Saturday, October 31, 2009

Transubstantiation, Metaphor, and Common Sense that leads one to believe the Eucharist is Mystical, not Metaphor

A long awkward title, yes, but true nonetheless. I actually borrowed much of the title from Turretinfan's title to his post here. In passing, I noticed he posted a video in response to a Greek Orthodox Youtube user 'Apologist117', whose video was a response to Dr. James White's 5-part series on St. Ignatius of Antioch and the Eucharist. I made a few videos responding to Turretinfan but decided not to post them, simply because I thought it better to redo the videos responding to Dr. White's videos directly, which in turn would immedietly answer Turretinfan's assertions also.

Well, now that you're more confused than you were when you first read the title, please continue.

What I mainly want to adress are the quotes from the holy fathers Turretinfan provides in his defense that the Eucharist is merely figurative. Here I'd like to state plainly, lest there be much confusion, I am a Roman Catholic, but will also be drawing on the witness of the Greek Catholics, who with the Russians and the Coptics, commonly called Orthdox, with all the Apostolic Churches will bear witness concerning this Mystical Flesh and Blood.

Bellisario's and Turretinfan's back-and-forth aside, let's take a look at what Mr. Turretinfan says concerning the Eucharist,

"(1) Jesus never used the word "metaphor" in the pages of Holy Scripture - not just about this metaphor, but about any of them. (2) Normally what distinguishes metaphor from simile is the absence of a signal - if it said "this represents my body" we would have simile, not metaphor. (3) Jesus didn't say that the cup was a figure of speech for the contents of the cup, but folks use their common sense to recognize this. (4) Finally, some of the early church fathers confirm that Jesus used metaphors, including the metaphor identification of his body with bread and of wine with his blood."

This is the problem we run into when this particular subject is approached with a modern Western mindset. Folks tend to forget the Gospel is ancient and Eastern, and very, very Jewish. Applying a modern Western interpretation to an ancient Eastern text will, as unintentional as it may be, distort said text entirely losing the true meaning. This is, as becomes quite obvious to the Roman or Greek, the case with Mr. Turretinfan. Recall I said concerning Turretinfan and Icons that his errors were unintentional, the same applies here. His sincerity is not on the line, but 'sincerity' does not distinguish Truth from Falsehood. With this in mind, let's look at the first holy father he cites:

"What mean, then, the words, "I am the true vine"? Was it to the literal vine, from which that metaphor was drawn, that He intended to point them by the addition of "true"? For it is by similitude, and not by any personal propriety, that He is thus called a vine; just as He is also termed a sheep, a lamb, a lion, a rock, a corner-stone, and other names of a like kind, which are themselves rather the true ones, from which these are drawn as similitudes, not as realities."

- Augustine, Tractate 80 on John's Gospel, Section 1

Naturally St. Augustine is correct. But what exactly does this have to do with the Eucharist? Let's consider a few things. First, Tractate 80 in context deals with John 15:1-3, many chapters after John 6 and the famous Eucharistic Discource. Tractate 26 would have been a more sufficient passage to quote Augustine's view on the Eucharist. You will note Augustine speaks very mystically concerning the precious Flesh and Blood of Christ, specifically,

"For even we at this day receive visible food: but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament another." - Augustine, Tractate 26, Section 11

Sacraments, according to the Roman Church and all Church in communion with her, is as St. Augustine once put it, "An outward sign of inward grace." To distinguish from the heretical Protestant interpretation, which essentially says the Bread and Wine are mere symbols which in a mysterious way connect us to Christ [forgive my poorly worded explaination, but I believe for the most part it's accurate], let us turn to a few trustworthy sources which may help set the record straight. Besides Augustine, Protestants look to Tertullian as a Church Father who also believed the Eucharist were only symbolic. In fact, William Webster writes,

"Tertullian (155/160-240/250 A.D.) spoke of the bread and wine in the eucharist as symbols or figures which represent the body and blood of Christ. He specifically stated that these were not the literal body and blood of the Lord. When Christ said, ‘This is my body,’ Tertullian maintained that Jesus was speaking figuratively and that he consecrated the wine ‘in memory of his blood’ (Against Marcion 3.19). Some theologians have claimed that the ancient usage of the words ‘figure’ and ‘represent’ suggested that the symbols in some mysterious way became what they symbolized. But Tertullian uses the word ‘represent’ in a number of other places where the word carries a figurative meaning. For example, in Against Marcion 4.40 he says, ‘He represents the bleeding condition of his flesh under the metaphor of garments dyed in red.’ His interpretation of John 6 similarly indicates that when he spoke of the bread and wine as figures and symbols of Christ’s body and blood, that is exactly what he meant.6 He says that Christ spoke in spiritual terms when referring to the eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood and did not mean this literally. He holds that the eating of the flesh of Christ and the drinking of his blood means appropriating him by faith: ‘He likewise called His flesh by the same appellation; because, too, the Word had become flesh, we ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life, and to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and to digest Him by faith.’7 Clearly he did not teach the concept of transubstantiation." - Webster, The Eucharist

In my rather short and unsatisfactory response [in my oppinion] to a person on CARM who used the Webster-quote, I simply responded,

"Contrary to Mr. Webster's position, the Anglican patristic scholar JND Kelly writes concerning Tertullian and his use of 'figura' and 'repraesetat',

"Yet we should be cautious about interpreting such expressions in a modern fashion...All that his language really suggest is that, while accepting the equation of the elements with the body and blood, he remains conscious of the sacramental distinction between them." (Early Christian Doctrines, p. 212)

"And the Rev. Leighton Pullan M.A.,

"The teaching of Tertullian is fundamentally the same as that of Irenaeus, and his belief is misrepresented when he is said to hold that the Eucharist is only a figure of the body of Christ." (Early Christian Doctrine, p. 76-77)"

The same can be said of St. Augustine. Kelly also says,

"Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood" (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).

In the early days of the Church, the Sacrament not only signified something, but it was also in some sense that very thing which it signified (Kelly, p. 212). St. Augustine follows in this consistent flow of sacramental theology in the Church. With that we now turn to the second quotation of Augustine which Turretinfan provides us with,

"Now the rule in regard to this variation has two forms. For things that signify now one thing and now another, signify either things that are contrary, or things that are only different. They signify contraries, for example, when they are used metaphorically at one time in a good sense, at another in a bad, as in the case of the leaven mentioned above. Another example of the same is that a lion stands for Christ in the place where it is said, "The lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed;" (Revelation 5:5) and again, stands for the devil where it is written, "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8) In the same way the serpent is used in a good sense, "Be wise as serpents;" (Matthew 10:16) and again, in a bad sense, "The serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety." (2 Corinthians 11:3) Bread is used in a good sense, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven;" (John 6:51) in a bad, "Bread eaten in secret is pleasant." (Proverbs 9:17) And so in a great many other cases. The examples I have adduced are indeed by no means doubtful in their signification, because only plain instances ought to be used as examples."

- Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book III, Chapter 25, Section 36

Obviously no Roman Catholic believes Christ was saying He was a literal loaf of bread when He descended from Heaven, so of course this phrase is an obvious metaphor of His divine Flesh which would be eaten. Apparantly Bellisario raised a stink about the exact usage of the word "metaphor" or something to that like, so Turretinfan here is merely trying to show that the exact word doesn't have to be there for the meaning to be obvious. Interestingly enough, before citing the second Augustine quotation, Turretinfan cites St. John Chrysostom in proving said point to Bellisario, viz. the actual word "metaphor" doesn't have to be present,

"And when He says, "The Lord looked down from Heaven:" [Psalm 14:2] it describes His perfect knowledge by a metaphor taken from men. So also here He says, "Now I know," to declare this to be greater than all which had preceded it."

- Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Second Corinthians, Section 6

But Chrysostom says, in quite a Catholic fashion, concerning the Eucharist,

"When you see the LORD immolated and lying upon the altar, and the Priest bent over that Sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that Precious Blood, can you think that you are still among Men and on Earth? Or are you not lifted up to Heaven?" - St. John Chrysostom, The Priesthood 3:4:177

"What then? Do we not offer daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of his death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This sacrifice is a type of that, ... Read Moreand this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one body. And just as he is one body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one sacrifice" (Homilies on Hebrews 17:36)

And again Chrysostom from Turretinfan,

"And He Himself drank of it. For lest on hearing this, they should say, What then? Do we drink blood, and eat flesh? And then be perplexed (for when He began to discourse concerning these things, even at the very sayings many were offended),therefore lest they should be troubled then likewise, He first did this Himself, leading them to the calm participation of the mysteries. Therefore He Himself drank His own blood. What then must we observe that other ancient rite also? Some one may say. By no means. For on this account He said, "Do this," that He might withdraw them from the other. For if this works remission of sins, as it surely does work it, the other is now superfluous.

As then in the case of the Jews, so here also He has bound up the memorial of the benefit with the mystery, by this again stopping the mouths of heretics. For when they say, Whence is it manifest that Christ was sacrificed? Together with the other arguments we stop their mouths from the mysteries also. For if Jesus did not die, of what are the rites the symbols?"

- Chrysostom, Homily 82 on Matthew, Section 1

The obvious Catholicity [or Orthodoxy, whichever you prefer] in Chrysostom's are so blatant that one wonders how any Protestant could possibly believe he was merely refering to the Eucharist as symbolic. We have noted that "symbol" in those early days had an entirely different significance and meaning than it does now. Protestants tend to forget the Greeks and Eastern Catholics [those in communion with Rome] use the Divine Liturgy of St. Chrysostom, that most excellent Saint. Would any Reformed Protestant be comfortable using this Liturgy? I wonder. Would any Reformed pastor say of the communion bread,

"Behold, I approach Christ, our immortal King and God. The precious and most holy Body of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ is given to me (Name) the Priest, for the forgiveness of my sins and eternal life. The precious and most holy Blood of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ is given to me (Name) the priest, for the forgiveness of my sins and eternal life."

Now, must we really suppose St. John Chrysostom looked upon the Eucharist in the same light as a Reformed faithful would? I think that answer has become obvious. So let us put away the myth that Chrysostom didn't view the Eucharistic doctrine the same way the Roman and Greek Churches do today.

Turretinfan continues with another quote,

"And entertaining this view, we may regard the proclamation of the Gospel, which is universally diffused, as milk; and as meat, faith, which from instruction is compacted into a foundation, which, being more substantial than hearing, is likened to meat, and assimilates to the soul itself nourishment of this kind. Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: "Eat my flesh, and drink my blood;" [John 6:34] describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both—of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood."

- Clement of Alexandria, The Paedogogus, Chapter 6

"The Scripture, accordingly, has named wine the symbol of the sacred blood; but reproving the base tippling with the dregs of wine, it says: "Intemperate is wine, and insolent is drunkenness." [Proverbs 20:1] It is agreeable, therefore, to right reason, to drink on account of the cold of winter, till the numbness is dispelled from those who are subject to feel it; and on other occasions as a medicine for the intestines."

- Clement of Alexandria, The Paedogogus, Chapter 2

St. Clement seems to be advocating a Reformed view, but I would suggest a more in-depth study to his theology. Let's suppose though that he held a full Reformed theological perspective to the Eucharist, suppose all the fathers Turretinfan quoted did the same, then what? That would be meaningless, because the holy fathers are not infallible. They are the witnesses of our fundamental truths, but they of their own selves do not decide what is dogma and what isn't. For this we turn to the infallible and holy General Councils, specifically Ephesus,

"We will necessarily add this also. Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the unbloody sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his holy flesh and the precious blood of Christ the Savior of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his flesh, he made it also to be life-giving" (Session 1, Letter of Cyril to Nestorius)

Even before Ephesus, as Kelly notes in his book, the Eucharistic teaching was universally held as realistic, and sacramental.

Let's finish up. Turretinfan quotes Theodoret,

"Moreover the Lord Himself promised to give on behalf of the life of the world, not His invisible nature, but His body. "For," He says, "the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world," and when He took the symbol of divine mysteries, He said, "This is my body which is given for you.""

- Theodoret, Letter 130

I will leave that as is and provide the reader with another quote that I believe shows Theodoret's complete theology on this subject,

"Just as the symbols are one thing before the invocation of the priest, and after the invocation are changed and become another thing so the body of the Lord is changed after the ascension into the divine substance." - Theodoret, Eranistes, Dialogue 2

Lastly Turretinfan amazingly quotes what is alledged to be a lost fragment of St. Irenaeus, quoting it as thought it somehow goes against the Western and Eastern doctrine of the Eucharist,

"Those who have become acquainted with the secondary (i.e., under Christ) constitutions of the apostles, are aware that the Lord instituted a new oblation in the new covenant, according to [the declaration of] Malachi the prophet. For, "from the rising of the sun even to the setting my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice;" [Malachi 1:11] as John also declares in the Apocalypse: "The incense is the prayers of the saints." Then again, Paul exhorts us "to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." [Romans 12:1] And again, "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of the lips." [Hebrews 13:15] Now those oblations are not according to the law, the handwriting of which the Lord took away from the midst by cancelling it; [Colossians 2:14] but they are according to the Spirit, for we must worship God "in spirit and in truth." [John 4:24] And therefore the oblation of the Eucharist is not a carnal one, but a spiritual; and in this respect it is pure. For we make an oblation to God of the bread and the cup of blessing, giving Him thanks in that He has commanded the earth to bring forth these fruits for our nourishment. And then, when we have perfected the oblation, we invoke the Holy Spirit, that He may exhibit this sacrifice, both the bread the body of Christ, and the cup the blood of Christ, in order that the receivers of these antitypes may obtain remission of sins and life eternal. Those persons, then, who perform these oblations in remembrance of the Lord, do not fall in with Jewish views, but, performing the service after a spiritual manner, they shall be called sons of wisdom."

- Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenæus, Section 37 (I should point out that I'm not sure about the legitimacy of the authorship of this quotation.)

I don't think any Roman or Greek would disagree. I know Trent wouldn't,

"And He would also that this sacrament should be received as the spiritual food of souls, whereby may be fed and strengthened those who live with His life who said, He that eateth me, the same also shall live by me; and as an antidote, whereby we may be freed from daily faults, and be preserved from mortal sins." - Trent, Session 13, Chapter 2

But supposing Trent too erred. What then? The Protestants must answer to the Synods of Constantinople and Jerusalem of the Orthodox Churches, specifically in the Jerusalem Synod,

"Article XVII.—The Eucharist is both a sacrament and a sacrifice, in which the very body and blood of Christ are truly and really (ἀληθῶς καὶ πραγματικῶς) present under the figure and type (ἐν εἴδει καὶ τύπῳ) of bread and wine, are offered to God by the hands of the priest as a real though unbloody sacrifice for all the faithful, whether living or dead (ὑπὲρ πάντων τῶν εὐσεβῶν ζώντων καὶ τεθνεώτων), and are received by the hand and the mouth of unworthy as well as worthy communicants, though with opposite effects. The Lutheran doctrine is rejected, and the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation (μεταβολή, μετουσίωσις) is taught as strongly as words can make it; but it is disclaimed to give an explanation of the mode in which this mysterious and miraculous change of the elements takes place."

In the end, it is the Councils which make the final descision. I would advise Protestants not to interpret the General Councils according to their own understanding, but allow the very same Churches which put forth those same Councils to interpret them. Clearly, the Jerusalem and Tridentine Synods interpreted with much clarity what the Ephesus Council previously declared, though not directly naming that said Holy Council.

In closing, I'd like to provide a passage given to me by a Lutheran-Orthodox friend which helps bring to further clarity the Eucharistic view in those early days of the Christian Church:

"This is what Abba Daniel, the Pharanite, said, 'Our Father Abba Arsenius told us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and of simple faith; through his naivete he was deceived and said, 'The bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.' Two old men having learnt that he had uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to find him and said, 'Father, we have heard a proposition contrary to the faith on the part of someone who says that the bread which we received is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol.' The old man said, 'It is I who have said that.' Then the old men exhorted him saying, 'Do not hold this position, Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the catholic Church has given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of Christ and that the cup itself is his blood and this in all truth and not a symbol. But as in the beginning, God formed man in his image, taking the dust of the earth, without anyone being able to say that it is not the image of God, even though it is not seen to be so; thus it is with the bread of which he said that it is his body; and so we believe that it is really the body of Christ.' The old man said to them, 'As long as I have not been persuaded by the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced.' So they said, 'Let us pray God about this mystery throughout the whole of this week and we believe that God will reveal it to us.' The old man received this saying with joy and he prayed these words, 'Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do not believe and so that I may not err through ignorance, reveal this mystery to me, Lord Jesus Christ.' The old men returned to their cells and they also prayed God, saying, 'Lord Jesus Christ, reveal this mystery to the old man, that he may believe and not lose his reward.' God heard both the prayers. At the end of the week they came to church on Sunday and sat all three on the same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their eyes were opened and when the bread was placed on the holy table, there appeared as it were a little child to these three alone. And when the priest put out his hand to break the bread, behold and angel descended from heaven with a sword and poured the child's blood into the chalice. When the priest cut the bread into small pieces, the angle also cut the child into pieces. When they drew near to receive the sacred elements the old man alone received a morsel of the bloody flesh. Seeing this he was afraid and cried out, 'Lord, I believe that this bread is your flesh and this chalice your blood.' Immediately the flesh which he held in his hand became bread, according to the mystery and he took it, giving thanks to God. Then the old men said to him, 'God knows human nature and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into bread and his blood into wine, for those who receive it in faith.' Then they gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the reward of his labor. So all three returned with joy to their own cells." - pp. 53-54, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection" from Cistercian Publications.

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