Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Saints - They've Been There, Done That

I have to admit... there is one frustrating thing about being Catholic. Every time you think you've come up with something new or some clever exegesis or allegory - you'll only find that if there's any truth in what you've thought, you can rest assured that a Church father has already come up with it.

In response to the most fundamental objection to transubstantiation, (it's obviously still bread - look at it!), I would reply with my 'own' explanation: If you were a first century Jew and you saw Christ walking around in Palestine and someone told you "that's God" you would laugh. You might respond, "I can see he's not God! He's a man. Man isn't God, therefore he's not God" and we are saying the same thing of the Eucharist "that bread is not the body of Christ, I can see it is bread. Bread isn't flesh and therefore that is not the flesh of our Lord".

But you would be mistaken in both accounts. Because if you were to shake Jesus' hand, you literally just shook the hand of God. You did not shake the hand of a shell God was living in. Jesus' body was and is literally the body of God. It is actually much easier for me to conceive of that bread became God than that God became man.

So I thought I was clever. Only to find out recently (thanks to Mike Aquilina's book - The Fathers of the Church) that St. Ambrose had already explained this entire argument and much better than I could 1700 years ago!

Perhaps you will say, "I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ?" And this is the point which remains for us to prove. And what evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed.

Moses was holding a rod, he cast it down and it became a serpent. Again, he took hold of the tail of the serpent and it returned to the nature of a rod. You see that by virtue of the prophetic office there were two changes, of the nature both of the serpent and of the rod. The streams of Egypt were running with a pure flow of water; of a sudden from the veins of the sources blood began to burst forth, and none could drink of the river. Again, at the prophet's prayer the blood ceased, and the nature of water returned. The people of the Hebrews were shut in on every side, hemmed in on the one hand by the Egyptians, on the other by the sea; Moses lifted up his rod, the water divided and hardened like walls, and a way for the feet appeared between the waves. Jordan being turned back, returned, contrary to nature, to the source of its stream. Is it not clear that the nature of the waves of the sea and of the river stream was changed? The people of the fathers thirsted, Moses touched the rock, and water flowed out of the rock. Did not grace work a result contrary to nature, so that the rock poured forth water, which by nature it did not contain? Marah was a most bitter stream, so that the thirsting people could not drink. Moses cast wood into the water, and the water lost its bitterness, which grace of a sudden tempered. In the time of Elisha the prophet one of the sons of the prophets lost the head from his axe, which sank. He who had lost the iron asked Elisha, who cast in a piece of wood and the iron swam. This, too, we clearly recognize as having happened contrary to nature, for iron is of heavier nature than water.

We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet's blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world: "He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created." Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them.

But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.

The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: "This is My Body." Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name,after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.
Hope you had a wonderful Holy Thursday. I thought it fitting to post on the Eucharist before the day on which our Lord instituted it ends.


Tiber Jumper said...

thanks for the post. we just got back from adoration, what a fitting reading to end Holy Thursday!
God bless you GFF

Chad Toney said...


When explaining transubstantiation to evangelicals, Michael Cumbie relates it to what they believe happens to a person when that person "accepts Jesus". They change.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Good point - they have changed while no scientific evidence could be produced. Same with the bread - the 'accidents' have not changed but the substance has.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to share all you have on your blog. I'm PCA, walking a similar path... (canon, sola's, etc.)... I hope things continue working out for you doctrinally, and that they start working out for me doctrinally.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thanks for stopping by. If I can be of any help feel free to email me - gsira AT carolina DOT rr DOT com

A lot of big names in Catholicism have come from the PCA or very similar denominations (not that Im one of them) - Scott Hahn, James Akin and a few others. I still have a lot of respect for the PCA and the OPC - lots of great Protestant theologians from those denominations.

May God bless you on your journey.

Johnny Vino said...

So true. Not too long ago I thought I'd come up with an neat little analogy: We live our lives like we're playing music and must go from one note to the next - but God sees the whole score on paper and sent Christ to play it correctly. Then somebody pointed out to me that Augustine used that same metaphor (I can't remember the exact citation).

Ecclesiastes 1:9