Trialogus. Chapter 1. On The Eucharist
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5 min read
I wish, brother Phronesis, you would speak of the Eucharist, the last sacrament but one, because it is regarded with greater reverence than the other sacraments, and appears to have most foundation in Scripture, especially as in our own day this matter has been the subject of so much intricate discussion. And to prevent our being entangled in equivocal terms, it will be necessary to specify the quiddity of this venerable sacrament.
We must be aware by the ordinary testimony of our senses that the priest approaches the altar, and makes or consecrates out of the bread and wine a something that remains, and is cognisable by the senses, which the common people understand to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, let us speak first of the round white wafer, to all appearance like a host which has not been hallowed by a consecrated presbyter, which the priest afterwards breaks and eats, and which undergoes changes like those to which an unconsecrated host is subject; as, for instance, it may be eaten by a mouse, may grow mouldy with time, and such like.
Let us speak first of this. Now there are certain modern heretics, who declare that this is not a sacrament, that they may escape the inconsistencies which follow from their errors. These men, opposed as much to the ancient as to the modern divines, must be assailed with caution, by asking at the outset what the ordinary sacrament of the eucharist strictly is, and they will either be driven to equivocate or be unable to escape, since this consecrated host must be a sacrament of some kind. The same holds of the other sin sacraments; they are plainly of a modical entity and permanence like this. No reason can be adduced to show that this is not a sacrament of the church in the same sense with the other sacraments. This is plain from a cursory examination of the quiddity of baptism, confirmation, and the other four above mentioned. We must adopt the common language here also, but the church in her prayers commonly calls this thing a sacrament, while the papal enactments call it a sacrament and not a thing, and the doctors generally say it is sacramentally the body of Christ. Since, then, the sacrament of the eucharist is a thing of some kind, and the body of Christ is not therein visible, we are shut up to the conclusion that the sensible sign, the sacrament, does not remain in it, except what is signified by the differentia of the accidens.
There is, however, a threefold distinctive mode in this sacrament, in common with the others, namely, that of the sacrament, and the thing; the thing and not the sacrament; the sacrament and not the thing: these terms should be clearly understood. The body of the Lord, which is above, is called the sacrament and the thing. It is called a sacrament because it is the sensible sign of the soul, the deity, and the grace of Christ; and since it is itself signified by the host which we consecrate, it is called, in this respect, the thing of this same sacrament; and this thing, which is naturally the body of Christ, is called the eucharist, the host consecrated before the death of our Lord, and a multitude of other names, which have supplied matter for many tedious arguments. Again, this sensible thing, commonly called the consecrated bread, is called a sacrament and not a thing, not in the sense of its not being anything, since, as we see, it is obvious enough to the senses, but in the sense of its not being that holy thing primarily signified by the sensible sign which we see, because it is not naturally the body of Christ. As to the third member of the devisers, making it a thing and not a sacrament, the term has reference to the union of Christ with the church, which is designated necessarily by this sensible sacrament.
Many are the errors into which men have fallen with regard to the quiddity of this sensible sacrament. Some, for instance, say, that it is an accident without a subject; others, that it is nothing, since it is an aggregate of many accidents not all of one genus, against which I have many a time inveighed, both in the language of the schools and of the common people; for of all the heresies that have ever sprung up in the church, I think there is not one more artfully introduced by hypocrites, or a more manifold fraud upon the people. It wrongs the people, and causes them to commit idolatry. It denies Scripture, and by its unbelief often provokes the truth to wrath.
In this place I shall briefly set forth the doctrine as supported by the testimony of Scripture. In the first place, this sacrament is the body of Christ in the form of bread. And whereas many heretics oppose this statement, and say that this sacrament is an accident, or nothing, and cannot be the body of Christ, even though the body of Christ were every particle hidden in it, they are all of them manifestly wily heretics,—I say wily, because they are aware that the majority hold the doctrine I have stated, and these men will not, know not how, or else are afraid to make known their belief. Since this article of catholic belief is so broadly expressed in Scripture, the doctrine contrary to it is manifestly heretical. Can any one thing, I ask, be more contrary to another than the doctrine which affirms this sacrament to be sacramentally the body of Christ, and the self-contradictory doctrine maintaining that this sacrament cannot be in any sense the body of Christ?
Again, in regard to the second part, what can be more opposed than the doctrine which says that this sacrament is naturally real bread, and that which contradicts itself, and holds that this sacrament cannot be bread, because it is a mere accident—or nothing? It would be well for the church universal to attend to this matter, and anxiously to examine what it is they should believe on the ground of Scripture, because this matter is decided with greater completeness, authority, and moderation, in the Gospel of Christ than in the court of Rome. This very court, before the loosing of Satan, was plainly in agreement with the ancient doctrine aforesaid, as is evident from Con. Dis. II. c. Ego Berengarius, and so were all the holy doctors who treated of the subject prior to that time. After that time, however, the Scriptures were neglected, and many heresies were circulated on this subject, especially among the friars, and the disciples of that school—as, in fact, the two errors mentioned above sufficiently show. The friars especially maintain these errors, and defend them with obstinacy, not only blaspheming Christ, and the commandments of his holy word, but slandering the pope, and the court of Rome, in defence of their nest, as well as prelates, secular lords, simple priests, and the whole mass of the common people. Thus saith the Scripture, Matthew 26., “And as they were eating Jesus took bread,” &c. and the same in Mark 14.; Luke 22.; and 1 Corinthians 11. Accordingly our church uses this form at the consecration of the host, Qui pridie pateretur, &c. Corpus meum, &c. In all these places the meaning is the same, though there is a slight difference in the terms employed. From a faith so authoritatively promulgated, I would argue as follows with heretics:—Christ, who cannot lie, said—that the bread he took in his hands was really his body; in this he did not err, he did not assert what was false, accordingly it was truly so. This reasoning gives every believer full warrant to abominate the aforesaid heresies, and whereby to convict the friars and their accomplices of heresy. Hence, prior to the loosing of Satan, Jerome, that distinguished student of Scripture, in treating of this subject in a letter to Helvidius, concludes in the following terms: “We may hear,” saith he, “that the bread he brake and gave to his disciples to eat, is the body of our Lord and Saviour by his own words—‘this is my body.’ ”