Defending the Faith of our Fathers!

 

The Eucharist - Witness of the Fathers

by Dom Jerome Gassner, O.S.B.

The Liturgical Press, June 15, 1947

 

THE EUCHARIST

A REENACTMENT OF THE ENTIRE OPUS REDEMPTIONIS

WITNESS OF THE FATHERS

THE present article is intended to supplement and confirm our previous argument from history, liturgy, sacred art and holy Scripture.1 In particular it shall bring evidence of patristic tradition concerning the reenactment of the whole "opus redemptionis" in the eucharistic Mystery by the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

The eucharistic theology of the Fathers is commonly assumed to be undeveloped, incomplete, lacking exact terminology and systematic treatment. It is true, the Fathers of the Church did not know of the many theories and disagreements of the post-Tridentine theologians relative to the eucharistic Sacrifice; they did not write with strict scholastic terminology; they did not propose a complete system concerning the eucharistic Mystery and its main aspects: the real presence, transubstantiation, sacrifice, sacrament. At the time of the Fathers no heresies directly opposed any of these dogmas, and hence no systematic elaboration of doctrine was called for. It was only later, in the middle ages, that difficulties arose directly out of eucharistic questions: for instance, about the distinction between the historical and sacramental body of Christ (Rhabanus Maurus vs. Paschasius Radbertus), and about the real presence (the Council of Rome, 1079, vs. Berengarius). Against the christological heresies of their own times the Fathers had to explain the eucharistic Mystery indirectly rather and incidentally, and primarily they had to defend the fundamental dogma of the reality of the body and blood of Christ.

Consequently we cannot expect to find in patristic literature a complete system about the eucharistic Sacrifice as reenactment of the different mysteries of our Lord's life, or about transubstantiation in its diverse aspects as nativity, passion and glorification. Nevertheless there is contained in the writings of the Fathers an abundance of texts and statements which present the fundamental principle, so beautiful in its simplicity, so impressive in the unanimity with which it is accepted: the eucharistic Mystery is a continuation and extension of the mystery of the incarnation. There is further an abundance of texts which explain the eucharistic Sacrifice as the reenactment of the nativity, of the passion, and of the glorification. Special emphasis, finally, is placed on the eucharistic intervention of the Holy Spirit. We shall, in the following consider each of these points in some detail.

 

THE EUCHARIST AS CONTINUATION OF THE INCARNATION

Leo XIII has concisely formulated the leading idea of the eucharistic theology of the Fathers in his encyclical Mirae Caritatis (May 28, 1902): "The Eucharist, according to the testimony of the holy Fathers, must be regarded as a certain continuation and expansion of the incarnation. For by It the substance of the incarnate Word is united with individual men; and the supreme Sacrifice of Calvary is in admirable manner renewed."2 It is a thought of infinite beauty and inexhaustible riches to conceive the "Mystery of faith" (cf. words of consecration) as the continuation of the "great mystery of godliness—magnum sacramentum pietatis" (I Tim. 3:16). The eucharistic theology of the Fathers considers and contemplates the holy Eucharist not as something taken by itself, but in its dogmatic place within the organism of divine mysteries, within the luminous stream of communication and manifestation of the divine life, which originates in the blessed Trinity from Father through the Son to the Holy Spirit, is poured out and made manifest "ad extra" in the mystery of Christ, and is communicated and continued through the Eucharist in the Mystical Body, Both mysteries—incarnation and Eucharist—are sacred means, are great "sacraments" for the purpose of communicating the life of the blessed Trinity to men.

On the basis of this principle, it is merely an analysis of details in the organic connection of these mysteries, if we state with the Fathers that whatever was visible in Christ has entered into the Eucharist, that all events enacted and suffered in the historical body Of Christ are reflected in the sacramental body; what His coming "visibiliter" effected in the world, is now effected in man by His coming "sacramentaliter" in the Eucharist; what His passion "in specie propria" was for the world, that the Eucharist is "sacramentally" for man. Accepting the principle stated above, there is no longer any question of whether or not the full life of Christ, His whole work of redemption, is brought to us in the Eucharist; there is merely a question of how to grasp, how to explain and to define these wonderful facts with human concepts, how to put them into theological terms.

St. Justin (d. 167) was the first to introduce into patristic theology the parallelism of incarnation and Eucharist (Apol. I, 66): "For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by a word of God, had flesh and blood for our salvation, so we have learned that the food, made a Eucharist by a word of prayer that comes from Him, from which our blood and flesh are nourished, by change are the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus." The real presence of the body and blood of Christ and the analogy between the act of incarnation and the act of transubstantiation, between the "word of God" and the "prayer that comes from Him," is what St. Justin set out to propound. But his method of explaining the Eucharist by means of the mystery of incarnation became the fundamental principle in the eucharistic theology of the Father; so much so, that occasionally —although without consequences upon tradition—it even led to certain exaggerations, e.g., in the writings of Theodoret (cf. below).

St. Irenaeus (d. 202), likewise concerned with defending the reality of Christ's flesh and blood in the Eucharist, uses the same comparison (Adv. Haereses V, 2): "In the same manner in which you ascribe to the Eucharist only the value of a symbol, so also the incarnation is reduced (by you) to mere appearance: there is not more flesh in the one than in the other. The incarnation does not differ from the Eucharist."

St. Ambrose (d. 397) in turn positively sanctions this method (De Mysteriis 9, 53): "Let us use examples: with the example of the incarnation let us explain the truth of the Mystery (the Eucharist).

St. Augustine (d. 430) connects the two great "sacraments" of incarnation and Eucharist on the basis of St. Paul's beautiful expression "Magnum est sacramentum Pietatis" (I Tim. 3:16; note how significantly the Vulgate translated the Greek term "mysterion" with "sacramentum"). What St. Paul applies to Christ, "quod manifestum est in carne, justificatum est in Spiritu ... assumptum est in gloria," St. Augustine predicates about the Eucharist (In loan., tr. 2 6,13): "Unus panis unum corpus multi sumus (I Cor. 10:17). O SACRAMENTUM PIETATIS; o signum unitatis, o vinculum caritatis."

St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), the defender of the mystery of the incarnation against Nestorius and the champion against oriental rationalism, saw and proclaimed with great ingenuity the organic interrelation of the mysteries of incarnation and Eucharist. A brilliant summary of his ideas is to be found in his commentary on St. John's Gospel. The most beautiful passage is the eucharistic interpretation of the words of Christ: "And the glory that thou hast given me, I have given to them" (John 17:22). 'What beauty and light does not this shed upon our understanding of the Eucharist, when St. Cyril reminds us that it is the same glory of which we read in the Prologue: "And we have seen his glory, the glory as it were of the only-begotten of the Father"; the same glory which appeared in Bethlehem and in the whole life of Christ, the glory of the Son of God shining through the humanity as through a veil (Eutymius), resplendent in His teaching, in His miracles, in transfiguration, in passion, resurrection and ascension: the splendor of the glory and the figure of the substance of the Father.

St. Leo the Great (d. 461) summarized the relation between incarnation and Eucharist in a famous and beautiful passage in his Homily 74, 12: "What was visible in our Savior has entered into the sacraments."

Under pressure of the christological heresies (Monophysitism and Nestorianism) the two mysteries of incarnation and Eucharist were then considered and studied more intensively in their mutual relationship. To oppose the exaggeration of Monophysitism and in order to defend the dogma of the two natures in Christ, a kind of exaggerated Dyophysitisin was introduced by Theodoret (d. 45 8), which is reflected even in the writings of Pope St. Gelasius (d. 496).

St. Gelasius I (Ep. 27, 3): "Certainly the image and likeness of the body and blood of Christ are celebrated in the action of the Mysteries (the Eucharist). it is sufficiently evident that we have to admit in Christ God Himself what we confess, celebrate and accept in regard to His image (the eucharistic elements); as they are changed under the action of the Holy Spirit into the divine substance so that the two natures remain in their properties ("permanentes tamen in sua proprietate naturae"), so likewise do we have to understand the other principal mystery (incarnation), whose efficacy and power these represent to us." The pope speaks about incarnation and Eucharist as of two mysteries which correspond to each other as principal mystery and its image and likeness. (Some commentators understand the phrase "permanentes tamen in sua proprietate naturae" of the accidents, and thus arrive at an orthodox interpretation.) —Through the efforts of Leontius of Byzantium (d. 543), the teaching of St. Cyril of Alexandria emerged victorious.

 

EUCHARISTIC NATIVITY

The testimony for the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the blessed Sacrament constitutes the starting point in the comparison the Fathers institute particularly between transubstantiation on the one hand, and annunciation and nativity on the other. They explain the eucharistic consecration as the descent of the Word of God, as an overshadowing by the Holy Spirit; they compare the words of consecration with the activity of the Word of God forming for Himself a body in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. They institute a parallel between the petition for consecration in the Canon-prayer and the prayer of our Lady for the coming of the Savior. In the words of consecration they see implicitly contained the words of Psalm 39: "Behold, I come to do thy will, O God." The priest is compared to the angel Gabriel, the "Hosanna in excelsis" of the Canon with the hymn of the angels in Bethlehem. They state explicitly that the Christmas celebration is not a birthday celebration in memory only, but a making present of the mystery itself.

St. Athanasius (d. 373) in the Fragmentum apud Eutychium: "As soon however as the great prayers and holy petitions are said, the 'Word descends upon the bread and the chalice and they become His body. . . ."

St. Augustine (d. 430) in The City of God 17, 20, beautifully establishes the connection between the nativity and the Sacrifice of Christ, and understands both to be reenacted in the eucharistic Sacrifice. It is he in particular who hears the echo of the words "Behold, I come to do thy will, O God" (Ps. 39; cf. Hebr. 10:5 -9) in the words of consecration.

St. Leo (d. 461) sees the mysteries of incarnation and Eucharist so closely connected with the mystery of grace that he says: the Christmas celebration is more than a date in our memories; it is a day on which Christ's birth is made present to us, for "the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the Body—Natalis capitis natalis est corporis." The birthday of Christ does not merely present an objective truth in which we believe, or an historical date which we recall. Christ's nativity has entered and enters our lives anew with the newness of our incorporation into Him.

In Homily 29, 1, he states: "Let us not be disturbed by our own inabilities. The Gospels and prophets will help us. They will set our hearts on fire and teach us that our Lord's birthday, when the Word was made flesh, is more than a date in our memories; it is a day we must look upon as present. Even now you may hear the angels' tidings brought to shepherds watching their flocks—for I have charge over the Lord's sheep, and in my heart I have kept the words I heard from heaven. Today, on this joyous feast, I can say to you: Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people; for there is born to you today in the town of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." This enthusiastic homily has filled and formed with its spirit the postcommunion of the Mass at Dawn: "Huius nos, Domine, sacramenti semper novitas natalis instauret: cuius nativitas singularis humanam repulit vetustatem—May the birthday-newness of this Sacrament make us ever new, O Lord, whose unique nativity has banished human oldness."

St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636) in his De Eccl. Officiis 1, 18, 4 explains the, Canon with reference to the particular circumstances of the nativity of Christ, and says that in the anaphora the heavenly powers are invited to join with the earthly creatures and to sing the "Hosanna in excelsis" as it was sung when our Savior was born.

St. John, Damascene (d. 759), De Fide Orthodoxa 4, 13, compares again annunciation and consecration: "Since we know that the Word has formed *for Himself a body from His pure and immaculate Virgin Mother, is it therefore not conceivable that He can form for Himself a body from bread and blood from wine? 'How shall this be,' said the holy Virgin, 'since I do not know man?' The archangel answered: 'The Holy Spirit.. . . ‘ if you ask the manner (of consecration), it shall suffice for you to 'know that it is done by the Holy Spirit, in the same way as the Lord has formed for Himself flesh of the blood of the holy Mother of God."

Paschasius Radbertus (d. 831), De corpore et sanguine Domini: "It is the same Christ who by the Holy Spirit produces His flesh. Who else could create in the womb, so that the Word became flesh? In the same manner it is done (in the Eucharist), so we have to believe: that by the same power of the Holy Spirit .through the word of Christ is effected His flesh and blood by an invisible action. . . ."

We conclude this series of texts about the eucharistic nativity with a passage from a letter of St. Hildegarde (Ep. 47, Ad Praelatos Moguntinenses): "You are the angels of the Lord of hosts: because, as at the words of the angel Gabriel God became incarnate of the Virgin Mary in order .by His nativity, passion and ascension, to save man who was lost, so at your words the same body and the same blood of the same Son of God, with the representation of His nativity, passion and resurrection, is wrought for our salvation and for the salvation of all the faithful, both living and dead."

 

EUCHARIST AND PASSION

It is superfluous to verify with a series of texts the teaching of the Fathers about the eucharistic Sacrifice as representation of the passion of Christ. The few texts we adduce shall emphasize how the Fathers understand the Eucharist as a reenactment of the passion as action: a sacrificial action accomplished sacramentally, in a sign which signifies and effects the "traditio" of the body and the "effusio" of the blood; nativity and passion are contained in consecration, which is one action "realiter," manifold "ratione."

St. Justin (d. 167), Dialogue with Trypho, 41: "The Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ has prescribed in remembrance of the suffering which He endured.

St. Cyprian (d. 258), Epistola 63, 14: "And because we make mention of His passion in all sacrifices—for the Lord's passion is the sacrifice which we offer—we ought to do nothing else than what He did. As often, therefore, as we offer the cup in commemoration of the Lord and of His passion, let us do what it is known the Lord did."

St. Gregory Nazianzen (d. 390) analyzed the transubstantiation as incarnation and immolation simultaneously (Ep. 171): "Do not hesitate, O priest, to pray and to practice the mission for us, when with a word thou attractest the 'Word, when thou art cutting with unbloody immolation the body and blood of the Lord, using a word instead of a sword."

St. Gaudentius Brixenensis (d. 410): "The labors of the passion of Christ we offer in the figure (sacrament) of His body and blood."

St. Gregory of Nazianzen's thought is preserved most beautifully in the Ethiopian missal (cf. P. Chaine, La consecration et l'epiclise dans le missel ethiopien, Rome, 1910, p. 31):

May there be opened the doors of light,
May there be opened the doors of glory,
May the veil be lifted from the face of the Father,
May the Lamb of God descend,
May it be placed upon the priestly table before me, a sinful servant,
May the song [the sung words of Consecration] be sent, the fiery terrible sword.
May it appear upon this bread and the chalice,
And sever this oblation.

 

CONSECRATION-GLORIFICATION

The eucharistic Sacrifice is, according to the Fathers, the celebration also of the resurrection, the reenactment of the manifestation of the risen Lord. The prayers of the Canon are a petition for glorification, a calling down of the fire of glory, as Elias called down fire from heaven upon his sacrifice. Holy Communion is a drinking of the cup filled with the fire of glory, it is a being touched with the live coal (cf. Is. 6), a glowing in the fire of the Holy Spirit. "Anthrax" (live coal) occurs frequently as a name for the eucharistic body in the Eastern Liturgies and likewise in the writings of the Fathers, and by means of it they explain the effect of holy Communion.

St. Cyprian (Ep. 63, 13) explains the difference between the custom of celebrating the Eucharist in the morning, and Christ's own celebration of the Last Supper and the Institution of the Eucharist in the evening: "But still it was not in the morning, but after supper, that the Lord offered the mingled cup.... It behooved Christ to offer about the evening of the day, that the very hour of sacrifice might show the setting and the evening of the world.... But we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord in the morning."

St. Ephraem (d. 373), The incomprehensibility of the Son , 4:"Fire fell once upon the sacrifices of Elias and consumed them. For us the fire 'of mercy became the sacrifice of life. Fire at one time consumed the sacrifice; but Thy fire, O Lord, we eat at Thy Sacrifice."

Cyrillonas (Syrian poet at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century): "Drink of the cup of fire, the blood which inflames all that partake of it."

St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) celebrates the Eucharist as a reenactment of the manifestation of the risen Lord: ". . . it surpasses all understanding; we close the doors (of the church), but then Christ joins us, and appears to all of us, invisibly and visibly at the same time.... He permits and presents His sacred body to be touched."

In the controversy with Nestorius, who denied the Eucharist to be the Son of God, St. Cyril as the defender of the faith spoke clearly of the vivifying and sanctifying flesh and blood of Christ in the Eucharist (Adv. Nestorium 7, 3): "The flesh became spiritual after resurrection in order to communicate to us the energy for our resurrection."

In the same writing Adv. Nestorium, and in a special scholion "De carbone" St Cyril explains the "live coal" as the incarnate Word present in the Eucharist with His humanity "transformed into His divine glory and activity."

St. John Damascene (d. 754), De fide orthod. 4, 13: "Let us draw near to Him with ardent desire and receive the divine coal, so that in the fire of our desire and in the heat of the received coal our sins may be burnt and our hearts illuminated, and we may become so much inflamed in the exchange (ignis commercio) of fire as to become Gods."

(The Roman Pontifical calls the eucharistic Sacrifice a holocaust, consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit to an odor of sweetness (De cons. altaris): "Domine sancte Pater omnipotens aeterne Deus . . . preces nostrae humilitatis exaudi et respice ad huius altaris holocaustum, quod non igne visibili probetur, sed infusum Sancti Spiritus tui gratia in odorem suavitatis ascendat.")

St. Hildegarde heard the voice of the heavenly Father saying (Scivias II, vision 6): "I, the Father, glorify now the flesh and blood of My Son in the oblation through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit" (note the allusion to the highpriestly prayer as found in John 17).

 

EUCHARISTIC INTERVENTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

The same divine Spirit who formed the body of Christ in the womb of the Virgin, by whom Christ offered Himself upon the cross, and who 'awakened Him in the tomb to life and glory—this same Holy Spirit vivifies, sanctifies and glorifies the eucharistic body of Christ. And because it is the same divine Spirit, whose activity transcends space and time, therefore the Fathers are able to under stand and to explain that the same body that was born of the Virgin, that was crucified and Pierced with the lance, and that is risen and is seated at the Father's right hand, is now made present, offered, and given in holy Eucharist; therefore too in consecration there is represented the nativity, the passion, and the glorification, because all this is wrought by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, whose activity reaches from the eternal "hodie" into all places, unto all times, uniting events and deeds.

Gaudentius Brixinensis (d. 410): "Do not think that this is earthly which has become something heavenly by Him who entered it and made it His body and blood. But believe that it became what it is announced to be, by the fire of the divine Spirit."

St. Fulgentius Ruspensis (d. 535), Ad Monimum 1, 2, 6: "'When could holy Church ask more fittingly for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Epiklesis) than for the consecration of the Sacrifice, since she knows that her Head was born according to the flesh by this same Holy Spirit? For Mary was told by the word of the angel: the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee."

St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) is recorded by Paul the Deacon (d. 780) to have said: "With the same power with which our Creator has created everything out of nothing and has built for Himself a body from the flesh of the Virgin, He changes bread and wine through the sanctification of His Spirit into flesh and blood."

St. Fulbert of Chartres (d. 1028) Ep. 1: "It is the same flesh, the one assumed from the Virgin, and the other consecrated from material and virginal creature; it is one and the same artist, namely the Spirit, who by invisible action transforms it into the substance of true flesh. It is not the symbol of an empty mystery, but the true body of Christ built by the Holy Spirit."

St. Peter Damian (d. 1072), Liber qui appellatur Gratissimus, 9: "The body of the Lord, which is consecrated on the sacred altar.... conceiving the power of the holy Spirit is vivified and sanctified, so as to be able to vivify and sanctify us."

Rupert of Deutz (d. 1135), In Exod. 2: "Because the Virgin conceived Him by the Holy Spirit, who is the eternal fire, and because he has offered Himself by the same Holy Spirit as a living oblation to the living God—as the Apostle says (Hebr. 9:14: qui per Spiritum aeternum semetipsum obtulit immaculatum Deo") —therefore it is done in the fire of the altar: by the activity of the Holy Spirit, namely, bread becomes the body, wine becomes the blood of Christ."

St. Hildegarde, Ep. 43: Responsum Hildegardis (sacerdoti cuidam) de corpore et sanguine Domini: "The same power of the Most High which effected the body in the womb of the Virgin, transforms upon the altar at the words of the priest the oblation of bread and wine into the sacrament of flesh and blood. Therefore appear also the nativity, the passion, the burial, the resurrection and the ascension of the Son of the heavenly Father in the same Sacrament."

 

ST. THOMAS AND PATRISTIC TRADITION

Not as a special question, but by way of an appendix which will summarize the patristic tradition as explained above, we shall add a few quotations from St. Thomas. In his eucharistic theology, St. Thomas has preserved and transmitted to us faithfully and completely the tradition of the Fathers: in the whole structure of his treatise, in the order of the questions, in the quotations and authorities to whom he refers, in the principles applied, in the conclusions deduced—everywhere we find patristic thought presented in systematic form and uniform terminology.

 

THE EUCHARIST AS CONTINUATION OF THE INCARNATION

No theologian could express more concisely and more beautifully the relation of these two mysteries than does St. Thomas in the Summa theol. III, q. 83, a. 4: "Respondeo dicendum quod quia in hoc sacramento totum mysterium nostrae salutis comprehenditur, ideo prae caeteris sacramentis majori solemnitate agitur—Because in this sacrament is comprised the entire mystery of our salvation, therefore it is enacted with greater solemnity than the rest of the sacraments." To grasp the full import of this statement, we have to remember that according to St. Thomas,

1) all the events of the life of Christ in His humanity, in His body, have redemptive value; even the events in His dead body are "sacramenta salutis";

2) the Eucharist is so much the perfection, consummation, and end of the other sacraments that these latter arc somehow merely an anticipation of an effect of the Eucharist. (Scheeben in his Mysteries of Christianity also develops this point eloquently.)

 

Summa theol. III, q. 48, a. 6: "All actions and sufferings of Christ operate instrumentally in the power of the divinity unto the salvation of men.

 

Summa theol. III, P. 50, 2. 6: "Whatever happened in the flesh of Christ, even after the soul had left, has been redemptive in virtue of the divinity united to the body."

 

Summa theol. III, q. 56, a. 1: ... What Christ has acted or suffered in His humanity is redemptive for us in virtue of His divinity, . . . (in virtue of) the divine power which reaches presently (praesentialiter) all places and times."

 

Summa theol. III, q. 78, a. 4: "Like the rest of His deeds and words (so the words of consecration likewise) have instrumentally redemptive power.

Salvation of man by incorporation into Christ is accomplished by means of the sacraments: "per substantiam Christi" in the Eucharist, "Per virtutem Christi" in the rest (cf. Summa theol. III, q. 62, a. 1: "Per sacramenta novae legis homo Christo incorporatur").

EUCHARISTIC NATIVITY

Referring to a statement of St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Thomas in the Summa theol. III, q. 79, a. 1, compares the historical advent and nativity with the sacramental Christmas and comes to the conclusion: as the visible coming of Christ brought the life of grace to the world, so His sacramental coming effects the life of grace in man: "Christus qui sicut in mundum visibiliter veniens contulit mundo vitam gratiae, secundum illud Jo 1, 17: 'Gratia et veritas per Jesum Christum facta est,' ita in hominem sacramentaliter veniens vitam gratiae operatur, secundum illud jo 6, 58: 'Qui manducat me, vivet propter me.' Unde et Cyrillus dicit: Vivificativum Dei Verbum uniens seipsum, propriae carni, fecit ipsam vivificativam. Decebat enim eum nostris quodammodo uniri corporibus per sacram eius carnem et pretiosum sanguinem, quae accipimus in benedictionem vivificativam. in pane et in vino."

EUCHARIST AND PASSION

Summa theol. III, q. 79, a. 1: "The effect which the passion of Christ bad (in specie propria) in the world, this the sacrament effects in man."

 

EUCHARIST AND GLORIFICATION

Following an idea of St. Cyril of Alexandria (cf. above) St. Thomas compares the preconsecratory invocation of. the Canon ("Quam oblationem") with the petition for glorification in the highpriestly prayer of Christ (Summa theol. IIII, q. 83, a. 4, ad 7).

And quoting a text from St. John Damascene, he explains, in Summa theol. III, q. 79, a. 2, ad 2, the "live coal" of Isaias 6:6 as a figure of the causality and effect of the holy Eucharist.

 

EUCHARISTIC INTERVENTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Again quoting St. John Damascene, St. Thomas makes the statement that transubstantiation is brought about "solo virtute Spiritus Sancti", (Summa theol. III, q. 78, a. 3). He compares it to the formation of the body of Christ in the womb of the Virgin, and concludes that the action of the Holy Spirit in producing the same effect does not exclude the cooperation of an instrument, i.e., of the humanity of Christ as an organic instrument and of the priest as causa ministerialis.

 

CONCLUSION

The activity of the Holy Spirit transcends space and time. All the events of the life of Christ in "specie propria," distinct and succeeding one another in time, and wrought by the Holy Spirit, are reenacted sacramentally by the same Holy Spirit in the one "Mysterium fidei." Our minds, however, unable to grasp with one concept and one word the fulness and the infinite beauty and majesty of the eucharistic Mystery, analyze and consider distinctly again what in reality is one: namely all the aspects of Christ's redemptive work as enumerated in the Anamnesis ("Unde et memores . . ."). Holy Mother Church has adjusted herself to the human way of reasoning "unum post aliud" and "unum ex alio," and has elaborated the great Anamnesis which we call the liturgical year. Feast after feast passes before our eyes, bringing now the one and now the other aspect of the reality of the eucharistic Mystery to explicit consciousness. But the liturgical year, Canon and Anamnesis, as instituted by the Church, means more than a mere unfolding of the eucharistic Mystery in the cognoscitive order. Man's incorporation into Christ through the holy Eucharist is an organic growth, an organic transformation; it is an advance "from glory to glory": "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). All the feasts, all the solemnities, the specific prayers and rites of the different seasons of the sacred liturgy are sacramentals, as is the Anamnesis of the Canon and the whole of the Canon itself. These sacramentals effect "ex opere operantis Ecclesiae" the grace they signify. This grace in its turn disposes the soul for the eucharistic transformation according to the aspect unfolded and enacted by the sacred liturgy. In this way is reenacted the "great Sacrament," the one reality, which is ever the same and ever new, comprising in itself all reality and actuality of the Mystery of which St. Paul says (1 Tim. 3:16):

"And manifestly great is the mystery of godliness:
Which was manifested in the flesh,
Was justified in the spirit,
Appeared to angels,
Was preached to Gentiles, Believed in the world,
Taken up in glory."

JEROME GASSNER, O.S.B.

 

ENDNOTES

1 Cf. "Christ's Nativity Re-enacted in Sacrament: With Particular Reference to the Eucharistic Visions of St. Hildegarde," O.F., Vol. XX pp. 69-80; and "Redemptive Acts of History Re-enacted in Eucharistic Mystery," ibid., pp. 301-313.

2 "Eucharistia, Patrum sanctorum testimonio, Incarnationis continuatio quae, dam et amplificatio censenda est. Siquidem per ipsam Incarnati Verbi substantia cum singulis hominibus copulatur; et supremum in Calvaria sacrificium admirarilbili modo renovatur."

 

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