Category Archives: Sacraments

Feb 14 – St Valentine & Catholic marriage – for pleasure?



-skull of St. Valentine (226-14 Feb 269 AD), Bishop/Priest & Martyr, in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, please click on the image for greater detail. He was martyred and his body buried at a Christian cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome, on February 14, which has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine’s Day) since 496 AD.  “Love is stronger than death.”

Relics of him were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which “remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV”. His skull, crowned with flowers, is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome; other relics of him were taken to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, where they remain; this house of worship continues to be a popular place of pilgrimage, especially on Saint Valentine’s Day, for those seeking love.



Tees to the Kingdom, St Valentine shirts, please click on the images for greater detail

CCC 1602-1666


-by Br Raymond LaGrange, OP

“I like Saint Valentine. I am also a big fan of Christian marriage, and he was martyred for illegally presiding over Christian marriages. Through some bizarre accident of history, his feast-day is observed by the secular world, but the Church has taken him off the General Calendar. Unfortunately, I think very few people who mark this day on their personal calendars ever consider the life of the saint or the reason he died. This is but a reflection of a deeper problem: just as the world celebrates the feast of the patron of love without actually celebrating the patron himself, so also the world celebrates romantic love without actually thinking much about what love is in the first place.

In his book Love and Responsibility (written before he became Pope), Saint John Paul II impugns the idea that the point of a relationship is for both members to derive pleasure from it. The problem with this idea is that pleasure is not really a goal; there is no pleasure except pleasure in something. We eat cake for pleasure. We do not eat pleasure directly. No cake, no pleasure. Somehow, the world is trying to eat for pleasure without thinking too much about the step where you actually put food in the mouth. Such is a relationship of pure pleasure, nonsensical.

Any relationship, not just marriage, needs to be based on a common goal. For example, people who cooperate for an end in itself (hobby, being in a band – the goal is music, art/musical appreciation, volunteering, etc). These sorts of relationships (friendships, partnerships, mutual interests, fellow aficionados, etc.) often lead to the pleasure of relationship, but a relationship that is only founded upon mutual pleasure is actually the most unstable, because pleasure is so ephemeral. This can be said of emotional as well as physical pleasures. The deep feeling of contentment that arises when silently beholding a sunset with a lover is certainly a high pleasure, even the stuff of poetry, but that delight must give way to a chilly night. When night falls, something more than the sunset must remain to keep the relationship together.

Marriage is the most profound of human relationships, and so it must be based on the highest goal. That goal is nothing but the giving of one’s entire self. Saint John Paul II teaches that such giving is perfected only in procreation. It is in the bearing and raising of children that man and woman give themselves so fully that they make more of each other. Only by pursuing together the good of children can the couple really be united, even if the hope for children never comes to fruition. If either withholds this gift, the relationship becomes one of mere pleasure or convenience or some other friendly pursuit.

Children can make life difficult. They demand self-sacrifice, especially when they present particular difficulties. It is not easy. Sleeplessness is not fun. No engaged couple dreams of interminable appointments with doctors and therapists of various stripes.

At the same time, the gift of existence is one of the greatest gifts, despite the price. God, the giver of all existence, allows a man and a woman to share in His goodness by transmitting this most precious gift to their child. They can do this only with and through each other. The giving of this gift is fulfilling, because it is the gift that we were made to give. Giving this gift gives real joy.

This goal of procreation does not replace all the other goods of marriage. Instead, it makes them possible. A marriage can only be more than a house-sharing agreement if it aspires to a higher goal. Sexual union can only be more than an ‘arrangement’ if it aspires to something more than physical pleasure. The joy of self-giving can only be felt in the actual giving of oneself. The work of arranging one’s life around these different goods can, of course, be difficult, but the order of goods that the Church provides allows marriage to be structured firmly and stably. Only then can the desire to love be fulfilled. The passing on of existence is the only sufficient basis for marital love.”

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord ” (CCC No. 1601)…

“So, if one of these conditions is intentionally left out, then no marriage takes place,” Father Thomas Urban, who is a judge at the Metropolitan Tribunal in Detroit, Michigan said. “I’ll marry you but not for the rest of our lives — no marriage. Or, I’ll marry you only if I can continue my bachelor lifestyle — no marriage. Or, I’ll marry you but I will not have any children — no marriage.” – Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Publishing, Oct 11 2017, https://www.osvnews.com/2017/10/11/can-catholic-couples-choose-childlessness/

“Decisions involving responsible parenthood presupposes the formation of conscience, which is ‘the most secret core and sanctuary of a person. There each one is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in the depths of the heart’ (Gaudium et Spes, 16). The more the couple tries to listen in conscience to God and His commandments (cf. Rom 2:15), and is accompanied spiritually, the more their decision will be profoundly free of subjective caprice and accommodation to prevailing social mores.” The clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council still holds: ‘[The couple] will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God.’
— Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia No. 222 (first quoted passage taken from the final document of the 2015 Synod of Bishops)

Sex is both unitive and procreative, and the two cannot be separated.  Each is the point of the other.

I love you, Kelly & Mara.  Thanks, Mom & Dad,
Matthew

Diocese of La Crosse, WI

1/18/20

The Diocese of La Crosse released the names Saturday of more than two dozen clergy who have faced a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse.

The diocese said none of the accused are now in public ministry. Many are listed as deceased. The list comes from an independent review of clergy files dating to 1868 by the audit firm Defenbaugh & Associates Inc.

Established in 1868, the Diocese of La Crosse serves nearly 200,000 Catholics in 19 counties: Adams, Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Marathon, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Richland, Trempealeau, Vernon and Wood.

Those identified are:

Bruce Ball

Raymond Bornbach

Albert Sonnberger

James Stauber

Patrick Umberger

Raymond J. Wagner

Two were identified as being from another order or diocese, but whose allegation occurred while service the Diocese of La Crosse:

Timothy Svea

Bogdan Werra

Five more were identified as non-diocesan clergy whose whose names appear on a list in another diocese or religious order. The Diocese of La Crosse has no specific information relating to the allegations.

Those clergy are:

Dennis Bouche

Daniel Budzynski

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/usccb/natureandscope/dioceses/lacrossewi.htm

“The statistics for the Diocese of La Crosse reveal that, out of 705 clergy who have served in the diocese between 1950 and 2002, there have been 10 individuals (including one who was not a priest of the diocese) with substantiated allegations against them. The result is that only 1.4 percent of the total clergy population in that time period had substantiated allegations.

Accused Clerics: 28 (of which allegations were substantiated against 10; of that 10, one was not a priest of the diocese)
Total Priests: 705 (of which 478 diocesan priests, 187 religious order priests, and 40 deacons)
Allegations: 58 (of which allegations against 3 were “withdrawn” or the priest was “exonerated”; 24 were unsubstantiated)

On January 6, 2004, the Diocese of La Crosse released its statistics regarding sexual abuse of minors by clergy.”

2/5/20

“The Diocese of La Crosse has released the names of seven more priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

These additions, made Wednesday, include two priests who held assignments in La Crosse and four who worked at a now defunct Jesuit boarding school in Prairie du Chien.

They are:

At least five of the priests have died, and the other two were long ago dismissed by the Society of Jesus. It is unclear whether Cannon (dismissed in 1997) and Haller (dismissed in 1982) are still alive, still working with children or still serving in religious roles.

Though they served within the boundaries of the La Crosse diocese, none of the seven priests were official diocesan clergy or directly overseen by the bishop.

Wednesday’s disclosure came less than three weeks after the diocese released the names of 20 priests who were credibly accused of child abuse while serving in the diocese.

The list included J. Thomas Finucan, who was president of Viterbo University in La Crosse from 1970 to 1980.”

God is merciful. God is just.

Love,
Matthew

“Woe to you scribes & pharisees…” -Mt 23

Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, congregational leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, attends the third day of the meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican Feb. 23, 2019. Sister Openibo told the gathering that clerical sexual abuse “has reduced the credibility of the church when transparency should the hallmark of mission as followers of Jesus Christ.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SUMMIT-OPEN-OPENIBO and SUMMIT-MARX Feb. 23, 2019.  Please click on the image for greater detail.
Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, congregational leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, attends the third day of the meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican Feb. 23, 2019. Sister Openibo told the gathering that clerical sexual abuse “has reduced the credibility of the church when transparency should the hallmark of mission as followers of Jesus Christ.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SUMMIT-OPEN-OPENIBO and SUMMIT-MARX Feb. 23, 2019.  Please click on the image for greater detail.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, congregational leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, attend the third day of the meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican Feb. 23, 2019. Sister Openibo told the gathering that clerical sexual abuse “has reduced the credibility of the church when transparency should the hallmark of mission as followers of Jesus Christ.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SUMMIT-OPEN-OPENIBO and SUMMIT-MARX Feb. 23, 2019. Please click on the image for greater detail.

Church credibility ruined by silent hypocrisy, sister tells summit

-by Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

2.23.2019 6:25 AM ET

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The hypocrisy of Catholic leaders who claimed to be guardians of morality yet remained silent about clerical sexual abuse has left the church’s credibility in shambles, an African woman religious told bishops at the Vatican summit on abuse.

“Yes, we proclaim the Ten Commandments and ‘parade ourselves’ as being the custodians of moral standards-values and good behavior in society. Hypocrites at times? Yes! Why did we keep silent for so long?” asked Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, congregational leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

Addressing Pope Francis and nearly 190 representatives of the world’s bishops’ conferences and religious orders Feb. 23, Sister Openibo insisted the church needed to be transparent and open in facing the abuse crisis.

In a poignant yet powerful speech, the Nigerian sister reminded the bishops of the church’s universal mission to be a light for the world and a “manifestation of the Christ we know as both human and divine.”

However, she said, the “widespread and systemic” sexual abuse of children by clergy and the subsequent cover-up have “seriously clouded the grace of the Christ-mission.”

Clerical sex abuse, she said, “is a crisis that has reduced the credibility of the church when transparency should be the hallmark of mission as followers of Jesus Christ. The fact that many accuse the Catholic Church today of negligence is disturbing.”

She also called out bishops, particularly in Asia and her native Africa, who dismiss the abuse crisis as a Western problem, citing several personal experiences she confronted while counseling men and women who were abused.

“The fact that there are huge issues of poverty, illness, war and violence in some countries in the global South does not mean that the area of sexual abuse should be downplayed or ignored. The church has to be pro-active in facing it,” she said.

Church leaders cannot think they can “keep silent until the storm has passed,” Sister Openibo told them. “This storm will not pass by.”

Outlining steps the Catholic Church can take to move toward true transparency and healing, she suggested beginning with the admission of wrongdoing and publishing “what has been done since the time of Pope John Paul II.”

“It may not be sufficient in the eyes of many, but it will show that the church had not been totally silent,” she said.

Along with clear and comprehensive safeguarding policies in every diocese and devoting resources to help survivors heal from their suffering, Sister Openibo said the church also must give seminarians and male and female novices a “clear and balanced education and training” about sexuality and boundaries.

“It worries me when I see in Rome, and elsewhere, the youngest seminarians being treated as though they are more special than everyone else, thus encouraging them to assume — from the beginning of their training — exalted ideas about their status,” she said.

Religious women also are susceptible to a way of thinking that leads to “a false sense of superiority over their lay sisters and brothers,” she added.

“What damage has that thinking done to the mission of the church? Have we forgotten the reminder by Vatican II in ‘Gaudium et Spes’ of the universal call to holiness?” she asked.

Looking toward Pope Francis seated on the dais near here, Sister Openibo spoke directly about his initial denial and subsequent about-face regarding the abuse crisis in Chile and accusations of cover-up made against bishops.

“I admire you, Brother Francis, for taking time as a true Jesuit, to discern and be humble enough to change your mind, to apologize and take action — an example for all of us,” she told the pope.

Transparency, she said, also will mean treating equally all clerics who abuse children and not shying away from acknowledging the names of abusers, even if they are high-ranking churchmen or already have died.

“The excuse that respect be given to some priests by virtue of their advanced years and hierarchical position is unacceptable,” she said.

Of course, “we can feel sad” for clerics whose offenses are being brought out into the open, Sister Openibo said, “but my heart bleeds for many of the victims who have lived with the misplaced shame and guilt of repeated violations for years.”

By protecting children, seeking justice for survivors and taking the necessary steps toward zero tolerance of sexual abuse, she said, the Catholic Church can fulfill its mission to preach the good news, announce deliverance to the captives and “proclaim the Lord’s year of favor.”

“This is our year of favor,” she said. “Let us courageously take up the responsibility to be truly transparent and accountable.””

Lord, have mercy,
Matthew

Eucharist symbolic?


-“Última_Cena”, by Leonardo DaVinci, 1490, tempera, gesso, 460 cm (180 in) × 880 cm (350 in), Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Joseph Heschmeyer, is a seminarian in the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City. A former lawyer, he blogs at Shameless Popery.

“There are a great many intelligent Protestant Christians, well-versed in Scripture, faithfully seeking to know and follow the will of God, who have concluded that Jesus’ words about the bread and wine of the Last Supper becoming his body and blood are merely symbolic.

What if they’re right?

At first, it seems like such a revelation would be a tragedy. Receiving the Eucharist is the most intimate encounter with Jesus Christ possible this side of eternity. Suddenly to discover that this intimacy was a sham, and that what we thought was God was actually just bread, would be disheartening, to put the matter mildly. Worse, it would mean that those hours spent in adoration were something approaching idolatry rather than proper worship of God.

But the true tragedy would be greater still—it would mean that the Church has been wrong about the Eucharist from the beginning. For the earliest Christians universally believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The well-respected early Church historian J.N.D. Kelly, a Protestant, has acknowledged that “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).

Take, for example, the church at Smyrna, in modern-day Turkey. In the latter half of the first century, the apostle John had delivered a message directly from Jesus Christ to the Smyrnaeans, encouraging them in their faithfulness amidst their sufferings (Rev. 2:8-11). Shortly thereafter, a student of John’s, St. Ignatius of Antioch, wrote to this same local church on his way to be martyred in Rome early in the second century.

In his letter, Ignatius warns the Smyrnaeans to “keep aloof from” the heretical Gnostics “because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 7). Notice that Ignatius doesn’t feel the need to convince his readers of the truth of the Real Presence. For him, it’s enough to say that since the Gnostics reject the Real Presence we should not even “speak of them either in private or in public.”

And this is the way that Christians approached the Eucharist throughout the first few centuries of the Church. It was not just that a theologian here or there taught the Real Presence, but that it was the Christian position on the topic. In a series of lessons given to catechumens about to enter the Church, St. Cyril of Jerusalem reminded them that “you have been taught and you are firmly convinced that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the Body and the Blood of Christ” (Catechetical Lecture 22). Cyril is comfortable assuming that even those not yet baptized know enough about Christianity to realize that Christians believe in the Real Presence.

Even more telling than the many Church Fathers teaching and preaching on the Real Presence of the Eucharist is the absence of Christian leaders either rejecting this Catholic position or teaching a contrary position.

If a Baptist pastor got up on Sunday and declared that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, you could expect that there would be angry letters denouncing him as a heretic, or at least seeking to correct him. That’s because Baptists don’t believe in the Real Presence.

The fact that we don’t see this sort of outcry in the early Church is compelling evidence that the early Christians didn’t believe what modern Baptists do about the Eucharist. Rather, they were united in belief about the Real Presence in the Eucharist at a time when Christians weren’t afraid to squabble with one another over relatively smaller matters.

So why is this important? Because it means that these Protestants aren’t just saying, “I think Jesus’ words at the Last Supper are meant to be merely symbolic,” but “I think that the entire Church misunderstood one of the most basic aspects of Christianity for centuries.” Call this the “everybody got the gospel wrong” position.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “I will not leave you desolate” (John 14:18), a promise not to abandon the Church or to leave us as orphans. Specifically, Christ promised to preserve his Church by sending “the Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit, to “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:17, 26). How is belief in this promise compatible with the idea that the whole Church lost the true meaning of the Last Supper, and that no Christians successfully followed his instructions to “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24)?

To be sure, left to our own devices, you and I would get some aspects of the gospel wrong. That’s why there are so many competing Protestant denominations. But the solution to that is to turn to the Church and to have the humility to be guided, rather than trusting that our own reading of Scripture is superior to everyone else’s. This is the model laid out in Scripture itself. When the apostle Philip found an Ethiopian official reading the book of Isaiah, he asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” to which the man replied “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:30-31). But the Protestant view undermines all of this by suggesting that the visible Church, and indeed all Christians everywhere, might be the ones in the wrong.

This isn’t just about rejecting the Church’s teaching authority, but about rejecting all of Christianity prior to a certain point in history. If you can simply throw out all of (say) pre-1517 history as heretical and off-the-mark, why not throw out all pre-2018 Christianity? What appears on the surface to be a question simply about the Eucharist or the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is really a question about whether we can trust Christ’s promise not to abandon us, leaving us to our own private theological interpretations.

What’s more, if everybody got the gospel wrong then, what makes us think that anybody has the gospel right now? If we could all be wrong on the literality of the Eucharist for centuries, why couldn’t we be wrong about the literality of the Resurrection or of any other aspect of Christian teaching? If all of Christianity can get the core message of Christianity wrong, then it seems that we simply can’t be trusted to get the basics of Christianity right. But holding that, of course, undermines our ability to trust Christianity itself.”

Love, Lord, give me faith,
Matthew

Transubstantiation – Natural Philosophy, Accidents & Substance, What the definition of IS is

If you are not familiar with philosophy, as I am not, some things said, some “arguments”, in the pleasant, logical sense, can be difficult to understand, since we do not possess the basic premise, language, or vocabulary from whence the final definition we are handed comes from.  It may be difficulty to understand:

if we have not been trained from the beginning of mathematical training.  In the same way with philosophical and theological “arguments”, it is likely the novice, especially literal ones :), will be lost very quickly in what is meant.

Ancient, at least Greek, philosophers were trying to understanding the world. They sought immutable truths, even in an ever mutable reality. One of the ways they described this knowledge to which they obtained was Plato’s “Theory of Forms”. A tree has “treeness”. A rock has “rockness”. Even though there are a myriad of different things by which we call “tree” or “rock” there is an immutable reality known as “tree” or “rock” which exists outside of these ever changing realities, by which we know their particular instantiations. This area of philosophy is called “ontology”, or the study of being. What does it mean to “be”? It’s quite logical and makes much sense if you follow the bouncing ball in its “ballness”. [Couldn’t help myself! 🙂]

Aristotle was a student of Plato, and a friend. But, famously said he was more a friend of the truth, and so disagreed that the nature of a thing is abstracted from the thing. A rock has “rockness”, a tree has “treeness”, says Aristotle. There is not an abstracted sense of being, but of being itself. The nature of the thing cannot exist without the thing itself.  Whereas Plato believed the concept of “treeness” or “blueness” existed outside human beings as an abstract reality, Aristotle believed the abstract reality existed in the human mind and not independent of physical reality, or the human mind.  Plato said forms are extrinsic to things.  Aristotle said forms are intrinsic to things.  Aristotle said you cannot have the form without the thing.  Plato said you could have the form without the thing.

Substance & Accident – Aristotelian Logic

Aristotle made the distinction between thing and quality of a thing. For instance, a dog is a dog, its substance. A dog may be black or brown, its accidents. Substance is the thing. Accidents are the qualities of things.

Substance and Accidents

Accidents are the modifications that substance undergoes, but that do not change the kind of thing that each substance is. Accidents only exist when they are the accidents of some substance. Examples are colors, weight, motion. For Aristotle there are 10 categories into which things naturally fall. They are

Substance, and
Nine Accidents:

  • Quantity,
  • Quality,
  • Relation,
  • Action,
  • Passion,
  • Time,
  • Place,
  • Disposition (the arrangement of parts), and
  • Rainment (whether a thing is dressed or armed, etc.)

As Fr Dwight Longnecker, a convert from Anglicanism, explains in a a helpful manner, the consecrated Eucharist for Catholics is neither a symbol nor literal flesh and blood, and neither has ever been the teaching of the Catholic Church, although to explain the distinction, less than articulate explanations have been given when you don’t know calculus.

Rev Dwight Longenecker, Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England.
Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical Protestant home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Fundamentalist Protestant Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, SC.

“Neither position (symbolism nor literality) is the teaching of the Catholic Church. We believe in transubstantiation. The substance of the bread and wine really are transformed into the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. However, the transformation is not physical in a literal way. If you took the consecrated host to a laboratory it would be chemically shown to be bread, not human flesh.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches:

1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament.

1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly His body that He was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.

It is therefore not possible for a Catholic to believe that the transaction at Mass is merely a symbolic memorial. But many people who believe in the Eucharistic transformation do not understand transubstantiation.

The word “transubstantiation” means “substance across” and to understand what this means we must first understand what the medieval philosophers like St Thomas Aquinas meant by the word “substance”. They meant by this word almost exactly the opposite of what we mean by it. When we say something is “substantial” we mean it is solid, real, physical and concrete. The medieval philosophers however, used the word “substance” to indicate the invisible and eternal quality of a thing. The physical aspect of a chair, for example, is temporary and mutable. It changes. Eventually, given enough time, the wood of the chair will break, rot and decay into dust. The “chair-ness” of the chair is the eternal, invisible part and this is what is referred to as the “substance.”

With bread and wine the “breadness” of the bread and the “wine-ness” of the wine is the substance and it is this “substance” which is transformed. The physical part of the bread and wine is called the “accident” and the accident of bread and wine remain although the substance of the bread and wine have become the Body and Blood of Christ.

We can think of it like this: I have in a room at my home pictures of myself at the age of two being held in my father’s arms. Then there is a picture of me as a high school student and one of me in my thirties and now in my fifties. Each one is totally different because the “accident” of my physical body has changed. However, there is a “substance” of Dwight that is the eternal part of me that has not changed. It is present in each of the pictures even though my body is very different.

So with the bread and wine at the Eucharist, it is the invisible, eternal “substance” which becomes the Body and Blood of Christ while the “accident” of bread and wine still exist.

However, this philosophical explanation, like all philosophical explanations can only take us so far. In fact, the invisible part of a thing and and the physical part cannot necessarily be separated in this way. The invisible part of me and the physical part seen in the photographs is a unity. The objection to this explanation of transubstantiation that I have just given is that it sounds like the Lord is only “spiritually present” in the Eucharist. If the physical aspect is not transformed in some way, then some Catholics argue, the transformation is just an ethereal or spiritual presence sort of floating about and around the bread and wine. This is to misunderstand the fact that the invisible substance is the most real part of the bread and wine, not the least real. Not only is it the most real, but it is not separate from the physical aspect, nor can it exist separately from the physical aspect. Therefore, inasmuch as the substance is changed there is also some sort of change in the physical aspect.

Furthermore, there is a physicality to the Lord. He is not just a spirit floating around in the air. We say the Eucharist is His body, and that implies some kind of physicality. Therefore we must go a bit further than the medieval philosophical explanation and posit that the real presence of the Lord’s Body Blood Soul and Divinity in the sacrament is also, in some way, physical. We could say the inner quality of the physical Christ is present, but not extended in space. In other words, the reality of Christ’s presence is not just spiritual in an ethereal sense. Through the transubstantiation Christ is also present physically within the substance.

This does not mean that the bread and wine become human flesh and blood, and it is this misapprehension that we need to be careful to correct.

The exception to this would be the unusual examples of Eucharistic miracles, where the Lord, for the encouragement of our faith, allows at certain times for the bread and wine to be transformed not only in their substance but also in their accident.

Finally, transubstantiation is a philosophical explanation for what we believe happens in the mystery of the sacrament of the altar. What happens on the altar is far greater than a philosophical definition just as what happens in a marriage is far greater than a psychological definition of “love”. Instead of trying to explain the mystery of “love” we simply say to the beloved, “I love you.” Likewise, although we attempt to understand and explain the mystery of the Eucharist it is best to hear the Lord say, “This is my Body” and to hear the priest say as we receive the Lord, “The Body of Christ.””

———-

“O my soul, when you receive Holy Communion, try to reanimate your faith, do all you can to detach yourself from exterior things and retire with the Lord into the interior of your being where you know He is abiding. Collect your senses and make them understand the great good they are enjoying, or rather, try to recollect them so that they may not hinder you from understanding it. Imagine yourself at Our Lord’s feet, and weep with Magdalen exactly as if you were seeing Him with your bodily eyes in the house of the Pharisee. These moments are very precious; the Master is teaching you now; listen to Him, kiss His feet in gratitude for all He has condescended to do for you, and beg Him to remain always with you. Even should you be deprived of sensible devotion, faith will not fail to assure you that Our Lord is truly within you.

If I do not want to act like a senseless person who shuts his eyes to the light, I can have no doubt on this point. O my Jesus, this is not a work of the imagination, as when I imagine You on the Cross or in some other mystery of Your Passion, where I picture the scene as it took place. Here, it concerns Your real presence; it is an undeniable truth. O Lord, when I receive Holy Communion, I do not have to go far to find You; as long as the accidents of bread are not consumed, You are within me! And if, during Your mortal life, You healed the sick by a mere touch of Your garments, how, if I have faith, can I doubt that You will work miracles, when You are really present within me? Oh, yes! when You are in my house You will listen to all my requests, for it is not Your custom to pay badly for the lodging given You, if I offer you good hospitality!

O Lord, if a soul receives Communion with good dispositions, and if, wishing to drive out all coldness, it remains for some time with You, great love for You will burn within it and it will retain its warmth for many hours.” (-Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection 34-35).

Love & truth,
Matthew

Why confess to a priest?


-by Trent Horn

“Why confess your sins to a priest when you can just confess them straight to God?”

At one time or another, most Catholics have heard this objection from their Protestant friends. They may have even heard it from a fellow Catholic who doesn’t understand the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation (or confession).

But when these critics are asked to provide biblical evidence for the claim that we should confess our sins only in private prayer to God, they often come up empty-handed save for one verse: 1 John 1:9. Consider a comment that Franklin Graham, the influential son of the famous Rev. Billy Graham, made on his Facebook page regarding priests being able to forgive sins:

The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). As a sinner, I’m glad we can go directly to God for forgiveness 24/7, on any day, in any year. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to pay the price for sin with His shed blood on the Cross of Calvary.

Let’s examine where Mr. Graham, and many critics like him, go wrong when they rely on this verse to disprove the sacrament Christ gave us for the forgiveness of sins.

Agree to disagree

Catholics agree with Protestants such as Graham that “only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, ‘The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ and exercises this divine power: ‘Your sins are forgiven’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1441). Where we disagree, is that, as the Catechism goes on to say, “by virtue of [Christ’s] divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.”

1 John 1:9 does not refute the concept of sacramental confession, because this verse does not say we should confess our sins only in private prayer addressed to God. 1 John 1:9 refers to the practice of “confessing our sins”—it does not say to whom or how we should make our confession. Graham and other Protestants assume that because only God can forgive sins it follows that if we confess our sins directly to God, apart from any human intermediary, then we will always be forgiven.

But consider 1 John 2:23, which says, “[W]hoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” If you read only this verse you might think John is referring to the confession of our belief in the Son to the Father. In context, 1 John 2 is a warning to Christians about the anti-Christ. John says we can know who the anti-Christ is because he either publicly denies the Son or he does not confess to believing in him.

Likewise, 1 John 1 refers to those who publicly deny they are sinners or publicly claim to be Christians while still sinning (or those whom John says “walk in darkness”). Since both verse 8 and verse 10 refer to certain Christians who erroneously tell other people they do not sin, this means that, at the least, John has not excluded the context of confessing sins to other people in verse 9.

I confess

This may even be John’s primary meaning, since both 1 John 1:9 and 1 John 2:23 contain the same Greek verb, homologeō, that is translated “confess.” This word means “I confess, profess, acknowledge, praise” and is used twenty-six times in the New Testament. Each time it is used, with one exception, it refers to a person publicly declaring something to another human being.

Here’s a breakdown of how it’s used in the New Testament outside of 1 John 1:9:

  • God’s promise he spoke to Abraham (Acts 7:17)
  • Jesus confessing to damned hypocrites what their fate will be (Matthew 7:23)
  • John the Baptist confessing to the Jewish leaders that he is not the Christ (John 1:20)
  • The Jewish leaders not confessing aloud their internal belief in Jesus (John 12:42)
  • Christians confessing their beliefs to other people (Matthew 10:32, Luke 12:8, John 9:22, Acts 24:14, Romans 10:9-10, 1 Timothy 6:12, Titus 1:16, 1 John 2:23, 1 John 4:2, 1 John 4:15)
  • Non-Christians making promises, declarations, or confessions of belief/disbelief to other people (Matthew 14:7, Acts 23:8, Hebrews 11:13, 1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7)

The lone exception is Hebrews 13:15, which refers to the lips of Christians that “acknowledge his name” or make a confession of faith to God. Let me reiterate this point: the Greek verb translated “confess” in 1 John 1:9 is never used in the New Testament to describe confessing sins to God. Aside from Hebrews 13:15, homologeō is never used to describe confessing anything to God. In John’s writings especially, it is always used to describe confessing a belief to other human beings.

Scholarly support

This understanding of confession in the first epistle of John is not new. The nineteenth-century Anglican New Testament scholar Brooke Westcott (who helped create the Greek New Testament scholars still study today) said that the phrase “confess our sins” means “not only acknowledge them, but acknowledge them openly in the face of men” (The Epistles of St. John, 23).

Hans-Josef Klauck, a prolific New Testament scholar, likewise held that 1 John 1:9 referred to some kind of public, liturgical confession of sin (Erste Johannesbrief, 94-95). The Johannine New Testament scholar David Rensberger writes in his recent commentary on John’s letters:

Confession of sin was generally public (Mark 1:5; Acts 19:18; James 5:16; Didache 4:14, 14:1), and that may well be the case here. The use of the plural “sins” (rather than “sin,” as in 1:8) is a reminder that not just an abstract confession of sinfulness but the acknowledgement of specific acts is in mind (Abingdon New Testament Commentary 1,2,3 John, 54).

Notice Rensberger’s citation of the Didache, which was a first-century catechism. It gave believers the following instruction: “In your gatherings, confess your transgressions, and do not come for prayer with a guilty conscience” (4:14). Scholars tend to date 1 John as being written in the late A.D. 90s and the Didache as having been written at the same time or even earlier. It makes sense, therefore, to connect John’s instruction to “confess your sins” with the context of public confession in the early Church described in the Didache.

Fr. Raymond Brown, who was a moderate in the field of biblical studies, reached the same conclusion in his Anchor Bible commentary on 1 John. After listing the public confession of sins in the Old Testament to which John is alluding (Leviticus 5:5-6, Proverbs 28:13, Sirach 4:25-26, Daniel 9:20) he writes, “All the parallels and background given thus far suggest that the Johannine expression refers to a public confession rather than a private confession by the individual to God” (The Epistles of John, 208).

Other Protestant commenters such as Robert Yarbough admit that public confession is a possible way to interpret this verse, even if they don’t accept it as the verse’s primary meaning (1, 2, 3 John, 63).

Confessing sins to one another

The Catechism says that even though the disciplines related to the sacrament of confession have changed over time (public confession in the church transitioned into private confession to a priest in the seventh century), the sacrament has always maintained a certain fundamental structure. Specifically, the sacrament includes the sinner expressing repentance for his sins and God, working through the ministers of the Church, healing the sinner and reestablishing him in ecclesial communion with the Body of Christ (CCC 1447-1448).

The only passage in the New Testament that instructs Christians to confess their sins is James 5:16, which says, “Therefore confess your sins to one another [emphasis added], and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”

The word rendered “confess” in this passage is exomologeó and, while it does refer to confessing praise or thanksgiving directly to God (Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21, Romans 14:11), it never refers to confessing sins to God. Like homologeó, this verb primarily describes public confessions or declarations to other humans (e.g., Luke 22:6, Acts 19:8, Romans 15:9, and Philippians 2:11, though this last verse might also refer to confessing belief in Jesus directly to God as well as to other humans).

James says in 5:14-15 that if a sick man receives anointing from the elders (Greek, presbuteroi, from which we derive the English word priest) the man’s sins will be forgiven. The context in James is clear: God alone saves the sick and forgives sinners, but God has chosen to use human intermediaries—priests—in order to administer sacraments like the anointing of the sick or reconciliation.

Most Protestants would even agree with this thinking on something like baptism, since they tend to deny the validity of self-baptism (something Catholics also deny). Those who believe in baptismal regeneration correctly insist that while God alone takes away sin in baptism, God does not act alone when he takes away a person’s sins. Instead, God works through other believers who baptize on God’s behalf (e.g., Acts 8:38, where Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch).

In a similar way, the Church teaches that the apostles and their successors were entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:18), and Jesus explicitly gave the apostles the power to not just preach the forgiveness of sins but to actually forgive or retain sins (John 20:23). The Catechism says:

The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter (Matt. 16:18-19) was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head. The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God (CCC 1444-1445).

Of course, in order for the apostles to know if someone needs reconciliation with God or if the person’s sins should be retained, they would have to know what the person’s sins were. Barring some kind of revelation from God, this knowledge could come only from a person confessing his sins aloud, or what is called auricular confession.

24/7 confession?

But what about Graham’s point that Christians should be able to seek forgiveness of sins “24/7,” anytime and anywhere, without having to go through an intermediary? First, Catholics wholeheartedly agree that we should confess our sins directly to God whenever we feel guilty (CCC 1458). The Code of Canon Law describes situations where a person seeks forgiveness of sins outside the context of confession:

A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible (CIC 916).

An act of perfect contrition (which is sorrow for sin out of love for God) is sufficient to warrant forgiveness of sins. If a person sought the sacrament of confession but died before reaching it he could still be saved through his desire to repudiate sin and trust in God’s mercy.

However, just as the efficacious nature of baptism of desire does not nullify the normal duty to be baptized with water by another person, the efficacious nature of confessing sins directly to God does not nullify the normal duty we have to seek out a minister of the Church who can validly perform the sacrament of reconciliation.

Conclusion

The Bible does not teach that the norm for seeking reconciliation with God and his Church is private, unconditional forgiveness of sins. At the very least, 1 John 1:9 does not teach this doctrine. Instead, 1 John 1:9 uses the Greek word homologeō, which always refers to a person publicly confessing something he believes.

Instead, the Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), and especially to priests who can administer sacraments that absolve our sin (James 5:14-15). We know priests have this ability because their authority comes from the apostles who had the authority to “bind and loose” what is in heaven (Matt. 16:18-19) and to forgive or retain sins (John 20:23).

The early Church understood that the promise of God’s forgiveness in 1 John 1:9 did not preclude but rather included the sacrament of reconciliation. As St. Cyprian of Carthage put it in A.D. 251, “[W]ith grief and simplicity confess this very thing to God’s priests, and make the conscientious avowal, put off from them the load of their minds, and seek out the salutary medicine even for slight and moderate wounds” (The Lapsed, 28).”

Love & sincere contrition & sorrow for my sins,
Matthew

Eucharistic love


-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

“Sometimes we take our Catholic lingo for granted, forgetting that like any other group, we have jargon. It takes time to get acclimated to it. If we are not attentive, sometimes the meaning of our own jargon eludes us. Maybe we grew up hearing a word and everyone seemed to know what it meant (except us, of course) and we were too ashamed to ask about it. As a result, when we listen to our pastor’s homily, faithfully looking for that spiritual nugget he delivers each week, we frown in confusion. “Let your love be eucharistic,” he says. We know what he says is true, and our whole heart affirms it in faith, but we puzzle over its meaning. What does it mean for love to be eucharistic? We believe in the Eucharist, and the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, but what does it mean for my love to be eucharistic?

I would like to suggest four ways to understand this.

First, eucharistic love is gratuitous. From its Greek roots, ευχαριστία, “eucharist” means thanksgiving or good grace/favor. God’s love for us is gratuitous because He loves us prior to anything good we do or become that could earn any love. Saint Paul said that’s how God proved His love, that He died while we were yet sinners (Rom 5:8). For our love to be eucharistic, then, means that we also offer gifts to others without first sizing up whether they are worthy. Instead of asking ourselves if the person in need deserves our help, and understanding they would accept our help while we maintain their dignity, let’s give them what they lack, regardless of any judgment.

Second, eucharistic love is empowered by God. Because every good gift has its origin in God, we cannot hope to love eucharistically if we expect the power to do so comes from ourselves. Jesus told us, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). To love eucharistically is to love with utter reliance on God’s divine power loving through us. Instead of white-knuckling our way through the day, whether at work, school, or home, let’s pray for God’s help and recognize that He delights in granting us the help we need, our loving Father.

Third, eucharistic love demands totality. When Christ approached His Passion, he “loved his disciples to the end” (John 13:1). He held nothing back when He offered His very self on the Cross for us. Eucharistic love knows no limit or measure. Empowered by God and not waiting for others to deserve it, we can love eucharistically when we give everything. It costs us to take time from our day, to break our routine in order to make someone else’s concerns our own. Instead of seeing these as distractions or delays to our own plans, let’s pray for the grace to expand our love so that they become opportunities to give our whole heart to them. As St. Paul put it, “Whatever you do, work with your whole heart, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Col 3:23).

Fourth, eucharistic loves is ordered toward Christ. In the Eucharist, Jesus makes Himself present substantially, though under sacramental forms of bread and wine. To love eucharistically can simply mean to love Jesus by adoring his presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Find out where and when Eucharistic Adoration takes place near you and spend an extra ten minutes, or more if you can, with Jesus. By getting to know Him, by growing in close friendship with our Lord, your love can become ever more eucharistic.”

Love, Praise Him!!!
Matthew

May 24 – Relics, elevatio corporis, & fragrance of Resurrection


Arca di San Domenico, please click on the image for greater detail.

Dominican breviary: “In accordance with his wishes, St Dominic was buried ‘beneath the feet of his brethren’ in the church of St Nicholas of the Vineyards, Bologna. (Keeping with this, Dominicans have been traditionally been buried under main, ground floor hallways of Dominican priories, and those living lined the hallways of their priories after Evening Prayer to sing the DeProfundis.). Many of the sick avowed that they had been healed of their infirmities at his tomb; the brethren however were loath to recognise these miracles and accept votive offerings.”

On May 24, the Dominican Order celebrates the translation of the relics of St. Dominic. That is, we remember the day in 1233 when, during a General Chapter of the Order in Bologna, the interred body of St. Dominic was moved in order to allow the faithful to honor him more easily. More than 300 friars were present to celebrate this important day. In one of his letters, Bl. Jordan of Saxony, describes the event:

“But then the wonderful day came for the translation of the relics of one who was an illustrious doctor in his lifetime. Present were the venerable Archbishop of Ravenna, surrounded by bishops and a large number of prelates, as well as by a vast multitude of people of different languages who gave remarkable witness to their devotion. Present also was the Bolognese militia, which would not let this holy body, that they considered to be in their safekeeping, be snatched from them. As for the brethren, they were anxious: although they had nothing to fear, they were seized with misgivings lest the body of Saint Dominic, which had lain in a mean tomb exposed to water and heat for such a long period of time, should be found eaten with worms and giving off a foul odor in the same way that might be expected with other corpses, thus destroying the devotion of the people for so great a man. Nonetheless the bishops approached devoutly. The stone that was firmly cemented to the sepulcher was removed with instruments of iron. Within the tomb was a wooden coffin, just as it had been placed there by the venerable Pope Gregory when he was bishop of Ostia. The body had been buried there, and a small hole remained in the top of the coffin.

The upper part of the coffin was moved a little bit. As soon as the stone was taken away, the body gave forth a wonderful odor through the opening; its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts. We ourselves also smelled the sweetness of this perfume, and we bear witness to what we have seen and smelt. Eager with love, we remained devotedly near the body of Dominic for a long time, and we were unable to sate ourselves with this great sweetness. If one touched the body with a hand or a belt or some other object, the odor immediately attached itself to it for a long period of time.

The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it would rest—it and the perfume that it poured forth. This marvelous aroma which the holy body emitted was evidence to all how much the saint had truly been the good odor of Christ”.


-by Br Ireneus Dunleavy, OP

Why relics?

It’s a natural instinct to keep meaningful tokens. Anyone who has lost loved ones knows the impact of an old photo, a handwritten letter, or a crackling recorded message. In a way, the ones we have lost become present. Emotion rises along with memories and love’s affection. An old book, jewelry, an article of clothing … we keep these things as mementos. With the saints, however, we not only keep things of the person, but we also keep the body of the person.

The 25th session of Trent’s second decree teaches us why the bodies of saints are different. Relics of bone, hair, and even blood once belonged to bodies possessing a two-fold dignity: (1) being living members of the Body of Christ and (2) being temples of the Holy Spirit. The council states that, through venerating these relics, God bestows gifts on men. Additionally, those who oppose this teaching, “the Church has already long since condemned.”

This condemnation is not found among Dominicans. Today the Order of Preachers celebrates the Translation of Holy Father Dominic. ‘Translation’ is an unfortunate translation. The Latin, elevatio corporis, brings forth the transcendent quality of this feast. We don’t celebrate a horizontal change of word for word moving from tongue to tongue. Rather, we celebrate the vertical change of the profane to the holy. On this day in 1233, St. Dominic’s remains were elevated, celebrated, and laid to rest in the Arca di San Domenico—the exquisite sarcophagus complete in 1267.

Though the brethren lifted St. Dominic from the tomb, it was God who elevated the body of St. Dominic. Our Father in heaven honored our Holy Father Dominic by a miracle (ST III.6). The moment the stone slab covering the coffin was split, the broken seal emitted an indescribable, sweet fragrance. So potent was the smell that those who touched its source, St. Dominic’s bones, themselves began to emit the aroma. Martha feared the stench of Lazarus’ four days in the tomb (Jn 11:38–44), but the friars rejoiced in the sweet-smelling oblation of St. Dominic’s 11 years in the tomb.

The relics of St. Dominic, like all other relics, remind us of not only the saint but the One the saint served. By this miracle, through his lowly servant St. Dominic, God makes real the words of St. Paul:

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Cor 2:15–16)

Smells, like a mother’s perfume, conjure the deepest memories we have of a person. The smell of St. Dominic works in an analogous way, but with an important difference. The brothers would not have been reminded of the old smell of the perspiring friar. They would have been reminded of the Resurrection. Christ by dying and rising has transformed the decay of death into the fragrance of eternal life. Relics do not just remind us of a life lived, but a life living.“

“Thou didst breath fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and now do I sigh for Thee.” -St Augustine

Love, life, & LIFE to come!!
Matthew

A Baptist minister discovers the Eucharist: Part 9 of 9


-by Ken Hensley

“To wrap up this short series, I hope to describe as simply and clearly as I can the essential line thought that led me, as a Baptist minister, to embrace the Catholic teaching of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Step One: The Witness of the Fathers

As I explained in Part I, the first step was reading the early Church Fathers and finding myself faced with descriptions of the Eucharist that were totally different than I was familiar with and that I would have ever thought to use.

Jesus had said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (John 6:54) and the early Church seemed to take this literally.

For Christians living in the earliest centuries of Christian history, the Eucharist was a meal of remembrance of Christ’s death, as I would have said as a Baptist, but it was more than that. It was supernatural food, a miraculous meal in which simple bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. It was, to quote St. Ignatius of Antioch, an early bishop and disciple of St. John, the “medicine of immortality.”

The following quotation from St. Justin Martyr is fairly typical of what one finds in the writings of the early Church Fathers.

For not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food that has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus (First Apology 66).

During the past week, I’ve pulled four of five important historians of Christian doctrine off the shelf and looked again at what they have to say on this subject, only to have my own impressions confirmed.

According to one of the most prominent, J.N.D. Kelly:

Eucharistic teaching, it should be said at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e. the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood (Early Christian Doctrines, p. 440).

Even those historians who personally reject the doctrine of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist tend to admit that this indeed was the view of the Church from as far back as we can tell. Of course they take this as an illustration of how quickly the Church departed from what they perceive to be the “clear teaching” of the New Testament.

Step Two: The Examination of Scripture

The next step for me was to leave the writings of the early Church to re-examine the writings of the Apostles themselves. After all, the writings of the Fathers are not inspired. Only Scripture is inspired.

Now, I’d read the New Testament passages that touch on the Lord’s Supper many times. What I was eager to do now was read them again in the light of what I had seen in the early Church.

I wondered, would the Apostles contradict the early Church’s view of the Eucharist? Would the things they say about the Lord’s Supper support the teaching of the early Church, and possibly even be illuminated by it? Would I see things in Scripture I hadn’t noticed before?

What I found was that this was indeed the case.

First, there was nothing whatsoever in the New Testament that was not entirely consistent with the faith and teaching of the early Church, nothing that excluded or contradicted it.

But beyond this, there certain Old and New Testament biblical themes and passages that seemed positively illuminated when read in the light of the early Church’s faith and teaching (see Parts II, III and IV of this series).

I did not come away thinking I could, from the New Testament alone, somehow “prove” the doctrine of the Real Presence, or demonstrate its truth “beyond a shadow of doubt.” There simply is no passage where a “doctrine” of the Eucharist is spelled out in so many words.

But this only served to confirm something I had been coming to think for some time: that the New Testament was not written to function alone.

After all, Christian doctrine was something the Apostles taught the churches they founded, over a period of time, by word of mouth and face-to-face. St. Paul speaks, for instance, of having spent a year and six months in Corinth and three years in Ephesus teaching the believers there “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 18:11 and 20:27).

When the Apostles later wrote letters to those churches, the letters that comprise a good part of our New Testaments, with rare exceptions they were writing to those who already knew the doctrines of the faith and needed specific encouragement or correction or some issue resolved. When the churches read those letters, they read them, and understood them, in the light of what they had already been taught and already knew.

It wasn’t entirely surprising to me, then, to find that the passages in the New Testament that talk about the Lord’s Supper might need to be read and understood in the light of the early Church’s teaching.

Step Three: Relating Scripture and Tradition

All of this led to me thinking more deeply about the relationship of Scripture (the teaching of the Apostles as it was written down) to what Catholics refer to as “Tradition” (the teaching of the Apostles as it was known and preserved in the churches they founded).

As a general principle, it seemed reasonable to me to think that the teaching of the Apostles would be reflected in the faith and practice of the early Church, more than reasonable to think that when one found unanimous consent among the early Church Fathers on a particular issue, what the early Church believed would be a very good indicator of what the Apostles had taught. This made sense to me.

Given that we know all about the debates that took place in the early Church over issues both great and small (e.g. the correct day for celebrating Easter), it did not seem reasonable to me to imagine that when it came to the Eucharist, the very center of Christian worship, the Apostles would teach one thing and Church turn around and immediately teach another and there be no record of a debate on the issue.

This did not make sense.

And yet, here I was staring at quotations spread over the first three centuries of Christian history, quotations from the most prominent bishops, apologists and theologians of the Church at that time. I’m looking at quotations from every corner of the Roman Empire: from Syria (Ignatius), from Rome (Justin Martyr), from the south of France (Irenaeus), from Egypt (Clement and Origin), from Carthage and Hippo in North Africa (Tertullian and Augustine), from Milan (Ambrose).

Three centuries of witness from every corner of the Christian world supporting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and no record of any dispute? Not even one priest or bishop rising up to say, “this is not what we received from the Apostles!”?

Having been an evangelical Protestant for many years, there was the ingrained tendency in me to think:

Listen, Ken, everything God wants us to know is recorded in the New Testament and laid out clearly enough to be understood. You need to look again at the passages, examine the exegetical arguments and decide on the basis of Scripture alone which view you think best reflects the data. That’s how these things are determined. It doesn’t really matter what the early Church thought.

At the same time, thoughts that were new to this evangelical Protestant were beginning to insinuate themselves:

But Ken, Luther examined the data and came out in one place, Calvin examined the data and came out in another. And then there were the Baptists who examined the data and hold a view of the Lord’s Supper that differs from both Luther and Calvin. What if the New Testament wasn’t meant to function “alone”?

What if the very reason sincere and prayerful students of Scripture can “examine the data” for years, decades and centuries and not agree on the nature of the Eucharist is that the writings of the Apostles need to be read and understood in the light of that teaching preserved and handed down within the Church?

Step Four: Tradition in the Early Church

The final step for me was coming to see that this is exactly the view the early Church had of the correct relationship between the inspired Scripture and the faith and teaching of the Church.

In his book Against Heresies, the first serious work of biblical theology that we possess, St. Irenaeus describes the Apostles as having deposited their teaching in the Church as a rich man deposits his money in a bank. Because of this, when there are disputes about the correct teaching, Christians, he says, can come to the Church to draw from her the truth.

As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith [from the apostles], although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth…. When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth, which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything which pertains to the truth; and everyone whoever wishes draws from her the drink of life (Against Heresies I:10:2 and 3:4:1, c. 189 A.D.)

What can I say but that this was a way of looking at things that was beginning to make more and more sense to this Evangelical.

I had treated the New Testament as though it were a stand-alone manual of Christian doctrine. The early Christians did not think of the New Testament in this way.

I had treated the faith and practice of the early Church as though it were essentially worthless when it comes to deciding what to believe as a Christian or how to understand the New Testament. None of the early Church Fathers thought in this way. None of them.

I was beginning now to think that my understanding of the nature of both the New Testament and Tradition, and how the two should be related to one another, was simply incorrect. I was beginning to think that the Catholic Church’s view of these matters was not only more historical, but more biblical.

Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And sacred Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God, which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching.

Although this sounds like another quotation from the early Church Fathers, it’s actually from Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

A Baptist minister discovers the Eucharist: Part 8 of 9


-by Ken Hensley

What Jesus Says and Does

So what am I talking about?

Well, so far Jesus has revealed himself to be the bread of life sent down from the Father in heaven. Those who “come” to him and “believe” in him will never hunger or thirst but will have eternal life, because Jesus will raise them up on the last day.

Beginning around verse 48, however, Jesus begins to use language he hasn’t to this point. He identifies the living bread with his “flesh” and says that one must “eat” this bread to live forever.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (vs. 51).

Now, those listening pick up on this shift in expression and immediately begin to dispute among themselves: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (vs. 52).

And what’s our Lord’s response? Does he explain that what he means by this is that they must “come to him” and “believe in him”? No. Instead, Jesus intensifies his language. He begins to insist—in the most literalistic and graphic of terms—that his listeners must “eat his flesh” and “drink his blood” if they would have life.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him . . . He who eats me will live because of me . . . He who eats this bread will live for ever” (vs. 53-58).

Jesus even switches from the more usual Greek verb for “eating” to use a word that means “to chew” or “to gnaw.” He repeats this particular verb four times in verses 54 through 58.

The repetition of this idea that his followers must eat, chew, gnaw upon his flesh and drink his blood is striking. It turns that not only are the Jews in general offended and scandalized, so are his disciples. It sounds to them as though Jesus is commanding some form of cannibalism and the exact reverse of the Mosaic laws forbidding the eating of flesh with the blood.

“Many of his disciples when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” (vs. 60). “After this,” we read, “many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (vs. 66).

And what does Jesus do? Again, does he explain that he has only been speaking “figuratively”? No. He lets them leave.

He even asks the twelve, “Will you also go away?” To which Peter famously responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vs. 67-69).

I had to admit it: This does not make sense—if all that Jesus meant was that his disciples must “come” to him and “believe” in him.

After all, Jesus’ disciples had already “come” to him and “believed” in him. And yet he allows “many” of them to draw back and “no longer” walk with him. He lets them go. In other words, this was the end of the road for a good number of his disciples.

Even the twelve, those who would become his Apostles, are on the verge of leaving, and it appears as though Jesus would have let them go as well!

It appears as though Jesus would have let everyone go! And all he had to do was say, “Hey, I’m only speaking figuratively”?

Didn’t make sense. Whatever Jesus is saying here, he must be saying something more than that to receive eternal life we need to come to him and believe in him. He must be saying something more than this.

Baptists, Presbyterians and other Evangelicals all say that the figurative interpretation explains the passage.

Catholics say that in John chapter 6 Jesus is pointing forward to when, after suffering on the cross and ascending to heaven, he will give his body and blood as supernatural food and drink in the Eucharist; that this passage is pointing forward to the greatest miraculous meal of all, the feeding of the multitudes par excellence.

What other options are there? Assuming Jesus wasn’t teaching cannibalism, what options are there beyond his words being purely figurative and them indicating some means by which his disciples will have his glorified flesh and blood to eat and drink, some version of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?

At this point, there were several lines of thought converging in my head and moving me in direction of the Real Presence.”

Love,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine


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