (692), the Greeks celebrate it during the whole of Lent, except on Saturdays, Sundays, and the feast of the Annunciation (March 25). A deeper reason for the permanence of Presence is found in the fact, that some time elapses between the confection and the reception of the sacrament, i.e. between the Consecration and the Communion, whereas in the case of the other sacraments both the confection and the reception take place at the same instant. Baptism, for instance, lasts only as long as the baptismal action or ablution with water, and is, therefore, a transitory sacrament; on the contrary, the Eucharist, and the Eucharist alone, constitutes a permanent sacrament (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, cap. iii). The permanence of Presence, however, is limited to an interval of time of which the beginning is determined by the instant of Consecration and the end by the corruption of the Eucharistic Species. If the Host has become mouldy or the contents of the Chalice sour, Christ has discontinued His Presence therein. Since in the process of corruption those elementary substances return which correspond to the peculiar nature of the changed accidents, the law of the indestructibility of matter, notwithstanding the miracle of the Eucharistic conversion, remains in force without any interruption.
The Adorableness of the Eucharist is the practical consequence of its permanence. According to a well-known principle of Christology, the same worship of latria (cultus latrioe) as is due to the Triune God is due also to the Divine Word, the God-man Christ, and in fact, by reason of the hypostatic union, to the Humanity of Christ and its individual component parts, as, e.g., His Sacred Heart. Now, identically the same Lord Christ is truly present in the Eucharist as is present in heaven; consequently He is to be adored in the Blessed Sacrament, and just so long as He remains present under the appearances of bread and wine, namely, from the moment of Transubstantiation to the moment in which the species are decomposed (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, can. vi).
In the absence of Scriptural proof, the Church finds a warrant for, and a propriety in, rendering Divine worship to the Blessed Sacrament in the most ancient and constant tradition, though of course a distinction must be made between the dogmatic principle and the varying discipline regarding the outward form of worship. While even the East recognized the unchangeable principle from the earliest ages, and, in fact, as late as the schismatical Synod of Jerusalem in 1672, the West has furthermore shown an untiring activity in establishing and investing with more and more solemnity, homage and devotion to the Blessed Eucharist. In the early Church, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was restricted chiefly to Mass and Communion, just as it is today among the Orientals and the Greeks. Even in his time Cyril of Jerusalem insisted just as strongly as did Ambrose and Augustine on an attitude of adoration and homage during Holy Communion (cf. Ambrose, De Sp. Sancto, III, ii, 79; Augustine, In Ps. xcviii, n. 9). In the West the way was opened to a more and more exalted veneration of the Blessed Eucharist when the faithful were allowed to Communicate even outside of the liturgical service. After the Berengarian controversy, the Blessed Sacrament was in the eleventh and twelfth centuries elevated for the express purpose of repairing by its adoration the blasphemies of heretics and strengthening the imperilled faith of Catholics. In the thirteenth century were introduced, for the greater glorification of the Most Holy, the “theophoric processions” (circumgestatio), and also the feast of Corpus Christi, instituted under Urban IV at the solicitation of St. Juliana of Liege. In honor of the feast, sublime hymns, such as the “Pange Lingua” of St. Thomas Aquinas, were composed. In the fourteenth century the practice of the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament arose. The custom of the annual Corpus Christi procession was warmly defended and recommended by the Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, cap. v). A new impetus was given to the adoration of the Eucharist through the visits to the Blessed Sacrament (Visitatio SS. Sacramenti;), introduced by St. Alphonsus Liguori; in later times the numerous orders and congregations devoted to Perpetual Adoration, the institution in many dioceses of the devotion of “Perpetual Prayer“, the holding of International Eucharistic Congresses, e.g. that of London in September, 1908, have all contributed to keep alive faith in Him Who has said: “behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt., xxviii, 20).
(5) Speculative Discussion of the Real Presence
The principal aim of speculative theology with regard to the Eucharist, should be to discuss philosophically, and seek a logical solution of, three apparent contradictions, namely: (a) the continued existence of the Eucharistic Species, or the outward appearances of bread and wine, without their natural underlying subject (accidentia sine subjecto); (b) the spatially uncircumscribed, spiritual mode of existence of Christ’s Eucharistic Body (existentia corporis ad modum spiritus); (c) the simultaneous existence of Christ in heaven and in many places on earth (multilocatio).
(a) The study of the first problem, viz. whether or not the accidents of bread and wine continue their existence without their proper substance, must be based upon the clearly established truth of Transubstantiation, in consequence of which the entire substance of the bread and the entire substance of the wine are converted respectively into the Body and Blood of Christ in such a way that “only the appearances of bread and wine remain” (Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, can. ii: manentibus dumtaxat speciebus panis et vini). Accordingly, the continuance of the appearances without the substance of bread and wine as their connatural substratum is just the reverse of Transubstantiation. If it be further asked, whether these appearances have any subject at all in which they inhere, we must answer with St. Thomas Aquinas (III, Q. lxxvii, a. 1), that the idea is to be rejected as unbecoming, as though the Body of Christ, in addition to its own accidents, should also assume those of bread and wine. The most that may be said is, that from the Eucharistic Body proceeds a miraculous sustaining power, which supports the appearances bereft of their natural substances and preserves them from collapse. The position of the Church in this regard may be readily determined from the Council of Constance (1414-1418). In its eighth session, approved in 1418 by Martin V, this synod condemned the following articles of Wyclif: (I) “Substantia panis materialis et similiter substantia vini materialis remanent in Sacramento altaris”, i.e. the material substance of bread and likewise the material substance of wine remain in the Sacrament of the Altar; (2) “Accidentia panis non manent sine subjecto”, i.e. the accidents of the bread do not remain without a subject. The first of these articles contains an open denial of Transubstantiation. The second, so far as the text is concerned, might be considered as merely a different wording of the first, were it not that the history of the council shows that Wyclif had directly opposed the Scholastic doctrine of “accidents without a subject” as absurd and even heretical (cf. De Augustinis, De re sacramentaria, Rome, 1889, II, 573 sqq.). Hence it was the intention of the council to condemn the second article, not merely as a conclusion of the first, but as a distinct and independent proposition; wherefore we may gather the Church‘s teaching on the subject from the contradictory proposition: “Accidentia panis manent sine subjecto”, i.e. the accidents of bread do remain without a subject. Such, at least, was the opinion of contemporary theologians regarding the matter; and the Roman Catechism, referring to the above-mentioned canon of the Council of Trent, tersely explains: “The accidents of bread and wine inhere in no substance, but continue existing by themselves.” This being the case, some theologians in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who inclined to Cartesianism, as E. Maignan, Drouin, and Vitasse, displayed but little theological penetration when they asserted that the Eucharistic appearances were optical illusions, phantasmagoria, and make-believe accidents, ascribing to Divine omnipotence an immediate influence upon the five senses, whereby a mere subjective impression of what seemed to be the accidents of bread and wine was created. Since Descartes (d. 1650) places the essence of corporeal substance in its actual extension and recognizes only modal accidents meta-physically united to their substance, it is clear, according to his theory, that together with the conversion of the substance of bread and wine, the accidents must also be converted and thereby made to disappear. If the eye nevertheless seems to behold bread and wine, this is to be attributed to an optical illusion alone. But it is clear at first blush, that no doubt can be entertained as to the physical reality, or in fact, as to the identity of the accidents before and after Transubstantiation. This physical, and not merely optical, continuance of the Eucharistic accidents was repeatedly insisted upon by the Fathers, and with such excessive vigor that the notion of Transubstantiation seemed to be in danger. Especially against the Monophysites, who based on the Eucharistic conversion an a pari argument in behalf of the supposed conversion of the Humanity of Christ into His Divinity, did the Fathers retort by concluding from the continuance of the unconverted Eucharistic accidents to the unconverted Human Nature of Christ. Both philosophical and theological arguments were also advanced against the Cartesians, as, for instance, the infallible testimony of the senses, the necessity of the commune tertium to complete the idea of Transubstantiation [see above, (3)], the idea of the Sacrament of the Altar as the visible sign of Christ’s invisible Body, the physical signification of Communion as a real partaking of food and drink, the striking expression “breaking of bread” (fractio panis) which supposes the divisible reality of the accidents, etc. For all these reasons, theologians consider the physical reality of the accidents as an incontrovertible truth, which cannot without temerity be called in question.
As regards the philosophical possibility of the accidents existing without their substance, the older school drew a fine distinction between modal and absolute accidents. By the modal accidents were understood such as could not, being mere modes, be separated from their substance without involving a meta-physical contradiction, e.g. the form and motion of a body. Those accidents were designated absolute, whose objective reality was adequately distinct from the reality of their substance, in such a way that no intrinsic repugnance was involved in their separability, as, e.g., the quantity of a body. Aristotle himself taught (Metaphys., VI, 3rd ed. of Bekker, p. 1029, a. 13), that quantity was not a corporeal substance, but only a phenomenon of substance. Modern philosophy, on the other hand, has endeavored since the time of John Locke, to reject altogether from the realm of ideas the concept of substance as something imaginary, and to rest satisfied with qualities alone as the excitants of sensation, a view of the material world which the so-called psychology of association and actuality is trying to carry out in its various details. The Catholic Church does not feel called upon to follow up the ephemeral vagaries of these new philosophical systems, but bases her doctrine on the ever-lasting philosophy of sound reason, which rightly distinguishes between the thing in itself and its characteristic qualities (color, form, size, etc.). Though the “thing in itself” may ever remain imperceptible to the senses and therefore be designated in the language of Kant as a noumenon, or in the language of Spencer, the Unknowable, yet we cannot escape the necessity of seeking beneath the appearances the thing which appears, beneath the color that which is colored, beneath the form that which has form, i.e. the substratum or subject which sustains the phenomena. The older philosophy designated the appearances by the name of accidents, the subject of the appearances, by that of substance. It matters little what the terms are, provided the things signified by them are rightly understood. What is particularly important regarding material substances and their accidental qualities, is the necessity of proceeding cautiously in this discussion, since in the domain of natural philosophy the greatest uncertainty reigns even at the present day concerning the nature of matter, one system pulling down what another has reared, as is proved in the latest theories of atomism and energy, of ions and electrons.
The old theology tried with St. Thomas Aquinas (III, Q. lxxvii) to prove the possibility of absolute accidents on the principles of the Aristotelean-Scholastic hylomorphism, i.e. the system which teaches that the essential constitution of bodies consists in the substantial union of materia prima and forma substantialis. Some theologians of today would seek to come to an understanding with modern science, which bases all natural processes upon the very fruitful theory of energy, by trying with Leibniz to explain the Eucharistic accidentia sine subjecto according to the dynamism of natural philosophy. Assuming, according to this system, a real distinction between force and its manifestations, between energy and its effects, it may be seen that under the influence of the First Cause the energy (substance) necessary for the essence of bread is withdrawn by virtue of conversion, while the effects of energy (accidents) in a miraculous manner continue. For the rest it may be said, that it is far from the Church‘s intention to restrict the Catholic‘s investigation regarding the doctrine of the Blessed Sacrament to any particular view of natural philosophy or even to require him to establish its truth on the principles of medieval physics; all that the Church demands is, that those theories of material substances be rejected which not only contradict the teaching of the Church, but also are repugnant to experience and sound reason, as Pantheism, Hylozoism, Monism, Absolute Idealism, Cartesianism, etc.
(b) The second problem arises from the Totality of Presence, which means that Christ in His entirety is present in the whole of the Host and in each smallest part thereof, as the spiritual soul is present in the human body [see above, (2)]. The difficulty reaches its climax when we consider that there is no question here of the Soul or the Divinity of Christ, but of His Body, which, with its head, trunk, and members, has assumed a mode of existence spiritual and independent of space, a mode of existence, indeed, concerning which neither experience nor any system of philosophy can have the least inkling. That the idea of conversion of corporeal matter into a spirit can in no way be entertained, is clear from the material substance of the Eucharistic Body itself. Even the above-mentioned separability of quantity from substance gives us no clue to the solution, since according to the best-founded opinions not only the substance of Christ’s Body, but by His own wise arrangement, its corporeal quantity, i.e. its full size, with its complete organization of integral members and limbs, is present within the diminutive limits of the Host and in each portion thereof. Later theologians (as Rossignol, Legrand) resorted to the unseemly explanation, according to which Christ is present in diminished form and stature, a sort of miniature body; while others (as Oswald, Fernandez, Casajoana) assumed with no better sense of fitness the mutual compenetration of the members of Christ’s Body to within the narrow compass of the point of a pin. The vagaries of the Cartesians, however, went beyond all bounds. Descartes had already, in a letter to P. Mesland (ed. Emery, Paris, 1811), expressed the opinion, that the identity of Christ’s Eucharistic with His Heavenly Body was preserved by the identity of His Soul, which animated all the Eucharistic Bodies. On this basis, the geometrician Varignon suggested a true multiplication of the Eucharistic Bodies upon earth, which were supposed to be most faithful, though greatly reduced, miniature copies of the prototype, the Heavenly Body of Christ. Nor does the modern theory of n-dimensions throw any light upon the subject; for the Body of Christ is not invisible or impalpable to us because it occupies the fourth dimension, but because it transcends and is wholly independent of space. Such a mode of existence, it is clear, does not come within the scope of physics and mechanics, but belongs to a higher, supernatural order, even as does the Resurrection from the sealed tomb, the passing in and out through closed doors, the Transfiguration of the future glorified risen Body. What explanation may, then, be given of the fact?
The simplest treatment of the subject was that offered by the Schoolmen, especially St. Thomas (III, Q. lxxvi, a. 4). They reduced the mode of being to the mode of becoming, i.e. they traced back the mode of existence peculiar to the Eucharistic Body to the Transubstantiation; for a thing has to so “be” as it was in “becoming”. Since ex vi verborum the immediate result is the presence of the Body of Christ, its quantity, present merely per concomitantiam, must follow the mode of existence peculiar to its substance, and, like the latter, must exist without division and extension, i.e. entirely in the whole Host and entirely in each part thereof. In other words, the Body of Christ is present in the sacrament, not after the manner of “quantity” (per modum quantitatis), but of “substance” (per modum substantioe). Later Scholasticism (Bellarmine, Suarez, Billuart, and others) tried to improve upon this explanation along other lines by distinguishing between internal and external quantity. By internal quantity (quantitas interna seu in actu primo) is understood that entity, by virtue of which a corporeal substance merely possesses “aptitudinal extension”, i.e. the “capability” of being extended in tri-dimensional space. External quantity, on the other hand (quantitas externa seu in actu secundo), is the same entity, but in so far as it follows its natural tendency to occupy space and actually extends itself in the three dimensions. While aptitudinal extension or internal quantity is so bound up with the essences of bodies that its separability from them involves a metaphysical contradiction, external quantity is, on the other hand, only a natural consequence and effect, which can be so suspended and withheld by the First Cause, that the corporeal substance, retaining its internal quantity, does not extend itself into space. At all events, however plausibly reason may seem to explain the matter, it is nevertheless face to face with a great mystery.
(c) The third and last question has to do with the multilocation of Christ in heaven and upon thousands of altars throughout the world. Since in the natural order of events each body is restricted to one position in space (unilocatio), so that before the law proof of an alibi immediately frees a person from the suspicion of crime, multilocation without further question belongs to the supernatural order. First of all, no intrinsic repugnance can be shown in the concept of multilocation. For if the objection be raised, that no being can exist separated from itself or show forth local distances between its various selves, the sophism is readily detected; for multilocation does not multiply the individual object, but only its external relation to and presence in space. Philosophy distinguishes two modes of presence in creatures: (I) the circumscriptive and (2) the definitive. The first, the only mode of presence proper to bodies, is that by virtue of which an object is confined to a determinate portion of space in such wise that its various parts (atoms, molecules, electrons) also occupy their corresponding positions in that space. The second mode of presence, that properly belonging to a spiritual being, requires the substance of a thing to exist in its entirety in the whole of the space, as well as whole and entire in each part of that space. The latter is the soul’s mode of presence in the human body. The distinction made between these two modes of presence is important, inasmuch as in the Eucharist both kinds are found in combination. For, in the first place, there is verified a continuous definitive multilocation, called also replication, which consists in this, that the Body of Christ is totally present in each part of the continuous and as yet unbroken Host and also totally present throughout the whole Host, just as the human soul is present in the body. And precisely this latter analogy from nature gives us an insight into the possibility of the Eucharistic miracle. For if, as has been seen above, Divine omnipotence can in a supernatural manner impart to a body such a spiritual, unextended, spatially uncircumscribed mode of presence, which is natural to the soul as regards the human body, one may well surmise the possibility of Christ’s Eucharistic Body being present in its entirety in the whole Host, and whole and entire in each part thereof.
There is, moreover, the discontinuous multilocation, whereby Christ is present not only in one Host, but in numberless separate Hosts, whether in the ciborium or upon all the altars throughout the world. The intrinsic possibility of discontinuous multilocation seems to be based upon the non-repugnance of continuous multilocation. For the chief difficulty of the latter appears to be that the same Christ is present in two different parts, A and B, of the continuous Host, it being immaterial whether we consider the distant parts A and B joined by the continuous line AB or not. The marvel does not substantially increase, if by reason of the breaking of the Host, the two parts A and B are now completely separated from each other. Nor does it matter how great the distance between the parts may be. Whether or not the fragments of a Host are distant one inch or a thousand miles from one another is altogether immaterial in this consideration; we need not wonder, then, if Catholics adore their Eucharistic Lord at one and the same time in New York, London, and Paris. Finally, mention must be made of mixed multilocation, since Christ with His natural dimensions reigns in heaven, whence he does not depart, and at the same time dwells with His Sacramental Presence in numberless places throughout the world. This third case would be in perfect accordance with the two foregoing, were we per impossibile permitted to imagine that Christ were present under the appearances of bread exactly as He is in heaven and that He had relinquished His natural mode of existence. This, however, would be but one more marvel of God‘s omnipotence. Hence no contradiction is noticeable in the fact, that Christ retains His natural dimensional relations in heaven and at the same time takes up His abode upon the altars of earth.
There is, furthermore, a fourth kind of multilocation, which, however, has not been realized in the Eucharist, but would be, if Christ’s Body were present in its natural mode of existence both in heaven and on earth. Such a miracle might be assumed to have occurred in the conversion of St. Paul before the gates of Damascus, when Christ in person said to him: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” So, too, the bilocation of saints, sometimes read of in the pages of hagiography, as, e.g., in the case of St. Alphonsus Liguori, cannot be arbitrarily cast aside as untrustworthy. The Thomists and some later theologians, it is true, reject this kind of multilocation as intrinsically impossible and declare bilocation to be nothing more than an “apparition” without corporeal presence. But Cardinal De Lugo is of opinion, and justly so, that to deny its possibility might reflect unfavorably upon the Eucharistic multilocation itself. If there were question of the vagaries of many Nominalists, as, e.g., that a bilocated person could be living in Paris and at the same time dying in London, hating in Paris and at the same time loving in London, the impossibility would be as plain as day, since an individual, remaining such as he is, cannot be the subject of contrary propositions, since they exclude one another. The case assumes a different aspect, when wholly external contrary propositions, relating to position in space, are used in reference to the bilocated individual. In such a bilocation, which leaves the principle of contradiction intact, it would be hard to discover an intrinsic impossibility.
II. THE BLESSED EUCHARIST AS A SACRAMENT
Since Christ is present under the appearances of bread and wine in a sacramental way, the Blessed Eucharist is unquestionably a sacrament of the Church. Indeed, in the Eucharist the definition of a Christian sacrament as “an outward sign of an inward grace instituted by Christ” is verified. The investigation into the precise nature of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, whose existence Protestants do not deny, is beset with a number of difficulties. Its essence certainly does not consist in the Consecration or the Communion; the former being merely the sacrificial action, the latter the reception of the sacrament, and not the sacrament itself. The question may eventually be reduced to this, whether or not the sacramentality is to be sought for in the Eucharistic species or in the Body and Blood of Christ hidden beneath them. The majority of theologians rightly respond to the query by saying, that neither the species themselves nor the Body and Blood of Christ by themselves, but the union of both factors constitute the moral whole of the Sacrament of the Altar. The species undoubtedly belong to the essence of the sacrament, since it is by means of them, and not by means of the invisible Body of Christ, that the Eucharist possesses the outward sign of the sacrament. Equally certain is it, that the Body and the Blood of Christ belong to the concept of the essence, because it is not the mere unsubstantial appearances which are given for the food of our souls, but Christ concealed beneath the appearances. The twofold number of the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine does not interfere with the unity of the sacrament; for the idea of refection embraces both eating and drinking, nor do our meals in consequence double their number. In the doctrine of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (see Sacrifice of the Mass), there is a question of even a higher relation, in that the separated species of bread and wine also represent the mystical separation of Christ’s Body and Blood or the unbloody Sacrifice of the Eucharistic Lamb. The Sacrament of the Altar may be regarded under the same aspects as the other sacraments, provided only it be ever kept in view that the Eucharist is a permanent sacrament [see above I, (4)]. Every sacrament may be considered either in itself or with reference to the persons whom it concerns. Passing over the Institution, which was discussed above in connection with the words of Institution, the only essentially important points remaining are the outward sign (matter and form) and inward grace (effects of Communion), to which may be added the necessity of Communion for salvation. In regard to the persons concerned, we distinguish between the minister of the Eucharist and its recipient or subject.
(1) The Matter or Eucharistic Elements
There are two Eucharistic elements, bread and wine, which constitute the remote matter of the Sacrament of the Altar, while the proximate matter can be none other than the Eucharistic appearances under which the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present.
(a) The first element is wheaten bread (pans triticeus), without which the “confection of the Sacrament does not take place” (Missale Romanum: De defectibus, §3). Being true bread, the Host must be baked, since mere flour is not bread. Since, moreover, the bread required is that formed of wheaten flour, not every kind of flour is allowed for validity, such, e.g., as is ground from rye, oats, barley, Indian corn or maize, though these are all botanically classified as grain (frumentum). On the other hand, the different varieties of wheat (as spelt, amel-corn, etc.) are valid, inasmuch as they can be proved botanically to be genuine wheat. The necessity of wheaten bread is deduced immediately from the words of Institution: “The Lord took bread” (ton arton), in connection with which it may be remarked, that in Scripture bread (artos), without any qualifying addition, always signifies wheaten bread. No doubt, too, Christ adhered unconditionally to the Jewish custom of using only wheaten bread in the Passover Supper, and by the words, “Do this for a commemoration of me”, commanded its use for all succeeding times. In addition to this, uninterrupted tradition, whether it be the testimony of the Fathers or the practice of the Church, shows wheaten bread to have played such an essential part, that even Protestants would be loath to regard rye bread or barley bread as a proper element for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
The Church maintains an easier position in the controversy respecting the use of fermented or unfermented bread. By leavened bread (Lat., fermentum, Gk., zumos) is meant such wheaten bread as requires leaven or yeast in its preparation and baking, while unleavened bread (Lat., azyma, Gk., azumon) is formed from a mixture of wheaten flour and water, which has been kneaded to dough and then baked. After the Greek Patriarch Michael Caerularius of Constantinople had sought in 1053 to palliate the renewed rupture with Rome by means of the controversy concerning unleavened bread, the two Churches, in the Decree of Union at Florence, in 1439, came to the unanimous dogmatic decision, that the distinction between leavened and unleavened bread did not interfere with the confection of the sacrament, though for just reasons based upon the Church‘s discipline and practice, the Latins were obliged to retain unleavened bread, while the Greeks still held on to the use of leavened (cf. Denzinger, Enchirid., Freiburg, 1908, no. 692). Since the Schismatics had before the Council of Florence entertained doubts as to the validity of the Latin custom, a brief defense of the use of unleavened bread will not be out of place here. Pope Leo IX had as early as 1054 issued a protest against Michael Caerularius (cf. Migne, P.L., CXLIII, 775), in which he referred to the Scriptural fact, that according to the three Synoptics the Last Supper was celebrated “on the first day of the azymes” and so the custom of the Western Church received its solemn sanction from the example of Christ Himself. The Jews, moreover, were accustomed even the day before the fourteenth of Nisan to get rid of all the leaven which chanced to be in their dwellings, that so they might from that time on partake exclusively of the so-called mazzoth as bread. As regards tradition, it is not for us to settle the dispute of learned authorities, as to whether or not in the first six or eight centuries the Latins also celebrated Mass with leavened bread (Sirmond, Döllinger, Kraus) or have observed the present custom ever since the time of the Apostles (Mabillon, Probst). Against the Greeks it suffices to call attention to the historical fact that in the Orient the Maronites and Armenians have used unleavened bread from time immemorial, and that according to Origen (In Matt., XII, n. 6) the people of the East “sometimes”, therefore not as a rule, made use of leavened bread in their Liturgy. Besides, there is considerable force in the theological argument that the fermenting process with yeast and other leaven, does not affect the substance of the bread, but merely its quality. The reasons of congruity advanced by the Greeks in behalf of leavened bread, which would have us consider it as a beautiful symbol of the hypostatic union, as well as an attractive representation of the savor of this heavenly Food, will be most willingly accepted, provided only that due consideration be given to the grounds of propriety set forth by the Latins with St. Thomas Aquinas (III, Q. lxxiv, a. 4) namely, the example of Christ, the aptitude of unleavened bread to be regarded as a symbol of the purity of His Sacred Body, free from all corruption of sin, and finally the instruction of St. Paul (I Cor., v, 8) to keep the Pasch “not with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”.
(b) The second Eucharistic element required is wine of the grape (vinum de vite). Hence are excluded as invalid, not only the juices extracted and prepared from other fruits (as cider and perry), but also the so-called artificial wines, even if their chemical constitution is identical with the genuine juice of the grape. The necessity of wine of the grape is not so much the result of the authoritative decision of the Church as it is presupposed by her (Council of Trent, Sess. XIII cap. iv), and is based upon the example and command of Christ, Who at the Last Supper certainly converted the natural wine of grapes into His Blood. This is deduced partly from the rite of the Passover, which required the head of the family to pass around the “cup of benediction” (calix benedictionis) containing the wine of grapes, partly, and especially, from the express declaration of Christ, that henceforth He would not drink of the “fruit of the vine” (genimen vitis). The Catholic Church is aware of no other tradition and in this respect she has ever been one with the Greeks. The ancient Hydroparastatae, or Aquarians, who used water instead of wine, were heretics in her eyes. The counter-argument of Ad. Harnack [“Texte and Untersuchungen”, new series, VII, 2 (1891), 115 sqq.], that the most ancient of Churches was indifferent as to the use of wine, and more concerned with the action of eating and drinking than with the elements of bread and wine, loses all its force in view not only of the earliest literature on the subject (the Didache, Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Cyprian), but also of non-Catholic and apocryphal writings, which bear testimony to the use of bread and wine as the only and necessary elements of the Blessed Sacrament. On the other hand, a very ancient law of the Church which, however, has nothing to do with the validity of the sacrament, prescribes that a little water be added to the wine before the Consecration (Decr. pro Armenis: aqua modicissima), a practice, whose legitimacy the Council of Trent (Sess. XXII, can. ix) established under pain of anathema. The rigor of this law of the Church may be traced to the ancient custom of the Romans and Jews, who mixed water with the strong southern wines (see Prov., ix, 2), to the expression of calix mixtus found in Justin (Apol., I, lxv), Irenaeus (Adv. haer., V, ii, 3), and Cyprian (Ep. lxiii, ad Caecil., n. 13 sq.), and especially to the deep symbolical meaning contained in the mingling, inasmuch as thereby are represented the flowing of blood and water from the side of the Crucified Savior and the intimate union of the faithful with Christ (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXII, cap. vii).
(2) The Sacramental Form or the Words of Consecration
In proceeding to verify the form, which is always made up of words, we may start from the indubitable fact, that Christ did not consecrate by the mere fiat of His omnipotence, which found no expression in articulate utterance, but by pronouncing the words of Institution: “This is my body… this is my blood”, and that by the addition: “Do this for a commemoration of me”, He commanded the Apostles to follow His example. Were the words of Institution a mere declarative utterance of the conversion, which might have taken place in the “benediction” unannounced and articulately unexpressed, the Apostles and their successors would, according to Christ’s example and mandate, have been obliged to consecrate in this mute manner also, a consequence which is altogether at variance with the deposit of faith. It is true, that Pope Innocent III (De Sacro altaris myst., IV, vi) before his elevation to the pontificate did hold the opinion, which later theologians branded as “temerarious”, that Christ consecrated without words by means of the mere “benediction”. Not many theologians, however, followed him in this regard, among the few being Ambrose Catharinus, Cheffontaines, and Hoppe, by far the greater number preferring to stand by the unanimous testimony of the Fathers. Meanwhile, Innocent III also insisted most urgently that at least in the case of the celebrating priest, the words of Institution were prescribed as the sacramental form. It was, moreover, not until its comparatively recent adherence in the seventeenth century to the famous “Confessio fidei orthodoxa” of Peter Mogilas (cf. Kimmel, “Monum. fidei eccl. orient.”, Jena, 1850, I, p.180), that the Schismatical Greek Church adopted the view, according to which the priest does not at all consecrate by virtue of the words of Institution, but only by means of the Epiklesis occurring shortly after them and expressing in the Oriental Liturgies a petition to the Holy Spirit, “that the bread and wine may be converted into the Body and Blood of Christ”. Were the Greeks justified in maintaining this position, the immediate result would be, that the Latins who have no such thing as the Epiklesis in their present Liturgy, would possess neither the true Sacrifice of the Mass nor the Holy Eucharist. Fortunately, however, the Greeks can be shown the error of their ways from their own writings, since it can be proved, that they themselves formerly placed the form of Transubstantiation in the words of Institution. Not only did such renowned Fathers as Justin (Apol., I, lxvi), Irenaeus (Adv. haer., V, ii, 3), Gregory of Nyssa (Or. catech., xxxvii), Chrysostom (Hom. i, de prod. Judae, n. 6), and John Damascene (De fid. orth., IV, xiii) hold this view, but the ancient Greek Liturgies bear testimony to it, so that Cardinal Bessarion in 1439 at Florence called the attention of his fellow-countrymen to the fact, that as soon as the words of Institution have been pronounced, supreme homage and adoration are due to the Holy Eucharist, even though the famous Epiklesis follows some time after.
The objection that the mere historical recitation of the words of Institution taken from the narrative of the Last Supper possesses no intrinsic consecratory force, would be well founded, did the priest of the Latin Church merely intend by means of them to narrate some historical event rather than pronounce them with the practical purpose of effecting the conversion, or if he pronounced them in his own name and person instead of the Person of Christ, whose minister and instrumental cause he is. Neither of the two suppositions holds in the case of a priest who really intends to celebrate Mass. Hence, though the Greeks may in the best of faith go on erroneously maintaining that they consecrate exclusively in their Epiklesis, they do, nevertheless, as in the case of the Latins, actually consecrate by means of the words of Institution contained in their Liturgies, if Christ has instituted these words as the words of Consecration and the form of the sacrament. We may in fact go a step farther and assert, that the words of Institution constitute the only and wholly adequate form of the Eucharist and that, consequently, the words of the Epiklesis possess no inherent consecratory value. The contention that the words of the Epiklesis have a joint essential value and constitute the partial form of the sacrament, was indeed supported by individual Latin theologians, as Toutée, Renaudot, and Lebrun. Though this opinion cannot be condemned as erroneous in faith, since it allows to the words of Institution their essential, though partial, consecratory value, it appears nevertheless to be intrinsically repugnant. For, since the act of Consecration cannot remain, as it were, in a state of suspense, but is completed in an instant of time, there arises the dilemma: Either the words of Institution alone and, therefore, not the Epiklesis, are productive of the conversion, or the words of the Epiklesis alone have such power and not the words of Institution. Of more considerable importance is the circumstance that the whole question came up for discussion in the council for union held at Florence in 1439. Pope Eugene IV urged the Greeks to come to a unanimous agreement with the Roman faith and subscribe to the words of Institution as alone constituting the sacramental form, and to drop the contention that the words of the Epiklesis also possessed a partial consecratory force. But when the Greeks, not without foundation, pleaded that a dogmatic decision would reflect with shame upon their whole ecclesiastical past, the ecumenical synod was satisfied with the oral declaration of Cardinal Bessarion recorded in the minutes of the council for July 5, 1439 (P.G., CLXI, 491), namely, that the Greeks follow the universal teaching of the Fathers, especially of “blessed John Chrysostom, familiarly known to us”, according to whom the “Divine words of Our Redeemer contain the full and entire force of Transubstantiation”.
The venerable antiquity of the Oriental Epiklesis, its peculiar position in the Canon of the Mass, and its interior spiritual unction, oblige the theologian to determine its dogmatic value and to account for its use. Take, for instance, the Epiklesis of the Ethiopian Liturgy: “We implore and beseech Thee, O Lord, to send forth the Holy Spirit and His Power upon this Bread and Chalice and convert them into the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Since this prayer always follows after the words of Institution have been pronounced, the theological question arises, as to how it may be made to harmonize with the words of Christ, which alone possess the consecratory power. Two explanations have been suggested, which, however, can be merged in one. The first view considers the Epiklesis to be a mere declaration of the fact, that the conversion has already taken place, and that in the conversion just as essential a part is to be attributed to the Holy Spirit as Co-Consecrator as in the allied mystery of the Incarnation. Since, however, because of the brevity of the actual instant of conversion, the part taken by the Holy Spirit could not be expressed, the Epiklesis takes us back in imagination to the precious moment and regards the Consecration as just about to occur. A similar purely psychological retrospective transfer is met with in other portions of the Liturgy, as in the Mass for the Dead, wherein the Church prays for the departed as if they were still upon their bed of agony and could still be rescued from the gates of hell. Thus considered, the Epiklesis refers us back to the Consecration as the center about which all the significance contained in its words revolves. A second explanation is based, not upon the enacted Consecration, but upon the approaching Communion, inasmuch as the latter, being the effective means of uniting us more closely in the organized body of the Church, brings forth in our hearts the mystical Christ, as is read in the Roman Canon of the Mass: “Ut nobis corpus et sanguis fiat”, i.e. that it may be made for us the body and blood. It was in this purely mystical manner that the Greeks themselves explained the meaning of the Epiklesis at the Council of Florence (Mansi, Collect. Concil., XXXI 106). Yet since much more is contained in the plain words than this true and deep mysticism, it is desirable to combine both explanations into one, and so we may regard the Epiklesis, both in point of liturgy and of time, as the significant connecting link, placed midway between the Consecration and the Communion in order to emphasize the part taken by the Holy Spirit in the Consecration of bread and wine, and, on the other hand, with the help of the same Holy Spirit to obtain the realization of the true Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ by their fruitful effects on both priest and people.
(3) The Effects of the Holy Eucharist
The doctrine of the Church regarding the effects or the fruits of Holy Communion centers around two ideas: (a) the union with Christ by love and (b) the spiritual repast of the soul. Both ideas are often verified in one and the same effect of Holy Communion.
(a) The first and principal effect of the Holy Eucharist is union with Christ by love (Decr. pro Armenis: adunatio ad Christum), which union as such does not consist in the sacramental reception of the Host, but in the spiritual and mystical union with Jesus by the theological virtue of love. Christ Himself designated the idea of Communion as a union by love: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him” (John, vi, 57). St. Cyril of Alexandria (Hom. in Joan., IV, xvii) beautifully represents this mystical union as the fusion of our being into that of the God-man, as “when melted wax is fused with other wax”. Since the Sacrament of Love is not satisfied with an increase of habitual love only, but tends especially to fan the flame of actual love to an intense ardor, the Holy Eucharist is specifically distinguished from the other sacraments, and hence it is precisely in this latter effect that Suarez recognizes the so-called “grace of the sacrament”, which otherwise is so hard to discern. It stands to reason that the essence of this union by love consists neither in a natural union with Jesus analogous to that between soul and body, nor in a hypostatic union of the soul with the Person of the Word, nor finally in a pantheistical deification of the communicant, but simply in a moral but wonderful union with Christ by the bond of the most ardent charity. Hence the chief effect of a worthy Communion is to a certain extent a foretaste of heaven, in fact the anticipation and pledge of our future union with God by love in the Beatific Vision. He alone can properly estimate the precious boon which Catholics possess in the Holy Eucharist, who knows how to ponder these ideas of Holy Communion to their utmost depth. The immediate result of this union with Christ by love is the bond of charity existing between the faithful themselves, as St. Paul says: “For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread” (I Cor., x, 17). And so the Communion of Saints is not merely an ideal union by faith and grace, but an eminently real union, mysteriously constituted, maintained, and guaranteed by partaking in common of one and the same Christ.
(b) A second fruit of this union with Christ by love is an increase of sanctifying grace in the soul of the worthy communicant. Here let it be remarked at the outset, that the Holy Eucharist does not per se constitute a person in the state of grace as do the sacraments of the dead (baptism and penance), but presupposes such a state. It is, therefore, one of the sacraments of the living. It is as impossible for the soul in the state of mortal sin to receive this Heavenly Bread with profit, as it is for a corpse to assimilate food and drink. Hence the Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, can. v), in opposition to Luther and Calvin, purposely defined, that the “chief fruit of the Eucharist does not consist in the forgiveness of sins”. For though Christ said of the Chalice: “This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins” (Matt., xxvi, 28), He had in view an effect of the sacrifice, not of the sacrament; for He did not say that His Blood would be drunk unto remission of sins, but shed for that purpose. It is for this very reason that St. Paul (I Cor., xi, 28) demands that rigorous “self-examination”, in order to avoid the heinous offense of being guilty of the Body and the Blood of the Lord by “eating and drinking unworthily”, and that the Fathers insist upon nothing so energetically as upon a pure and innocent conscience. In spite of the principles just laid down, the question might be asked, if the Blessed Sacrament could not at times per accidens free the communicant from mortal sin, if he approached the Table of the Lord unconscious of the sinful state of his soul. Presupposing what is self-evident, that there is question neither of a conscious sacrilegious Communion nor a lack of imperfect contrition (attritio), which would altogether hinder the justifying effect of the sacrament, theologians incline to the opinion, that in such exceptional cases the Eucharist can restore the soul to the state of grace, but all without exception deny the possibility of the reviviscence of a sacrilegious or unfruitful Communion after the restoration of the soul’s proper moral condition has been effected, the Eucharist being different in this respect from the sacraments which imprint a character upon the soul (baptism, confirmation, and Holy orders). Together with the increase of sanctifying grace there is associated another effect, namely, a certain spiritual relish or delight of soul (delectatio spiritualis). Just as food and drink delight and refresh the heart of man, so does this “Heavenly Bread containing within itself all sweetness” produce in the soul of the devout communicant ineffable bliss, which, however, is not to be confounded with an emotional joy of the soul or with sensible sweetness. Although both may occur as the result of a special grace, its true nature is manifested in a certain cheerful and willing fervor in all that regards Christ and His Church, and in the conscious fulfillment of the duties of one’s state of life, a disposition of soul which is perfectly compatible with interior desolation and spiritual dryness. A good Communion is recognized less in the transitory sweetness of the emotions than in its lasting practical effects on the conduct of our daily lives.
(c) Though Holy Communion does not per se remit mortal sin, it has nevertheless the third effect of “blotting out venial sin and preserving the soul from mortal sin” (Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, cap. ii). The Holy Eucharist is not merely a food, but a medicine as well. The destruction of venial sin and of all affection to it, is readily understood on the basis of the two central ideas mentioned above. Just as material food banishes minor bodily weaknesses and preserves man’s physical strength from being impaired, so does this food of our souls remove our lesser spiritual ailments and preserve us from spiritual death. As a union based upon love, the Holy Eucharist cleanses with its purifying flame the smallest stains which adhere to the soul, and at the same time serves as an effective prophylactic against grievous sin. It only remains for us to ascertain with clearness the manner in which this preservative influence against relapse into mortal sin is exerted. According to the teaching of the Roman Catechism, it is effected by the allaying of concupiscence, which is the chief source of deadly sin, particularly of impurity. Therefore it is that spiritual writers recommend frequent Communion as the most effective remedy against impurity, since its powerful influence is felt even after other means have proved unavailing (cf. St. Thomas, III, Q. lxxix, a. 6). Whether or not the Holy Eucharist is directly conducive to the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, is disputed by St. Thomas (ibid., a. 5), since the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar was not instituted as a means of satisfaction; it does, however, produce an indirect effect in this regard, which is proportioned to the communicant’s love and devotion. The case is different as regards the effects of grace in behalf of a third party. The pious custom of the faithful of “offering their Communion” for relations, friends, and the souls departed, is to be considered as possessing unquestionable value, in the first place, because an earnest prayer of petition in the presence of the Spouse of our souls will readily find a hearing, and then, because the fruits of Communion as a means of satisfaction for sin may be applied to a third person, and especially per modum suffragii to the souls in purgatory.
(d) As a last effect we may mention that the Eucharist is the “pledge of our glorious resurrection and eternal happiness” (Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, cap. ii), according to the promise of Christ: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day.” Hence the chief reason why the ancient Fathers, as Ignatius (Ephes., 20), Irenaeus (Adv. haer., IV, xviii, 4), and Tertullian (De resurr. earn., viii) as well as later patristic writers, insisted so strongly upon our future resurrection, was the circumstance that it is the door by which we enter upon unending happiness. There can be nothing incongruous or improper in the fact that the body also shares in this effect of Communion, since by its physical contact with the Eucharistic species, and hence (indirectly) with the living Flesh of Christ, it acquires a moral right to its future resurrection, even as the Blessed Mother of God, inasmuch as she was the former abode of the Word made flesh, acquired a moral claim to her own bodily assumption into heaven. The further discussion as to whether some “physical quality” (Contenson) or a “sort of germ of immortality” (Heimbucher) is implanted in the body of the communicant, has no sufficient foundation in the teaching of the Fathers and may, therefore, be dismissed without any injury to dogma.
We distinguish two kinds of necessity, (I) the necessity of means (necessitas medii) and (2) the necessity of precept (necessitas proecepti). In the first sense a thing or action is necessary because without it a given end cannot be attained; the eye, e.g. is necessary for vision. The second sort of necessity is that which is imposed by the free will of a superior, e.g. the necessity of fasting. As regards Communion a further distinction must be made between infants and adults. It is easy to prove that in the case of infants Holy Communion is not necessary to salvation, either as a means or as of precept. Since they have not as yet attained to the use of reason, they are free from the obligation of positive laws; consequently, the only question is whether Communion is, like Baptism, necessary for them as a means of salvation. Now the Council of Trent under pain of anathema, solemnly rejects such a necessity (Sess. XXI, can. iv) and declares that the custom of the primitive Church of giving Holy Communion to children was not based upon the erroneous belief of its necessity to salvation, but upon the circumstances of the times (Sess. XXI, cap. iv). Since according to St. Paul’s teaching (Rom., viii, 1) there is “no condemnation” for those who have been baptized, every child that dies in its baptismal innocence, even without Communion, must go straight to heaven. This latter position was that usually taken by the Fathers, with the exception of St. Augustine, who from the universal custom of the Communion of children drew the conclusion of its necessity for salvation (see Communion of Children). On the other hand, Communion is prescribed for adults, not only by the law of the Church, but also by a Divine command (John, vi, 50 sqq.), though for its absolute necessity as a means to salvation there is no more evidence than in the case of infants. For such a necessity could be established only on the supposition that Communion per se constituted a person in the state of grace or that this state could not be preserved without Communion. Neither supposition is correct. Not the first, for the simple reason that the Blessed Eucharist, being a sacrament of the living, presupposes the state of sanctifying grace; not the second, because in case of necessity, such as might arise, e.g., in a long sea-voyage, the Eucharistic graces may be supplied by actual graces. It is only when viewed in this light that we can understand how the primitive Church, without going counter to the Divine command, withheld the Eucharist from certain sinners even on their deathbeds. There is, however, a moral necessity on the part of adults to receive Holy Communion, as a means, for instance, of overcoming violent temptation, or as a viaticum for persons in danger of death. Eminent divines, like Suarez, claim that the Eucharist, if not absolutely necessary, is at least a relatively and morally necessary means to salvation, in the sense that no adult can long sustain his spiritual, supernatural life who neglects on principle to approach Holy Communion. This view is supported, not only by the solemn and earnest words of Christ, when He promised the Eucharist, and by the very nature of the sacrament as the spiritual food and medicine of our souls, but also by the fact of the helplessness and perversity of human nature and by the daily experience of confessors and directors of souls.
Since Christ has left us no definite precept as to the frequency with which He desired us to receive Him in Holy Communion, it belongs to the Church to determine the Divine command more accurately and prescribe what the limits of time shall be for the reception of the sacrament. In the course of centuries the Church‘s discipline in this respect has undergone considerable change. Whereas the early Christians were accustomed to receive at every celebration of the Liturgy, which probably was not celebrated daily in all places, or were in the habit of Communicating privately in their own homes every day of the week, a falling-off in the frequency of Communion is noticeable since the fourth century. Even in his time Pope Fabian (236-250) made it obligatory to approach the Holy Table three times a year, viz. at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, and this custom was still prevalent in the sixth century [cf. Synod of Agde (506), c. xviii]. Although St. Augustine left daily Communion to the free choice of the individual, his admonition, in force even at the present day, was: Sic vive, ut quotidie possis sumere (De dono persev., c. xiv), i.e. “So live, that you may receive every day.” From the tenth to the thirteenth century, the practice of going to Communion more frequently during the year was rather rare among the laity and obtained only in cloistered communities. St. Bonaventure reluctantly allowed the lay brothers of his monastery to approach the Holy Table weekly, whereas the rule of the Canons of Chrodegang prescribed this practice. When the Fourth Council of Lateran (1215), held under Innocent III, mitigated the former severity of the Church‘s law to the extent that all Catholics of both sexes were to communicate at least once a year, and this during the paschal season, St. Thomas (III, Q. lxxx, a. 10) ascribed this ordinance chiefly to the “reign of impiety and the growing cold of charity”. The precept of the yearly paschal Communion was solemnly reiterated by the Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, can. ix). The mystical theologians of the later Middle Ages, as Eckhart, Tauler, St. Vincent Ferrer, Savonarola, and later on St. Philip Neri, the Jesuit Order, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Alphonsus Liguori were zealous champions of frequent Communion; whereas the Jansenists, under the leadership of Antoine Arnauld (De la frequente communion, Paris, 1643), strenuously opposed them and demanded as a condition for every Communion the “most perfect penitential dispositions and the purest love of God“. This rigorism was condemned by Pope Alexander VIII (December 7, 1690); the Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, cap. viii; Sess. XXII, cap. vi) and Innocent XI (February 12, 1679) had already emphasized the permissibility of even daily Communion. To root out the last vestiges of Jansenistic rigorism, Pius X issued a decree (December 24, 1905) wherein he allows and recommends daily Communion to the entire laity and requires but two conditions for its permissibility, namely, the state of grace and a right and pious intention. Concerning the non-requirement of the twofold species as a means necessary to salvation see Communion under Both Kinds.
(5) The Minister of the Eucharist
The Eucharist being a permanent sacrament, and the confection (confectio) and reception (susceptio) thereof being separated from each other by an interval of time, the minister may be and in fact is twofold: (a) the minister of consecration and (b) the minister of administration.
(a) In the early Christian Era the Peputians, Collyridians, and Montanists attributed priestly powers even to women (cf. Epiphanius, De hwr., xlix, 79); and in the Middle Ages the Albigenses and Waldenses ascribed the power to consecrate to every layman of upright disposition. Against these errors the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) confirmed the ancient Catholic teaching, that “no one but the priest [sacerdos], regularly ordained according to the keys of the Church, has the power of consecrating this sacrament”. Rejecting the hierarchical distinction between the priesthood and the laity, Luther later on declared, in accord with his idea of a “universal priesthood” (cf. I Peter, ii, 5), that every layman was qualified, as the appointed representative of the faithful, to consecrate the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Council of Trent opposed this teaching of Luther, and not only confirmed anew the existence of a “special priesthood” (Sess. XXIII, can. i), but authoritatively declared that “Christ ordained the Apostles true priests and commanded them as well as other priests to offer His Body and Blood in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” (Sess. XXII, can. ii). By this decision it was also declared that the power of consecrating and that of offering the Holy Sacrifice are identical. Both ideas are mutually reciprocal. To the category of “priests” (Lat., sacerdos, Gk., hiereus) belong, according to the teaching of the Church, only bishops and priests; deacons, subdeacons, and those in minor orders are excluded from this dignity.
Scripturally considered, the necessity of a special priesthood with the power of validly consecrating is derived from the fact that Christ did not address the words, “Do this”, to the whole mass of the laity, but exclusively to the Apostles and their successors in the priesthood; hence the latter alone can validly consecrate. It is evident that tradition has understood the mandate of Christ in this sense and in no other. We learn from the writings of Justin, Origen, Cyprian, Augustine, and others, as well as from the most ancient Liturgies, that it was always the bishops and priests, and they alone, who appeared as the properly constituted celebrants of the Eucharistic Mysteries, and that the deacons merely acted as assistants in these functions, while the faithful participated passively therein. When in the fourth century the abuse crept in of priests receiving Holy Communion at the hands of deacons, the First Council of Nicaea (325) issued a strict prohibition to the effect, that “they who offer the Holy Sacrifice shall not receive the Body of the Lord from the hands of those who have no such power of offering”, because such a practice is contrary to “rule and custom”. The sect of the Luciferians was founded by an apostate deacon named Hilary, and possessed neither bishops nor priests; wherefore St. Jerome concluded (Dial. adv. Lucifer., n. 21), that for want of celebrants they no longer retained the Eucharist. It is clear that the Church has always denied the laity the power to consecrate. When the Arians accused St. Athanasius (d. 373) of sacrilege, because supposedly at his bidding the consecrated Chalice had been destroyed during the Mass which was being celebrated by a certain Ischares, they had to withdraw their charges as wholly untenable when it was proved that Ischares had been invalidly ordained by a pseudo-bishop named Colluthos and, therefore, could neither validly consecrate nor offer the Holy Sacrifice.
(b) The dogmatic interest which attaches to the minister of administration or distribution is not so great, for the reason that the Eucharist being a permanent sacrament, any communicant having the proper dispositions could receive it validly, whether he did so from the hand of a priest, or layman, or woman. Hence the question is concerned, not with the validity, but with the liceity of administration. In this matter the Church alone has the right to decide, and her regulations regarding the Communion rite may vary according to the circumstances of the times. In general it is of Divine right, that the laity should as a rule receive only from the consecrated hand of the priest (cf. Trent, Sess. XIII, cap. viii). The practice of the laity giving themselves Holy Communion was formerly, and is today, allowed only in case of necessity. In ancient Christian times it was customary for the faithful to take the Blessed Sacrament to their homes and Communicate privately, a practice (Tertullian, Ad uxor., II, v), to which, even as late as the fourth century, St. Basil makes reference (Ep. xciii, ad Caesariam). Up to the ninth century, it was usual for the priest to place the Sacred Host in the right hand of the recipient, who kissed it and then transferred it to his own mouth; women, from the fourth century onward, were required in this ceremony to have a cloth wrapped about their right hand. The Precious Blood was in early times received directly from the Chalice, but in Rome the practice after the eighth century, was to receive it through a small tube (fistula); at present this is observed only in the pope’s Mass. The latter method of drinking the Chalice spread to other localities, in particular to the Cistercian monasteries, where the practice was partially continued into the eighteenth century.
Whereas the priest is both by Divine and ecclesiastical right the ordinary dispenser (minister ordinarius) of the sacrament, the deacon is by virtue of his order the extraordinary minister (minister extraordinarius), yet he may not administer the sacrament except ex delegatione, i.e. with the permission of the bishop or priest. As has already been mentioned above, the deacons were accustomed in the Early Church to take the Blessed Sacrament to those who were absent from Divine service, as well as to present the Chalice to the laity during the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries (cf. Cyprian, De lapsis, nn. 17, 25), and this practice was observed until Communion under both kinds was discontinued. In St. Thomas’s time (III, Q. lxxxii, a. 3), the deacons were allowed to administer only the Chalice to the laity, and in case of necessity the Sacred Host also, at the bidding of the bishop or priest. After the Communion of the laity under the species of wine had been abolished, the deacon’s powers were more and more restricted. According to a decision of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (February 25, 1777), still in force, the deacon is to administer Holy Communion only in case of necessity and with the approval of his bishop or his pastor. (Cf. Funk, “Der Kommunionritus” in his “Kirchengeschichtl. Abhandlungen and Untersuchungen”, Paderborn, 1897, I, pp. 293 sqq.; see also “Theol. praktische Quartalschrift”, Linz, 1906, LIX, 95 sqq.)
(6) The Recipient of the Eucharist.—The two conditions of objective capacity (capacitas, aptitudo) and subjective worthiness (dignitas) must be carefully distinguished. Only the former is of dogmatic interest, while the latter is treated in moral theology (seeHoly Communion and Communion of the Sick). The first requisite of aptitude or capacity is that the recipient be a “human being”, since it was for mankind only that Christ instituted this Eucharistic food of souls and commanded its reception. This condition excludes not only irrational animals, but angels also; for neither possess human souls, which alone can be nourished by this food unto eternal life. The expression “Bread of Angels” (Ps. lxxvii, 25) is a mere metaphor, which indicates that in the Beatific Vision where He is not concealed under the sacramental veils, the angels spiritually feast upon the God-man, this same prospect being held out to those who shall gloriously rise on the Last Day. The second requisite, the immediate deduction from the first, is that the recipient be still in the “state of pilgrimage” to the next life (status viatoris), since it is only in the present life that man can validly Communicate. Exaggerating the Eucharist’s necessity as a means to salvation, Rosmini advanced the untenable opinion that at the moment of death this heavenly food is supplied in the next world to children who had just departed this life, and that Christ could have given Himself in Holy Communion to the holy souls in Limbo, in order to “render them apt for the vision of God“. This evidently impossible view, together with other propositions of Rosmini, was condemned by Leo XIII (December 14, 1887). In the fourth century the Synod of Hippo (393) forbade the practice of giving Holy Communion to the dead as a gross abuse, and assigned as a reason, that “corpses were no longer capable of eating”. Later synods, as those of Auxerre (578) and the Trullan (692), took very energetic measures to put a stop to a custom so difficult to eradicate. The third requisite, finally, is baptism, without which no other sacrament can be validly received; for in its very concept baptism is the “spiritual door” to the means of grace contained in the Church. A Jew or Mohammedan might, indeed, materially receive the Sacred Host, but there could be no question in this case of a sacramental reception, even though by a perfect act of contrition or of the pure love of God he had put himself in the state of sanctifying grace. Hence in the Early Church the catechumens were strictly excluded from the Eucharist. (Cf. Schanz, Die Lehre von den hl. Sakramenten der Kirche, Freiburg, 1893, sect. 35.)