Sunday, June 1, 2008

Litany of Heresies #6

Claiming that the Eucharist, rather than being established directly by Christ, was the result of an evolutionary process that arose from various “worship experiences.”

This statement is problematic on its face. Either the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist was present from the very beginning of the Church, or it was not. There is no rationale for believing that the Church of the Apostles’ time and immediately thereafter did not receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ via the Eucharist. The idea that the transformation of bread and wine was not immediately recognized in the Church, but instead evolved, raises the question of what exactly was done in this hypothetical intermediate period that would grant a valid and efficacious sacrament where there previously was none. The sacrament itself is reduced from being something instituted by Christ at the Last Supper to a trial and error effort on the part of the Apostles who apparently knew nothing of how to accomplish the Holy Consecration until they had undergone enough failures to understand how to “get it right.” Such a belief is contrary to known history and Catholic dogma.

St. Paul taught the Corinthians the truth regarding the consecrated species when he warned them against failing to discern the Body and Blood of Christ.[1] A cursory examination of the Ante-Nicean Fathers demonstrates that Christians were well-aware of the nature of the Holy Eucharist prior to and directly following the death of the last Apostle.[2] The Didache,[3] the Epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch,[4] and the testimony found in the First Apology of St. Justin Martyr[5] are obvious examples of this.

Moreover, infallible dogmas of the Church indicate that the Eucharist was present at the founding of the Church. The Council of Trent held:

If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord . . . let him be anathema.[6]

[F]or thus all our forefathers, as many as were in the true Church of Christ who have treated of his most holy Sacrament, have most openly professed, that our Redeemer instituted this so admirable a sacrament at the last supper, when, after the blessing of the bread and wine, He testified, in express and clear words, that He gave them His own very Body, and His own Blood; words which, -recorded by the holy Evangelists, and afterwards repeated by Saint Paul, whereas they carry with them that proper and most manifest meaning in which they were understood by the Fathers . . .[7]

And this faith has ever been in the Church of God, that immediately after the consecration, the veritable Body of our Lord, and His veritable Blood, together with His soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine . . .[8]

It is therefore clear from Scripture, Tradition, and the Extraordinary Magisterium that the belief in the Holy Eucharist has always been in the Church. The Ordinary Magisterium also contains an abundance of teaching to this same effect.[9] For the earliest Christians to have been ignorant of this reality would mean that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross lost its true meaning for a time, however brief. Such an occurrence would mean that the Church, at that point of time, was in error on this subject. As the Church cannot be in error, this view much be rejected.I am not suggesting that there had been no change in the Church’s liturgical practices throughout the centuries. What the instructors have challenged is the nature and essence of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the early Church, not the liturgical rite by which the sacrament was confected. In this section, I seek only to defend the early Church as having understood the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament from its inception.

[1] First Corinthians 11:20-29
[2] Circa 100 A.D.
[3] Circa 70 A.D.
[4] Circa 110 A.D.
[5] Circa 151 A.D.
[6] Council of Trent, Session VII, On the Sacrements in General, Canon I.
[7] Id. at Session XIII, Chapter I.
[8] Id. at Session XIII, Chapter 3.
[9] Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei § 129; Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia § 3. Cf. Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei. See also Catechism of the Catholic Church 1341-1345; Catechism of Pope Pius X, On the Eucharist, Questions 27-29; Catechism of the Council of Trent, On the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

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