Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Eastern Church Five Years On, Part II: Meeting the Fathers

My Jesuit school with the new Pedro Arrupe annex. I do not recommend.
Until 2012 my religious education consisted of eight years at an excellent parochial school, four years at a Jesuit high school, and four reactionary years attempting to deprogram what that last experience. A Jesuit philosophy teacher taught us Christ’s social doctrine attracted our attention more powerfully than the Resurrection; similarly, a textbook utilized during our senior year, Justice and Peace, intimated that William Jefferson Clinton’s welfare state policies reflected a perfect implementation of post-Vatican II Christian outreach.

What makes the Bodlein so conducive to
Thomistic reading?
During the summer before the final year of high school I thought it worthwhile to peruse the greater religious works of Western culture and so I acquired a set of St. Augustine’s major writings, namely Confessions and City of God, which I read in succession. Like any sensible school boy, the working of things attracted me more than socialist philosophy, and I read the Doctor’s work only to remember that he articulated General Relativity in writing fifteen centuries before Einstein articulated the same truth formulaically. In college I borrowed a set of the Summa from the Theology library at Oxford to read scattered articles in my occasional boredom betwixt terms with no particular direction in reading. I was Edward Waverly, a dilettante in theology who knew just enough bits and bobs to cause trouble for myself.

In the basement of the Melkite parish the priest maintained a lending library of beaten up copies of books. Some covered the history of the patriarchate of Antioch; others were written by contemporary Orthodox academics, among them Hopko, Schmemann, Meyendorff, and Florovsky. And then there were thin volumes ascribed to names I had scantly heard before: Gregory of Nyssa, Polycarp, Vincent, Cyprian, Isaac the Syrian, and the odd work by Chrysostom. I took On the Soul and the Resurrection by St. Gregory of Nyssa, the smallest of the small books and the quickest read, I hoped. I half expected On the Soul to read like either a modern polemical work, a kinder version of Ann Coulter’s vague screed, or something of a philosophy book where Jesus replaces ideology. Neither On the Soul nor any other work I read fell under these narrow taxonomies.

One year of reading concluded with two impressions: that the Fathers spoke wrote with focus about truths of Christ and that they took much for granted that I took as development. No Father saw himself as the propagator of a “school” of theology or ideological take on matters of Christology. These men, mostly bishops, spoke and wrote with the authority of men who purported to know about God and who possessed the authority in their voices to make others hew to their doctrines.

Each had a perspective—be it Greek philosophical language, the Latin legal language, or Alexandrian popular philosophy—that modern scholars expurgate into a systemic thought absent in the minds of the original writers. These men used the tools and perspectives at their disposal to defend Christ in their times and pass on these plain truths for posterity. St. John of Damascus spoke in legal distinctions familiar to him as a minister of state for the Umayyad caliphate, breaking types of devotion to icons into categories based both on intention and the extent of the devotion. Moreover, without delving into Platonism, he connected the “image” of the icon with its prototype so intricately that he supposed to refuse the veneration of holy images was a refusal of the Incarnation itself. St. John connected representations of Jesus, of His miracles, and of the Saints with the very coming of God to earth to effect our redemption from sin. The Damascene saint’s work came to fruition when the holy images returned to Hagia Sophia on the “Sunday of Orthodoxy”; the Church met in a general council to bless the veneration of icons and condemn those who, in principle, refuse to do so.

For all their words the Church Fathers preached doctrine in a sparse, dogmatic way that modern ears might find unappealing, but which reified confusing concepts in an uncertain time. They were dogmatic in the truest sense of the word, dogma itself being a Greek word for a “little truth”. It was this “dogmatic” kind of teaching that permeated the best Councils in the Church’s history: Nicaea I and IV, Lateran IV, and Trent. Some of the worst councils—Constance, Vatican II—have little dogmatic value and are simply loquacious for their own sake. In the preaching of these “little truths” the Church has been strong in pronouncing narrow points, leaving the actual explication of these doctrines to the bishops themselves. The origin of the word “definition” may well be de finis, meaning “concerning limits”; ends were placed on what could be said, but limits were not placed on how much could be said of these “little truths”. Most late Patristic and medieval theology did little more than elaborate at length on what the Fathers and Councils bound all true Christians to believe.

While the Cappadocian Fathers and the Apostolic Father enumerated various teachings on the Divinity of Christ, on the title of the Theotokos, on holy images, they also spoke of many points of Church teaching that contemporary historians would have us believe to be medieval “developments”. In short, the Fathers did not elucidate a long doctrine for Apostolic succession precisely because every Christian—Catholic, monophysite, gnostic—already believed in it. No doctrine disputed by the Reformers is more arrant in ancient writings than the necessity of regenerative Baptism for salvation and its accompanying incorporation of the neophyte into the new creation that is the Church. The fourth and fifth century Fathers are perhaps less helpful in tracing teachings owing to the polemical nature of their work, but in the third century St. Cyprian of Carthage already used the terms “Trinity”, “Catholic Church”, “subdiaconate”, he spoke of Jesus Christ as “God”, and he ruled his flock in union with his council of presbyters. While these are impressive testaments to the antiquity of the Church, St. Irenaeus brought me much further.

Why believe? If viewed in a vacuum, as if the results of a priori inductions, the claims of the Church are certainly absurd. Slightly more helpful is that two-pronged “Scripture and Tradition” approach in vogue in the last half century, as though the Church is a Bible church with something called “Tradition” tacked on. What if we believed in Christ because we believed the people who told us of Christ? This was certainly the case of St. Irenaeus of Lyon, who at a young age knew St. Polycarp, who is turn knew either St. John the Apostle or St. John the Presbyter. What Polycarp recounted of St. John’s teachings enamored Irenaeus and ignited a burning industry in him that persisted until his death in 202AD. In his On the Apostolic Preaching Irenaeus speaks as a witness to Christ who knew something personally about Jesus rather than as one quoting books. He provided proofs that Our Lord was indeed the awaited Messiah by exegeting the stories and prophecies of the Old Testament, treating them as narratives with a point, not one-liners requiring an answer. If he quotes the New Testament, he does not seem to do so intentional, occasionally stumbling on a phrase from the Gospels—both Synoptic and Johannine—and the odd Pauline epistle. He taught not about Christ, he in fact taught Christ. He, in St. Paul’s words, “passed on what he received.”

This epiphany rent apart a veil that had covered my eyes since elementary school, when our religion teacher taught us that “tradition” was a collection of habits, customs, and legends. In fact tradition, properly understood as the passing on of something from one person to another, is the principle manner of the transmission of the faith. And to be a Catholic, one must hold the same faith with the same sense, the same outlook, and same instinct as those before. This need not mean aesthetics, devotions, and such, but it certainly means the underlying foundation of our praxis must be the same as that of those who came before us, both a generation ago and a millennium ago.

What this revelation did not mean was that we should arbitrarily revive customs or language that have been long dormant into a foreign, modern setting, almost always with a hidden mind toward novel ideas. That does not forbid miniature renaissances wherein we learn from the past, much like the Tractarian and Ritual Movements in Oxford reinvigorated Patristic study and sent numerous Anglicans to the Church. What is does mean is that the Tractarian Movement’s continental counterpart, the ressourcement, erred grievously in marrying the nouvelle théologie, telling unarmed people that what they held dear was all wrong, and leaving them to rot in the agnostic agony of the mid-twentieth century.

At the end of my exploratory reading I finally found that line of St. Vincent of Lerins, now repeated to the point of banality, but once quite profound in the eyes of a Patristic neophyte. We must hold nothing more or less than what was held “everywhere, always, and by everyone.” Anything else was not passed on to us.


  1. "He, in St. Paul’s words, “passed on what he received.”"

    What is most frightening about those words are the questions they beg.
    If he received what he has, did he receive all the things, or just some of them?
    If he received all, and if (theoretically) we believe that which cannot be found among the things he has received (even though it doesn't have to be in explicit contradiction with the deposit he has received, but just an addition), what does that make us?
    How do we come to know all these things when we're so remote from those times? Whom on Earth (literally) do we trust?
    Can we make it up as we go as long as our doctrines don't come under some explicit condemnation, as long as we can say: "Well nobody says it's wrong, thus it's implicitly there."?

    I was writing all this before i finished reading the article and i was thinking of the Communitorium. And then you said: " We must hold nothing more or less than what was held “everywhere, always, and by everyone.” Anything else was not passed on to us.".

    Precisely because of that i am afraid of "doctrinal development" around certain very specific points, for 6 months already. I've read literally thousands of pages on the matter, and nothing tackles my questions, let alone gives me answers. And questions began to arise precisely because i was reading the Fathers. "Is this what they believed? Can we impute them our interpretations or do we take their writings at face value, or is there some middle ground?".

    I'm stuck between
    forcing myself to believe what i cannot understand and what hasn't been understood even by most gifted theologians for the last 450 years and telling myself that, somehow, that which i'm forcing myself to assent to is in line with the Fathers,
    going with my common sense and the Fathers as they are and, according to certain standards, being a heretic.

    1. Marko, if you don't mind my asking, what are some of the specific items you have problems assenting to, and/or that don't seem to be in line with what you've read of the Fathers?

    2. No problem.
      It's about what is the sacrificial matter of the Eucharist.
      Definition of a sacrifice in the broadest sense is something done about a certain thing/sacrificial matter (be it consecration or destruction), and then that thing is offered to God.
      Now, if we look at the Eucharist/Mass through a prism of any general definition of sacrifice, it always ends up at bread and wine since nothing is happening to Christ. This much knew every post-tridentine theologian and that's why they had to tweak their definitions of sacrifice (which are plenty in number) to fit the theology that the sacrificial matter in Mass are truly, really and substantially present Body and Blood of Christ. But again, none of them could really explain how are they "sacrificed", and offered to God since, again, it is not Body and Blood which are changing, but bread and wine. Bread and wine are consecrated, not Body and Blood. And how can they be offered if they're already before God. Christ would have to pass from the state of un-offeredness to the state of offeredness constantly, but we know that that doesn't happen.
      Literally nothing happens to Christ in Mass. Not when he is "produced" (i don't like that word), or made to disappear by degradation of sacred species by stomach acids.

      Moreover, st. Justin (Dialogue with Trypho, 41.) and st. Irraeneus (Adv. Haer., IV., 17., 5.; IV., 18., 4.; Fragments 36./37.) talk about bread and wine being the eucharistic offering. All the old anaphoras speak of bread and wine being offered, even the Roman Canon, and the Barcelona and Louvain Papyrus anaphoras plainly say that we're offering "creatures" of bread and wine.
      Literally no anaphora says that the thing offered are real Body and Blood. Not even Roman Offertory prayers. They are also explicit that "what everyone of us has offered (meaning bread and wine) may be unto salvation for all who receive". They frequently call the offered bread "sacrifices".
      Fulgentius of Ruspe in De Fide 19., 60. (P.L., 65., 699.) says that the Church in faith and charity: "offers the sacrifice of bread and wine".

      For the Fathers, even up to st. Thomas Aquinas, in that real sacrifice, a memorial is also accomplished of that one sacrifice offered by Christ on the Cross, but they wouldn't say that in some time-bending manner we offer that same sacrifice.
      Cyprian does say that the sacrifice which we offer is the Passion of Christ (Epistle 62., 17.), but that doesn't make sense in realist sense of the word because Christ doesn't suffer. That makes sense only in north-african sacramental theology which is very platonistic. I.e., if a thing clearly represents something other than itself, it is called a sacrament of that thing, and because it is called a sacrament of that thing, we can call it by the name of that thing. So, bread and wine are sacraments of Body and Blood and we can call them Body and Blood. They stand beside each other and they are an image, a figure, a sacrament of the passion, and thus may be called passion itself. So, we offer, bread and wine, or, we offer the passion; potayto potato. He calls it the sacrament of the passion (Ep. 62., 14.) In the same verse/chapter (17.) where he says that the sacrifice which we offer is the Lord's Passion, he says we offer the cup in commemoration of Lord and his Passion. And north-african sacramental theology can be learned from st. Augustine's 98th letter, 9th chapter.

      So, lex orandi, and lex scribendi et docendi patrum point me on one side, but the Tridentine Council, on the other.

      St. Ambrose and st. John Chrysostom for sure would be the greatest realists of their time, although i know there is one citation where st. John says that the Spirit sanctifies the sacrifice laid on the altar (although i couldn't find it - i will try harder).

    3. So... The Tridentine teaching is what i'm struggling with each day. I choose to believe it every day and i'm trying to convince myself that it makes sense and i've tried to make sense of it, although there are holes every time i come up with a solution...
      It is easier for a protestant to pray the Roman Canon than the 3rd and 4th EP.

    4. Thanks for sharing Marko. Far be it from me to try to steer you toward theological modernism, nor do I claim to have any solution to your problems, but have you ever read Edward Schillebeeckx's early-60s book on sacramental theology, "Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God?" I'm not a trained theologian, nor am I particularly well-read, so I can't "vouch for it" (especially considering his more unhinged ideas after the Council), but I will say that its treatment of the Eucharist I found very personally helpful in my understanding of the eucharistic sacrifice.

    5. Found it.
      John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, bk. 3, ch. 4: " There stands the priest, not bringing down fire from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit: and he makes prolonged supplication, not that some flame sent down from on high may consume the offerings, but that grace descending on the sacrifice may thereby enlighten the souls of all, and render them more refulgent than silver purified by fire. "

    6. Another (very different) source that I found personally helpful was Garrigou-Lagrange's relatively brief treatment of the matter in Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought.

    7. So, just so I understand clearly, your problem is with Transubstantiation specifically?

    8. I've read the Garrigou-Lagrange bit before and what he writes was my firm stance before it all suddenly became unclear to me.
      And then i've tried to read it again, and now again.

      I've read De la Taille (a modernist according to Tradition in Action) and his theology is basically that because Christ is perpetually accepted by Father (which is a part of his Grand Sacrifice), mere presence of Christ is sufficient for presence of Sacrifice. Thus, we on Earth participate in the Sacrifice. But then, Mass wouldn't be necessary all the time, and only then when the species corrupt. Moreover, only one of the species would be
      necessary and not two of them.

      So, maybe solution is to somehow connect G-L and DlT.
      Christ is perpetually offered and accepted by Father, so the only thing to make a sacrifice remains to causally precede that which is happening with immolation via sacramental separation.

      So we exit the loophole of unnecessary consecration. The notion seems very simple and attractive on account of it's simplicity. But then, we do not offer anything. Priest doesn't offer anything. Priest merely consecrates (immolates), and the rest (offering and acceptance) merely unfolds itself since it is already happening.
      But, let's say that it is so, that we offer indirectly by participating in the offering by consecration. Why do we not find such opinions in the old anaphoras, or SuperOblatas and the Fathers? It is we, through Christ. Not Christ, through us. Maybe those are somehow interchangeable. But if it is so, then the argument of st. Thomas which G-L cites falls apart, since st. Thomas names us as proper priests in other sacraments since the forms are said in our person, while the form of the Eucharist is said in person of Christ, and thus, as per st. Thomas, those aren't interchangeable. We must truly offer something if we say "offerimus preclarae maiestati tuae". But, according to theology, we don't.

      Those are again questions of Communitorium. Even if a doctrine is perfectly internally consistent, that doesn't suffice
      for it being a Christian doctrine.

    9. No, not Transubstantiation, but what is the sacrifice offered in Mass. Is it Christ or bread and wine? And how is either offered?

    10. Once again, being no trained theologian and an amateur dilettante at best, but at least trying to be a faithful orthodox Catholic (as I know you are, too), I would say that we most certainly offer to the Holy Trinity the gifts of bread and wine, along with our prayers, internal dispositions, our hearts (cf. Ps 50/51, "A sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit, a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise"), which "matter" Christ takes and, through the mediation of the sacrificial rites and priesthood established in his Church (much like he deigned to use dirt and saliva to cure blindness), uses to make temporally present his own eternal Sacrifice, the fruit of which he then graciously applies to help form our hearts into the divine likeness (with our cooperation, synergeia, of course).

      Perhaps this doesn't answer your questions or solve your problems, but that is as much as I dare say of my own understanding, in which I always stand open to correction by those more learned than I and by the Church if I have erred unwillingly.

    11. Oh i would wholeheartedly subscribe to that double sacrificial movement. That notion has crossed my mind so many times. It is perfectly consistent both with Tridentine Council (although in certain a wonky way because Trent says that we offer Body and Blood, and not that the Sacrifice merely becomes present) and above all with the lex orandi.

      There is a problem though. Almost all theologians will cringe at the notion that bread and wine are the sacrifice. Even L-G in the article which you recommended will say: "Some Thomists, [934] however, under the influence, it seems, of Suarez, wish to find in the double consecration a physical immolation. Then, since they must recognize that only the substance of the bread and that of the wine undergo a real physical change, and that these are not the thing offered in sacrifice, they are led to admit, with Lessius, a virtual immolation of Christ's body.". One of my friends would agree with that which you've written.

      That's my problem. All prayers and definitions of sacrifice point to bread and wine being the sacrifice more than to Christ being the sacrifice (except for the 3rd and the 4th Euch. Prayers), but theologians disagree, and i don't want to be a heretic and end up in Hell.

      Thank you for engaging me in such an attentive way, Tom.
      And sorry, Trad, for hijacking the thread.

    12. Interesting thread.

      The 1st C Jewish understanding of the Temple liturgy was one of earthly/heavenly parallelism. What passed in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, was also - no, eternally - enacted in heaven. The Epistle to the Hebrews is saturated with this thought and views the ascension of the sacrificed Christ as the Temple's antitype, and Hebrews also (I am convinced) contains the early Church's Eucharistic theology. The upward movement within the Mass is explicit in the Roman Canon: "these offerings" are carried by "thy Holy Angel" [i.e. Christ] to the altar on high.

      On this reading the answer to the questions: does anything happen to Christ? do we offer his Body and Blood? must be No. However the Body and Blood are offered by Christ in the heavenly liturgy in which our offerings are transubstantiated... so that in receiving the gifts we are filled with "every heavenly benediction and grace".

      What I am trying to say is that I don't think it is wrong to talk about Christ's priestly self-offering in the Mass, but one has to be careful about what one is referring to when one says it. Regarding Marko's point about the Fathers & liturgy vs. later theologians, I don't for a moment believe that innovation in ways of speaking about the Eucharist can be used as an interpretative frame to visit later ideas on the Fathers. Surely we should do our theology the other way round, letting the liturgy and the ancient Catholic faith frame our reception of Trent?

    13. But Trent says:
      "and by those words, Do this in commemoration of me, He commanded them and their successors in the priesthood, to offer (them) [Body and Blood under species of bread and wine] (...)
      For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. ...
      CANON I.–If any one saith, that in the mass a true and proper sacriflce is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema.

      CANON II.–If any one saith, that by those words, Do this for the commemoration of me (Luke xxii. 19), Christ did not institute the apostles priests; or, did not ordain that they, and other priests should offer His own body and blood; let him be anathema.".

      And Confessio Fidei says:
      "With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgement or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed
      These doctrines require the assent of theological faith by all members of the faithful. Thus, whoever obstinately places them in doubt or denies them falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated by the respective canons of the Codes of Canon Law.
      To the truths of the first [the one above} paragraph belong ... doctrine of the ... sacrificial nature of the eucharistic celebration"
      With a reference pointing to DS 1740 which i quoted above.

      So if anyone would deny that it is commended to us to offer Body and Blood, he would apparently be a heretic...

    14. "Surely we should do our theology the other way round, letting the liturgy and the ancient Catholic faith frame our reception of Trent?"

      Here! Here! Excellent point, Timothy, as was your comment on the old Temple liturgy. Fr John Hunwicke had an insightful series some months ago on the theology of the Roman Canon, which is effectively that those "legalistic" Romans' primary concern was that the offered gifts of bread and wine are accepted (Quam oblationem) by God and transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ, which are then united with the sacrifice of Calvary in the elevation at the end (per ispum et cum ipso). One might say that there is the offering of the priest in the bread and wine which culminates in the revisitation (anamnesis) of Christ's offering of Himself at the end of the Canon. You see something similar in the two acts of offering in the anaphora of S John Chrysostom ("We offer you your own...." and "Holy things for the holy people").

      As an aside, the Roman Canon has an interesting chiastic structure that should probably be explored in a future post.

      Marko, I cannot say I see the Tridentine canons as contradicting or excluding the historical sources you mentioned, merely that they elaborate on a part of the Eucharist discarded by the protestants (who similarly seethed with disdain of the Canon). The Church's defined doctrines are more often than not reactions in the midst of heresy (Lateran I-V and Vatican I being unusual exceptions). The Tridentine definition seems concerned with what the Eucharist is not rather than other facets of what it is.

      It took six ecumenical Councils and just seven centuries to settle Christology....

    15. Yeah. When i read the Roman Canon itself, that was a major player in confusing me about what is the sacrifice.

      Now, one might say that offering bread and wine and then somehow offering his Body and Blood, as per Trent, aren't contradictory but complementary, that they are two sacrificial moments/movements. But then, (aside from one being able to say that what is not in the deposit of faith should not added there) theologians boldly say that bread and wine aren't the matter of the sacrifice and focus solely on Jesus himself. Theologians in modern times too are wholly focused on Jesus, no matter how week or sentimental their explanation of sacrifice is. They don't care about the bread and wine.

      What makes me most afraid is that people who haven't studied the matter in depth, go and read the Canon, agree with the lex orandi, and don't know that the lex credendi is sligthly different. Since how is it possible that the whole suite of post-Tridentine theologians focused solely on Christ and how is he sacrificed and their focus on sacred species was solely that of them being a kind of container?

      The Catholic Encyclopedia will say:
      "He accomplished something more than a mere oblation of bread and wine, namely the sacrifice of His Body and Blood under the mere forms of bread and wine."
      "who commanded that His bloody sacrifice on the Cross should be daily renewed by an unbloody sacrifice of His Body and Blood in the Mass under the simple elements of bread and wine."
      "Since the Mass is not a mere offering of bread and wine, like the figurative food offering of Melchisedech, it is clear that only the Body and Blood of Christ can be the primary matter of the sacrifice as was the case at the Last Supper"
      "the act of sacrifice (actio sacrifica), veiled in the double consecration, must refer directly to the sacrificial matter — i.e. the Eucharistic Christ Himself — not to the elements of bread and wine or their unsubstantial species".
      It says all that in spite of writing this:
      "Here [dialogue with trypho] "bread and chalice" are by the use of toutesti clearly included as objective gift offerings in the idea of the Christian sacrifice."
      "With Irenaeus of Lyons there comes a turning point, in as much as he, with conscious clearness, first puts forward "bread and wine" as objective gift offerings, but at the same time maintains that these elements become the "body and blood" of the Word through consecration, and thus by simply combining these two thoughts we have the Catholic Mass of today."

      Mediator Dei says this though: "115. Now it cannot be over-emphasized that the eucharistic sacrifice of its very nature is the unbloody immolation of the divine Victim, which is made manifest in a mystical manner by the separation of the sacred species and by their oblation to the eternal Father."

      So are species offered to the Father or not? Substantially or unsubstantially?

      The CCC is even a greater mess...

    16. My unscholarly reading of Trent & the debates around it is that the canons were written primarily to insist on the reality of the Body & Blood in the sacrament, and there was very little awareness of what exactly the "sacrifice" and "offering" language meant (apart from to insist on it because the council wanted to insist on the priesthood and the real connection between Mass and the Cross). I strongly suspect that there was an idea of the priest offering the Body and Blood in a direct way, "under the elements", but not a lot of thought given to exactly what way. The canons don't say. I have no hesitation in saying that the phrases "under the elements", and "offer the Body and Blood" need a good deal of explaining. They could (and have largely borne in the last 500 years) a very untraditional meaning - the phrase in the Athanasian creed comes to mind about the Incarnation, "not by the conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by the assumption of the Manhood into God". A truth for the Eucharist as well.

      I don't want to plunge into a long philosophical aside & further clog up the comments, but I'm struck by a comment from Marko above: it is very significant that we ignore the bread and wine, the gifts... what is dreadfully missing is a philosophy of symbol & Word, a completely neglected area of Aquinas's philosophy but I think his most revolutionary and fruitful thought, something he took to new levels from the St Victor theologians, Hugh etc.

    17. True, Trent doesn't define "sacrifice" or "offering" but it seems to me that it clearly puts those terms in relation to real and substantial Body and Blood of Christ.

      Can those terms, whatever their definition be, be understood apart from previous definitions of Eucharistic conversion put forth by the same council? Can they be taken to relate to bread and wine as symbols of Body and Blood? I don't think so.

      But surely, those phrases need explanations.

    18. Hello there!

      Maybe people from days gone by use the terminology "bread and wine" because it's from our end of the "bargain" and we don't really own God?

    19. Agreed. The only way I can see to save these statements is to say that they are speaking of the way the Eucharist is taken into, assumed into, the offering of the ascended Christ. They are proleptic. Other than that, I don't see how they can be squared with the prior tradition.

    20. @Timothy
      But then you have the problem of mere Presence of Christ being sufficient for presence of the Sacrifice.

      But were they unaware of what they were supposed to believe?

    21. But I don't see or feel that there is a difficulty here... the Eucharist is being taken into Christ's eternal presentation of his self-sacrifice in heaven, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Surely it isn't the "mere" presence of Christ that our offerings are assumed into, it is the whole arc of the Incarnate Word's descent and re-ascent, including the sacrifice of the Cross, that is eternally present on the Altar before the Throne.

    22. I'm not saying that what is there is mere Presence, but that by mere Presence of Christ, his Heavenly Intercession is also there, and thus, you don't need the double consecration or repeated Masses.

      You only need a consecration once in a while, when the species corrupt. Until then, you can just pray over that Sacrifice. That is my problem with that kind of theology, which is essentially that of Maurice De la Taille, S.I.. Yes, his interpretation explains a great deal, but also asks it's own questions, like that one.

      I wouldn't go into eternity of Christ's earthly deeds for now (Tom recommended me Schillebeeckx on that). I draw a sharp logical and ontological distinction between a temporal cause and eternal effects so the "whole life of Christ being there" for me is kind of a novelty and a no-go.

    23. I would love to continue this discussion but your answer makes me feel the need to go off in about three different directions in reply. In brief, I want to say something like - "but the complete Eucharist, from our side, is the 'temporal' effect of which the whole life of Christ is the eternal cause". But perhaps this has got to the stage where we need some long evenings of argument with a large mug of beer to take things any further. Short of that (I doubt we are neighbours), a lengthy correspondence! I don't know if there is any way that my e-mail address can be sent to you via one of the blog moderators if you would be interested as this is something I have been trying to come to terms with for a decade.

    24. @friend Marko

      I don't really know, but "This is My body...this is My this in memory of Me" seems self-evident to me.

    25. @Timothy

      Now you've lost me. I don't know to whom should this be self-evident and for what cause.

    26. Friend Marko,

      I was trying to make the point that if the meaning of one of Christ's greatest commandments is self-evident to me, then why would it not be self-evident to superior minds than mine.

      But I may have misunderstood your initial point. My apologies in advance.

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  2. "What if we believed in Christ because we believed the people who told us of Christ?"
    This was extremely important to me early on. I had come back to Catholicism mostly because it seemed logical, but hitting upon the Apostolic Father's, reading that they had known the Apostles and had passed on what they had learnt, that was very important for me on a deeper level than I am able to articulate.

  3. Aside from, again, agreeing with Mr Graham's excellent points I think we need to redirect the topic of conservation back to the blog post and away from this deep rabbit hole.

    "But some one will say, perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ's Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself, alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning." -St Vincent of Lerins

  4. "This epiphany rent apart a veil that had covered my eyes since elementary school, when our religion teacher taught us that “tradition” was a collection of habits, customs, and legends. In fact tradition, properly understood as the passing on of something from one person to another, is the principle manner of the transmission of the faith. And to be a Catholic, one must hold the same faith with the same sense, the same outlook, and same instinct as those before. This need not mean aesthetics, devotions, and such, but it certainly means the underlying foundation of our praxis must be the same as that of those who came before us, both a generation ago and a millennium ago."

    It's exactly this point that I find the Roman Catholic Church sorely lacking, especially in modern times. I cannot get over how almost every jot and tittle of the externals, the signs, prayers and symbols of the Faith have not only been changed, they've been woven into the official " magisterial " documents of the Church itself. The novelties of the last 100 plus years are now officially part and parcel of the praxis and outlook of the Roman Church.

    One does not see this as pronounce within some Orthodox circles. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi actually means something within the best Eastern Rites and Orthodox, but it has become meaningless in Roman Catholicism, especially since even in traddom most are following the Pius X Breviary with the truncated 1962 calendar and rubrics, the Pius XII Holy Week and saccharine devotionalism, none of which are followed AT ALL by almost ANY bishop or or even the Pope.

    I have prayed much over the years, and these days I'm back on the Benedictine Breviary, but to be honest I feel more estranged from the RCC in praying this than I felt when I was praying the Old Rite Horologion and Old Orthodox Prayerbook on the Julian calendar because with the former I am praying at odds with the majority of the Church, with the latter there are still priests and bishops affiliated with Orthodox jurisdictions that pray in that fashion, or at least in ways awfully close.

    I imagine it would be nice to have a solid Eastern Catholic parish nearby, someplace not so estranged from its roots. I honestly would have tried a parish like that but not sure if my doubts about the claims of Rome and the papacy would have kept me there forever. Count yourself lucky to have one.

    For now I will remain basically Orthodox who happens to pray the Benedictine Office, as I am so utterly disgusted with what has become of the RCC at the hands of the modern papacy that I am lying to myself by attending an RC parish and offering my prayers in communion with the modern episcopate and the papacy of Francis. I seriously cannot be in communion with him, I cannot.

    We all have our struggles I guess. At any rate, I've always loved this blog. There's a lot of very deep and interesting discussions and topics around here.

  5. "One does not see this as pronounce within some Orthodox circles"

    Perhaps that's because you live in 2017 and not, say for instance, 1417, when the Greek liturgy had undergone substantial changes, hesychasm replaced Scholasticism as the native theology, and icon veneration took liturgical root. Change is one thing, the real objection to the current state of things in the average parish is that they're insipid and ugly.

    As for the rest of it, I had thoughts along those lines myself around 2013 only to realize that I would be doing something remarkably disingenuous to change my affiliations merely because I dislike the current talking heads in Rome or the average parish. The option of switching churches is a very modern, first world take on things that I cannot imagine any saint would have entertained. As I said in another comment elsewhere, many great reforming saints took contemporary squalor as a charge rather than as a chance to do what was better for them. Additionally, having recently completed the aforementioned Patristic readings, it also became clear that the Greek churches had also undergone some substantial changes in the 10th century and the 13-15th centuries; I just didn't have to live through them. Instead I simply found a good parish, stopped reading blogs and the news, and became an active parishioner. After all, one needs to attend a church to be part of the the Church.

    1. Amen to that! It's always the case that the ones living in the latter centuries will look with longing at the earlier centuries, not realizing or ignoring the fact that those earlier centuries still had some very earth-shattering events. But the Church will go on, despite all the failings of both laity and clergy. I just only pray that we can all do our part and hopefully arrive at our eternal home.

    2. But it's not merely about "problems". It's about truth. It's about which Church is the real Church that Jesus established and which Church faithfully guards what he deposited to her.

      The size and kind of the problems might be an indication of the upper matters. And that's why some people switch Churches. If you're living in a lie, you can't reform that lie brick by brick. You have to abandon it and start living in truth.

      Pagans didn't reform their paganism into Christianity. They abandoned it and believed and were baptized.

    3. "The size and kind of the problems might be an indication of the upper matters. And that's why some people switch Churches."

      Yes and no. At some level the Church must be taken as a given. There was really no where to run during the Arian crisis, no clean cut "true church" out there, just people with different views occupying different buildings and dividing dioceses. It's quite different from say the Anglican schism, where in an entire new set of beliefs was introduced to a governance that would execute it. If something is amiss, the answer is to do something about it within the limits of one's own power, not to find some new setting in which to sublimate one's own solipsistic construction of a Church.

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