Trialogus. Chapter 7. On the Identification of the Bread With the Body of Christ
4 min read
4 min read
I must request you, brother, to show still farther, from reason or Scripture, that there is no identification of the bread with the body of Christ, and no impanation. For I am by no means pleased with the spurious writings which the moderns use, to prove an accident without a subject, because the church so teaches. Such evidence should satisfy no one.
As to identification, we must, in the first place, agree on what you mean by the term. It signifies, God’s making natures, which are distinct in species or number, one and the same—as though, for instance, he should make the person of Peter to be one with Paul. I recollect having adduced many reasons to show the impossibility of such identity. For according to this visionary theory, every quantitive part of a permanent quantity, as of time, could be identified with any other, which is immediately shown to be impossible. For if this were true of A, supposing A to represent a line of a foot in length, then every quantitive part of that line is a foot in length. Even the very smallest must be so, which is a manifest contradiction. So this opinion is shown to be identical with an impossible and heretical one; and the same reasoning is applicable to time, or anything that may be named. For if A is identical with B, then both of them remain; since a thing which is destroyed is not made identical, but is annihilated, or ceases to be. And if both of them remain, then they differ as much as at first, and differ consequently in number, and so are not, in the sense given, the same. For it is plain, by the mere force of the language—“if both of them remain”—the pronoun “them” being in the plural, points to them as numerically distinct. In like manner, supposing there were any identification in the sense here meant, then all their differences would be made identical also. Every difference is repugnant to such identification. By the same consequence, they would be identical in their differences, and a thing of one species identical with a thing of another species, an assertion which we know involves a contradiction in terms.
This threefold reason satisfies me that the identification you mention cannot exist. But let me request you to destroy the doctrine of impanation held by some false brethren.
I am certain that this doctrine of impanation is impossible and heretical. In the first place, I oppose it by saying, that in that case the body of Christ, and so Christ made glorious in the body,—would undergo all the transmutations which bread could undergo, and so the body of Christ would not only be made by the presbyter who celebrates the service, but by the baker, and ere now be so multiplied, that Christ would have many bodies at once; and all that could be predicated of bread, would be applicable to the body of Christ. So a mouse would eat the body of Christ, and that very body would putrefy, and turn into worms, and a priest, in celebrating this ordinance, would commonly break the neck, and all the limbs of Christ! But what could be more hateful, more savouring of the infidel, more disastrous to the catholic pilgrim? The consequence is plain, because when two natures are identified in the same person, as is plain in the case of the incarnation, all that is predicated of either nature is applicable to the one person. For in this sense we truly grant, not only that Christ, but that God, was crucified, dead, and buried, as before he had been temporally begotten and made of a woman. But if, in the same way, that bread is so made to be the identical body of Christ, and that body is really Christ himself, that bread is in reality made Christ as God. But what idolatry could be more odious? For so every church would have its own God, to whom would be applicable all the degrading predications we have mentioned; and so the Deity would become the basest thing in the universe! On the same ground, adopting the doctrine of impanation, as above set forth, the festival of the impanation ought to be solemnly celebrated like that of the incarnation. And Christ ought, after the same sense, to be made Peter, a lamb, a sheep, a kid, a ram, a serpent, &c. But what more absurd? Wherefore it is certain, that the expression, “This is my body,” with others like it, should be understood as predicated figuratively.
We must notice one difference between the predication identical, and the predication figurative, for when two natures are identified in the same person, as in the case of the incarnation, each of them is numerically the same; but in the case of the sacrament of the altar it is otherwise, because, though the bread be broken in three, or any number of parts, each one of them is not really, but figuratively the body of the Lord, as in looking into different mirrors, you see the same face as regards the likeness in every one of them. Wherefore, there is no necessity that a thing made by God thus symbolically, should stand in any need of the presence of the thing of which it is the figure, or that the thing itself, of which it is the figure, should be locally approximated to it, or on this account be really changed. So it is not to be understood that the body of Christ descends to the host, in any church where it is being consecrated, but remains above in the skies, stable and unmoved, so that it has a spiritual existence in the host, but not of the dimensions, nor according to the other accidents appertaining thereunto in heaven. Hence it seems to me that the body of Christ, and so Christ in his humanity, may extend spiritually to every part of the world. But according to Augustine, and the other doctors, he is king spiritually, potentially, and virtually, even unto every part of his kingdom. The body of Christ, therefore, extends to every part of this world, since by virtue from that body every part of the world is pervaded, beyond any power an earthly king has of pervading the parts of his kingdom. Nevertheless we must believe, that the body of Christ is far otherwise present in the consecrated host, since it is the host itself figuratively: and, according to the nature of spiritual and virtual existence, it is different in every part of it.