The Real Presence: Augustine


#1

In a recent thread titled “Name one issue the ECF’s were unanimous on!” the OP challenged the notion of unanimous consensus, albeit with a faulty understanding of the term.

In this same thread, the OP sought to disprove certain doctrines which he deemed false by offering certain quotations from Church Fathers which, in his mind, supported his doctrinal tradition opposing the Catholic doctrinal stance.

One of these teachings the OP considers false is The Real Presence. In his effort to disprove this universal doctrine in the Early Church, he cited some quotations by Tertullian, Augustine, and Cyprian.

In this thread, so as to not derail the thread on unanimity, which obviously the OP misunderstands in any case, let’s examine those writings of St. Augustine which the OP believes are in opposition to Catholic doctrine!


#2

Here’s the first of myfavoritemartin’s claims and the corresponding quotation he cites for proof:

The entire letter to Boniface can be found here: newadvent.org/fathers/1102098.htm

The first thing one will notice when reading the full context of this letter is that it pertains not to the Sacrament of Eucharist, but rather to the regenerative effects of the Sacrament of Baptism. This was the purpose for the letter in general.

Secondly, it is interesting that myfavoritmartin did not cite the last few lines of paragraph 9. They are:

As, therefore, in a certain manner the sacrament of Christ’s body is Christ’s body, and the sacrament of Christ’s blood is Christ’s blood, in the same manner the sacrament of faith is faith. Now believing is nothing else than having faith; and accordingly, when, on behalf of an infant as yet incapable of exercising faith, the answer is given that he believes, this answer means that he has faith because of the sacrament of faith, and in like manner the answer is made that he turns himself to God because of the sacrament of conversion, since the answer itself belongs to the celebration of the sacrament. Thus the apostle says, in regard to this sacrament of Baptism: “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death.” Romans 6:4 He does not say, “We have signified our being buried with Him,” but “We have been buried with Him.” He has therefore given to the sacrament pertaining to so great a transaction no other name than the word describing the transaction itself.

A couple of things to note here.

  1. Contrary to myfavoritmartin’s claim, St. Augustine nowhere in this letter rejects or contradicts Transubstantiation. Instead, he affirms it quite rightly in the above emboldened text where he states: "in a certain manner the sacrament of Christ’s body is Christ’s body, and the sacrament of Christ’s blood is Christ’s blood. This, indeed, is what the Catholic Church teaches. The “certain manner” in which Christ’s body is Christ body and Christ’s blood is Christ’s blood is a sacramental manner.

  2. Further, in the second text highlighted in bold above, we have added support from St. Augustine regarding the efficacy of Sacrament. He says, in the case of Baptism, that the Baptismal water does not “signify” (or symbolize) burial with Christ, but rather it is a sacramental burial which actualizes the grace it also signifies. And such is the case with the Catholic understanding of Eucharist. The bread not only signifies the Body of Christ, but also becomes the actual Presence of Christ.

So, while this whole text does not particularly pertain to the Eucharist, it actually does serve as a good measure for the Sacraments on the whole, including the Eucharist.

Obviously, this does not serve myfavoritemartin’s position.


#3

Now, as the portion of paragraph 8 that myfavoritmartin chose is but a fraction of the whole, I will provide the link for the entire discourse on the Psalm and paragraph 8 in it entirity for the sake of this discussion.

The whole discourse can be found here: newadvent.org/fathers/1801099.htm

Paragraph 8 is as follows (myfavoritmartin’s quotation in bold):

  1. “O magnify the Lord our God” (ver. 5). Magnify Him truly, magnify Him well. Let us praise Him, let us magnify Him who has wrought the very righteousness which we have; who wrought it in us, Himself. For who but He who justified us, wrought righteousness in us? For of Christ it is said, “who justifies the ungodly.” Romans 4:5 …“And fall down before His footstool: for He is holy.” What are we to fall down before? His footstool. What is under the feet is called a footstool, in Greek ὑ ποπόδιον, in Latin Scabellum or Suppedaneum. But consider, brethren, what he commands us to fall down before. In another passage of the Scriptures it is said, “The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.” Isaiah 66:1 Doth he then bid us worship the earth, since in another passage it is said, that it is God’s footstool? How then shall we worship the earth, when the Scripture says openly, “You shall worship the Lord your God”? Deuteronomy 6:13 Yet here it says, “fall down before His footstool:” and, explaining to us what His footstool is, it says, “The earth is My footstool.” I am in doubt; I fear to worship the earth, lest He who made the heaven and the earth condemn me; again, I fear not to worship the footstool of my Lord, because the Psalm bids me, “fall down before His footstool.” I ask, what is His footstool? and the Scripture tells me, “the earth is My footstool.” In hesitation I turn unto Christ, since I am herein seeking Himself: and I discover how the earth may be worshipped without impiety, how His footstool may be worshipped without impiety. For He took upon Him earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He received flesh from the flesh of Mary. And because He walked here in very flesh, and gave that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation; and no one eats that flesh, unless he has first worshipped: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord’s may be worshipped, and not only that we sin not in worshipping it, but that we sin in not worshipping. But does the flesh give life? Our Lord Himself, when He was speaking in praise of this same earth, said, “It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing.”…But when our Lord praised it, He was speaking of His own flesh, and He had said, “Except a man eat My flesh, he shall have no life in him.” John 6:54 Some disciples of His, about seventy, were offended, and said, “This is an hard saying, who can hear it?” And they went back, and walked no more with Him. It seemed unto them hard that He said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you have no life in you:” they received it foolishly, they thought of it carnally, and imagined that the Lord would cut off parts from His body, and give unto them; and they said, “This is a hard saying.” It was they who were hard, not the saying; for unless they had been hard, and not meek, they would have said unto themselves, He says not this without reason, but there must be some latent mystery herein. They would have remained with Him, softened, not hard: and would have learned that from Him which they who remained, when the others departed, learned. For when twelve disciples had remained with Him, on their departure, these remaining followers suggested to Him, as if in grief for the death of the former, that they were offended by His words, and turned back. But He instructed them, and says unto them, “It is the Spirit that quickens, but the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63 Understand spiritually what I have said; you are not to eat this body which you see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth. I have commended unto you a certain mystery; spiritually understood, it will quicken. Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood.

#4

. . .continued

The full reading of this paragraph alone disproves myfavoritmartin’s claim that Augustine believed the Eucharist was only a symbol. I wonder if he actually read the whole work before he cited it?

I’d be happy to expose the meaning if it difficult to apprehend, but unlike many of Augustine’s writings this one proves quite straightforward and, again, perfectly in line with the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence. I’ve highlighted some of the most pertinent passages in green, in the previous post.

I think the last line of paragraph 8 captures especially well the Catholic understanding of the Real Presence. It is essentially a mystery. As human beings, we need to see and taste and hold and sense Christ, thus we have the signs of bread and wine. But, the full mystery of the Real Presence can not be understood by purely fleshly means. It is a sacramental reality which must be understood spiritually in spite of our sensual frailties.

And further, St. Augustine is so instructive as he explains the passage of Scripture about the Spirit and the flesh, especially as he focuses it on Christ. It is not Christ’s flesh which profits nothing! His flesh is Life for the world. It is true food. Instead, it is our fleshly adherence and worldly understanding which hardens our hearts from understanding the mystery of the Eucharist.

Obviously, myfavoritemartin got this one wrong, too.


#5

Once again, one must wonder if myfavoritmartin actually read the whole context of the quotation he cites?

The full tractate can be found here: newadvent.org/fathers/1701050.htm

In it, he compares two seemingly conflicting Scriptures. One: “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world,” Matthew 28:20 and the Other: “For the poor you have always with you, but me ye will not have always.” John 12:8.

St. Augustine, then, sets about explaining how Christ can be, as he puts it: “He is away, and He is here; He has returned, and will not forsake us; for He has carried His body into heaven, but His majesty He has never withdrawn from the world.” (paragraph 4)

He does not set this teaching to oppose the doctrine of the Real Presence. Instead, as evidenced in the full text, he uses it as a foundation for a explanation of the manifest Presence of Christ in the world.

In fact, pertaining to the Eucharist, he explains quite clearly. In the context of the full tractate, he refers to Christ’s manifest Presence as “sweet savor.” He cites: “[Christ] represented himself as the same sweet savor, to some unto life, to others unto death. Happy they who find life in this sweet savor!” (paragraph 7).

Then, pertaining to this “sweet savor,” Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist, he refers to the Last Supper:
“Of one bread did both Peter and Judas partake, and yet what communion had the believer with the infidel? Peter’s partaking was unto life, but that of Judas unto death. For that good bread was just like the sweet savor. For as the sweet savor, so also does the good bread give life to the good, and bring death to the wicked. “For he that eats unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself:” 1 Corinthians 11:29 “judgment to himself,” not to you. If, then, it is judgment to himself, not to you, bear as one that is good with him that is evil, that you may attain unto the rewards of the good, and be not hurled into the punishment of the wicked.” (paragraph 10)

Thus, once again, St. Augustine, Father of the Church, proves the efficacy of the Sacrament.

He does not, as myfavoritmartin misunderstands, form his discourse to disprove the Real Presence. Instead, he uses the Eucharistic Real Presence as an example of the “sweet savor,” the “good bread [which] gives life to the good.”

St. Augustine does not set up a diversion between the Eucharistic Real Presence and the ascended Body. Instead, here and throughout his work on the subject, Augustine supports the mysterious nature of the Sacrament while always recognizing the Real Presence and the efficacy of the Sacrament.


#6

But He instructed them, and says unto them, “It is the Spirit that quickens, but the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63

In John 6:63, Jesus says His words are spirit. He does not say “my flesh is a symbol” or “I am speaking symbolically.” Opponents of the CC always claim this, but it is not there. Nowhere in the NT is the word “spirit” used to mean “symbol.”

What is Jesus saying in John 6:63? He is saying the Holy Spirit will help us to understand his words. His disciples found this a hard teaching, we do too. (This saying is hard; who can accept it?John 6:60) If it were simply a symbolic understanding, why would it be such a hard teaching to accept? The disciples response of “this saying is hard” would make no sense if Jesus were speaking only of symbols.


#7

That may not contradict transubstantiation, but it certainly doesn’t affirm it. It sounds more like the classical Reformed understanding (at least the “Calvinist” as opposed to the “Zwinglian” position). And yes, I know that Augustine’s position on other things, like Eucharistic adoration (within the liturgy) was incompatible with the Reformed view of the Eucharist. I’m just saying that this particular passage fits the “Calvinist” view at least as well as it does transubstantiation, probably better given Augustine’s apparent unease with an overly literal approach.

That being said, I think one of the strongest arguments against the Protestant interpretation of Augustine is that his mentor St. Ambrose clearly taught a “metabolic” view (essentially transubstantiation but without the Aristotelian terminology), and Augustine never criticized it. My (Methodist) advisor used to say in his Church History lectures that Augustine actually affirmed a metabolic view in other passages, but I don’t recall ever seeing those myself.

BTW, did MFM claim that Augustine thought the Eucharist was only a symbol? He is talking through his hat in that case. But if he is claiming that his view is incompatible with transubstantiation (which is what I saw him claiming), then he has a case, although not an open-and-shut one.

Edwin


#8

Augustine appears to have a symbolic view of John 6 in the following. I think it can be said that early church fathers can, and often do, contradict themselves.

Chapter 16.CRule for Interpreting Commands and Prohibitions.

  1. If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,” says Christ, “and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53 This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us.-Augustine (On Christian Doctrine, Book 3, Chapter 16, Paragraph 24)

newadvent.org/fathers/12022.htm


#9

Cannot also the language from Augustine also be read consistently with the Lutheran understanding of Christ’s body and blood truly being “in, with and under” the bread and wine?


#10

Obviously if it can be made consistent with transubstantiation, it can presumably be made consistent with the Lutheran view (though Hermann Sasse argued that both Catholics and Reformed had inherited their categories for sacramental theology from Augustine, and that this was a mistake!). But Augustine’s basic approach seems to be in terms of a distinction (but not a separation) between the sign and the thing signified, which fits well with the more high-church version of Reformed Eucharistic theology (his understanding of sacrifice and of adoration, however, does not).

Edwin


#11

As a firm Catholic, anything I have to say to stress the importance of the Eucharist is hardly an exaggeration. The Eucharist is the center of Christian life in the same way Christ is the center of the Christian religion. Priests of our Church are ordained, not to preach the Gospel, not to comfort the sick, not to absolve sin, but to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass. Devotion to the Eucharist is not an incidental, pious practice. It is the very essence of Catholic life.

For now, just a little on St. Augustine and the Eucharist. He taught and believed what we believe. Why do I say that without saying what it is we believe. Well, “a priori”,”begging the question”, “non sequitur, the Doctor of Grace is one of 33 doctors of the Church. If there were even a hint that anything St. Augustine said was not totally consistent with the Canons of Trent about the Eucharist, he would be dispossessed of all his titles of “Doctor” and ‘sainthood’. Other great teachers were, and at these gigantic times, Augustine would be sacrificed to the truth, if he opped it. Let me assure you of that. Trent was determined to teach, and to define the Eucharist, as it already had been taught, against Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin. What was and is maddening to us is that non-Catholics, then and now, including the Reformers is that they commonly use Catholic terms, giving them a meaning which is entirely subversive to Catholic truth.

This doctrine, as defined by Trent, and taught by the Church today is none other than the teaching of Christ himself, and his Apostles, none other than the Eucharistic dogma which has been handed down to us infallibly by the tradition of the Catholic Church.

Trent says “that in the precious sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is truly, really and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things” (Trent, Sess XIII).

The three words, ‘truly, really, and substantially” are used by the Council with a definite purpose to reject three Protestant views concerning the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Zwingli held that his presence was only figurative. As opposed to this figurative presence the Council describes the presence as true. Others taught that Jesus is present by faith, essentially a memorial of what Christ did on Holy Thursday. But against Luther, Trent says that the presence is real, i.e. independent of the faith of the recipient. Finally, Calvin taught that Christ is present in the sacrament virtually, that is, inasmuch as he exercises his sanctifying power in the Eucharist. Against this, the Council teaches that Christ is substantially present in this sacrament, body and blood, soul and divinity.

What is, and what the Church teaches is frightening in its reality and enormity: Mysterium Fidei, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum.

And John tells us in Chapter 6, “After this, many of his disciples went back; and walked with him no more.

This post is a lead-in to the topic St. Augustine and the Eucharist. Later.

Christ has died, Christ is living, Christ will come again.
mgrfin


#12

This is what he claimed:

Augustines view of the presence contradicts transubstantiation.

Augustine compares the eucharist to a holiday in that it has some similarities to what it symbolizes, but it isn’t the same thing.

Augustine denies that there is any bodily presence of Christ in the church today.


#13

I agree that this particular letter could not serve as a strong proof text for transubstantiation, but, as you point out, it certainly doesn’t contradict it either. This was my point.

It sounds more like the classical Reformed understanding (at least the “Calvinist” as opposed to the “Zwinglian” position). And yes, I know that Augustine’s position on other things, like Eucharistic adoration (within the liturgy) was incompatible with the Reformed view of the Eucharist. I’m just saying that this particular passage fits the “Calvinist” view at least as well as it does transubstantiation, probably better given Augustine’s apparent unease with an overly literal approach.

This is a topic totally worthy of discussion, but I think projecting Augustine’s theology as a whole paints a more Catholic than Calvinist or Reformed portrait. I will admit, though, I don’t think, given his sensibilites, that Augustine had much interest in fleshing out the mode of transubstantiation. This, I think, is one of his most outstanding weaknesses. He paints broad strokes on several issues dividing Catholicism and Calvinism, thereby creating a breeding ground for argument.

That being said, I think one of the strongest arguments against the Protestant interpretation of Augustine is that his mentor St. Ambrose clearly taught a “metabolic” view (essentially transubstantiation but without the Aristotelian terminology), and Augustine never criticized it. My (Methodist) advisor used to say in his Church History lectures that Augustine actually affirmed a metabolic view in other passages, but I don’t recall ever seeing those myself.

Hmmm. . .I’d like to see those passages myself!

BTW, did MFM claim that Augustine thought the Eucharist was only a symbol?

Yeah, he did: forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=2563732&postcount=129

But if he is claiming that his view is incompatible with transubstantiation (which is what I saw him claiming), then he has a case, although not an open-and-shut one.

I think he claimed both what he termed a “symbolical theory of the Supper” and incompatibility with transubstantiation. Obviously, I agree it’s not so open-and-shut, but apparently he thought it was.


#14

And what if it is a figure? Does that mean that it is a symbol? No. It could be a metaphor.

As I have explained til I am blue in the face, John 6 may be thought to operate metaphorically but this in no way negates the reality of what Jesus says. Metaphor can be the transferring of one reality to another reality. And this is certainly the case in John 6.


#15

Part 2
St. Augustine, Ep. 54, c. 6: (Fasting) “It is clear that when the disciples first received the body and blood of the Lord, they did not receive fasting….Later, however, it pleased the Holy Spirit that, for the honor due to a great sacrament, the Body of Christ should enter the mouth of a Christian before any other food”.

Notice the advance of theology. Of course, there is not mention of ‘matter and form’, or ‘transubstantiation’ , or ‘Real Presence’, but I believe in the strength of the quote.

The Internet carries some of Augustine’s Sermons. They are very powerful (No. 222.):
I promised you, who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table, which you now look upon and of which you last night were made participants. You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. If you receive worthily, you are what you have received.
(Number 272): What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice the Blood of Christ. … How is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or what is in the chalice, how is it His Blood? Those elements, brethren, are called Sacraments, because in them one thing is seen, but another is understood. What is seen is the corporeal species, but what is understood is the spiritual fruit. … You, however, are the Body of Christ and His members.' If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ and His members, your mystery is presented at the table of the Lord, you receive your mystery. To that which you are, you answer:Amen’; and by answering, you subscribe to it. For you hear: The Body of Christ!' and you answer:Amen!’ Be a member of Christ’s Body, so that your `Amen’ may be the truth
St. Thomas says to us (ST, III, Q. lxxiii, art. 3): The effect of this sacrament union with the Mystical Body of Christ… (Augustine already said that).
It should be remembered that the Eucharist is a Sacrament, i.e., a sacred sign. There is the external element in the Eucharist, the appearances of bread and wine, with the proper function of which is to signify; and these are rightly called the sign of body and blood of Christ.
Therefore, if a patristic writer who clearly believes in the Real Presence, refers to the Eucharist as the sign of the body and blood of Christ, evidently he must be understood to mean that the appearances of bread and wine are the sign of the body and blood of Christ which are really, though invisibly present beneath them. This consideration is of particular use in the interpretation of many texts in the works of St. Augustine.


#16

Don’t forget that the Eastern Orthodox are in agreement with the Catholic Church on the Mass/Real Presence. It is not a dividing issue insofar as I can tell:

oca.org/QA.asp?ID=202&SID=3

So there was a common source of belief going back to before the split.


#17

Augustine like some of the other church fathers, believed in a type of presence of Christ in the eucharist, rejected the Roman Catholic interpretation of John 6.

“If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,’ says Christ, ‘and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.’ This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us.” - Augustine (On Christian Doctrine, 3:16:24)


#18

What is your authority for saying that Augustine and some of the Church fathers believed ibelieved in a type of presence of Christ in the eucharist, rejected the Roman Catholic interpretation of John 6

mgrfin


#19

Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, tr. Patrick Lynch, ed. James C. Bastible, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1974 (orig. 1952 in German), 377-378:

The Eucharistic doctrine expounded by St. Augustine is interpreted in a purely spiritual way by most Protestant writers on the history of dogmas. Despite his insistence on the symbolical explanation he does not exclude the Real Presence. In association with the words of institution he concurs with the older Church tradition in expressing belief in the Real Presence . . .
When in the Fathers’ writings, esp. those of St. Augustine, side by side with the clear attestations of the Real Presence, many obscure symbolically-sounding utterances are found also, the following points must be noted for the proper understanding of such passages: (1) The Early Fathers were bound by the discipline of the secret, which referred above all to the Eucharist (cf. Origen, In Lev. hom. 9, 10); (2) The absence of any heretical counter-proposition often resulted in a certain carelessness of expression, to which must be added the lack of a developed terminology to distinguish the sacramental mode of existence of Christ’s body from its natural mode of existence once on earth; (3) The Fathers were concerned to resist a grossly sensual conception of the Eucharistic Banquet and to stress the necessity of the spiritual reception in Faith and in Charity (in contradistinction to the external, merely sacramental reception); passages often refer to the symbolical character of the Eucharist as ‘the sign of unity’ (St. Augustine); this in no wise excludes the Real Presence.

Johannes Quasten, Patrology, v.4, ed. Angelo di Berardino, tr. Placid Solari, St. Augustine chapter (VI) written by Agostino Trape, Allen, TX: Christian Classics, 1950, 449-450:

His thought [on the sacraments] has been widely studied but has not always been expounded in an unequivocal manner. Here as in other instances, it is necessary to keep in mind the various aspects of the dogma which he illustrates and defends. Thus…his insistence on the ecclesiological symbolism of the Eucharist does not obscure his explicit affirmations of the real presence (the bread is the Body of Christ and the wine is the Blood of Christ: Serm. 227; 272; In ps. 98, 9; 33, 1, 10) and of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist (De civ. Dei 10, 19-20; Conf. 9, 12, 32; 13-36).


#20

[quote=myfavoritmartin]Augustine like some of the other church fathers, believed in a type of presence of Christ in the eucharist, rejected the Roman Catholic interpretation of John 6.
[/quote]

I’ve already addressed this in post 14. A figure does not have to a symbol. It can be a metaphor. If it is a metaphor, then what is the problem?

btw many of these issues have been covered in depth on this thread:

Why did He let them walk away?

here or here.


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