Some considerations on your (Radical’s) further quotations, after my HO about Christian Doctrine Book III Ch 16 in the previous post which I hope you have time to consider.
- To begin with, let’s observe something that can be anything from obvious to striking, depending on where you’re coming from.
In the sentences from Sermon 272 you specifically quote you have the words pronounced every time, delivering a piece of eucharistic bread: “The body of Christ”, and the answer by the believer: “Amen”. What is striking, or obvious, or ( i’d probably say ) both of them, is that these are the very words you hear at every Eucharist in every catholic Church in 2008, precisely as in Augustine’s time and in every generation inbetween.
In our time, when the minister says “Body of Christ”, he means …“Body of Christ”. Do we have any compelling reason to believe that, on the contrary, the very same words “Body of Christ” pronounced on the eucharistic bread in the IV or V century would mean something radically different, ie something like: " This is NOT really the body of Christ" ?
Have we a general picture of the Church of that time obliging us to imagine this dramatic semantic change of the formulation through the following centuries ? When and how did this semantic, theological, ecclesial earthquake take place in the post-V century Church ?
As far as I can now remember we have isolated voices AGAINST Real Presence, recorded in the IX century. This could show that, after Augustine, and before the IX century one has to find the beginning the development and the success of this major paradigm shift.
What evidence do we have about that ? Can we find any age in Church History when the doctrine of Real Presence was a challenger rather than being challenged ?
- The Catholic Church maintains that Augustine gave an exceptional contribution to the understanding of the Sacrament of Eucharist, and of its “inexhaustible richness”. That is so true, and Augustine appears so organic within catholic eucharistic doctrine, that he is repeatedly quoted in the pages of the Catechism dealing with that Sacrament, considered central in the life of the Church.
I hope these passages can help
1396 The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body - the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body.233 The Eucharist fulfills this call: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread:"234
If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. To that which you are you respond “Amen” (“yes, it is true!”) and by responding to it you assent to it. For you hear the words, “the Body of Christ” and respond “Amen.” Be then a member of the Body of Christ that your Amen may be true.235 "
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes precisely the sentence you quoted. It happens in the context of the ecclesial dimension of Eucharist.
Let’s read the Catechism again:
1368 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.
In the catacombs the Church is often represented as a woman in prayer, arms outstretched in the praying position. Like Christ who stretched out his arms on the cross, through him, with him, and in him, she offers herself and intercedes for all men. …
1372 St. Augustine admirably summed up this doctrine that moves us to an ever more complete participation in our Redeemer’s sacrifice which we celebrate in the Eucharist:
*This wholly redeemed city, the assembly and society of the saints, is offered to God as a universal sacrifice by the high priest who in the form of a slave went so far as to offer himself for us in his Passion, to make us the Body of so great a head. . . . Such is the sacrifice of Christians: “we who are many are one Body in Christ” The Church continues to reproduce this sacrifice in the sacrament of the altar so well-known to believers wherein it is evident to them that in what she offers she herself is offered.*196
( Quotation from De Civitate Dei 10,6 )
Now, Radical, I am not qualified enough to get and explain
in its multiple aspects the beautiful and difficult doctrines the Church and Augustine teach us in these passages.
But we see here how interwoven the Church’s teaching and Augustine’s teaching are. ( was it by chance that he was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in the XIII century ? ).
Note that the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist is affirmed by Augustine as clearly as by the Church. Do you reject the sacrificial nature ? Or do you imagine it without Real Presence ?
You say: “Augustine is not saying that Jesus’s body is really on the Lord’s table and that the participant eats Jesus’s body any more than he is saying that the believers (who he is addressing) are really on the Lord’s table and that they are eating themselves.” You appear to propose this as a reductio ad absurdum, so that everyone may understand that Augustine would teach that we do not eat the Lord’s Flesh in the Eucharist.
Here is the beginning of Sermon 132 on the New Testament:
*1. As we heard when the Holy Gospel was being read, the Lord Jesus Christ exhorted us by the promise of eternal life to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. You that heard these words, have not all as yet understood them. For those of you who have been baptized and the faithful do know what He meant. But those among you who are yet called Catechumens, or Hearers, could be hearers, when it was being read, could they be understanders too? Accordingly our discourse is directed to both. Let them who already eat the Flesh of the Lord and drink His Blood, think What it is they eat and drink, lest, as the Apostle says, they eat and drink judgment to themselves. But they who do not yet eat and drink, let them hasten when invited to such a Banquet. *
You see: according to St. Augustine the baptized ones do eat the Lord’s Flesh and drinking His Blood ( and therefore must remember Paul’s words quoted above), the catechumens not yet.
If doubts remain about whether St. Augustine is speaking about the Eucharistic Table, consider this passage from the same sermon:
those of you who have not yet wives, and who yet already approach to the Lord’s Table, and eat the Flesh of Christ, and drink His Blood, if you are about to marry, keep yourselves for your wives.
There is no limiting qualification here: they just eat the Flesh of Christ. Again, you can see a total agreement between Augustine’s words and the teachings of the Church.
Concerning the title of the thread, after this short examination, the answer has then to be affirmative, IMHO.
You could again ask at this point : “does that mean we eat the Church, the believers, ourselves precisely as we eat His Flesh ?”
I haven’t got under my eyes a magisterial statement on this. IMHO, since the Eucharist makes the Church as the Body of Christ, and makes the believer more fully member of that Body, and since on the Lord’s table there is “our sacrament” only because there is His Body and we confess that, what can be said about the believer’s presence appears strictly derivative in relation to the Lord’s Real Presence.
We should explore this fascinating issue much more.
I just hope this already too long post may somehow help in seeing
- how strong the harmony between Augustine and the Church is in matters of Real Presence and eucharistic doctrine in general.
*- how difficult it is to think of Real Presence as of a non-original doctrinal paradigm, which sometime, somehow challenged and ultimately substituted a previous one. *