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What it is, which we receive in the Holy Sacrament.
It is strange, that Christians should pertinaciously insist upon carnal significations and natural effects in sacraments and mysteries, when our blessed Lord hath given us a sufficient light to conduct and secure us from such misapprehensions.“ The flesh profiteth nothing : the words which I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life;” that is, the flesh is corruption, and its senses are ministers of death : and this one word alone was perpetually sufficient for Christ's disciples.For when, upon occasion of the gross understanding of their Master's words by the men of Capernaum, they had been once clearly taught, that the meaning of all these words was wholly spiritual ; they rested there, and inquired no further: insomuch that when Christ, at the institution of the supper,
affirmed of the bread and wine, That they were his body and his blood,' they were not at all offended, as being sufficiently before instructed in the nature of that mystery. And besides this, they saw enough to tell them, what they eat was not the natural body of their Lord: this was the body which himself did or might eat with his body: one body did eat, and the other was eaten; both of them were his body, but after a diverse manner. For the case is briefly this:
We have two Kves a, a natural and a spiritual; and both must have bread for their support and maintenance in proportion to their needs, and to their capacities : and as it would be an intolerable charity to give nothing but spiritual nutriment to a hungry body, and pour diagrams and wise propositions into an empty stomach ; so it would be as useless and impertinent to feed the soul with wheat, or flesh, unless that were the conveyance of a spiritual delicacy. .
Duplex vita, duplicem poscit panem. S. Aug. Oportuit autem, non solum primitias nostræ naturæ in participationem venire melioris, sed omnes quotquot velint homines et secunda nativitate nasci, et nutriri cibo novo, et huic nativitati accommodato, atque ita prævenire mensuram perfectionis. Damasc. dé Fide Orthod. 1. c. iv. 14.
Et quoniam spiritualis est Adam, oportuit nativitatem spiritualem esse, similiter et cibum.-Id. ibid.
In the holy sacrament of the eucharist, the body of Christ, according to the proper signification of a human body is not at all, but in a sense differing from the proper and natural body; that is, in a sense more agreeing to sacraments; so St. Jerome expressly b, “ Of this sacrifice, which is wonderfully done in the commemoration of Christ, we may eat; but of that sacrifice which Christ offered on the altar, the cross --by itself, or in its own nature, no man may eat.”. - For it is his flesh, which is under the form of bread, and his blood, which is in the form and taste of wine : for the flesh is the sacrament of flesh, and blood is the sacrament of blood: for by flesh and blood that is invisible, spiritual, intelligible,-the visible and tangible body of our Lord Jesus Christ is consigned, full of the grace of all virtues, and of divine majesty;” so St. Austin c. therefore, ye are not to eat that body which you see, nor to drink that blood which my crucifiers shall pour out: it is the same, and not the same; the same invisibly, but not the same visibly. For until the world be finished, the Lord is above, but the truth of the Lord is with us. The body in which he rose again, must be in one place, but the truth of it is every where diffused.” For there is one truth of the body in the mystery, and another truth simply and without mystery. It is truly Christ's body both in the sacrament, and out of it; but in the sacrament it is not the natural truth, but the spiritual and the mystical d.
66 And therefore it was that our blessed Saviour, to them who apprehended him to promise his natural body and blood for our meat and drink, spake of his ascension into heaven, that we might learn to look from heaven to receive the food of our souls, heavenly and spiritual nourishment;" said St. Athanasius. For this is the letter, which, in the New Testament, kills him who understands not spiritually what is spoken to him, under the signification of meat and flesh, and blood and drink;” so Origen f.-“ For this bread does not go into the body, (for to how many might his body suffice for meat ?) but the bread of eternal life supports the substance of our spirit; and, therefore, it is not touched by the body, nor seen with the eyes, but by faith it is seen and touched;" so St. Ambrose &." And all this whole mystery hath in it neither carnal sense nor carnal consequence;" saith St. Chrysostomh.. “But to believe in Christ is to eat the bread; and, therefore, why do you prepare your teeth and stomach ? Believe him, and you have eaten him:" they are the words of St. Austin. For faith is that intellectual mouth,' as St. Basil i calls its which is within the man, by which he takes in nourishment.
* In Levit. et habetur de consecrat. dist. 2. secundum se. © Habet. de Consecrat. dist. 2. Epist. ad Iren. d Vide eund. in Johan. tract. 50. • In Tract. verb. Quicunque dixerit verbum in filium hominis. f In Levit. c. x. hom. 7.
But what need we to draw this water from the lesser cisterns? We see this truth reflected from the spring itself, the fountains of our blessed Saviour: “ I am the bread of life; he that cometh unto me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall not thirst :” and again, “He that eats my flesh, hath life abiding in him, and I will raise him up at the last day!.” The plain consequent of which words is this, That, therefore, this eating and drinking of Christ's flesh and blood, can only be done by the ministries of life and of the Spirit, which is opposed to nature, and flesh, and death. And when we consider, that he who is not a spiritual and a holy person, does not feed upon Christ, who brings life eternal to them that feed on him, it is apparent that our manducation must be spiritual, and, therefore, so must the food; and, consequently, it cannot be natural flesh, however altered in circumstances and visibilities, and impossible or incredible changes. For it is not in this spiritual food; as it was in manna, of which our fathers did eat, and died; but whosoever eats this divine nutriment, shall never diem. The sacraments, indeed, and symbols, the exterior part and ministries, may be taken unto condemnation, but the food itself never. For an unworthy person cannot feed on this food, because here to eat Christ's flesh is to do our
& De Sacram. lib. v. c. 4. et in Luc. lib. v. c. 8.
m Res ipsa, cujuss acramentum est, omni homini ad vitam, nulli ad exitium, quicunque ejus particeps fuerit.-S. Aug. tract. 16 in Joh. de Resur. car. 6. 37.
duty, and to be established in our title to the possession of the eternal promises. For so “Christ disposed the way of salvation, not by flesh, but by the Spirit,” saith Tertullian; that is, according to his own exposition. Christ is to be desired for life, and to be devoured by hearing, to be chewed by the understanding, and to be digested by faith; and all this is the method and economy of heaven, which whosoever uses and abides in it, hath life abiding in him. He that in this world does any other way look for Christ, shall never find him; and, therefore, “if men say, Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there he is in the desert, or he is ex Tapeiss, in the cupboards [or pantries where bread or flesh is laid,] believe it not:” Christ's body is in heaven, and it is not upon earth : “ The heavens must contain him till the time of restitution of all things ;” and “ so long as we are present in the body, we are absent from the Lord ."
In the mean time, we can taste and see that the Lord is gracious, that he is sweet: but Christ is so to be tasted as he is to be seen, and no otherwise; but here we walk by faith, and not by sight; and here also we live by faith, and not by mere or only bread, but from that word which proceedeth out from God; that as meat is to the body, so is Christ to the soul, the food of the soul, by which the souls of the just do live. He is the bread which came down from heaven; the bread which was born at Bethlehem: the house of bread was given to us to be the food of our souls for ever.
The meaning of which mysterious and sacramental expressions, when they are reduced to easy and intelligible significations, is plainly this: By Christ we live and move, and have our spiritual being in the life of grace, and in the hopes of glory. He took our life that we might partake of his; he gave his life for us, that he might give life to us : he is the author and finisher of our faith, the beginning and perfection of our spiritual life. Every good thought we think, we have it from him; every good word we speak, we speak it by his Spirit; “ for no man can say that Jesus is
n Annon avq pwro@ayćav. Hoc mysterium pronunciat (Nestorius] et irreligiose fidelium mentes in sensus adulterinos detrudit, ac humanis cogitationibus aggreditur, quæ solâ purâ et in exquisitâ fide accipiuntur.-S. Cyril. lib. ad Euophium Anathem. 11.
Quod esca est carni, hoc animæ fides. S. Cypr. id. de cæna Dom.
the Lord,' but by the Holy Ghost :” and all our prayers are by the aids and communications of the Spirit of Christ, “who helpeth our infirmities, and by unutterable groans,' and inexpressible representment of most passionate desires, “maketh intercession for us.' In fine, all the principles and parts, all the actions and progressions of our spiritual life, are derivations from the Son of God, by whom we are born and nourished up to life eternal.
2. Christ being the food of our souls, he is pleased to signify this food to us by such symbols and similitudes as his present state could furnish us withal P.
He had nothing about him but flesh and blood, which are like to meat and drink; and, therefore, what he calls himself, saying, “I am the bread of life," he afterwards calls his flesh and his blood,” saying, “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed;" that is, that you may perceive me to be indeed the food of your souls, see, here is meat and drink for you, my flesh and my blood; so to represent himself in a way that was nearest to our capacity, and in a more intelligible manner, not further from a mystery, but nearer to our manner of understanding; and yet so involved in figure \, that it is never to be drawn nearer than a mystery, till it comes to experience, and spiritual relish and perception. But because we are not in darkness, but within the fringes and circles of a bright cloud, let us search as far into it as we are guided by the light of God, and where we are forbidden by the thicker part of the cloud, step back and worship.
3. For we have yet one farther degree of charity and manifestation of this mystery. The flesh of Christ is his word; the blood of Christ is his Spirit; and by believing in his word, and being assisted and conducted by his Spirit, we are nourished up to life; and so Christ is our food, so he becomes life unto our souls.
Thus St. Clemens of Alexandria and Tertullian affirm the church, in their days ", to have understood this mystery,
P 'ATAUTA TFépetai toīs aútois és ūv Tápe OTIV.--Arist. onb apud Arabes et Hebræos significat panem et corpus.
4 Καθάπερ οι ζωγράφοι εν αυτω πίνακι την σκιάν γράφουσιν και τότε αλήθειαν των xowubtwy. S. Chrysost.
Pedag. i. lib. de resur. car. αυτά είναι τα ρήματα και τους λόγους αυτού xai Tiv oápxQ, xaà tò ailla. Euseb. lib, iii. Eccles. Theol. M. S. Pro. 9, 5.