Otherworldly Witness

The Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

— Letter of Mathetes, chapter 5, AD 130

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Christ’s Heart

And what is a merciful heart? It is the heart burning for the sake of all creation, for men, for birds, for animals, for demons, and every created thing; and by the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful man pour forth abundant tears. By the strong and vehement mercy which grips his heart and by his great compassion, his heart is humbled and he cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in creation. For this reason he offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner he even prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in his heart in the likeness of God.

– St. Isaac the Syrian (d. 700)

Compilation on the Holy Eucharist: AD 53-989

There is nothing more central, more vital, to Christianity than the Holy Eucharist, instituted by Christ so that we might be one with him. That is the thesis that inspired this compilation, and it’s my fervent hope that this article might serve as an introduction to the living heart of all Christian worship, which is Christ himself, present on the altars and in the tabernacles of the Catholic Church. In that spirit, I present here quotations from the most eminent figures, spanning the first millennium of ecclesiastical history.

A quick note on the editing: Brackets are used most often to indicate references to Scripture; occasionally, however, they will also be inserted in order to clarify unclear references, such as in the lengthy quote from St. Clement of Rome. If I’m replacing uncommon and commonly misunderstood words with synonyms that more accurately convey their meaning, as with {sacrifices} being substituted for offerings in the first paragraph of Clement’s quote, I used the { } symbols instead.

The tradition which I received from the Lord, and handed on to you, is that the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was being betrayed, took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and said, Take, eat; this is my Body, given up for you. Do this for a commemoration of me. And so with the cup, when supper was ended, This cup, he said, is the New Covenant in my Blood. Do this, whenever you drink it, for a commemoration of me.

– St. Paul the Apostle, Letter to the Church of Corinth 11:23-24, c. 53

Our fathers were hidden, all of them, under the cloud, and found a path, all of them, through the sea; all alike, in the cloud and in the sea, were baptized into Moses’ fellowship. They all ate the same prophetic food, and all drank the same prophetic drink, watered by the same prophetic rock which bore them company, the rock that was Christ…

We [also] have a cup that we bless; is not this cup we bless a participation in Christ’s Blood? Is not the bread we break a participation in Christ’s Body? The one bread makes us one Body, though we are many in number; the same bread is shared by all. Or look at Israel, God’s people by nature; do not those who eat their sacrifices associate themselves with the altar of sacrifice?

– St. Paul the Apostle, Letter to the Church of Corinth 10:1-4; 16-18, c. 53

As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so may your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom; for yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever and ever…

Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread, and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations. [Mal. 1:11, 14]

– Didache 9, 14, c. 70

[Clement on the Old Covenant] Forasmuch then as these things are manifest beforehand, and we have searched into the depths of the Divine knowledge, we ought to do all things in order, as many as the Master hath commanded us to perform at their appointed seasons. Now the {sacrifices} and ministrations He commanded to be performed with care, and not to be done rashly or in disorder, but at fixed times and seasons. And where and by whom He would have them performed, He Himself fixed by His supreme will: that all things being done with piety according to His good pleasure might be acceptable to His will. They therefore that make their {sacrifices} at the appointed seasons are acceptable and blessed: for while they follow the institutions of the Master they cannot go wrong. For unto the high priest his proper services have been assigned, and to the priests their proper office is appointed,and upon the levites their proper ministrations are laid. The layman is bound by the layman’s ordinances.

Let each of you, brethren, in his own order give thanks unto God, maintaining a good conscience and not transgressing the appointed rule of his service, but acting with all seemliness. Not in every place, brethren, are the continual daily [Levitical Temple] sacrifices offered, or the freewill offerings, or the sin offerings and the trespass offerings, but in Jerusalem alone. And even there the offering is not made in every place, but before the sanctuary in the court of the altar; and this too through the high priest and the aforesaid ministers, after that the victim to be offered hath been inspected for blemishes. They therefore who do any thing contrary to the seemly ordinance of His will receive death as the penalty.

[Clement on the New Covenant] Ye see, brethren, in proportion as greater knowledge hath been vouchsafed unto us, so much the more are we exposed to danger. The Apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order. Having therefore received a charge, and having been fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God with full assurance of the Holy Spirit, they went forth with the glad tidings that the Kingdom of God should come. So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe…

[Clement returns to the Old Covenant] And what marvel, if they which were entrusted in Christ with such a work by God appointed the aforesaid persons? Seeing that even the blessed Moses who was a faithful servant in all his house recorded for a sign in the sacred books all things that were enjoined upon him. And him also the rest of the prophets followed, bearing witness with him unto the laws that were ordained by him. For he, when jealousy arose concerning the priesthood, and there was dissension among the tribes which of them was adorned with the glorious name, commanded the twelve chiefs of the tribes to bring to him rods inscribed with the name of each tribe.   And he took them and tied them and sealed them with the signet rings of the chiefs of the tribes, and put them away in the tabernacle of the testimony on the table of God. And having shut the tabernacle he sealed the keys and likewise also the doors. And he said unto them, Brethren, the tribe whose rod shall bud, this hath God chosen to be priests and ministers unto Him. Now when morning came, he called together all Israel, even the six hundred thousand men, and showed the seals to the chiefs of the tribes and opened the tabernacle of the testimony and drew forth the rods. And the rod of Aaron was found not only with buds, but also bearing fruit. What think ye, dearly beloved? Did not Moses know beforehand that this would come to pass? Assuredly he knew it. But that disorder might not arise in Israel, he did thus, to the end that the name of the true and only God might be glorified…

[Clement returns to the New Covenant] And our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over the name of the bishop’s office. For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they provided a continuance, that if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration. Those therefore who were appointed by them, or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole Church, and have ministered unblamably to the flock of Christ in lowliness of mind, peacefully and with all modesty, and for long time have borne a good report with all these men we consider to be unjustly thrust out from their ministration. For it will be no light sin for us, if we thrust out those who have offered the gifts of the bishop’s office unblamably and holily. Blessed are those presbyters who have gone before, seeing that their departure was fruitful and ripe: for they have no fear lest any one should remove them from their appointed place. For we see that ye have displaced certain persons, though they were living honorably, from the ministration which had been respected by them blamelessly.

– St. Clement of Rome, Letter to the Church of Corinth, 40:1-44:5, c. 80

Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice — even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God.

– St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Church of Philadelphia 4, 107

Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God… They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior, Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.

– St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Church of Smyrnaea 6:2–7:1, 107

Do ye all follow your bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and the presbytery as the apostles; and to the deacons pay respect, as to God’s commandment. Let no man do aught of things pertaining to the Church apart from the bishop. Let that be held a valid Eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it. Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be; even as where Jesus may be, there is the Catholic Church.

– St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ibid. 8:1-2

If Jesus Christ should count me worthy through your prayer, and it should be the divine will, in my second tract, which I intend to write to you, I will further set before you the dispensation whereof I have begun to speak, relating to the new man Jesus Christ, which consisteth in faith towards Him and in love towards Him, in His passion and resurrection, especially if the Lord should reveal aught to me. Assemble yourselves together in common, every one of you severally, man by man, in grace, in one Faith and one Jesus Christ, who after the flesh was of David’s race, who is Son of Man and Son of God, to the end that ye may obey the bishop and presbytery without distraction of mind; breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote that we should not die but live forever in Jesus Christ.

– St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Church of Ephesus 20:1-2, 107

The letters of Ignatius which were sent to us by him, and others as many as we had by us, we send unto you, according as ye gave charge; the which are subjoined to this letter; from which ye will be able to gain great advantage. For they comprise faith and endurance and every kind of edification, which pertaineth unto our Lord [i.e. Polycarp was of one mind with Ignatius].

– St. Polycarp of Smyrna, Letter to the Church of Philippi, c. 110

God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the Gentiles. [Mal. 1:10–11] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians] who in every place offer sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist.

– St. Justin the Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 41, c. 140

We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.

– St. Justin the Martyr, First Apology 66, 151

He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, This is my Body. The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his Blood. He taught the new sacrifice of the New Covenant, of which Malachi, one of the twelve prophets, had signified beforehand: You do not do my will, says the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is my name among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty. [Mal. 1:10–11] By these words he makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; but that in every place sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure one, for his name is glorified among the Gentiles.

– St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 4:17:5, c. 188

If our flesh is not saved, then the Lord has not redeemed us with his Blood, the Eucharistic chalice does not make us sharers in his Blood, and the bread we break does not make us sharers in his Body. There can be no blood without veins, flesh and the rest of the human substance, and this the Word of God actually became: it was with his own Blood that he redeemed us…

We are his members and we are nourished by creatures, which is his gift to us, for it is he who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall. He declared that the chalice, which comes from his creation, was his Blood, and he makes it the nourishment of our blood. He affirmed that the bread, which comes from his creation, was his Body, and he makes it the nourishment of our body. When the chalice we mix and the bread we bake receive the word of God, the Eucharistic elements become the Body and Blood of Christ, by which our bodies live and grow. How then can it be said that [our] flesh belonging to the Lord’s own Body and nourished by his Body and Blood is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life? Saint Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians [5:30] that we are members of his Body, of his flesh and bones. He is not speaking of some spiritual and incorporeal kind of man, for spirits do not have flesh and bones. [Luke 24:39] He is speaking of a real human body composed of flesh, sinews and bones, nourished by the chalice of Christ’s Blood and receiving growth from the bread which is his Body.

The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time. The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things. The Wisdom of God places these things at the service of man and when they receive God’s Word, they become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, which have been nourished by the Eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay, but they will rise again at the appointed time, for the Word of God will raise them up to the glory of God the Father. Then the Father will clothe our mortal nature in immortality and freely endow our corruptible nature with incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown most perfectly in weakness.

– St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Ibid. 5:2

And {Wisdom} has furnished her Table [Prov. 9:2]… refers to {Christ’s} honored and undefiled Body and Blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine Table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable Table of the spiritual divine supper.

– St. Hippolytus of Rome, Fragment on Proverbs, c. 215

You are accustomed to take part in the Divine Mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish… how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting His Body?

– Origen, Homilies on Exodus 13:3, c. 230

As the [Lord’s] prayer proceeds, we ask… Give us this day our daily bread. This can be understood both spiritually, and simply, because either understanding is of profit in divine usefulness for salvation. For Christ is the bread of life and the bread here is of all, but is ours. And as we say, Our Father, because he is the Father of those who understand and believe, so too we say ‘our Bread,’ because Christ is the Bread of those of us who attain to His Body. Moreover, we ask that this bread be given daily, lest we, who are in Christ and receive the Eucharist daily as food of salvation, with the intervention of some more grievous sin, while we are shut off and as non-communicants are kept from the heavenly bread, be separated from the Body of Christ as he himself declares, saying: I am the Bread of Life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread he shall live forever. Moreover, the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world. Since then he says that, if anyone eats of his bread, he lives forever, as it is manifest that they live who attain to his Body and receive the Eucharist by right of communion, so on the other hand we must fear and pray lest anyone, while he is cut off and separated from the Body of Christ, remain apart from salvation, as he himself threatens, saying: ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his Blood, you shall not have life in you. And so we petition that our Bread, that is Christ, be given us daily, so that we, who abide and live in Christ, may not withdraw from his sanctification and Body.

– St. Cyprian of Carthage, The Lord’s Prayer, c. 250

Although I know, dearest brother, that very many of the bishops who are set over the Churches of the Lord by divine condescension, throughout the whole world, maintain the plan of evangelical truth, and of the Tradition of the Lord, and do not by human and novel institution depart from that which Christ our Master both prescribed and did; yet since some, either by ignorance or simplicity in sanctifying the cup of the Lord, and in ministering to the people, do not do that which Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, the founder and teacher of this sacrifice, did and taught, I have thought it as well a religious as a necessary thing to write to you this letter, that, if any one is still kept in this error, he may behold the light of truth, and return to the root and origin of the Tradition of the Lord. Nor must you think, dearest brother, that I am writing my own thoughts or man’s; or that I am boldly assuming this to myself of my own voluntary will, since I always hold my mediocrity with lowly and modest moderation. But when anything is prescribed by the inspiration and command of God, it is necessary that a faithful servant should obey the Lord, acquitted by all of assuming anything arrogantly to himself, seeing that he is constrained to fear offending the Lord unless he does what he is commanded.

…in the priest Melchizedek we see prefigured the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Lord, according to what divine Scripture testifies, and says, And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine. [Genesis 4:18] Now he was a priest of the Most High God, and blessed Abraham. And that Melchizedek bore a type of Christ, the Holy Spirit declares in the Psalms, saying from the Person of the Father to the Son: Before the morning star I begot you; you are a priest forever, after the Order of Melchizedek; which Order is assuredly this coming from that sacrifice and thence descending; that Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God; that he offered wine and bread; that he blessed Abraham. For who is more a priest of the Most High God than our Lord, Jesus Christ, who offered a sacrifice to God the Father, and offered that very same thing which Melchizedek had offered, that is, bread and wine, to wit, His Body and Blood?

…if we may not break even the least of the Lord’s commandments, how much rather is it forbidden to infringe such important ones, so great, so pertaining to the very sacrament of our Lord’s passion and our own redemption, or to change it by human tradition into anything else than what was divinely appointed! For if Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the Office of Christ, who imitates that which Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ himself to have offered.

…because we make mention of his passion in all sacrifices (for the Lord’s passion is the sacrifice which we offer), we ought to do nothing else than what he did. For Scripture says, For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show forth the Lord’s death till He come. As often, therefore, as we offer the cup in commemoration of the Lord and of his passion, let us do what it is known the Lord did…

Therefore it befits our religion, and our fear, and the place itself, and the Office of our priesthood, dearest brother, in mixing and offering the cup of the Lord, to keep the truth of the Lord’s Tradition, and, on the warning of the Lord, to correct that which seems with some to have been erroneous; so that when he shall begin to come in his brightness and heavenly majesty, he may find that we keep what he admonished us; that we observe what he taught; that we do what he did.

– St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter to Bishop Caeilius 1-19, c. 250

Let all mortal flesh be silent, and stand with fear and trembling, and meditate nothing earthly within itself: — For the King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ our God, comes forward to be sacrificed, and to be given for food to the faithful; and the bands of angels go before Him with every power and dominion, the many-eyed cherubim, and the six-winged seraphim, covering their faces, and crying aloud the hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

– Divine Liturgy of St. James, c. 275

O Lord our God, the heavenly Bread, the Life of the universe, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, and am not worthy to partake of your pure Mysteries; but as a merciful God, make me worthy by your grace, without condemnation to partake of your holy Body and precious Blood, for the remission of sins, and life everlasting.

– Ibid.

After having spoken thus [at the Last Supper], the Lord rose up from the place where he had made the Passover and had given his Body as food and his Blood as drink, and he went with his disciples to the place where he was to be arrested. But he ate of his own Body and drank of his own Blood, while he was pondering on the dead. With his own hands the Lord presented his own Body to be eaten, and before he was crucified he gave his Blood as drink.

– St. Aphraahat the Sage,Treatises 12:6, 340

Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Hosts, heaven and earth is full of your glory. Heaven is full, and full is the earth with your magnificent glory, Lord of Virtues. Full also is this sacrifice, with your strength and your communion; for to you we offer this living sacrifice, this unbloody oblation…

To you we offer this bread, the likeness of the Body of the only-begotten. This bread is the likeness of his holy Body because the Lord Jesus Christ, on the night on which he was betrayed, took bread and broke and gave to his disciples, saying, Take and eat, this is my Body, which is being broken for you, unto the remission of sins. [Matthew 26:26-27] On this account too do we offer the bread, to bring ourselves into the likeness of his death; and we pray: Reconcile us all, O God of truth, and be gracious to us. And just as this bread was scattered over the mountains and when collected was made one, so too gather your holy Church from every nation and every country and every city and village and house and make it one living Catholic Church.

We offer also the cup, the likeness of his Blood, because the Lord Jesus Christ took the cup after he had eaten, and he said to his disciples, Take, drink, this is the New Covenant, which is my Blood which is being poured out for you unto the remission of sins. [Matthew 26:26-27] For this reason too we offer the chalice, to benefit ourselves by the likeness of his Blood.

O God of truth, may your holy Logos come upon this bread, that the bread may become the Body of the Logos, and on this cup, that the cup may become the Blood of the Truth. And make all who communicate receive the remedy of life, to cure every illness and to strengthen every progress and virtue; not unto condemnation, O God of truth, nor unto disgrace and reproach!

– St. Serapion of Thmuis, Prayer of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, c. 345

After the disciples had eaten the new and holy bread, and when they understood by faith that they had eaten of Christ’s Body, Christ went on to explain and to give them the whole sacrament. He took and mixed a cup of wine. The he blessed it, and signed it, and made it holy, declaring that it was his own Blood, which was about to be poured out…

Christ commanded them to drink, and he explained to them that the cup which they were drinking was his own Blood: This is truly my Blood, which is shed for all of you. Take, all of you, drink of this, because it is a New Covenant in my Blood. As you have seen me do, do you also in my memory. Whenever you are gathered together in my name in Churches everywhere, do what I have done, in memory of me. Eat my Body, and drink my Blood, a Covenant new and old.

– St. Ephrem the Syrian, Homilies 4:6, c. 350

In place of the senseless fire that eats up its own body of itself — the magi adored the Fire who gave His Body to be eaten — the live Coal drew near and sanctified the lips that were unclean. Praise to you from every mouth on this day of your birth! Blessed is he who has mixed his Fire in us!

– St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on the Nativity 17:7, c. 350

Even of itself the teaching of the blessed Paul is sufficient to give you a full assurance concerning those divine Mysteries, of which having been deemed worthy, ye are become of the same Body and Blood with Christ. For you have just heard him say distinctly, that our Lord Jesus Christ in the night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks he brake it, and gave to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my Body: and having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, Take, drink, this is my Blood. Since then he himself declared and said of the bread, This is my Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since he has himself affirmed and said, This is my Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying that it is not his Blood?

He once in Cana of Galilee turned the water into wine, akin to blood, and is it incredible that he should have turned wine into Blood? When called to a bodily marriage, he miraculously wrought that wonderful work; and on the children of the bride-chamber, shall he not much rather be acknowledged to have bestowed the fruition of his Body and Blood? Wherefore with full assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the figure of bread is given to thee his Body, and in the figure of wine his Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mayest be made of the same Body and the same Blood with him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because his Body and Blood are distributed through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the Divine Nature…

Having learnt these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ; and that of this David sung of old,saying, And bread strengtheneth man’s heart, to make his face to shine with oil, strengthen thou thine heart, by partaking thereof as spiritual, and make the face of thy soul to shine. And so having it unveiled with a pure conscience, mayest thou reflect as a mirror the glory of the Lord, and proceed from glory to glory, in Christ Jesus our Lord: — To whom be honour, and might, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

– St. Cyril of Jerusalem,Catechetical Lectures 22:1-3, 9, c. 350

Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth his Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before him; that he may make the bread the Body of Christ, and the wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Spirit has touched, is surely sanctified and changed.

Then, after the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless service, is completed, over that sacrifice of propitiation we entreat God for the common peace of the Churches, for the welfare of the world; for kings; for soldiers and allies; for the sick; for the afflicted; and, in a word, for all who stand in need of succour we all pray and offer this sacrifice. Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the holy fathers and bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.

And I wish to persuade you by an illustration. For I know that many say, what is a soul profited, which departs from this world either with sins, or without sins, if it be commemorated in the prayer? For if a king were to banish certain who had given him offense, and then those who belong to them should weave a crown and offer it to him on behalf of those under punishment, would he not grant a remission of their penalties? In the same way we, when we offer to Him our supplications for those who have fallen asleep, though they be sinners, weave no crown, but offer up Christ sacrificed for our sins, propitiating our merciful God for them as well as for ourselves…

After this ye hear the chanter inviting you with a sacred melody to the communion of the holy Mysteries, and saying, O taste and see that theLord is good. Trust not the judgment to your bodily palate, no, but to faith unfaltering; for they who taste are bidden to taste, not bread and wine, but the antitypical Body and Blood of Christ.

– St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Ibid. 23:7-10

When we speak of the reality of Christ’s nature being in us, we would bespeaking foolishly and impiously — had we not learned it from him. For he himself says: My flesh is truly food, and my Blood is truly drink. He that eats my flesh and drinks my Blood will remain in me and I in him. As to the reality of his flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord himself and by our own Faith, it is truly flesh and it is truly Blood. And these elements bring it about, when taken and consumed, that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Is this not true? Let those who deny that Jesus Christ is true God be free to find these things untrue.

But he himself is in us through the flesh and we are in him, while that which we are with him [i.e. his human nature] is in God. Now how it is that we are in him through the sacrament of the flesh and Blood bestowed upon us, he himself testifies, saying, And the world will no longer see me, but you shall see me; because I live you shall live also; because I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. If he wished to indicate a mere unity of will, why did he set forth a kind of gradation and sequence in the completion of the unity, unless it were that, since he was in the Father through the nature of deity, and we on the contrary in him through his birth in the body, he would have us believe that he is in us through the mystery of the sacraments?

And thus there might be taught a perfect unity through a Mediator, while, we abiding in him, he abode in the Father, and as abiding in the Father abode also in us; and so we might arrive at unity with the Father, since in him who dwells naturally in the Father by birth, we also dwell naturally, while he himself abides naturally in us also [via the Eucharist]. Again,how natural this unity is in us he has himself testified on this wise — He who eats my flesh and drinks my Blood abides in me, and I in him. [John 6:56]   For no man shall dwell in him, save him in whom he dwells himself, for the only flesh which he has taken to himself is the flesh of those who have taken his. Now he had already taught before the sacrament of this perfect unity, saying, As the living Father sent me, and I live through the Father, so he that eats my flesh shall himself also live through me. So then he lives through the Father, and as he lives through the Father in like manner we live through his flesh. For all comparison is chosen to shape our understanding, so that we may grasp the subject of which we treat by help of the analogy set before us.

This is the cause of our life: that we have Christ dwelling within our carnal selves through the flesh, and we shall live through him in the same manner as he lives through the Father. If, then, we live naturally through him according to the flesh, that is, have partaken of the nature of his flesh [via the Eucharist], must he not naturally have the Father within himself according to the spirit since he himself lives through the Father?

– St. Hilary of Poiters, The Trinity 8:14-16, c. 350

To communicate each day and to partake of the holy Body and Blood of Christ is good and beneficial; for he says quite plainly: He that eats my flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life. Who can doubt that to share continually in Life is the same thing as having Life abundantly? We ourselves communicate four times each week… and on other days if there is a commemoration of any saint.

– St. Basil the Great, Letter to a Patrician Lady, c. 360

The tongue of a priest meditating on the Lord raises the sick. Do, then, the greater thing by celebrating the Liturgy, and loose the great mass of my sins when you lay hold of the sacrifice of the resurrection. Most reverend friend, cease not to pray and plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when in an unbloody cutting you cut the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice for a sword.

– St. Gregory Nazianzus, Letter to Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, c. 370

You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the Table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the Body and the cup the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ… When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His Body.

– St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Sermon to the Newly Baptized, 373

We see that the Savior took {bread} in his hands, as it is in the gospel, when he was reclining at the Supper; and he took this, and giving thanks, he said: This is really me. And he gave to his disciples and said: This is really me. And we see that [bread] it is not equal nor similar, not to the incarnate image, not to the invisible divinity, not to the outline of his limbs. For it [bread] is round of shape, and devoid of feeling. As to its power, he means to say even of its grace, This is really me; and none disbelieves his word. For anyone who does not believe the truth in what he says is deprived of grace and of Savior.

– St. Epiphanius of Salamis, The Man Well-Anchored 57, c. 380

My flesh is food indeed, and my Blood is drink. [John 6:56] You hear him speak of his flesh and of his Blood, you perceive the sacred pledges [conveying to us the merits and power] of the Lord’s death, and you dishonor his divinity? Hear his own words: A spirit has not flesh and bones. [Luke 24:39] Now we, as often as we receive the sacramental elements, which by the mysterious efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the flesh and the Blood, do show the Lord’s death.

– St. Ambrose of Milan, The Christian Faith 4:125, c. 380

We see that grace can accomplish more than nature, yet so far we have been considering instances of what grace can do through a prophet’s blessing.

If the blessing of a human being had power even to change nature, what do we say of God’s action in the consecration itself, in which the very words of the Lord and Savior are effective? If the words of Elijah had power even to bring down fire from heaven, will not the words of Christ have power to change the natures of the elements? You have read that in the creation of the words of Christ have power to change the natures of the elements. You have read that in the creation of the whole world he spoke and they came to be; he commanded and they were created. If Christ could by speaking create out of nothing what did not yet exist, can we say that his words are unable to change existing things into something they previously were not?

It is no lesser feat to create new natures for things than to change their existing natures. What need is there for argumentation? Let us take what happened in the case of Christ himself and construct the truth of this Mystery from the Mystery of the Incarnation. Did the birth of the Lord Jesus from Mary come about in the course of nature? If we look at nature we regularly find that conception results from the union of man and women. It is clear then that the conception by the Virgin was above and beyond the course of nature. And this Body that we make present is the Body born of the Virgin. Why do you expect to find in this case that nature takes its ordinary course in regard to the Body of Christ when the Lord himself was born of the Virgin in a manner above and beyond the order of nature?

This is indeed the true flesh of Christ, which was crucified and buried. This is then in truth the sacrament of his flesh.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.

– St. Ambrose of Milan, The Mysteries 9:52-54, c. 380

We saw the Prince of Priests coming to us; we saw and heard him offering his Blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being priests, and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. Even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. Even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the sacrifice, nevertheless it is he himself that is offered in sacrifice here on earth when the Body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer himself he is made visible in us, he whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered.

– St. Ambrose of Milan, On the Twelve Psalms 38:25, c. 380

The bread again is at first common bread; but when the Mystery sanctifies it, it is called and actually becomes the Body of Christ.

– St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ, c. 383

Rightly, then, do we believe that now also the bread which is consecrated by the word of God is changed into the Body of God the Word.   For that Body was once, by implication, bread, but has been consecrated by the inhabitation of the Word that tabernacled in the flesh. Therefore, from the same cause as that by which the bread that was transformed in that Body was changed to a divine potency, a similar result takes place now. For as in that case, too, the grace of the Word used to make holy the Body, the substance of which came of the bread, and in a manner was itself bread, so also in this case the bread, as says the Apostle, is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer; not that it advances by the process of eating to the stage of passing into the Body of the Word, but it is at once changed into the Body by means of the Word, as the Word itself said, This is my Body.

– St.Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism 37, c. 383

When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious Blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?

– St. John Chrysostom, The Priesthood 3:4:177, c. 387

Christ is present.

The One who prepared that [passover] Table is the very One who now prepares this [altar] Table. For it is not a man who makes the sacrificial gifts become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he that was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest stands there carrying out the action, but the power and the grace is of God. This is my Body, he says. This statement transforms the gifts.

– St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Judas 1:6, c. 390

Wherefore this also Christ hath done, to lead us to a closer friendship, and to show his love for us; he hath given to those who desire him not only to see him, but even to touch, and eat him, and fix their teeth in his flesh, and to embrace him, and satisfy all their love.

Let us then return from that Table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head, and on the love which he hath shown for us. Parents often entrust their offspring to others to feed; but I, saith he, do not so, I feed you with mine own flesh, desiring that you all be nobly born, and holding forth to you good hopes for the future.

For he who giveth out himself to you here, much more will do so hereafter. I have willed to become your brother, for your sake I shared in flesh and Blood, and in turn I give out to you the flesh and the Blood by which I became your kinsman.

This Blood causeth the image of our King to be fresh within us, produceth beauty unspeakable, permitteth not the nobleness of our souls to waste away, watering it continually, and nourishing it. The Blood derived from our food becomes not at once Blood, but something else; while this doth not so, but straightway watereth our souls, and worketh in them some mighty power. This Blood, if rightly taken, driveth away devils, and keepeth them afar off from us, while it calleth to us angels and the Lord of Angels. For wherever they see the Lord’s Blood, devils flee, and angels run together.

This Blood poured forth washed clean all the world; many wise sayings did the blessed Paul utter concerning it in the epistle to the Hebrews. This Blood cleansed the secret place, and the Holy of Holies. And if the type of it had such great power in the temple of the Hebrews, and in the midst of Egypt, when smeared on the door-posts, much more the Reality. This Blood sanctified the golden altar; without it the high priest dared not enter into the secret place. This Blood consecrated priests, this in types cleansed sins. But if it had such power in the types, if death so shuddered at the shadow, tell me how would it not have dreaded the very Reality? This Blood is the salvation of our souls, by this the soul is washed,by this is beautiful, by this is inflamed, this causeth our understanding to be more bright than fire, and our soul more beaming than gold; this Blood was poured forth, and made heaven accessible.

Awful in truth are the Mysteries of the Church, awful in truth is the altar. A fountain went up out of paradise sending forth material rivers, from this Table springeth up a fountain which sendeth forth rivers spiritual. By the side of this fountain are planted not fruitless willows, but trees reaching even to heaven, bearing fruit ever timely and undecaying. If any be scorched with heat, let him come to the side of this fountain and cool his burning. For it quencheth drought, and comforteth all things that are burnt up, not by the sun, but by the fiery darts. For it hath its beginning from above, and its source is there, whence also its water floweth. Many are the streams of that fountain which the Comforter sendeth forth, and the Son is the Mediator, not holding mattock to clear the way, but opening our minds.

This fountain is a fountain of light, spouting forth rays of truth. By it stand the powers on high looking upon the beauty of its streams, because they more clearly perceive the power of the things set forth, and the flashings unapproachable. For as when gold is being molten if one should (were it possible) dip in it his hand or his tongue, he would immediately render them golden; thus, but in much greater degree, doth what here is set forth work upon the soul. Fiercer than fire the river boileth up, yet burneth not, but only baptizeth that on which it layeth hold. This Blood was ever typified of old in the altars and sacrifices of righteous men; this is the price of the world; by this Christ purchased to himself the Church; by this he hath adorned her all. For as a man buying servants giveth gold for them, and again when he desireth to deck them out doth this also with gold; so Christ hath purchased us with his Blood, and adorned us with his Blood. They who share this Blood stand with angels and archangels and the powers that are above, clothed in Christ’s own kingly robe, and having the armor of the Spirit.

Nay, I have not as yet said any great thing: they are clothed with the King Himself.

– St. John Chrysostom, Homily on John 46, c. 395

What then? Do we not offer [the sacrifice] daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of his death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This sacrifice is a type of that, and this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there; one Body. And just as he is one Body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one sacrifice.

– St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Letter to the Hebrews 17:3, c. 399

Far be it from me to speak adversely of any of these clergy who, in succession from the Apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ, and through whose efforts also it is that we are Christians.

– St. Jerome, Letters 14:8, c. 400

After the type had been fulfilled by the passover celebration and he had eaten the flesh of the lamb with his Apostles, he takes bread which strengthens the heart of man, and goes on to the true Sacrament of the Passover, so that just as Melchisedech, the priest of the most high God, in prefiguring him, made bread and wine an offering [i.e. sacrifice], he too makes himself manifest in the reality of his own Body and Blood.

– St. Jerome, Commentary on Matthew 4:26, c. 400

When {Christ} gave the bread he did not say, This is the symbol of my Body, but, This is my Body. In the same way, when he gave the cup of his Blood he did not say, This is the symbol of my Blood, but, This is my Blood; for he wanted us to look upon the {elements} after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit not according to their nature, but receive them as they are, the Body and Blood of our Lord.   We ought… not regard {them} merely as bread and cup, but as the Body and Blood of the Lord, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit.

– St. Theodore of Mopsuestia, Catechetical Homilies 5:1, 405

Christ was carried in His own hands when, referring to his own Body, he said, This is my Body [Matthew 26:26]. For he carried that Body in his hands.

– St. Augustine, Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10, 405

I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table… 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…

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 is the Blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction.

– St. Augustine, Sermons 227, 272, 411

But by the prayers of the holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve.

The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the Sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain?

It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death.

.- St. Augustine, Ibid. 172:2

O magnify the Lord our God… And fall down and worship before his footstool, for he is holy. [Ps. 93:5] What are we to fall down before? His footstool… In another passage of the Scriptures it is said, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. [Isaiah 66:1] Does 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… You shall worship the Lord your God? [Deuteronomy 6:13]… 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 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 worshiped 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 worshiped [it]: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord’s maybe worshiped, and not only that we sin not in worshiping it, but that we sin in not worshiping.

– St. Augustine, Exposition of Psalm 99, c. 415

Christ said indicating (the bread and wine): This is my Body, and, This is my Blood, in order that you might not judge what you see to be a mere figure. The offerings, by the hidden power of God Almighty, are changed into Christ’s Body and Blood, and by receiving these we come to share in the life-giving and sanctifying efficacy of Christ.

– St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Matthew 26:27, c. 428

Let those who from lack of understanding have not yet accepted faith in Christ therefore take heed of the saying: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his Blood, you do not have eternal life in you. [John 6:53] For those who do not receive Jesus through the sacrament will continue to remain utterly bereft of any share in the life of holiness and blessedness and without any taste of it whatsoever.

– St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, c. 429

We have been instructed in these matters and filled with an unshakable faith, that that which seems to be bread, is not bread, though it tastes like it, but the Body of Christ, and that which seems to be wine, is not wine, though it too tastes as such, but the Blood of Christ… draw inner strength by receiving this bread as spiritual food and your soul will rejoice.

– St. Cyril of Alexandria, Catecheses 22:9, c. 430

We will necessarily add this also.

Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the unbloody sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his holy flesh and the precious Blood of Christ the Savior of us all.

And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the Life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his flesh, he made it also to be Life-giving.

– Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, Session 1, Letter of Cyril to Nestorius, 431

Dearly beloved, utter this confession with all your heart and reject the wicked lies of heretics, that your fasting and alms giving may not be polluted by any contagion with error: for then is our offering of the sacrifice clean and our gifts of mercy holy, when those who perform them understand that which they do.

For when the Lord says, unless ye have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man, and drunk His Blood, ye will not have life in you, [John 6:53] you ought so to be partakers at the holy Table, as to have no doubt whatever concerning the reality of Christ’s Body and Blood.

For that is taken in the mouth which is believed in faith, and it is vain for them to respond Amen who dispute that which is taken.

– Pope St. Leo the Great, Sermons 91:3, c. 440

My dear brethren, there is no doubt that the Son of God took our human nature into so close a union with himself that one and the same Christ is present, not only in the firstborn of all creation, but in all his saints as well. The Head cannot be separated from the members, nor the members from the Head… it is not only the martyrs who share in his passion by their glorious courage; the same is true, by faith, of all who are born again in baptism.

That is why we are to celebrate the Lord’s paschal sacrifice with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The leaven of our former malice is thrown out, and a new creature is filled and inebriated with the Lord himself. For the effect of our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive. As we have died with him, and had been buried and raised to life with him, so we bear him within us, both in body and in spirit in everything we do.

– Pope St. Leo the Great, Sermon 12 on the Passion, c. 440

Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the only-begotten God the Word himself become flesh offered himself in an odor of sweetness as a sacrifice and victim to God on our behalf; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, in the time of the Old Testament animals were sacrificed by the patriarchs and prophets and priests; and to whom now, I mean in the time of the New Testament ,with the Father and the Holy Spirit, with whom he has one divinity, the holy Catholic Church does not cease in faith and love to offer throughout all the lands of the world a sacrifice of bread and wine…

In those former sacrifices what would be given us in the future was signified figuratively; but in this sacrifice which has now been given us, it is shown plainly. In those former sacrifices it was fore-announced that the Son of God would be killed for the impious; but in the present it is announced that he has been killed for the impious.

– St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Rule of Faith 62, c. 524

The spiritual building up of the Body of Christ is achieved through love. As Saint Peter says: Like living stones you are built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. [1 Peter 2:5] And there can be no more effective way to pray for this spiritual growth than for the Church, itself Christ’s Body, to make the offering of his Body and Blood in the sacramental form of bread and wine.

For the cup we drink is a participation in the blood of Christ, and the bread we break is a participation in the body of Christ. Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, since we all share the same bread. [1 Corinthians 10:16-17] And so we pray that, by the same grace which made the Church Christ’s Body, all its members may remain firm in the unity of that Body through {this} enduring bond of love… God makes the Church itself a sacrifice pleasing in his sight by preserving within it the love which his Holy Spirit has poured out. Thus the grace of that spiritual love is always available to us, enabling us continually to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to him forever.

– St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Letter to Monimus, c. 524

I, for my part, do verily believe, that the reason why, by God’s Providence, this thing falleth out thus apparently to them that be living, and think nothing thereof, is that all may know how, if their sins be not irremissible, that they may after death obtain pardon and absolution for them, by the oblation of the holy sacrifice. But yet we have here to note, that the holy sacrifice doth profit those kind of persons after their death, who in their life time obtained that such good works as were by their friends done for them might be available to their souls, after they were out of this world.

And here also we have diligently to consider, that it is far more secure and safe that every man should do that for himself whiles he is yet alive, which he desireth that others should do for him after his death. For far more blessed it is, to depart free out of this world, than being in prison [purgatory] to seek for release: and therefore reason teacheth us, that we should with our whole soul contemn this present world, at least because we see that it is now gone and past: and to offer unto God the daily sacrifice of tears, and the daily sacrifice of his Body and Blood. For this sacrifice doth especially save our souls from everlasting damnation, which in mystery doth renew unto us the death of the Son of God: who although being risen from death, doth not now die any more, nor death shall not any further prevail against him: yet living in himself immortally, and without all corruption, he is again sacrificed for us in this mystery of the holy oblation: for there his Body is received, there his flesh is distributed for the salvation of the people: there his Blood is not now shed betwixt the hands of infidels, but poured into the mouths of the faithful.

Wherefore let us hereby meditate what manner of sacrifice this is, ordained for us, which for our absolution doth always re-present the passion of the only Son of God: for what right-believing Christian can doubt, that in the very hour of the sacrifice, at the words of the priest, the heavens be opened, and the quires of angels are present in that Mystery of Jesus Christ; that high things are accompanied with low, and earthly joined to heavenly, and that one thing is made of visible and invisible?

But necessary it is that, when we do these things, we should also, by contrition of heart, sacrifice ourselves unto almighty God: for when we celebrate the Mystery of our Lord’s Passion, we ought to imitate what we then do: for then shall it truly be a sacrifice for us unto God, if we offer ourselves also to him in sacrifice.

– Pope St. Gregory the Great, Dialogues 4:57-59, c. 600

He washes us from our sins daily in his Blood, when the memory of his blessed passion is repeated at the altar, when the creature of the bread and wine is transferred into the sacrament of his flesh and Blood by the ineffable sanctification of his Spirit: and thus his Body and Blood is poured out and killed, not by the hands of infidels unto their destruction, but is assumed by the mouth of the faithful unto their salvation.

– St. Bede the Venerable, Homilies 1:14, c. 710

The body which is born of the holy Virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s body and blood. But if you inquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on himself flesh that subsisted in him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit. And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energizes and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out.

But one can put it well thus, that just as in nature the bread by the eating and the wine and the water by the drinking are changed into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, and do not become a different body from the former one, so the bread of the Table and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Christ, and are not two but one and the same.

Wherefore to those who partake worthily with faith, it is for the remission of sins and for life everlasting and for the safeguarding of soul and body; but to those who partake unworthily without faith, it is for chastisement and punishment, just as also the death of the Lord became to those who believe life and incorruption for the enjoyment of eternal blessedness, while to those who do not believe and to the murderers of the Lord it is for everlasting chastisement and punishment.

The bread and the wine are not merely figures of the Body and Blood of Christ (God forbid!) but the deified Body of the Lord itself: for the Lord has said, This is my Body, not, this is a figure of my Body: and, This is my Blood, not, a figure of my Blood. And on a previous occasion he had said to the Jews, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you. For my flesh is food indeed and my Blood is drink indeed. And again, He that eats me, shall live. [John 6:51-55]

– St. John Damascene, The Orthodox Faith chpt 13, c. 730

When we receive the Spirit of our Master and God, we become participants of his divinity and essence, and when we eat of his all-pure flesh — I mean in [the sacrament of] holy communion — we become truly his kin, of one Body with Him.

– St. Symeon the New Theologian,  Ethical Discourses I.3, 83-86, c. 989

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The Importance of History

Exequi sententias haud institui nisi insignis per honestum aut notabili dedecore, quod praecipuum munus annalium reor ne virtutes sileantur utque pravis dictis factisque ex posteritate et infamia metus sit.

My purpose is not to relate at length every motion, but only such as were conspicuous for excellence or notorious for infamy. This I regard as history’s highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds.

– Tacitus, Annals III

What is Sacred Music?

The Catholic Church has long been an avid patron of the arts, especially in music. Yet standing out in her patronage is a special category of musical achievement that she’s claimed as uniquely her own, sacred ecclesiastical chant. At the dawn of the Church’s history, she spread throughout the world and assimilated the cultures she came into contact with, baptizing them of whatever in them was contrary to the Faith. This wedding of culture and conviction gave birth to the rich variety of sacred music, which became similarly wedded to the liturgical rites which were rapidly developing in Christendom.

During the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), the liturgical rite of the Church of Rome began to stabilize. Her ancient anaphora, the Roman Canon, remained largely fixed from Gregory’s pontificate on, and her uniquely Roman sacred music had achieved a definite character. Named after St. Gregory, this Roman chant would forever be known as Gregorian chant, though it continued to develop under the influence of Gaulish forms of chant in the eighth century. Gregorian chant is the single most important form of sacred music in the Catholic Church for three important reasons.

First, it has a primacy of honor in Christendom on account of being the liturgical music of the first see in the Catholic Church, the Church of Rome. Second, after the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Western or Latin Church greatly encouraged and, in some cases, mandated that the Roman rite be adopted by other cities and states in Europe. It spread rapidly and became almost universally the norm in the West, and with it Gregorian chant. This was done on account of the corruptions of Protestantism, which had by that time infected many other liturgical rites in Europe, leavening them with heretical prayers and attitudes. The rite of the Roman Church, the Chair of St. Peter, was considered to be unassailable and a guarantee of orthodoxy in worship. Lastly, because of the confusion that has been inflicted on the Roman rite by the unorthodox since the mid-20th century, the ancient art of sacred chant has been all but lost in the Catholic West. It’s vital therefore to study the question of sacred music from the Roman perspective, in the hope that Gregorian chant may be cherished by the children of the Western Church once again.

Returning to the original question, what, then, is sacred music? What is its character, its special charism, that consecrates it as uniquely suitable to divine worship? The magisterium of the Apostolic see in the twentieth century has not been at all vague in this question, but has provided a clear answer:

Sacred music should consequently possess, in the highest degree, the qualities proper to the liturgy, and in particular sanctity and goodness of form, which will spontaneously produce the final quality of universality.

It must be holy, and must, therefore, exclude all profanity not only in itself, but in the manner in which it is presented by those who execute it.

It must be true art, for otherwise it will be impossible for it to exercise on the minds of those who listen to it that efficacy which the Church aims at obtaining in admitting into her liturgy the art of musical sounds…

These qualities are to be found, in the highest degree, in Gregorian chant, which is, consequently the chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own, which she prescribes exclusively for some parts of the liturgy, and which the most recent studies have so happily restored to their integrity and purity.

On these grounds Gregorian chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.

The ancient traditional Gregorian chant must, therefore, in a large measure be restored to the functions of public worship.

– Pope St. Pius X, Tra le Sollecitudini, promulgated motu proprio on November 22, 1903

Sacred music, then, is characterized by the definite traits of sanctity, exclusion of profane elements, and artistic excellence. Anything, therefore, that is not hallowed by ancient use, anything that smacks of worldliness in form or setting, and anything lacking in artistic excellence is not sacred music. Because of Gregorian chant’s usage in Rome, the sacred see of Sts. Peter and Paul, in which the Tradition must be kept purely and without attenuation, it coincides with these traits and is their supreme model. Musical forms and settings that diverge from the traits of sacred music are, by the degree of divergence, in that same measure unworthy of the Church’s public worship.

The Harrowing of Hades

Death was struck with dismay on beholding a new visitant descend into hades, not bound by the chains of that place. Why, O porters of hades, were you scared at sight of Him? What was the unwanted fear that possessed you? Death fled, and his flight betrayed his cowardice. The holy prophets ran unto Him, and Moses the Lawgiver, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; David also, and Samuel, and Esaias, and John the Baptist, who bore witness when he asked, Are You He that should come, or look we for another? All the just were ransomed, whom death had swallowed; for it behooved the King whom they had proclaimed, to become the redeemer of His noble heralds. Then each of the just said, O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting? For the Conqueror has redeemed us.

– St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), Catechetical Lecture 14

Aside

Christ our Fellow-Animal

One of the chief boasts of the Christian religion is the wonderful variety of rich farming metaphors used by Christ. Assisting at Mass last Sunday, I heard a homily on the gospel reading for that day in the ordinary form of the Roman rite, which included the Lord’s famous words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

The priest, who was visiting due to the ill health of the parish vicar, struck me in his exposition. Christ, in saying, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me,” was employing a well-known metaphor; a farmer would take an experienced animal, and yoke it to an inexperienced, wild one. The experienced would firmly teach the inexperienced as the farmer plowed the field.

Christ, with breathtaking simpicity, conveys the entire complexity of the gospel in organic richness. The Father is the farmer, and Christ is our fellow-animal, experienced in obedience and ready to teach a humanity weary of autonomy. But the parable grows yet more astounding; that animal we’re yoked to in baptism is the heir to the estate. The son of the farmer became livestock to turn animals into men. Such is the genius of Christ.

So, Let’s Try This Again

After a lengthy hiatus, it’s high time I take up the proverbial pen and try my hand at blogging again. For a while I’ve been using Facebook as an outlet for my thoughts, and I don’t recommend it. It’s an unwieldy tool when used as a blog.

I opened my first blog at around seventeen. It was a vastly different era in my life; I had just discovered new and exotic Catholicism, so novel after being raised an Evangelical. I was still in high school, laboring away to get my diploma. I had yet to meet some of my best friends and some fantastically interesting people. I was a different person. I’m at a crossroads in my life, a time of tremendous change. As practicing Catholic now, I’ve begun to live this life of traditional religion and speak ‘from the inside’ as it were, though as a marked novice. I’m soon to be living on my own, and my future awaits. Oh, to be young.

Hence this new blog, and it’s title. “Spe enim salvi facti sumus – For we were saved in hope,” a phrase derived from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. The Christian virtue of hope defines me right now, and is something that inspires me, something I seek to enjoy in greater abundance. There will be no rigid subject matter or style here, nor will there frequently be long, complicated posts, or multi-post series as I’ve attempted in the past. I’ll touch on a lot here, often explicitly religious, always thoughtful reflection on life and my perspective on it. Join the conversation! I’d love to have you.