More Than Just A Symbol

by Mark Bonocore

Hi, Eric.   Thanks for writing.    The arguments that you make below are very common ones, but they do not address the reality of the Eucharist or an accurate understanding of Catholic (that is, ancient Christian) belief. 

First of all, it is true that, at the time of the Last Supper, Jesus had not yet died on the Cross.   But this, in no sense, implies that the Eucharist of the Last Supper was merely symbolic, as opposed to real and substantial, or that the Lord was unable to share His one-Flesh Covenant with His disciples --that is, with His proto-Church.   This is because, as Catholics and many other Christians recognize, Christ Himself embodied the saving Sacrifice from the very moment of His Incarnation.   This is why, for example, the Lord was able to forgive sins prior to His actual death on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins (e.g. Mark 2:5-10).   For, from the moment of His Incarnation, Jesus was able to forgive the sins of anyone who willingly believed in Him and joined themselves to Him while He was on earth (e.g. John 13:10).   The Sacrifice of the Cross had to be made to extend this Covenant even to those who would not immediately accept Him, and to those far off and who would live at other times and places.  And so, at the Last Supper itself, Jesus was sharing Himself (that is, His one-Flesh Covenant) with His disciples (His proto-Church --those who willingly accepted Him) prior to this one-Flesh Sacrifice being associated with the Cross itself.   For, notice what He directly says:

Take This, all of you, and eat it (PRESENT TENSE).  This IS my Body (PRESENT TENSE) which WILL BE given up for you (FUTURE TENSE).

His Body was His to give them, right there and then --that is, the one-Flesh Covenant of His Body.  It was merely not yet associated with the Cross.   In other words, at the Last Supper, Jesus gives His disciples His Body and Blood prior to His actual suffering and death on the Cross.  In this, the Last Supper was a unique kind of Eucharist --a purely Incarnational Eucharist IN EXPECTATION of the coming Cross, but not one which (like all other Eucharists) is intrinsically connected to His death on the Cross.   It merely prefigured what He was to do for the rest of mankind through the Cross.   But this did not make it any less real or substantial, since Jesus was God and was able to give His disciple His very Self (that is, His Body) through the Covenantal Mystery of the Eucharist right there at the Table. The Cross was not needed for Him to do that. 

This is also why Judas (who was in a state of mortal sin at the time --intending to hand Jesus over to His enemies) was able to receive the Eucharist without the penalty of sacrilege.   For, the reason that a Christian who is in a state of mortal sin may not worthily receive the Eucharist today is because, unlike at the Last Supper, the Eucharist (Christ's giving of Himself Incarnationally to us) is now intrinsically connected to His Bloody death on the Cross; and so, if one partakes of the Lord's one-Flesh Covenant in an unworthy (that is, unrepentant and sinful) state, this makes one responsible "for the Body and Blood of the Lord" --that is, responsible for Jesus' murder, just as Paul says in 1 Corinth 11:27-30. And, at the Last Supper, Judas had not yet committed this sin.

The same dynamic applies to the Cup.   For, while "Cup" is clearly a figurative dimension, that which is IN the Cup is not.   For, the Lord does not say that the Cup itself is anything special or unusual, but rather What is in the Cup is His Blood --an Incarnational offering of Himself.    And the real key here is the verb that is used.    For, Christ does not use the verbal expression "symbolizes" or "stands for" or "figures" or "is a sign of," but rather the direct and specific verbal expression "THIS IS." ---"THIS IS my Body ...THIS IS the Cup of my Blood."    Now, keep in mind here that Jesus could easily have said "this symbolizes" or "this stands for," but He did not say that.   Rather, it is always "This is."    And, once one TRULY appreciates the fact that Christ is God, and that God DEFINES REALITY, the meaning becomes abundantly clear.   For, it is totally impossible for God to declare something TO BE something without that "something" becoming exactly what God declares it to be.   For, in Genesis, when God says "Let there be light," there IS light.   His Word makes it what it is.  And, in the same way, Jesus takes bread in His hands and says "This IS my Body," and so it is His Body; and He takes a cup of wine and says "This IS the Cup of my Blood," and thus it is the cup of His Blood.   It cannot be otherwise IF one really believes that Jesus is God.    And Christ imparts this same authority to His Apostles, saying "Do this in memory of me" --the word "memory" here in Greek being "anamnesis" --literally, 'to make present again" -- the same concept (now elevated to a Divine state) which the Jews associated with their Passover Meal, by which they were not merely re-enacting the Passover of Moses from ages past, but mysteriously participating in the very same meal that Moses and the Israelites ate in Egypt.  

The Jesus who I believe in does not give people mere human symbols.   He did not symbolically cure people, or symbolically cast out demons, or symbolically rise from the dead.   Rather, He really and truly did all these things by His Divine power.   And, thus, in the Eucharist, I do not believe that Jesus merely created a symbolic human ritual -- a simple human memorial service.   For, the Jesus I believe in does not give people mere symbols, but gives us His very Self!  This is the nature of the Covenant that He established with us.   And this is the specific meaning of "Body" and "Blood" in the Jewish understanding.   For the Jews, a man's "body" meant his very self -- his very personhood; and likewise, a man's "blood" meant his very life -- i.e. "The blood is the life," as it says in Deuteronomy.   And so, in giving us the Eucharist, Christ is giving us His very Self and His very Life.   This is the true nature of the Sacrament. 

You also make the argument that Christ is presently in glory -- that He is no longer broken or bleeding, etc.   Well, from a historical point of view, that is of course true.  Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross was a one-time historical event.   And, in the Eucharist, we Catholics do not believe that we are crucifying Christ again and again.  God forbid! Rather, we recognize a deeper reality.   For, what is very clear from Scripture (especially in Hebrews and Revelation) is that, while Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross was a one-time historical event, Christ continues to offer this one, historical Sacrifice ETERNALLY to the Father in Heaven.   That is, as God, Christ transcends time and space; and thus His Sacrifice is not limited to a mere historical event, but is an eternal Sacrifice.   This, again, connects to the fact that Christ embodied the Sacrifice even before He died on the Cross; and Revelation 13:8 speaks of how He is the Lamb Who was slain "from the foundation of the world."    Thus, what all Christians clearly believe is that Christ, as our eternal and heavenly High Priest, eternally offers this eternal Sacrifice to God the Father in Heaven.   In the Catholic Eucharist, this eternal, heavenly Sacrifice (a Sacrifice of Christ's very Self [i.e., Body] and Life [i.e., Blood]) is merely made substantially and tangible Present (in the forms of bread and wine) for us today.   This, we believe, is what Christ established as a Divine and Sacrificial memorial (the Eucharist --lit. the "Thanksgiving") at the Last Supper.   And every Evangelical Protestant I have ever met believes in the exact same principal, but merely express it in a less accurate, less Incarnational sense.   For, Evangelicals are famous for announcing:  "I claim the Blood of Jesus for my salvation!"    Well, this of course presumes that, 2,000 years after the fact, they are able to "connect to" the Blood of Jesus is some mysterious way ...that is, despite the fact that the Lord is now in glory and no longer broken and bleeding in a historical sense.  What these Evangelicals are referring to, of course, is exactly what we Catholics are referring to in the Eucharist --that is, the eternal Sacrifice that is offered eternally of the Father in Heaven.  The only different between us is that Catholics are faithful to the prescribed, Incarnational form of "claiming" the Body and Blood of Jesus which Jesus Himself established for us, whereas the Evangelicals have reduced the Christian Faith to a merely spiritual religion.   We Catholics maintain that Christianity is not merely a spiritual faith; but BOTH a spiritual Faith AND an Incarnational Faith.   For, according to Scripture, our Covenant with Christ is clearly a one-Flesh Covenant (see Eph. 5:25-32), and the Eucharist is the ongoing act by which Christ the Bridegroom and the Church (His Bride) maintain their loving one-Flesh unity -- that is, a reaffirmation of their one-Flesh Covenant. 

We Catholics do not believe that the Eucharist is a matter of a mere "mechanical" or "automatic" process that leads to eternal life --as if it's a "magic pill" that will guarantee the same result for anyone who ingests it.   Not at all.   For, as I already pointed out, in 1 Corinth 11, St. Paul very clearly says that anyone who eats and drinks unworthily will have to answer for the Body and Blood of the Lord -- that is, will be responsible for the sin of  Christ's murder -- that the guilt of those who directly crucified Him 2,000 years ago will be applied to them.  This is the sin of sacrilege.  So, in John 6, Christ clearly does not mean that those who eat His Flesh and drink His Blood will live forever even if they do this in a sacrilegious way.   Not at all.    Rather, in John 6, Christ is speaking of the norm; and the norm of receiving Holy Communion is when one is IN full communion with His Church -- that is, in a state of grace (faithful to His Covenant and one's Baptismal commitments), and not in a state of mortal sin (per 1 John 5:16-17).  This is made clear by what Christ says in John 6:56:

"Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood REMAINS IN ME and I in Him."

Here, Jesus is referring to remaining within the Body of His Church; for the Church is His own Body.   Those who receive Communion worthily remain in His Body and reaffirm their faith and their love in the context of His Covenant.  

So, properly understood, in John 6, Christ is addressing the unity of His Church.  This is especially obvious when one considered how mortal sin was treated in the very early days of the Church, when mortal sin (such as committing murder or adultery) resulted in one being formally excommunicated from the Church until one's deathbed.   This was the original, Apostolic discipline (only modified centuries later by Pope Callistus I in A.D. 217).   Thus, one who committed mortal sin was formally prevented from partaking of the Eucharist with the rest of the Church; and it is in this historical context that the statement in John 6:56 is made.  Those who remain in Christ remain in His Church; and to remain in His Church, one partook of the Eucharist as a deep and tangible reaffirmation of one's fidelity to the Covenant -- the one-Flesh Covenant between Christ and His Church. 

When a Catholic Christian partakes of the Eucharist --that is, when he eats the Consecrated Bread or drinks the Consecrated Wine, He is not receiving "bits" of Jesus --as if he took a bite out of Jesus' arm, or sipped a few drops of His Blood.   Not at all.   Rather, what we believe is that each and every part of the Eucharist (that is, each morsel of the Bread and each drop of the Wine) is the FULL AND ENTIRE Jesus Christ -- His complete and total Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.   And this is because the nature of the Sacrifice, as we discussed before, is that of His entire Self ("Body") and His very Life (Blood).   This is what Catholics are receiving when they partake of the Eucharist. 

What's more, it should also be mentioned that there is a symbolic, ritualistic dimension of the Eucharist (in addition to its Sacramental reality); and in this symbolic dimension (a dimension designed by Christ Himself), "Body" and "Blood" are offered separately.    Christ did it this way in order to be a sign of death; for, death is the result when body and blood are separated.   But, while the Eucharist has this dimension in order to symbolically affirm and memorialize the Sacrificial death of Christ, it also affirms and celebrates the fact that Christ is not dead, but alive; and the Body and Blood that we receive is that of the living and resurrected Jesus --the "Bread of Life" that can give us eternal life.   So, while the Eucharist does indeed recall His death, it also celebrates and places us in true and realistic union with the entire Paschal Mystery --that is, Christ's Incarnation, Life, Death, and Resurrection.   For, it is the eternal Sacrifice of our Heavenly High Priest (the same Sacrifice which He offers eternally to the Father in Heaven) that we receive. 

And, lastly, I should point out that you distort the line of Scripture that you quote above.   For, the line you are referring to is in Hebrews 9:22, and what that verse says in full is:

According to the LawALMOST everything is purified by blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." 

The line refers to the Mosaic Law --the Torah.   And, under the Torah, most sins (but not all sins) required a blood sacrifice.   Yet, Jesus' Sacrifice is not a sacrifice under the Law, but the Sacrifice of the New Covenant.   Likewise, Christians are not under the Law (the Torah), but under a Covenant of Love.   And, even if we were under the Law, Heb 9:22 says "almost everything," not absolutely everything. 

Here, again, one must be careful not to paint oneself into a corner.   Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic in Mark 2:5-10 without shedding blood or offering a blood sacrifice.   Now, one can of course maintain (with great validity) that Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic outside of time and in expectation of His Sacrificial Death on the Cross.   But, if Jesus could operate outside of time in regard to Mark 2, He could of course do the same at the Last Supper, and He can do the same at every Catholic Mass today.   For, it is the eternal Sacrifice of our Heavenly High Priest (which was both embodied by Christ via His Incarnation and offered once historically at the Cross) that we make present in the Eucharist every time it is celebrated.  

Here is an objection that I recently received:

During the debate concerning the two natures of Christ, and earlier, when Gnostic heretics denied Christ's physical nature, the Church's response was to insist on the bread being there when Christ is spiritually or divinely present as proof that the two things CAN be together. The point was that it was still bread, just as His flesh, as a living man, was true flesh.

I have a quote, attributed to Tertullian, by an author whose name I can't confirm, but perhaps you will know the quotation:

"He made the bread, received and distributed to His disciples, His body, saying, this is my body, that is, the figure of my body; but it would not have been a figure unless the body was truly such; for an empty thing, which is a phantasm, cannot have a figure."

Tertullian argues thus, from the Eucharist being a figure of the body, that the body must be real.

The same author then quotes Irenaeus, who, he says, argues in the same way:

"For when the bread, which is from the earth, receives the invocation of God, it is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two things, earthly and heavenly; so our bodies", and follows this up with a quote from Augustine:

"For if the sacrament had not a certain similitude of these things whereof they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all; but from this similitude they receive, for the most part, even the name of the things themselves."

Finally, Chrysostom is quoted as saying:

"...before the bread is sanctified we call it bread, but divine grace sanctifying it through the ministry of the priest, it is freed from the name of bread, and judged worthy of the appellation of the Lord's body, although the nature of bread remains in it." (Epist. ad Caesarium).

I think it was in 1215 that the Lateran Council under Innocent III made transubstantiation a dogma. But it seems that as late as the tenth century it was still openly disputed, whilst in the ninth century it was openly maintained (and the author not condemned as heretical at all) that transubstantiation did not take place. For example, Justin Martyr seems to treat the Eucharist as bread, wine and water, and as nothing else literally, when he describes these elements as nourishing the natural body.

Again, Theodoret, in his response to the Eutychians (who believed that Christ had only one nature) says :

"He that called His own natural body wheat and bread, and gave it the name of a vine, He also honoured the visible symbols or elements with the name of his body and blood, not changing their nature, but adding grace to nature." (Dial. i, tom. iv, p.17). The Eutychian heretic says:

"As the symbols of the Lord's body and blood are one thing before the invocation of the priest, but after invocation are changed and become another thing, so also the body of our Lord, after its assumption, was changed into the divine substance." (Dial. ii, p.85, Eranistes, Ed. Schultze iv. 126).

To which Theodoret replies :

"Thou art taken in thine own net, which thou hast made; for neither do the mystical symbols depart from their own nature after consecration, for they remain in their former substance, figure and form."

Thus, it appears that the controversy with the Eutychians and Monophysites, who confounded the divine and human natures in Christ, seems to prove that transubstantiation was not believed in. They used the fact of its being still bread and wine against the Eutychian doctrine, as they had against the Gnostics the fact of their being material creatures.

Pope Gelasius, writing also against Nestorians and Eutychians on the two natures in Christ, says:

"Doubtless, the sacraments of the body and blood of Christ which we receive are a divine thing, on account of which, by them, we become partakers of the divine nature, and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to exist." 

I would value your response to these ideas.

Well, let me say from the start that it is very unfortunate when ignorant Protestant authors wrench quotes like this from the fathers without appreciating their true historical contexts and without appreciating the theological paradigm shift that took place between Greek / Patristic (Platonic-based) theology and medieval Latin / Scholastic (Aristotelian-based), which is what was used to define Transubstantiation in the 13th Century.  For, in different periods, the Church used different theological (philosophical) languages to describe the organic truths of Apostolic Tradition.   This is what you have stumbled on here.    If you'd like to explore this historical development in depth, I highly recommend an essay by the Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar, entitled "The Fathers, the Scholastics, and Ourselves," which explores the phenomenon in great detail.   It is a difficult read; but if you bear with it, it will give you great insight into the dynamics involved when one compares the writings of the Church fathers (who used the intellectual language of Platonic philosophy) with the writings of the medieval Scholastic doctors (who used the intellectual language of Aristotle).    The confusion between these two systems was one of the primary causes behind the Great Schism between the Catholic West and the Orthodox East; and what is so unfortunate about it is that both sides were frequently referring to the very same truths, but they were unable to see this because Latin Western theology (based on Aristotle) and Greek Eastern theology (based on Plato) focused on different aspects of Apostolic Truth, and this frequently led Greeks and Latins to simply talk past each other.   And, your Protestant author is failing to appreciate this very thing. 

First off, one needs to come to terms with the fact that Transubstantiation was a dogmatic definition designed to respond to a specific error --that of Berengarianism, which claimed that the Eucharist is merely a symbol and nothing more.   Berengarianism was authored by a medieval French (Western) priest named Berengar (or Berengarius) who was operating within the environment of the medieval Western / Latin theological tradition, and he was the first person in history to offer a "rationalistic" / "naturalistic" explanation of the Eucharist and to deny that any Divine or supernatural mystery is involved.   This historical fact must be appreciated.   And so, needless to say, none of the fathers who you quote above are addressing or responding to Berengarianism, since all of them lived centuries before the heresy came into being. 

Now, in response to Berengarianism, Transubstantiation asserted that the bread and wine do not continue to exist as substantial realities, but are replaced by the substantial reality of the Person of Jesus Christ.   This definition employed the language and intellectual preoccupation of Aristotelian philosophy, which distinguished between substantial reality and formal reality.   And, for Aristotle, formal reality did not define true reality.   Rather, true reality is defined by substance -- the very essence of a thing, which is not limited to its formal, physical nature.   For example, it is a biological fact that the physical body that you had when you were 5 years old is not the same formal body that you have today.   Rather, every cell that composed your 5-year-old body has died by now and is replaced by new cells.  So, from a formal perspective, the Eric Smith who existed at age 5 no longer exists today. For, the physical body that you had at 5 is no longer the same formal reality that you have today.   Ah!   But, from a substantial (and metaphysical) perspective, the organism known as Eric Smith today is exactly the same organism that existed when you were 5. Your substance did not change.  And it is this mystery -- the mystery of substance that Transubstantiation addresses.   It teaches that the bread and wine remain as formal realities, but that the TRUE reality of the Eucharist -- that is, the reality of its SUBSTANCE has indeed changed, by Divine command.  

However, this was a medieval, Latin (Western) Scholastic definition, which addressed a medieval Latin challenge (i.e., Berengarianism), and focused on a medieval Latin preoccupation -- that is, whether or not the Eucharist was merely a naturalistic symbol or a true metaphysical miracle.  In the pre-medieval Church (especially the Eastern Church), this was never an issue; and so, it is no big surprise that the early fathers never addressed this dimension of the Mystery.     And, with this historical context appreciated, if you now go back and read the quotes from the fathers above --keeping in mind that they are NOT addressing Berengarianism, and are using the intellectual language of Plato, and not that of Aristotle, it becomes abundantly clear that they are not denying Transubstantiation. 

For example, you quote St. Ireneaus of Lyon, who (in full and more correctly translated writes) writes ....

"For just as the bread which comes from the earth, having received the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly, so our bodies, having received the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, because they have the hope of the resurrection." --Against the Heresies, Book 4:18 4-5, circa 180 A.D.

Now, this expression that Ireneaus uses --"two realities" --l eads many Protestants, like Martin Luther, to assume that St. Ireneaus is denying Transubstantiation, and that he is advocating the Lutheran doctrine of "Con-substantiation," which teaches that the Eucharist is BOTH the Real Presence of Jesus Christ AND still truly bread and wine.   The problem with this view (Consubstantiation) is obvious, because it implies a second incarnation -- that is, a Christ Who is not only fully-God and fully-man, but also fully-bread and fully-wine!     This is not the "Christ" Who the Catholic Church believes in, for we believe in only one Incarnation, not two, and not a repeated incarnation at every Eucharist.   Rather, we believe that the Eucharist brings the one and only Incarnate Sacrifice of Christ into our midst.    Lutheran consubstantiation implies (indeed, practically declares) that Jesus re-incarnates Himself at every Eucharist; and the Church obviously never believed this.   I'll return to this point in a moment. 

In terms of Ireneaus himself, he is clearly not denying Transubstantiation, and for several reasons.   First, Ireneaus lived in A.D. 180 -- that is, about 900 years before the birth of Berengarius; and so he was not addressing the error of Berengarianism.   Secondly, Ireneaus is a Greek father who was using the philosophical language of Plato to communicate his theology, not the philosophical language of Aristotle, which distinguished between "form" and "substance," and which was used to define the dogma of Transubstantiation against Berengarianism.     Thus, when Ireneaus speaks of "two realities," he does not mean that "form" defines true reality --that "form" and "substance" are equal.   Not at all.   Rather, he is merely addressing two perceptible or distinguishable "realities" --that is, the fact that one can perceive the apparent physical presence of bread and wine in the Eucharist -- what Aristotle would call mere "forms."  For, despite what Protestants often fail to appreciate, we Catholics do not believe in "Trans-FORMation," but in "Tran-SUBSTANTiation."  We believe that the physical forms remain what they appear to be --that is, bread and wine.   The change that takes place is not a physical change, but a METAPHYSICAL change --a change in substance, not in physical form.   If the change were physical, rather than metaphysical, then the priest would not be able to lift the Eucharistic Host with one hand, since He would be lifting the physical / formal presence of a 160-pound Jewish Carpenter!  This is the "reality" -- the FORMAL reality --that Ireneaus refers to.  The Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a SUBSTANTIAL reality -- a metaphysical reality  ---"metaphysical" defined as that which is proper to the physical realm, but which transcends mere physical form (like you being the same organism today that you were when you were 5, despite the total change in physical form through the death and replacement of all your cells).      

So, Ireneaus does not deny Transubstantiation, but merely affirms the very same organic Mystery using different (non-Aristotelian) language and from a different perspective and with different preoccupations in mind.    For example, he clearly says that the bread itself is "NO LONGER ORDINARY bread" --that is, he recognizes that SOME KIND OF CHANGE happens to THE BREAD ITSELF.    And that's not all he says about the Eucharist.   For, he also writes ....

"[Christ] has declared the Cup, a part of creation, to be his own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own Body, from which he gives increase to our bodies." -Ibid. 

...and .... 

"So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and build up the essence of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of receiving God's gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ's Blood and Body and is His member? As the blessed Apostle says in his letter to the Ephesians, 'For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones' (Eph. 5:30). He is not talking about some kind of 'spiritual' and 'invisible' man, 'for a spirit does not have flesh an bones' (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the Cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the Bread which is His Body. The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and 'the grain of wheat falls into the earth' (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two thenreceive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ." --Ibid. 

So, again, while Ireneaus (like modern Catholics) recognizes that the formal realities of bread and wine remain, he clearly maintains that we are nourished and fortified, not by both Christ's Body/Blood and bread/wine, but ONLY by Christ's Body and Blood, which the bread and wine "BECOME" after receiving the Word of God.   So, not only was Ireneaus clearly not a Berengarian, he was clearly not an advocate of consubstantiation either!    Only one "reality" nourishes us --the Divine and Incarnational Presence of Christ.  The bread and wine are only what the Latin Scholastics (using the language of Aristotle, rather than Plato) call "the forms" or "the accidents" --that which is not intrinsic to the true substance of a thing.   For Ireneaus, the "substance" of the Eucharist is unquestionably only one thing:  The Body and Blood of Christ. 

And, when we address all of the other fathers cited above, we see exactly the same thing.   For example, you cite the Pseudo-Tertullian (which I will address directly in a moment).   But, the true Terullian writes ...

"The flesh feeds on THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, so that the SOUL TOO may fatten on God." (Resurrection of the Dead 8:3)

It is not "two realities" that we receive substantially, but only one.   He also writes ...

"Likewise, in regard to the days of the fast, many not ont think they should be present at the Sacrificial prayers (i.e., the Mass), because their fast would be broken if they were to receive THE BODY OF THE LORD."   (On Prayer 19:1). 

Again, it is not "two realities," --not bread itself that might cause them to break their fast, but the Body alone that they receive. 

Also, St. Justin Martyr very clearly states that the Eucharist is not normal bread and wine.   He writes ...

"The food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except the one who believes that the things we teach are true and has received the Washing for the forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us.    For we do not receive these things as common bread and common drink; but as Jesus Christ, our Savior being Incarnate by God's Word took Flesh and Blood for our salvation, so we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from Him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation (i.e., true change), is the Flesh and Blood of that incarnate Jesus."  --First Apology, 66. 

Elsewhere, St. Justin talks about how the offering of the Eucharist is the pure Sacrifice (i.e., the one and only Sacrifice of Christ) that the prophet Malachi predicted would be offered by the Gentiles. 

You also cite St. Augustine.   But, he also says ... 

"You ought to know What you have received, Whatyou are going to receive, and What you ought to receive daily.  The Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the Word of God, is the Body of Christ.   The Chalice, or rather What is in the Chalice, having been sanctified by the Word of God is the Blood of Christ" --Sermon 227, 21. 

Notice that Augustine distinguishes between what is perceived (what his flock "sees") and what It truly is.  It is not the common elements (the physical forms) that they received, but the real substance that they are made into when they are sanctified by the Word of God.   And he also writes ...

"He who made you men, for your sakes was Himself made man; to ensure your adoption as many sons into an everlasting inheritance, the Blood of the Only-Begotten has been shed for you. If in your own reckoning you have held yourselves cheap because of your earthly frailty, now assess yourselves by the price paid for you; meditate, as you should, upon What you eat, What you drink, to What you answer 'Amen'". -"Second Discourse on Psalm 32". Ch. 4.

Here, again, Augustine speaks of what the medieval Scholastics (using Aristotelian language) call "the substance."      And he also writes .... 

"The fact that our fathers of old (i.e., the Israelites) offered sacrifices with beasts for victims, which the present-day people of God read about but do not do, is to be understood in no way but this:  That those things signified the things that we do in order to draw near to God and to recommend to our neighbor the same purpose.   A visible Sacrifice, therefore is the Sacrament (the Eucharist), that is to say, the sacred sign of an invisible Sacrifice.   ...Christ is both Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim.   He willed that the Sacramental sign of this should be the daily Sacrifice of the Church (the Eucharist), Who, since the Church is His Body and He the Head, learns to offer herself through Him." --The City of God, 10:5, 10:20.  

Here, in speaking about the "visible" and the "invisible," Augustine, again, touches on the distinction between that which is physical form and underlying substance.   It is Christ Himself, and Christ alone, that is truly offered in Sacrifice. 

You also cited Chrysostom.   But, he also writes ...

"When the Word says, 'This is My Body,' be convinced of it and believe it, and look at it with eyes of the mind.  For Christ did not give us something tangible (i.e., ephemeral), but even in His tangible thing all is intellectual.   ....How many now say, 'I wish I could see His shape, His appearance, His garments, His sandals.'   Only look!   You see Him!   You touch Him!   You eat Him! "  --Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, 82:4. 

...and .... 

"I wish to add something that is plainly awe-inspiring, but do not be astonished or upset.   This Sacrifice (the Eucharist), no matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul, is always the same as that which Christ gave His disciples and which priests now offer:  The Offering of today is in no way inferior to that which Christ offered; because it is not men who sanctify the Offering of today, it is the same Christ Who sanctified His own.   For just as the words which God spoke are the very same as those which the priest now speaks, so too the oblation is the very same --Homilies on 2 Timothy, 2:4. 

..and ...

"It is not the power of man which makes What is put before us, the Body and Blood of Christ, but the power of Christ Himself who was crucified for us.   The priest, standing there in the place of Christ, says these words but their power and grace are from God.  'This is My Body,' he says, and these words change What lies before him." --Homilies on the Treachery of Judas, 1:6.  

...and ....

"The Cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion of the Blood of Christ?   Very trustworthily and awesome does he says this:  What is in the Cup is that which flowed from His side, and we partake of it.   He called it a Cup of blessing because when we hold it in our hands that is how we praise Him in song, wondering and astonished at His indescribable Gift, blessing Him because of His having poured out this very Gift so that we might now remain in error, and not only for His having poured It out, but also for His sharing It with all of us." --Homilies on First Corinthians, 24:1.  

As with Augustine, the substantial reality of the Eucharist is the Presence of Christ Himself --His Self and His Life.  This is what is received and offered, nothing else. 

Now, in regard to the comparison made by the fathers, in response to the Gnostics and Eutychians (Monophysites), between the Eucharist and the Incarnation (the two natures of Christ), this, as I already addressed above, was clearly not a perfect analogy, nor was it ever meant to be.    For, when the pseudo-Tertullian author responds to the Gnostic error, he is not advocating two substantial realities for the Eucharist, but merely using the Eucharist to illustrate the essential error that the Gnostics professed, which was that there was no physical or incarnational dimension to the Christian faith --that Christ had no Body, etc.   Thus, all Pseudo-Tertullian is saying is that Christ must have possessed a physical nature because He equated His physical nature with the physical nature of bread. There is no denial of Transubstantiation here, nor is the issue of any kind of Eucharistic change even addressed.     Likewise, Augustine (as we've seen above) certainly does not deny a substantial change, but, in your quote above, merely confesses that the Sacraments possess a physical (touchable) dimension.   We Catholics obviously believe this too.  This is what makes them Sacraments.   The Eucharist certainly retains all the physical properties of bread and wine.   It looks like bread, feels like bread, tastes like bread, and can be manipulated like bread.    This is because bread is the formal sign of the Sacrament.   Jesus is saying:  "I Am nourishment to you."   But, the true, substantial reality is not that of bread, but Christ Himself.   And, in your quote from him above, St. John Chrysostom is merely saying the same thing.   When he confesses that "the nature of bread remains in it," Chrysostom is referring to the physical properties (the forms) of the Eucharist, which of course do remain.   Again, Chrysostom is not using the Scholastic language of Aristotle and is not addressing the specific concerns of the defined dogma of Transubstantiation.   Rather, he merely affirms its organic truth, as we've seen above.   And the same goes for Theodoret, who is also merely referring to the physical dimension (the formal dimension) of the Sacrament. And, thus, when he writes ...

"He that called His own natural body wheat and bread, and gave it the name of a vine, He also honoured the visible symbols or elements with the name of his body and blood, not changing their nature, but adding grace to nature." (Dial. i, tom. iv, p.17).

The meaning of "not changing their nature" refers to the fact that the bread and wine do not look like Jesus or appear to be Him...just as Chrysostom refers to in my quote from his Homilies on Matthew above.  Here, you must keep in mind that both Chrysostom and Theodoret were Antiochians, and their Antiochian perspective was not very accurate in distinguishing between Christ's two natures.   Indeed, Theodoret himself was a Nestorian.   So, that needs to be kept in mind.   It also reveals (if you understand Nestorianism) that, when Theodoret says that the nature of bread has not changed, this does not rule out any kind of "overlapping" nature to account for the substantial Real Presence of Christ.   This is exactly how the Nestorians viewed the two natures of Christ Himself. 

And, as for the rest of Theodoret's exchange with the Eutychian that you present .... 

The Eutychian heretic says:

"As the symbols of the Lord's body and blood are one thing before the invocation of the priest, but after invocation are changed and become another thing, so also the body of our Lord, after its assumption, was changed into the divine substance." (Dial. ii, p.85, Eranistes, Ed. Schultze iv. 126).

To which Theodoret replies :

"Thou art taken in thine own net, which thou hast made; for neither do the mystical symbols depart from their own nature after consecration, for they remain in their former substance, figure and form."

Here, again, keep in mind that you have an argument here between two heretics --a Eutychian (Monophysite) and a Nestorian.  In this, the Eutychian's observation of the Eucharist is orthodox, although His application of it to Christ's post-Ascension nature is heretical.   And, Theodoret (a Nestorian) is simply wrong if he proposed that the "substance" of the bread remains unchanged.   But, we should not be too quick to judge Theodoret here, since he is clearly not speaking in Scholastic language or using the word "substance" as it was used centuries in the definition of the dogma of Transubstantiation.    Indeed, since I do not have access to Theodoret's original Greek, I'm not sure what Greek word he really used.   He may have used the word "physis" -- "nature," and thus his statement would technically be orthodox, since the formal nature of the bread does not change.    Yet, needless to say, a contest between two heretics (a Monophysite and a Nestorian) is not a good way to explore what ancient orthodox Christians really believed about the Eucharist. 

And, lastly, you quote Pope Gelasius, who writes ....

"Doubtless, the Sacraments of the Body and Blood of Christ which we receive are a Divine thing, on account of which, by them, we become partakers of the Divine nature, and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to exist." 

This is a very popular quote used by ignorant anti-Catholics who have no appreciation for historical context.   As I said above, the intellectual / philosophical / theological language used to define the dogma of Transubstantiation was that of Aristotle, and was adopted by the Latin West beginning in the 11th Century.   Pope Gelasius was a 5th Century father who reigned between A.D. 492 and A.D. 496.   He was, therefore, not a medieval Scholastic theologian, and he was obviously not addressing the error of Berengarius, which did not arise yet.   Rather, he was speaking in the same, patristic, Platonic theological language used by St. Ireneaus and others above; and what he is clearly referring to are the perceptible physical forms of bread and wine, which do not cease to exist.   And the fact that he was addressing Monophysites and Nestorians when he wrote this explains WHY he wrote it.  He was countering the Eutychian / Monophysite mentality which suggested that Christ's Divine nature so absorbed His human nature that His human nature ceased to be.    Pope Gelasius' point is that, as with the Eucharist (which, as the exchange between Theodoret and his opponent shows, was a popular analogy during the Monophysite controversy) the formal reality of bread and wine (that is, the signs of the Sacrament) are not "swallowed up" by the Presence of Christ.   But this, again, was clearly not a perfect analogy, nor would it have been appropriate or prudent to use it IF Berengarianism was a threat at the time, which it wasn't.   So, it is anachronistic and dishonest to apply this quote from Gelasius to the issue of Transubstantiation vs. Berengarianism.    Indeed, if you pay careful attention to Gelasius' full quote, he clearly believed that the Eucharist was not common bread and wine, but a "Divine thing" which makes human beings partakers of Divine nature "by them."    Clearly, common bread and wine cannot do this. 

Mark Bonocore
The Catholic Legate
June 3, 2009