Friday, February 04, 2011

Augustine - Christ's Words in John 6 are Figurative

The following are some quotations from Augustine on the question of whether Christ's words in John 6 are figurative. I've numbered the quotations for ease of reference, if anyone wishes to remark on them in the comment box. Augustine's writings are quite extensive, so I don't promise that this is a complete list of all his statements to the effect that Christ's words in John 6 are figurative, and should be understood spiritually.

1. NPNF1: Vol. II, On Christian Doctrine, Book III, Chapter 16 (section 24).
If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,” says Christ, “and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us.


2. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 25, §12.
“They said therefore unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” For He had said to them, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life.” “What shall we do?” they ask; by observing what, shall we be able to fulfill this precept? “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent.” This is then to eat the meat, not that which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life. To what purpose dost thou make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and thou hast eaten already.


3. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 26, §1.
Wherefore, the Lord, about to give the Holy Spirit, said that Himself was the bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe on Him. For to believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food.


4. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 26, John 6:41-59, §18.
In a word, He now explains how that which He speaks of comes to pass, and what it is to eat His body and to drink His blood. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” This it is, therefore, for a man to eat that meat and to drink that drink, to dwell in Christ, and to have Christ dwelling in him. Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh [spiritually] nor drinketh His blood [although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth], but rather doth he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment, because he, being unclean, has presumed to come to the sacraments of Christ, which no man taketh worthily except he that is pure: of such it is said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”


5(a). John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Exposition of the Psalms, Part 3, Vol. 18, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Psalm 98, §9 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2002), p. 475.
But the Lord insisted: It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn 6:54). “Understand what I have told you in a spiritual way. You are not asked to eat this body that you can see, nor to drink the blood that will be shed by those who will crucify me. What I have revealed to you is something mysterious, something which when understood spiritually will mean life for you. Although it is to be celebrated in a visible manner, you must understand it in a way that transcends bodily sight.” Exalt the Lord our God, and worship his footstool, because he is holy.


5(b). NPNF1: Vol. VIII, St. Augustin on the Psalms, Psalm 99 (98), §8.
It seemed unto them hard that He said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you:” they received it foolishly, they thought of it carnally, and imagined that the Lord would cut off parts from His body, and give unto them; and they said, “This is a hard saying.” It was they who were hard, not the saying; for unless they had been hard, and not meek, they would have said unto themselves, He saith not this without reason, but there must be some latent mystery herein. They would have remained with Him, softened, not hard: and would have learnt that from Him which they who remained, when the others departed, learnt. For when twelve disciples had remained with Him, on their departure, these remaining followers suggested to Him, as if in grief for the death of the former, that they were offended by His words, and turned back. But He instructed them, and saith unto them, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Understand spiritually what I have said; ye are not to eat this body which ye see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth. I have commended unto you a certain mystery; spiritually understood, it will quicken. Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood.


6. NPNF1-7, Tractates on John, Tractate 27, Section 1
And He explained the mode of this bestowal and gift of His, in what manner He gave His flesh to eat, saying, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” The proof that a man has eaten and drank is this, if he abides and is abode in, if he dwells and is dwelt in, if he adheres so as not to be deserted. This, then, He has taught us, and admonished us in mystical words that we may be in His body, in His members under Himself as head, eating His flesh, not abandoning our unity with Him. But most of those who were present, by not understanding Him, were offended; for in hearing these things, they thought only of flesh, that which themselves were. But the apostle says, and says what is true, “To be carnally-minded is death.” [Rom. vii. 6.] The Lord gives us His flesh to eat, and yet to understand it according to the flesh is death; while yet He says of His flesh, that therein is eternal life. Therefore we ought not to understand the flesh carnally.


7. NPNF1-7, Tractates on John, Tractate 27, Section 3
“But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples murmured at it,”—for they so said these things with themselves that they might not be heard by Him: but He who knew them in themselves, hearing within Himself,—answered and said, “This offends you;” because I said, I give you my flesh to eat, and my blood to drink, this forsooth offends you. “Then what if ye shall see the Son of man ascending where He was before?” What is this? Did He hereby solve the question that perplexed them? Did He hereby uncover the source of their offense? He did clearly, if only they understood. For they supposed that He was going to deal out His body to them; but He said that He was to ascend into heaven, of course, whole: “When ye shall see the Son of man ascending where He was before;” certainly then, at least, you will see that not in the manner you suppose does He dispense His body; certainly then, at least, you will understand that His grace is not consumed by tooth-biting.

-TurretinFan

36 comments:

herb said...

Aside from the fact that Christ sets the stage for the Bread of Life discourse by bringing up the manna of the desert, which was anything BUT figuratively sustaining, in contrast to the "door" and "vine" metaphors put to use by Christ, a STRICTLY metaphorical reading of the Eucharistic Gospel passages in question lacks a clear referent. And it's a strictly metaphorical reading of these passages that is rejected by modern day Catholics as well as the Fathers. As is often pointed out, Catholics approach the Biblical texts with a "both/and" hermeneutic that allows the text to speak on numerous levels. For every Augustinian validation of your symbolic reading of the text, a Catholic could offer an Augustinian teaching which unambiguously affirms the true presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist. Ultimately, in response to this post a Catholic can offer a hearty amen! A Catholic, however, won't impose upon the text the limitations proscribed by his particular philosophical tradition.

john said...

No what a Catholic does is read St. Augustine and the Earlyy Church Fathers "anachronistically" IE they read whatever Rome currently teaches back into the Early Church Fathers, for example whenever an Early Father says that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ the modern Catholic automatically and gleefully tells the Protestant "see St. SoAndSo the early church father believed in Transubtantiation" when no early father never even heard of that concept let alone taught it. Or when SOME Early Fathers spoke of Rome in a favorable way the Catholic automatically tells the Protestant "see the Early Fathers taught Papal and Roman Supremacy" when the reality is few if any Early Fathers taught or believed in any Papal or Roman Supremacy.

No it is the Roman Catholic that MUST impose on the text his or her Theological/Philosophical presuppositions and limitations and traditions or else risk denying any alleged "Infallible" Roman Dogmas. The Protestant is free to simply let the Early Church Fathers be the Early Church Fathers and to understand them in their Historical Context, the Protestant is also free to compare and see if what the Early Fathers Taught can be proven by Sacred Scripture, if it can't be then a Christian is under no obligation to believe it. BTW a hint, the Early Fathers constant stated that if what they taught cannot be proven by Infallible Sacred Scripture then Christians were under no obligation to accept it.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Thanks John for your remarks. They are helpful.

herb said...

John, If you're going to hold to Sola Scriptura, why appeal to St. Augustine at all? Why not say he was mistaken about the Eucharist (to the point of idolatry) just as he was mistaken about Baptismal Regeneration? Why quibble about terms such as transubstantiation (which means nothing more than 'conversion of one substance into another') when the fact of the matter is that St. Augustine said things like this:

"Eat Christ, then; though eaten He yet lives, for when slain He rose from the dead. Nor do we divide Him into parts when we eat Him: though indeed this is done in the Sacrament, as the faithful well know when they eat the Flesh of Christ, for each receives his part, hence are those parts called graces. Yet though thus eaten in parts He remains whole and entire; eaten in parts in the Sacrament, He remains whole and entire in Heaven."

and this:

"What you see is the bread and the chalice . . . But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice the Blood of Christ."

and this:

"Paul was able to preach the Lord Jesus Christ by means of signs, in one way by his letters, in another way by the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood; for when we speak of the Body of Christ and of His Blood, certainly we do not mean Paul's speaking, nor his parchments nor his ink, nor the meaning of the sounds issuing from his tongue, nor the signs of letters written on skins. By the Body and Blood of Christ we refer only to that which has been received from the fruits of the earth and has been consecrated by the mystical prayer, and has been ritually taken for our spiritual health in memory of what the Lord suffered for us."

and this:

"What you see is the bread and the chalice . . . But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice the Blood of Christ."

Does this really need to so quickly devolve into a war of patristic quotations?

Instead of charging Catholics with anachronistic interpretations of the Fathers, why not challenge the "both/and" hermeneutic I described, which, incidentally, seems to be the only hermeneutic that can make sense of BOTH TurretinFan's quotes AND the Augustinian quotes I pasted above... a hermeneutic I accepted as an adult convert to the Catholic faith.

Turretinfan said...

Herb:

Look again at that first quotation you provided. Where is Christ whole and entire? In the sacrament or in heaven?

Your church says in the sacrament, but the quotation says in heaven.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

And look at third quotation: "signs."

As for why we discuss Augustine, it is not to prove the truth of the doctrine. Instead it is to help the reasonable see that their church has been lying to them. To help them see that transubstantiation is not a part of the apostolic faith - not something handed down by oral tradition.

We've already proved that from Scripture alone, but this builds on top of that, to help persuade those who have been told the falsehood that Augustine believed all the distinctive Roman doctrines.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

As for the second and fourth quotations, I note that they (a) they are the same, (b) they simply repeat the Biblical metaphor, and (c) they -- or I should say "it" -- is taken out of its context in Sermon 272.

Here is the context, as you can see - Augustine's sense is not that of transubstantiation:

What you can see on the altar, you also saw last night; but what it was, what it meant, of what great reality it contained the sacrament, you had not yet heard. So what you can see, then, is bread and a cup; that's what even your eyes tell you; but as for what your faith asks to be instructed about, the bread is the body of Christ, the cup the blood of Christ. It took no time to say that indeed, and that, perhaps, may be enough for faith; but faith desires instruction. The prophet says, you see, Unless you believe, you shall not understand (Is 7:9). I mean, you can now say to me, “You've bidden us believe; now explain, so that we may understand.”
Some such thought as this, after all, may cross somebody's mind: “We know where our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh from; from the Virgin Mary. He was suckled as a baby, was reared, grew up, came to man's estate, suffered persecution from the Jews, was hung on the tree, was slain on the tree, was taken down from the tree, was buried; rose again on the third day, on the day he wished ascended into heaven. That's where he lifted his body up to; that's where he's going to come from to judge the living and the dead; that's where he is now, seated on the Father's right. How can bread be his body? And the cup, or what the cup contains, how can it be his blood?”
The reason these things, brothers and sisters, are called sacraments is that in them one thing is seen, another is to be understood. What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is to be understood provides spiritual fruit. So if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the apostle telling the faithful, You, though, are the body of Christ and its members (1 Cor 12:27). So if it's you that are the body of Christ and its members, it's the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord's table; what you receive is the mystery that means you. It is to what you are that you reply Amen, and by so replying you express your assent. What you hear, you see, is The body of Christ, and you answer, Amen. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make that Amen true.

Turretinfan said...

The manna was typological of Christ, in the same way that the bread and cup represent Christ.

It doesn't mean that the manna was transubstantiated, or that the elements of the supper are transubstantiated.

It's like the Rock and the water:

1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

The water and the rock were not transubstantiated, even though it is said "that Rock was Christ," not "that Rock signified Christ."

-TurretinFan

herb said...

TurretinFan- Thanks for always assuming my sincerity. I can't guarantee that I'm reasonable. I struggle with making sense of my thoughts and perceptions. But I can tell you straight up that I am sincere, even if I'm sincerely confused...

From the first quote I cited:
"Yet though thus eaten in parts He remains whole and entire; eaten in parts in the Sacrament, He remains whole and entire in Heaven."

First of all, St. Augustine doesn't speak to the precise composition of the "parts" to which he refers (as does Trent) beyond his frank acknowledgment that the parts being eaten are indeed Christ. Concerning his use of the phrase "whole and entire," is he not referring (most likely) to Christ's Resurrected, glorified form (then and now) seated at the right hand of the Father? In that sense (and not under the "veil of the sacrament") is Christ understood as "whole and entire" in His Resurrected person.

As for the 3rd quote, I see that St. Augustine uses the word "signs" twice. On neither occasion, though, does it appear to me that he's using the word in direct reference to the Body and Blood. And even if he were, it would still seem to me to be consistent with the practice of understanding such phraseology according to the "both/and" hermeneutic I mentioned before.

oops on the repeat of the 2nd and 4th quote. Help me here, though, TurretinFan. As I read this portion (taken from the context you provided):

"The reason these things, brothers and sisters, are called sacraments is that in them one thing is seen, another is to be understood. What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is to be understood provides spiritual fruit."

I feel like it's further validation of what I'm saying. Sure, he's speaking, also, of the mystical identity of the Body of Christ. But that doesn't draw anything from the fact that here in this brief passage he speaks to the distinction the Faithful must make between what one SEES and perceives in the sacrament and what is UNDERSTOOD or recognized or received in the sacrament. Early on he even speaks of what's on the altar as containing a "great reality."

(continued below)

herb said...

(continued from above)

Another thing that gets me is this- How can words like these:

"So if it's you that are the body of Christ and its members, it's the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord's table"

jive with Penal Substitutionary Atonement? Only through a Catholic understanding of (participatory) Redemptive Suffering (Colossians 1:24, 2nd Peter 1:4) does this seem to make any sense to me.

You're honing in on the specific definitions offered at Trent. But in doing so you're forced to blow right past Augustine's unambiguous acknowledgment of the Eucharistic Presence of the Body and the Blood. But the specifics of Trent aren't a big hang up for me for two reasons: 1st- St. Augustine said it's the Body and the Blood, which is the broad acknowledgment I was checking to make sure was there, and 2nd- the Magisterium of the Church (albeit 11 or so centuries later) fulfilled the role (in the face of widespread heresy) of defining the specifics of the Church's teaching. As I see it, the presence of the Body and Blood is a profound miracle in itself. If I believe God performs that miracle, why would it strain credulity to accept the inclusion of those two things which seem "concomitantly" logical enough, that is, the soul and divinity? How, I wonder, could one imagine Christ to be truly present WITHOUT the accompaniment of His divinity for that matter?

Finally, St. Augustine was one bishop in the Church, writing in the 4th & 5th centuries, and he gave no indication that his catholic identity was conditional, that is to say, I don't see any reason to believe that he would reject out of hand Trent's definitions of the Eucharist. He gave us every indication that he would accept "with docility" the pronouncements of the Magisterium, did he not?

Viisaus said...

"I don't see any reason to believe that he would reject out of hand Trent's definitions of the Eucharist. He gave us every indication that he would accept "with docility" the pronouncements of the Magisterium, did he not?"

Are you aware how Augustine behaved towards Rome during the Pelagian controversy?

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/BURLAT/11*.html#2

"In the meantime Augustine was writing on the subject,39 and the African bishops condemned the Pelagian doctrine and asked Innocent to express his approval.40 A decision on the matter devolved upon Innocent's successor Zosimus, who was elected on March 17, A.D. 417, and the ear of this Pope was gained by Caelestius, who had come to Rome. Zosimus censured the African bishops for condemning Caelestius, and intimated that he would decide, if the accusers came and appeared before him. Then he received a letter from Pelagius, which convinced him that Pelagius was a perfectly orthodox Catholic.41

But the African bishops were not convinced, and in defiance of the Pope's opinion, they condemned Pelagius and his teaching in a synod at Carthage (May 1, A.D. 418). Zosimus at last became aware that the doctrines of Pelagius were really heretical; he was obliged to execute a retreat,42 and he confirmed the findings of the African synod."


More detailed treatment of the subject here:

http://vintage.aomin.org/Sermo131.html

"First, Zosimus claimed to have "maturely examined" the issue of the confession of Pelagius and Coelestus. He proclaimed them orthodox and Catholic, and gave instructions to the North Africans based upon his self-proclaimed authority.

Next, the North Africans rejected his instructions. Knowing full well what he intended, the North African bishops, including Augustine, stood their ground upon the basis of Scriptural teaching. If a person today said, "I understand the bishop of Rome says X about such and such a person, and proclaims them orthodox on the basis of a mature examination, but I reject his conclusions based upon Scriptural teaching," would you identify that person as 1) Roman Catholic, or 2) Protestant?"

herb said...

Viisaus-
Thank you for the links. I will check them out. And thanks for taking the time to chime in.

I must say, on the surface of it, though, it seems like you're overlooking the fact that Augustine was PART OF the very Magisterium you're suggesting he would have deserted (had it violated Sola Scriptura). His mere identity as a Catholic bishop represents a tacit repudiation of the doctrine of sola Scriptura which you're (to use john's word again) anachronistically reading into his (and the other Catholic bishops') rejection of Pelagius.

The fact of the matter is this: Augustine was himself a component within the very Magisterium to which he was bound as a faithful Catholic. And it's that very Magisterium which effectively dealt with a confused bishop of Rome to identify and reject the Pelagian heresy.

As I see it, this case provides an excellent demonstration of the way that God can and does work through the hierarchical structure of Christ's Church. In the face of the Arian heresy, as you well know, nearly everybody was on board with the heretics. But God worked through the Magisterium to reveal the truths of Christ definitively, not merely through Scripture Alone.

Again, a heartfelt thanks to you for chiming in kindly and respectfully. I'll look into your links later!

Fredericka said...

Herb wrote, "Ultimately, in response to this post a Catholic can offer a hearty amen!"

Herb, I don't see how a transubstantiationist can say 'Amen' to TF's quote No. 4, "Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh ... nor drinketh His blood ..., but rather doth he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment..."

According to the doctrine of transubstantiation, even a mouse who breaks into the cupboard where the consecrated wafers are stored is consuming the flesh of the Lord: "Even though a mouse or a dog were to eat the consecrated host, the substance of Christ’s body would not cease to be under the species, so long as those species remain, and that is, so long as the substance of bread would have remained..." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part Three, Question 80, Article 3, RO3).

That would seem to be a clear contradiction. Can we agree that a mouse lacks faith? The mouse does not dwell in Christ, yet according to Thomas he is eating the body of Jesus. But not according to Augustine.

herb said...

Fredericka, Thank you.

Concerning the word "transubstantion," I don't see what the concern is. The word simply means: conversion of one substance into another. Even if he didn't articulate his view in Tridentine terms, St. Augustine was certainly a "transubstantiationist" judging by the fact that he clearly and explicitly promoted adoration of the host, going so far as to say we sin by NOT adoring the Lord in the Eucharist.

Concerning TF's 4th quotation, I think I see what you're attempting to demonstrate. However, you replaced some pretty important words with ellipses:

"Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh [spiritually] nor drinketh His blood [although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth], but rather doth he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment..."

The words you replaced with ellipses, as far as I see it, represent St. Augustine's acknowledgment of the unworthy communicant's objective reception of the sacrament (and all that it represents). But is St. Augustine not focusing upon the unworthy/disbelieving state of the communicant here, rather than speaking specifically to the nature of the sacrament? Is he not speaking to the absence of the "spiritual" reception of Our Lord in the sacrament (which he so often speaks of) while acknowledging the objective sacramental reception taking place on the part of the unworthy communicant (represented by the words you replaced with ellipses)? Is it right to look to this passage, which is speaking directly to a particular issue (the sacrilege of unworthy reception) as a clear explication of the objective nature of the Eucharist?

Further, St. Thomas and St. Augustine didn't have the opportunity to sit down and discuss the nature of the Eucharist together. Had they had that opportunity, is it not possible to imagine St. Augustine accepting the teachings of the medieval Church as superior to his own? Is it not reasonable for moderns to approach the Catholic Fathers with the "hermeneutic of continuity" rather than the "hermeneutic of rupture"? Both men were active in different times and places, speaking to particular challenges of their respective times. But they had one thing in common, their Catholic faith.

herb said...

TurretinFan-

re: 1 Corinthians 10:4

I see what you're saying, linguistically speaking. But nobody's reading "that Rock was Christ" and initiating solemn rituals and speaking of rocks in the loftiest of terms. Had Christ done something with rocks at the Last Supper, you might have identified an analogue. However, that's not the case. He took bread and gave thanks and if you're right, this decision, made by the greatest of all human teachers, led to the the biggest misunderstanding in history, a misunderstanding that drives a wedge between would be concelebrants.

Beyond that, St. Paul's rock reference, if it were misinterpreted, would find little to no corroboration elsewhere in Scripture. And in that respect, exactly the opposite is true of the Scriptural basis for the Eucharistic Presence of Christ. It was, after all, not on the road, but in the "breaking of the bread" that the two Emmaus travelers recognized Christ (Luke 24:13-35). Since the beginning everyone understood St. Paul's words in 1st Corinthians 10:4 as metaphorical. There was no debate concerning the meaning of these passages. The same, however, cannot be said of the Apostles' and early christians' understanding of Our Lord's words either on-the-scene as recorded in John 6 or later.

Anonymous said...

Hi Herb!

For Augustine’s defense of Pope Zosimus “of blessed memory” (Against Julian, Bk. 6, Ch. 12.37), see Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, Book 2, Chapters 1-8: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15092.htm. It is also worth mentioning, in connection with this treatise, that he had written it for and submitted it to Pope Boniface, as Augustine himself says, “for your examination and, if perchance anything should displease you, for your correction” (Bk. 1, Ch. 3).

Thank you for being here and posting on here, Herb!

Your brother in Christ,
Pete Holter

Fredericka said...

Herb wrote, "The words you replaced with ellipses, as far as I see it, represent St. Augustine's acknowledgment of the unworthy communicant's objective reception of the sacrament (and all that it represents)."

Hi Herb. I looked up the Latin and the bracketed words are in the Latin text, which surprised me. Aren't those words saying just the opposite of how you interpret them, namely that the communicant does not receive the Lord's body, objectively or otherwise, if he does not dwell in Christ? He does not eat the Lord's body, which the humble mouse manages to do.

Mice have little tiny pea brains. If he does not receive the sacrament carnally, then how does he receive it at all? Yet Thomas says that he eats the flesh of the Lord. Not that he derives any benefit from so doing, but he does eat the Lord's body. I don't see any room for that in Augustine's comment No. 4.

"Further, St. Thomas and St. Augustine didn't have the opportunity to sit down and discuss the nature of the Eucharist together. Had they had that opportunity, is it not possible to imagine St. Augustine accepting the teachings of the medieval Church as superior to his own?"

Augustine was a neo-Platonist not an Aristotelian. Probably if they sat down together they'd have come to blows.

Constantine said...

Hi Herb,

Thanks for your comments here. Your tone - and searching - is greatly appreciated.

While you are digesting all that's been thrown at you, I won't bury you in links. But just to add to the Augustine-Zosimus thing, it appears that Augustine clearly stepped outside the Magisterium against the pope in order to preserve orthodoxy.

Augustine had to appeal to the Roman Emperor Honorius in order to have Pope Zosimus overruled. Thereafter, Augustine upheld the Emperor's dictat as opposed to that of the pope.

As far as the Magisterium goes, Zosimus directly contradicted his predecessor, Pope Innocent I.

I'm not sure what good an appeal to a Magisterium is when two consecutive popes directly contradict each other, the last one having to be overruled by a secular emperor in order to maintain orthodoxy.

I think that is the nub. Augustine, realizing the error of the pope, used whatever resource he had within - or without - the church to correct it.

Pete Holter's implication that Augustine may have bowed to Boniface glosses over the fact that the African bishops were always "jealous of [their] autonomy" from Rome, to use J.N.D. Kelly's phrase.

Thanks for your kind interactions.

Peace.

herb said...

Fredericka,

I do have some links to check (courtesy of Viisaus). But allow me to take a moment to respond to some of the considerations that you've sent my way. I'll attempt to explain how I understand the brackets (FWIW):

"Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh [spiritually] nor drinketh His blood [although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth], but rather doth he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment..."

St. Augustine isn't saying that the unfaithful communicant isn't receiving the Body and the Blood. If he were, he could have just left the brackets out entirely. That, however, is not the case. The first bracket, then, seems to suggest that though the communicant objectively partakes of the Body and the Blood for all to see, he doesn't do so spiritually. Again, the both/and reading is at work here. A faithful christian partakes of the Eucharist BOTH spiritually AND physically. And St. Augustine is pointing out the fact that though participation in the sacrament certainly occurs physically/publically, the spiritual participation (on the part of the communicant) in the Sacrament is absent. So that bracketed word speaks to the individual NOT partaking spiritually, though he does (obviously) partake physically/publically.

The 2nd bracket seems to represent St. Augustine's effort to go out of his way to drive home the point that despite the fact that actual public consumption of the Body and the Blood occurs, people shouldn't understand REAL communion to be taking place due to the fact that the person is unfaithfully receiving the Sacrament. Communion is a participation in the divine life. It's necessarily faithful, relational. It seems to me that St. Augustine doesn't want people to hold the false notion that they can receive the benefit of the Sacraments as one receives a product at a vending machine- As though God is simply dispensing goods in a transactional manner vs. a relational manner... as though FAITH isn't entirely necessary for proper reception of the Body and the Blood (whose sacramental presence, in this passage at least, is NEVER called into question).

herb said...

Fredericka,

This consideration/argument:

"Mice have little tiny pea brains. If he does not receive the sacrament carnally, then how does he receive it at all? Yet Thomas says that he eats the flesh of the Lord. Not that he derives any benefit from so doing, but he does eat the Lord's body. I don't see any room for that in Augustine's comment No. 4."

...stands only if your reading of Augustine's comment #4 is accurate. But as I said above, if you re-read that passage, never does St. Augustine say that reception of the Body and the Blood isn't occurring (that's why the brackets are there, to provide that needed clarity). As a matter of fact, he's trying to let people know that DESPITE the fact that consumption of the Body and Blood IS occurring coram publico, WITHOUT faith, without the right state of heart, one doesn't rightly receive the Eucharist. This is why it's such a public scandal today when public officials who are in a state of formal heresy receive the Eucharist scandalously. Because the ARE receiving Our Lord sacramentally while in a state of formal heresy. Just as St. Augustine said, they don't eateth the flesh [spiritually] nor drinketh His blood [although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth]...

And as far as mice are concerned, no Catholic brought mice into the conversation in an effort to consider the possibility of animals meaningfully participating in Holy Communion. Mice are brought into the conversation to stress the substantial change that actually takes place in the Eucharistic matter, the actual material of the Sacrament at consecration- a change wrought by the power of God hence irreversible by the power of man.

And while we're on the subject... this "substantial" change of the matter, from bread into Christ, seems to me to be the ONLY thing that St. Augustine could have had in mind as he said we "sin by NOT adoring" Christ in the Eucharist. Only if he believed that the matter itself had changed (through consecration) would he be justified in instructing the Faithful to adore Christ in the Eucharist. If he didn't believe the matter to have actually changed, that "a conversion from one substance to another" (transubstantiation) had occurred, why would he call anyone to anything but spiritual, heartfelt worship and adoration of Our Lord? If reception is STRICTLY spiritual, under no circumstances could St. Augustine call the Faithful to Eucharistic adoration. It's that same Eucharist, then, that should be protected from mice, etc.

Anonymous said...

Greetings in the LORD, Constantine!

Augustine said (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1506.htm ) that Zosimus treated Coelestius with “great compassion” (Ch. 7) and that Pelagius “entirely failed” to impose on the Church of Rome (Ch. 9), not having the “power permanently to deceive that see” (Ch. 24), for “the most blessed Pope Zosimus” (Ch. 9) “recollect[ed]… the judgment of his predecessor in this case” (Ch. 10) and he published the condemnation of Pelagius’ opinions “throughout the catholic world” (Ch. 24). In this work, Augustine points to the judgment of Pope Innocent as being the act of the Church that “the holy Pope Zosimus was bound to recollect” (Ch. 10), not the deliberations of the African Church. :)

Augustine wrote submissively to Boniface because he recognized the episcopacy of the bishop of Rome as placing that bishop “prominent therein on a loftier height” (Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk 1, Ch. 2: ), and the bishop of Rome as being the most authoritative bishop in the Western Church, and, by inference we may even say, as being the most authoritative bishop in the whole Church (cf. Against Julian, Bk. 1: http://www.archive.org/details/fathersofthechur013910mbp). He was also certain that St. Cyprian “would unquestionably have yielded [to the authority] of a plenary Council” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 2), and when he says this, it is clear that he also includes himself with Cyprian in this noble disposition, whom he repeatedly lauded for maintaining the bond of peace in the unity of the Church.

Although Calvin asserted that Augustine was “wholly and incontrovertibly on our side” in his doctrine on the Eucharist, no matter how similar the two may have been on any given doctrine, Augustine would have entirely opposed him in his rebellion against the Church of Christ. :(

In Christ,
Pete

Anonymous said...

Fredericka wrote, “Hi Herb. I looked up the Latin and the bracketed words are in the Latin text, which surprised me. Aren't those words saying just the opposite of how you interpret them, namely that the communicant does not receive the Lord's body, objectively or otherwise, if he does not dwell in Christ?”

Hi Fredericka!

Here’s your new goto source for the Latin text of Augustine: www.augustinus.it/latino/commento_vsg/omelia_026_testo.htm

It’s a great resource! I don’t know Latin, but I can use Google Translate. :) It doesn’t look like the bracketed material is in the text [anymore], although it does seem to be a fair addition to help bring out Augustine’s meaning (compare with No. 12 of the same tractate). And it also helps to read this homily together with:

“For as Judas, to whom the Lord gave a morsel, gave a place within himself of the devil, not by receiving what was bad, but by receiving it badly, so each person, on receiving the sacrament of the Lord, does not cause that it is bad because he is bad himself, or that he has received nothing because he has not received it to salvation. For it was none the less the body of the Lord and the blood of the Lord, even in those to whom the apostle said, ‘He that eateth unworthily, eateth and drinketh condemnation to himself’ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:27, 29)” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Bk. 5, Ch. 8).

Well, this is probably all I have for this blog entry, but I’ll try to check back to see how the discussion goes.

Oh, and check out Matt Maher’s song that draws from Augustine’s Confessions: http://ilike.myspacecdn.com/play#Matt+Maher:Alive+Again:134156838:s53756571.13679391.2076997.0.2.214%2Cstd_d7344a9fe2fa4276a69d0b9b8d2a7606

May God bless you all!
Pete

herb said...

Pete, Thanks for the info on the bracketed words. I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that this kind of situation illustrates one of the major reasons I felt comfortable becoming Catholic. Here I am reading and considering all this stuff and then it turns out that maybe the brackets weren't originally there. Then I'm back to attempting to read such an apparently clear statement in light of other statements which seem to suggest the exact opposite of what this one does... which leads me right back to where I started: the both/and hermeneutic.

Must we be scholars in order to live faithful Christian lives? If that's the case, I fear I'm just not up to it! We're relying upon translations of texts to consider all of these arguments. And at the end of the day where does it get us? Recently Turretinfan seemed to say that what my becoming Catholic boiled down to is poor judgment on my part. If that's the case, I think I can live with that. I share poor judgment with people like Mortimer Adler, then. And people like JRR Tolkien and Malcolm Muggeridge. And Oscar Wilde. My Catholicism represents an appeal to faith in a world that seems hung up on hedonism on the one hand and historical intellectualism on the other. Help!

ChaferDTS said...

With regard to John 6 to eat and drink Christ means to believe in Him for eternal life as indicated by the context. The context refers to what at that time was his impending future death on the cross in view and not the institution of the Lord's Supper which was done one year after the events of John 6. Jesus is teaching he is the spiritual food for spiritual life based on faith in his person and work. The folly of the RCC view is it incorrectly assumes the words " body of Christ ", "real presense " , " Eucharist " is equated to a belief in transsubstantiation which such is not the case. Their blindness results in anachronism of the writings of the church fathers and Scripture on this issue. There is no change at all in the elements of the bread and wine. It looks and taste like bread and wine hence it is bread and wine. There is no evidence at all on the RCC on this specific point. While Christians of course while at church service refer to the bread and wine as the Body of Christ that does not mean in itself of any change of the elements to the body spirit and soul of Jesus Christ. The bread and wine signifies the presense of Jesus Christ with the people of God in fellowship by faith. It is a spiritual feeding by God by the use of the bread and wine in our fellowship with Jesus and the people of God with one another.Jesus Christ remains physically in heaven only. The presense of Jesus Christ is spiritual and not physical at the Lord's Supper. The RCC position itself from a logical stand point must co-mingle the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to maintain it's doctrine of transsubstantiation. So the doctrine of transsubstantiation runs againist the Creeds of the church which deals with the two natures of Jesus Christ in the hypostalic union.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Good resource, TF. Thanks, Ron

Constantine said...

Blessing to you, Pete.



You write:

Pelagius did not have “the “power permanently to deceive that (Roman) see”...

Whether it was permanent or not is beside the point. The point is that Pelagius did deceive the Roman See. If Pelagius had not deceived the Roman See, Pope Zosimus would not have written letters in his defense to the Africa bishops. If Rome had not been deceived then Augustine's protest to Rome against Pelagius would have been silly. And lastly, had Pelagius not “deceived” Rome it would not have been necessary for the Emperor to intervene on the side of the African bishops against the pope of Rome.

And the Emperor's edict against Pelagius is what caused Zosimus to reverse course, adopt the doctrine of his predecessor Innocent I and publish his retraction. Something that would not have been needed had Rome not been “deceived”. Ironically, and what is missing from your post, is that the “African bishops” were the ones who steadfastly held to the position of Zosimus's predecessor, Innocent I, and not the bishop of Rome. So it was, in fact, the episcopacy of North Africa that, we can see in historical hindsight, was orthodox as opposed to the heterodoxy of Rome.

Catholic historian Paul Johnson says this:

”Rome was inclined to accept Pelagius at his word; he had the backing of powerful families...But the will of the Africans prevailed. They brought pressure successfully, first on the Bishop of Rome, then on the emperor. (A History of Christianity” (Simon and Schuster, 1976), p. 120).

You write further:

Augustine wrote submissively to Boniface because he recognized the episcopacy of the bishop of Rome as placing that bishop “prominent therein on a loftier height” (Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk 1, Ch. 2: ), and the bishop of Rome as being the most authoritative bishop in the Western Church, and, by inference we may even say, as being the most authoritative bishop in the whole Church

Well that would be a sloppy inference, indeed. The see of Rome had always enjoyed a “primacy of honor” and not one of “jurisdiction” because the two great Apostles – Peter and Paul – had been martyred there. There is no evidence – and much contrary evidence – to the claim that “ the bishop of Rome as being the most authoritative bishop in the Western Church”. Consider this from “Augustine Through The Ages: An Encyclopedia”, ed. Allan Fitzgerald:

In a letter to Zosimus at the close of the Council (the Council of Carthage in 481), the Fathers pointedly remarked that they would uphold his predecessor's decrees, not his. FOR AUGUSTINE AND HIS COLLEAGUES, A PLENARY COUNCIL WAS THE MOST POTENT MECHANISM AVAILABLE FOR THE ERADICATION OF HERESY. (emphasis added.) p. 729

So neither Augustine nor his fellow bishops thought that the authority of the bishop of Rome was greater and they saw fit to freely reject his wrongful opinions.

So, Pete, I think you have to be careful about newadvent.org. My experience is that they tend to use really old stuff - stuff that originated in the highly censored post Vatican I era and which is highly suspect.

Because what we can clearly see from this is that Augustine – and the North African bishops with him – had a view of Rome that would be condemned after Vatican I. And just like Calvin, when Augustine saw the errors of Rome, he was the first to lead the charge against her in the defense of true orthodoxy.

Peace.

herb said...

Hello all- It looks to me like the bracketed words are indeed those of St. Augustine himself. The 29th Article of Faith (of the 39 Articles, of course) cites some of the bracketed words in question and attributes them directly to St. Augustine.

Constantine,
The topic you're focused upon is obviously a very interesting one and worthy of consideration (I'm enjoying Dr. White's discussion of the matter linked by Viisaus, btw!). However, as Catholics Pete H. and I always bear in mind the fact that our 1st Pope was St. Peter himself, a man who was far more than just "deceived." St. Peter willfully betrayed our Lord publicly. And the Lord graciously worked through St. Peter both Scripturally and Ecclesiologically (is that a word?).

Beyond that, the fact that the African bishops acted as the defenders of faith during a period of rampant confusion (including apparent papal confusion) seems to me to be more of a Catholic argument than a Protestant one. Catholics are happy to acknowledge that whole "Athanasius contra mundum" thing. How is this situation much different?

As I see it, the situation actually demonstrates our need for the hierarchical Magisterium, a Spirit-led body through which the Holy Spirit can work to establish the RIGHT doctrine in the face of, in this case, the Pelagian threat.

Finally, is it not a significant fact that at the end of the day the whole thing turned out for good as Pelagianism was rightly condemned? thanks again.

Constantine said...

Hi herb,

Thanks, again, for the kind note.

And I fear that I am leading this conversation far afield from Turretinfan's original topic and for that I apologize. So let me just put the period at the end of a couple of our sentences and then leave it at that.

If the Pelagian controversy (among many others) shows us anything about the workings of the Holy Spirit, it is that He works independently of the Magisterium of Rome. Remember, that Vatican I says that the Bishop of Rome has, and always has had, a “primacy of jurisdiction” over the whole church. What this instance shows – as well as the Councils of Basle, Constance, etc. - is that that is simply not true. Pope Zosimus had no such “jurisdiction”.

And, of further interest, the very idea of a “Magisterium” in Rome did not come into effect until 700 years after Augustine's time. The very college of Cardinals did not exist before 1059 and for the next hundred years or so was only engaged in liturgical administration on the Italian peninsula. So this idea of a universal, hierarchical Magisterium is entirely new and modern. Augustine, like Gregory the Great or Leo I before him, would have had no such notion.

But here's the good news. Jesus tells us that His Spirit works like the wind. You can feel its effect but you can't tell where it is coming from or where it is going. (John 3:5-8).

If the Holy Spirit worked through the Magisterium, we could tell where it was coming from! And if salvation resided only in the Roman church, we could tell where It was going!

Please have a great week, herb.

Peace.

herb said...

Constantine-
An honest christian can, in good faith, become Catholic and sincerely believe that Jesus wouldn't want it any other way for him. I am definitely a doubter and my fingers are bloody from trying to hang on. I want sola fide to be true and it's very hard for me to believe in an afterlife at all. But when my wife and I became Catholic, ditching our families (in an ecclesial sense) and taking our 5 young kids along for the ride, we weren't messing around. If you would like to follow this conversation up privately, hit me at herbert.vanderlugt(at)gmail.com

Fredericka said...

Pete wrote, "Here’s your new goto source for the Latin text of Augustine: www.augustinus.it/latino/commento_vsg/omelia_026_testo.htm"

Hi Pete! Thank you for your informative resource!

Fredericka said...

Herb wrote, "I share poor judgment with people like Mortimer Adler, then."

Hi Herb, thank you for that interesting biographical tidbit. I had thought Mortimer Adler was a secular Thomist, but Wikipedia confirms he died a Catholic. I heard him give a lecture once. If memory serves, first they had a guy in a gorilla suit go gamboling across the stage, then they had a blond in a evening dress sashshay across the stage to award him a certificate commemorating his contributions to Western Civilization, then Dr. Adler spoke. I enjoyed the gorilla best, the blonde second best, and Dr. Adler third best.

Fredericka said...

Constantine wrote, "The very college of Cardinals did not exist before 1059..."

In the early church bishops were elected by the people and clergy of the place:

"But — I speak to you as being provoked; I speak as grieving; I speak as constrained — when a bishop is appointed into the place of one deceased, when he is chosen in time of peace by the suffrage of an entire people, when he is protected by the help of God in persecution, faithfully linked with all his colleagues, approved to his people by now four years’ experience in his episcopate..." (Cyprian, Letters, 54:6)

But then they changed the form of government so that it was no longer a democracy but an oligarchy. How can you put the latter bishops of Rome in a 'succession' with the earlier, when they were not chosen correctly? This would be as if the United States government were taken over by a military junta, who then began appointing presidents at whim. Who would number the junta-appointed presidents in succession with the legitimate ones?

Fredericka said...

Herb wrote, "As a matter of fact, he's trying to let people know that DESPITE the fact that consumption of the Body and Blood IS occurring coram publico, WITHOUT faith, without the right state of heart, one doesn't rightly receive the Eucharist."

Hi Herb,

"Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh [spiritually] nor drinketh His blood [although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth], but rather doth he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment..."

OK, so you attach the negative to [spiritually] so as to say, 'he is not eating this way, though he is eating the other way.' I would have taken it as explanatory, even if I had not suspected it of being a translator's gloss, as "neither eateth His flesh ... nor drinketh His blood [because that can only be done spiritually, not in any other manner]."

Thomas is the one who brought in the mice, just to show off, I believe. It sounds blasphemous to me. Besides there are very many detailed prophecies in the Psalms and elsewhere as to what will happen, and what will not happen, to the Lord's body, such as not a bone will be broken, he will not see corruption, etc. But who can tell what those mice will do. Don't all those Old Testament prophecies fall to the ground if the mice are let loose. Thomas says, "Nor does this turn to any indignity regarding Christ’s body, since He willed to be crucified by sinners without detracting from His dignity..."
(Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part Three, Question 80, Article 3, RO3). But He did not will to be eaten by mice, how ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Hi Constantine!

Since I would be taking us even further away from the topic at hand, I will wait for permission from TurretinFan before I respond to your comments. My threads on the Catholic Answers Forums have fizzled in terms of other people interacting with anything I’ve said there. So I have some availability. :) If I don’t receive this permission, which would be more than understandable, then perhaps we could exchange via email at pholter@amrl.net.

With love in Christ,
Pete

herb said...

Fredericka, Again, thanks for the comments and the discussion.

About the mice... it seems funny that you'd consider a man who left his life's work unfinished (much to the dismay of his contemporaries) b/c he considered his work to be straw a "show off."

You say Thomas's explanation "sounds blasphemous" to you. Indeed, the Incarnation of Christ to this day "sounds blasphemous" to many. And if Christ instituted the Eucharist, and gave Himself to us in the Eucharist, by extension, the Eucharist itself will "sound blasphemous" to those who don't believe.

To others, however, such as St. Augustine, it would be considered a sin NOT to adore Christ in the Eucharist.

Also, I hope you see my reading of citation #4 as reasonable, maybe going so far as to acknowledge that it may very well make the best sense of the wording of the text and capture what appears to be the intention of St. Augustine.

Beyond that, I think what you said about communion ONLY occurring spiritually gets to the heart of how/why we see things differently. You suggest that "communion" with Christ can ONLY take place spiritually. And that's something I can't agree with at this point. It seems to me that the Incarnation itself strongly repudiates the idea. Were the disciples, as companions of Our Lord, not truly communing with Him in His person? Did they not receive a foretaste of that true communion we all look forward to as we, in our Resurrected bodies, by the grace of Christ, fall at His glorious feet? Is such a glorious hope solely anticipated exclusively through spiritual communion? I think not. Also, doesn't such a notion necessitate a LIMITATION on the means by which Christ may commune with humankind, whereas a Catholic sets no such LIMITS upon God's means of the deliverance of grace? A Catholic will affirm BOTH the spiritual communion AND the entire spectrum of means by which Christ truly communes with humankind.

Some say that the whole earth is a sacrament. Through the Incarnation Christ baptized not just the River Jordan, but the whole earth. And through the continued appropriation of the grace of Christ, through His Body, the Church, our nature is perfected, not minimized, sidelined or destroyed.

Fredericka said...

Herb wrote, "Also, I hope you see my reading of citation #4 as reasonable, maybe going so far as to acknowledge that it may very well make the best sense of the wording of the text and capture what appears to be the intention of St. Augustine."

Hi Herb! I will try to get an exact fix on what the text actually is. But even supposing the longer version which you prefer to be correct, where do you suppose the brackets come from and what do they mean? If the brackets were not there,

'Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh spiritually nor drinketh His blood, although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth, but rather doth he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment,...'

If the brackets were not there, your reading makes sense although there is the little awkwardness that 'spiritually' ought to be repeated after 'drinketh his blood.'

"About the mice... it seems funny that you'd consider a man who left his life's work unfinished (much to the dismay of his contemporaries) b/c he considered his work to be straw a "show off.""

I wish the church of the day had understood Thomas' work to be straw. They should have adopted Mao Zedong's rubic, 'Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend,' rather than playing theology as a zero-sum game and forcing everybody to adopt Thomism. Not everybody wanted to, for instance Martin Luther complained, "It is false to say that no one can become a theologian without Aristotle. I state this in opposition to common opinion." (Martin Luther, 'Disputation Against Scholastic Theology,' No. 43). Given that Aristotle was an uninspired pagan philosopher, people should be free to take him or leave him.