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The Heresy of Berengarius, and the Pretended Reformers, concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist

1. Mosheim, the Protestant Ecclesiastical Historian, asserts (1) that in the 9th century, the exact nature of the faith of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist was not established, and that, therefore, Pascasius Radbertus laid down in a book he wrote two principal points concerning it; first, that after the consecration nothing remained of the substance of the bread and wine, and, secondly, that in the consecrated Host is the very body of Jesus Christ, which was born of Mary, died on the cross, and arose from the sepulchue, and this, he said, is " what the whole world believes and professes." This work was opposed by Retramn, and perhaps others, and hence Mosheim concludes that the dogma was not then established. In this, however, he is astray, for, as Selvaggi writes (note 79, vol. iii), there was no controversy at all about the dogma, in which Retramn was agreed with Radbert; he only attacked some expressions in his work. (1) Mosh. His. t. 3, Cent. IX. c. 3, p. 1175.  The truth of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the altar has been always established and universally embraced by the whole Church, as Vincent of Lerins says, in 434: " Mos iste semper in Ecclesia viguit, ut quo quisque forte religiosior, eo promtius novellis adinventionibus contrairet." Up to the ninth century the Sacrament of the Eucharist never was impugned, till John Scotus Erigena, an Irishman, first published to the world the unheard-of heresy that the body and blood of Christ were not in reality in the Holy Eucharist, which, he said, was only a figure of Jesus Christ.  

2. Berengarius, or Berenger, taught the same heresy in the year 1050, taking his opinions from the works of Scotus Erigena, and in the twelfth century we find the Petrobrussians and Henricians, who said that the Eucharist was only a mere sign of the body and blood of our Lord. The Albigenses held the same error in the thirteenth century, and finally, in the sixteenth century the modern Reformers all joined in attacking this Holy Sacrament. Zuingle and Carlostad said that the Eucharist was a signification of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and Ecolampadius joined them afterwards, and Bucer, also, partially. Luther admitted the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but said that the substance of the bread remained there also. Calvin several times changed his opinion on the matter; he said, in order to deceive the Catholics, that the Eucharist was not a mere sign, or naked figure of Christ, but was filled with his Divine Virtue, and sometimes he even admitted that the very substance of the body of Christ was there, but his general opinion was that the presence of Christ was not real but figurative, by the power placed there by our Lord. Hence Bossuet says in his " Variations," he never wished to admit that the sinner, in communicating receives the body of Christ, for then he should admit the Real Presence. The Council of Trent (Sess. xiii, c. 1), teaches, " that Jesus Christ, God and man, is really, truly, and substantially contained under the appearance of those sensible things in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine."  

3. Before we prove the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we must know that it is a true Sacrament, as the Council of Florence declares in its Decree or Instruction for the Armenians; and the Council of Trent (Sess. vii. c. 1), in opposition to the Socinians, who say that it is not a Sacrament, but merely a remembrance of the death of our Saviour. It is, however, an article of Faith that the Eucharist is a true Sacrament; for, First, we have the sensible sign, the appearance of bread and wine. Secondly, there is the institution of Christ: " Do this in commemoration of me" (Luke, xxii). Thirdly, there is the promise of Grace: " Who eats my flesh hath eternal life." We now have to inquire what in the Eucharist constitutes a Sacrament. The Lutherans say that it is in the use, with all the actions that Christ did, at the last Supper, that the Sacrament consists, as St. Matthew tells us: " Jesus took bread, blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to his disciples" (Matt. xxvi). The Calvinists, on the other hand, say that it is in the actual eating that the Sacrament consists. We Catholics believe that the consecration is not the Sacrament, because that is a transitory action, and the Eucharist is a permanent Sacrament, as we shall show hereafter (sec. 3), nor the use or communion, for this regards the effect of the Sacrament, which is a Sacrament before it is received at all, nor in the species alone, for these do not confer Grace, nor the body of Jesus Christ alone, because it is not there in a sensible manner; but the sacramental species, together with the body of Christ, form the Sacrament, inasmuch as they contain the body of our Lord.  


4. We have already said that the Council of Trent (Sess. xiii, c. 3) teaches that Jesus Christ is contained in the sacramental species, truly, really, and substantially truly, rejecting the figurative presence, for the figure is opposed to truth; really, rejecting the imaginary presence which Faith makes us aware of, as the Sacramentarians assert; and substantially, rejecting the doctrine of Calvin, who said that in the Eucharist it was not the body of Christ, but his virtue or power, that was present, by which he communicates himself to us; but in this he erred, for the whole substance of Jesus Christ is in the Eucharist. Hence, the Council of Trent (Can. 1), condemns those who assert that Christ is in the Sacrament as a sign, or figure, signo, vel figura, aut virtute.  

5. The Real Presence is proved, first, by the words of Christ himself: "Take and eat, this is my body," words which are quoted by St. Matthew (xxvi, 26); St. Mark (xiv, 22); St. Luke (xxii, 19); and St. Paul (I. Cor. xi, 24). It is a certain rule, says St. Augustine (1), and is commonly followed by the Holy Fathers, to take the words of Scripture in their proper literal sense, unless some absurdity would result from doing so; for if it were allowed to explain every thing in a mystic sense, it would be impossible to prove any article of Faith from the Scripture, and it would only become the source of a thousand errors, as every one would give it whatever sense he pleased. Therefore, says the Council (Cap. 1), it is an enormous wickedness to distort the words of Christ by feigned figurative explanations, when three of the Evangelists and St. Paul give them just as he expressed them: " Quæ verba a sanctis Evangelistis commemorata, et a D. Paulo repetita cum propriam illam significationem præ se ferant indignissimum flagitium est ea ad fictitios tropos contra universum Ecclesiæ sensum detorqueri." Who will dare to doubt that it is his body and blood, says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, when Christ has said so (2)? " Cum ipse de pane pronunciaverit. Hoc est corpus meum, quis audebit deinceps ambigere? Et cum idem Ipse dixerit. Hie est sanguis meus, quis dicet non esse ejus sanguinem?" We put this question to the heretics: Could Jesus Christ turn the bread into his body or not? We believe not one of them will deny that he could, for every Christian knows that God is all-powerful, "because no word shall be impossible with God" (Luke i, 37). But they will answer, perhaps: We do not deny that he could, but perhaps he did not wish to do it. Did not wish to do it, perhaps? But tell me, if he did wish to do so, could he have possibly declared more clearly what his will was, than by saying: " This is my body?" When he was asked by Caiphas: "Art thou the Christ the Son of the blessed God? And Jesus said to him: I am" (Mark, xiv, 61, 62), we should say, according to their mode of explanation, that he spoke figuratively also. (1) St. Aug. l. 3, de Doct, Chris. c. 10. (2) St. Cyril. Hieros. Cath. Mystagog. 4.  Besides, if you allow, with the Sacramentarians, that the words of Christ: " This is my body," are to be taken figuratively, why, then, do you object to the Socinians, who say that the words of Christ, quoted by St. John (x, 30): " I and the Father are one," ought to be taken not literally, but merely showing that between Christ and the Father there existed a moral union of the will, but not a union of substance, and, consequently denied his Divinity. We now pass on to the other proofs.  

6. The Real Presence is proved, secondly, by that text of St. John where Christ says: " The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" (John, vi, 52). Our adversaries explain away this text, by saying, that here our Redeemer does not in this chapter speak of the Eucharist, but of the Incarnation of the Word. We do not say that in the beginning of the chapter it is the Incarnation that is spoken of; but there cannot be the least doubt but that from the 52nd verse out it is the Eucharist, as even Calvin admits (3); and it was thus the Fathers and Councils always understood it, as the Council of Trent, which (Cap. 2, Sess. xiii, and Cap. 1, Sess. xxii) quotes several passages from that chapter to confirm the Real Presence; and the Second Council of Nice (Act. 6) quotes the 54th verse of the same chapter: " Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man," &c., to prove that the true body of Christ is offered up in the Sacrifice of the Mass. (3) Calvin. Instit. l. 4, c. 17, s. 1.  It is in this chapter, also, that our Saviour promises to give to the Faithful, at a future time, his own flesh as food: " The bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world" (ver. 52), and here he sets totally aside the false explanation of the sectarians, who say that he only speaks of the spiritual manducation by means of Faith, in believing the Incarnation of the Word; for if that was our Lord’s meaning, he would not say: " The bread which I will give," but " the bread which I have given," for the Word was already incarnate, and his disciples might then spiritually feed on Jesus Christ; therefore he said: " I will give," for he had not as yet instituted the Sacrament, but only promised to do so, and as St. Thomas (4) remarks, he says, " the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world;" he did not say, it means my flesh (as the Zuinglians afterwards explained it), but it is my flesh, because it is truly the body of Christ which is received. Our Lord next says: " My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John, vi, 56); and, therefore, St. Hilary (5) says he leaves us no room to doubt of the truth of his body and blood. In fact, if the real body and blood of Christ were not in the Eucharist, this passage would be a downright falsehood. We should not forget, also, that the distinction between meat and drink can only be understood as referring to the eating of the true body, and drinking the true blood of Christ, and not of spiritual eating by faith, as the Reformers assert; for, as that is totally internal, the meat and the drink would be only one and the same thing, and not two distinct things.  

7. We have another strong proof in the same chapter of St. John (chap, vi); for the people of Caphernaum, hearing Christ speak thus, said: " How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (ver. 53); and they even thought it so unreasonable, that " after this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him" (ver, 67). Now, if the flesh of Christ was not really in the Eucharist, he could remove the scandal from them at once, by saying that it was only spiritually they were called on to eat his flesh by faith; but, instead of that, he only confirmed more strongly what he said before, for he said: " Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you" (ver. 54). And he then turned to the twelve disciples, who remained with him, and said: " Will you also go away? And Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have known that thou art the Christ the Son of God" (ver. 69, 70). 

8. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is proved also from the words of St. Paul: " For let a man prove himself for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord" (I. Cor. xi, 28, 29). Now, mark these words, " the body of the Lord." Does not that prove how erroneously the sectarians act, in saying that in the Eucharist we venerate, by faith, the figure alone of the body of Christ; for if that was the case, the Apostle would not say that they who received in sin were deserving of eternal condemnation; but he clearly states that one who communicates unworthily is so, for he does not distinguish the body of the Lord from the common earthly food. (4) St. Thom. Loc. 9, in Joan. (5) St. Hilar. l. 8, de Trin. n. 13.  

9. Fourthly, it is proved again from St. Paul, for speaking of the use of this Holy Sacrament, he says: " The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? and the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?" (I. Cor. x, 16). Mark the words, " the bread which we break;" that which is first offered to God on the altar, and afterwards distributed to the people, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? Do not, in a word, those who receive it partake of the true body of Christ?  

10. Fifthly, it is proved by the Decrees of Councils. We find it first mentioned in the Council of Alexandria, which was afterwards approved of by the first Council of Constantinople. Next, the Council of Ephesus sanctioned the twelve anathematisms of St. Cyril against Nestorius, and in this the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is taught. The Second Council of Nice (Act. 6) condemns, as an error against Faith, the assertion that the figure alone, and not the true body of Christ, is in the Eucharist; for, says the Council, Christ said, take and eat, this is my body, but he did not say, take and eat, this is the image of my body. In the Roman Council, under Gregory VII., in 1079, Berengarius, in the Profession of Faith which he made, confesses that the bread and wine are, by the consecration, substantially converted into the body and blood of Christ. The Fourth Council of Lateran, under Innocent III., in the year 1215 (chap. 1), says: " We believe that the body and blood of Christ are contained under the species of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into the body, and the wine into the blood." In the Council of Constance the Propositions of Wickliffe and Huss were condemned, which said that (in the Eucharist) the bread was present in reality, and the body figuratively, and that the expression " this is my body" is a figure of speech, just like the expression, " John is Elias" The Council of Florence, in the Decree of Union for the Greeks, decrees, " that the body of Christ is truly consecrated (veracitur confici) in bread of wheat, either leavened or unleavened."  

11. It is proved, sixthly, by the perpetual and uniform Tradition of the Holy Fathers. St. Ignatius the Martyr (6) says: " Eucharistiam non admittunt, quod non confiteantur Eucharistiam esse carnem Salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi." St. Iræneus (7): " Panis percipiens invocationem Dei jam non communis panis est sed Eucharistia." And in another place he says (8): " Eum, panem in quo gratis sunt actæ, corpus esse Christi, et calicem sanguinis ejus." St. Justin, Martyr, writes (9): " Non hunc ut communem panem suminus, sed quemadmodum per verbum Dei caro factum est J. C. carnem habuit," &c. He, there fore, says, that the same flesh which the Word assumed is in the Eucharist. Tertullian (10) says: " Caro corpore et sanguine Christi vescitur, ut et anima de Deo saginctur." Origen writes (11): " Quando vitse pane et poculo frueris, manducas et bibis, corpus et sanguinem Domini." Hear St. Ambrose (12): " Panis iste panis est ante verba Sacramentorum; ubi accessor it consecratio, de pane fit caro Christi." St Chrysostom says (13): " Quot nunc dicunt vellem ipsius formam aspicere Ecce cum vides, Ipsum tangis, Ipsum manducas." St. Athanasius, St. Basil, and St. Gregory of Nazianzen, express the same sentiments (14). St. Augustine says (15): " Sicut mediatorem Dei et hominum, hominem Christum Jesum, carnem suam nobis manducandam, bibendumque sanguinem dantem ficlei corde suspicimus." St. Remigius (16) says: "Licet panis videatur, in veritate corpus Christi est." St. Gregory the Great writes (17): " Quid sit sanguis agni non jam audiendo sed libcndo didicistis qui sanguis super utrumque postern ponitur quando non solum ore corporis, sed etiam ore cordis hauritur." (6) St. Ignat. Ep. ad Smirn. ap. Theodor. Dial. 3 (7) St. Iræn. l. ad Huer. c. 18, al 34. (8) Idem, 1. 4, c. 34. (9) St. Justin. Apol. 2. (10) Tertul. l. Resur. c. 8. c. 9. (11) Grig. Hom. 5, in divers. (12) St. Amb. l. 4, de Sacram. c. 4, (13) St. Chrys. Horn, ad Pop. Antioch.. (14) Apud. Antoin. de Euch. Theol. Univer. c. 4, 1. (15) St. Aug. l. 2, con. adver. legis. c. 9 (16) St. Remig. in Ep. ad Cor. c. 10. (17) St. Greg. Hom. 22, in Evang.  St. John of Damascus (18) writes: " Panis, ac vinum, et aqua qua per Spiritus Sancti invocationem et adventum mirabili modo in Christi corpus et sanguinem vertuntur." Thus we see an uninterrupted series of Fathers for the first seven centuries proclaiming, in the clearest and most forcible language, the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.  

12. By this we see how false is the interpretation which Zuinglius put on that text, " This is my body," when he said that the word is means signifies, founding his heresy on a verse of Exodus (xii, 11): " For it is the Phase (that is the passage) of the Lord." Now, said he, the eating of the paschal lamb was not itself the passage of the Lord; it only meant it, or signified it. The Zuinglians alone follow this interpretation, for we never can take the sense of the word is for the word means or signifies, unless in cases, where reason itself shows that the word is has a figurative meaning; but in this case the Zuinglian explanation is contrary to the proper literal sense, in which we should always understand the Scriptures, when that sense is not repugnant to reason. The Zuinglian explanation is also opposed to St. Paul, relating to us the very words of Christ: " This is my body, which shall be delivered up for you" (I. Cor. xi, 24). Our Lord, we see, did not deliver up, in his Passion, the sign or signification of his body, but his real and true body. The Zuinglians say, be sides, that in the Syro-Chaldaic or Hebrew, in which our Redeemer spoke, when instituting the Eucharist, that there is no word corresponding in meaning to our word signify, and hence, in the Old Testament, we always find the word is used instead of it, and, therefore, the words of Christ, " This is my body," should be understood, as if he said, "This signifies my body." We answer: First It is not the fact that the word signifies is never found in the Old Testament, for we find in Exodus: " Man-hu ! which signifieth: What is this" (Exod. xvi, 15); and in Judges (xiv, 15): " Persuade him to tell thee what the riddle meaneth;" and in Ezechiel (xvii, 12): " Know you not what these things mean." Secondly Although the words mean or signify are not found in the Hebrew or Syro-Chaldaic, still the word is must not always be taken for it, only in case that the context should show that such is the intention of the speaker; but in this case the word has surely its own signification, a we learn, especially from the Greek version; this language has both words, and still the Greek text says, " This is my body," and not " This means my body." (18) St. Joan. Daneas, l. 4, Orthodox, c. 14.  

13. The opinion of those sectarians, who say that in the Eucharist only a figure exists, and not the body of Christ in reality, is also refuted by these words of our Lord, already quoted: " This is my body, which shall be delivered up for you" (I. Cor. xi, 24); for Jesus Christ delivered up his body to death, and not the figure of his body. And, speaking of his sacred blood, he says (St. Matt, xxvi, 28): " For this is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins." Christ, then, shed his real blood, and not the figure of his blood; for the figure is expressed by speech, or writing, or painting, but the figure is not shed. Piceninus (19) objects that St. Augustine, speaking of that passage of St. John, " Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man." says that the flesh of our Lord is a figure, bringing to our mind the memory of his passion: "Figura est præcipiens Passione Dominica esse communicandum." We answer, that we do not deny that our Redeemer instituted the Holy Eucharist, in memory of his death, as we learn from St. Paul (I. Cor. xi, 26): " For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord until he come;" but still we assert, that in the Eucharist there is the true body of Christ, and there is, at the same time, a figure, commemorative of his death; and this is St. Augustine’s meaning, for he never doubted that the body and blood of Christ were in the Eucharist really and truly, as he elsewhere expresses it (20): " Panis quem videtis in Altari, sanctificatus per verbum Dei, Corpus est Christi."  

14. There is, I should say, no necessity of refuting Calvin’s opinions on the Real Presence, for he constantly refutes himself, changing his opinion a thousand times, and always cloaking it in ambiguous terms. Bossuet and Du Hamel (21) may be consulted on this point. (19) St. Aug. l. 3, de Doct. Christian. c. 16. (20) St. Aug. Ser. 83, de Div. n. 27. (21) Bossuet, His. des Variat. t. 2, l. 9; Du Hamel, Theol. De Euch.  They treat the subject extensively, and quote Calvin’s opinion, who says, at one time, that the true substance of the body of Christ is in the Eucharist, and then again (22), that Christ is united to us by Faith; so that, by the presence of Christ, he understands a presence of power or virtue in the Sacrament; and this is confirmed by him in another part of his works, where he says that Christ is just as much present to us in the Eucharist as he is in Baptism. At one time, he says the Sacrament of the Altar is a miracle, and then again (23), the whole miracle, he says, consists in this, that the Faithful are vivified by the flesh of Christ, since a virtue so powerful descends from heaven on earth. Again, he says that even the unworthy receive in the Supper the body of Christ, and then, in another place (24), he says that he is received by the elect alone. In fine, we see Calvin struggling, in the explanation of this dogma, not to appear a heretic with the Zuinglians, nor a Catholic with the Roman Catholics. Here is the Profession of Faith which the Calvinist Ministers presented to the Prelates, at the Conference of Poissy, as Bossuet gives it (25): " We believe that the body and blood are really united to the bread and wine, but in a sacramental manner that is, not according to the natural position of bodies, but inasmuch as they signify that God gives his body and blood to those who truly receive him by Faith." It was remarkable in that Conference, that Theodore Beza, the first disciple of Calvin, and who had hardly time to have imbibed all his errors, said publicly, as De Thou (26) relates, " that Jesus Christ was as far from the Supper as the heavens were from the earth." The French Prelates then drew up a true Confession of Faith, totally opposed to the Calvinists: " We believe," said they, " that in the Sacrament of the Altar there is really and transubstantially the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine, by the power of the Divine Word pronounced by the Priest," &c. (22) Calvin, Inst. l. 4, c. 1 1 . (23) Idem. (24) Idem (25) Bossuet, t. 2, l. 9. (26) Thuan. l. 28, r. 48. 

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