The Redeemer Fulfilled his Promise: Proved from the Words of
"WHATEVER God has promised," says St. Paul (Rom., iv. 20), "he is able to perform." We have seen that the Redeemer promised us his real body and blood. He has fulfilled his promise for he is God, to whom nothing is impossible. Let us briefly examine the proofs taken from the words of the institution. The history of the institution of the Blessed Eucharist is narrated in substantially the same words by the three Evangelists and St. Paul. St. Matthew, (xxvi. 26) thus gives them: "And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke; and gave to his disciples, and said: `Take ye and eat; this is my body'. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks; and gave to them, saying: `Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the New Testament which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins.'" These words constitute the impregnable bulwark of the Catholic doctrine. The Council of Trent (Sess. viii cap. 1) teaches that they prove the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the Holy Eucharist. The holy Council says: "After the blessing of the bread and wine, he (the Redeemer) testifies in express and clear words, that he gave them his own very Body and his own Blood."
The beautiful simplicity and clearness of the words of institution cannot fail to strike the mind of the candid reasoner. Christ says: "This is my body; this is my blood." The Catholic, in loving gratitude, bows down, and says: "Yes, O Lord I believe it. It is your body. It is your blood." Whilst the Protestant replies: "No, it is not your body; it is not your blood; but only a figure of your body and blood!" How evidently false, how disrespectful shall I say blasphemous? is this reply of the unbeliever to the Eternal Son of God. Hence our best argument consists in the bare repetition of these clear, sacred, and infallible words. Entrenched behind these words of our blessed Savior, the Catholic calmly awaits the attack of the enemy. The Protestant must prove the words cannot be taken literally which nobody has ever yet done. Assuming the offensive, we shall prove that the words must be taken in their clear and literal meaning.
According to the admitted rules of hermeneutics, or interpretation, a text is to be taken in its literal meaning, except, firstly, the literal sense involves a repugnance or absurdity; or, secondly, the words themselves, either from their own natural meaning or convention (usus loquendi) imply or suggest a figure. Learned Protestants admit these laws. Now in the texts This is my body; this is my blood we are not forced to the figurative meaning by either of these two conditions. In the first place, there is no repugnance or impossibility in the Real Presence. This is a question of pure philosophy. Philosophers of the first order, such as the celebrated Leibnitz, a Protestant, and the Catholic Balmez, the glory of the nineteenth century, have demonstrated that there is no intrinsic impossibility in the Real Presence. With God all things are possible. Mail., xix. 26. The same Christ who raised the dead to life, who changed water into wine, can by his omnipotence transmute bread and wine into his body and blood. The Christian who believes the Trinity and Incarnation will find no difficulty in the Blessed Eucharist. This is evident.
Secondly, the words themselves, either from their own nature or convention, do not imply a figure. Not from their own nature; for bread neither is, never has been, a figure or sign of human flesh. Not from convention or common consent; for there is not even a trace of it in the Scriptures. Hence it rigidly follows, that our Savior could not have used the words in a figurative sense, but used them in their clear literal meaning.
Add to this another powerful reason deduced from the occasion the solemn occasion of our Lord's making his last will and testament. When any man is dying, making his last will and testament, does he use figures and metaphors? Far from it. He makes use of the simplest and clearest words to express his meaning. Now, our Blessed Lord was on the eve of his passion, pouring out the treasures of his love, bequeathing to all mankind the greatest legacy of love which Divine Wisdom could devise a legacy that regarded millions in every clime and every land, from generations to generations, to the end of time. At this solemn moment, so much at stake, are we to suppose the God of infinite wisdom, in violation of the rules of common sense and human prudence, to have expressed himself in obscure figurative language, thus confirming in error millions for whom, the following day, he was to shed his blood, even to the last drop? No; the contrary we are to expect; and could words be more simple than these: "This is my body; this is my blood"? Yes, O blessed Lord! we believe that the Blessed Eucharist contains thy adorable body and thy precious blood.
Overwhelmed by these conclusive arguments, our adversaries had recourse to another objection. They contended that our Lord was obliged to use the verb "to be" or "is," for "represent; " for, they said, in the language in which he spoke there was no term to express "represent," or "signify," etc. This was a bold assertion and became for some time the great argument of the Protestant pulpit. But Catholic divines studied the SyroChaldaic language in which our Savior spoke, and found no fewer than fortyfive words to express "signify," or "represent," in that language. Never was defeat so signal, or victory so complete
The Testimony of St. Paul.
St. Paul came after our Blessed Savior. He confessed with the other apostles, who received the doctrine from the Divine lips of Jesus Christ himself. As an inspired writer, his duty was to explain whatever might appear obscure in our Lord's words. Now what does St. Paul say? He gives the words of institution substantially the same as the three Evangelists (I Cor. xi. 23), and confirms this doctrine by two convincing texts. He says (I Cor. x. 16): "The cup of benediction which we bless, is it not the partaking of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not partaking of the body of the Lord?" Here the Apostle calls the wine the blood of Christ, and the bread the body of the Lord. And again he says (I Cor. xi. 27): "Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord." "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and, drinketh judgment to himself; not discerning the body of our Lord." Here, in painting the awful guilt of sacrilege, he calls the Holy Eucharist the body and blood of the Lord. Hence, St. Paul, so far from explaining away the "hard sayings" of his Divine Master, several times repeats the same words, and confirms the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the adorable Sacrament.
Now to sum up these various points, too briefly put. Firstly, we have seen that the words of institution are in themselves clear and evident; secondly, that neither the matter nor words, nor any convention, require or point to a figure; thirdly, that our Lord was making his last will and testament, and was bound therefore to use clear, plain and intelligible language; fourthly, that he had fortyfive easy words to express the figure, did he wish it; lastly, that St. Paul, coming after our Divine Lord, several times repeats and confirms the same doctrine. All these things, taken together, prove to demonstration that the Redeemer fulfilled his promise to give us his real body and blood; and the candid Christian must cry out with St. Thomas: "My Lord and my God." John xxi. 28.*
* For a full development of these arguments, the reader is referred to Cardinal Wiseman's Lectures on the Eucharist.
The Real Presence Proved by Prescription and Tradition.
THE proofs of the doctrine of the real presence deduced from prescription and tradition are no less convincing than those from the sacred Scriptures. We begin with prescription. We must necessarily be very brief. At the time of the socalled Reformation, all Protestants admit that the Universal Church both Western and Eastern believed the doctrine of the real presence. Now from this fact alone we prove the doctrine must have been taught by Christ himself. The doctrine of the real presence includes a sacrifice and sacrament of daily use among the faithful their principal worship. The Protestant comes and says: "This doctrine was not taught by, or practiced in, the early Church, but introduced afterwards." Before we give a direct reply to this falsehood, let us first remark that the assertion is blasphemous, involving our Savior in contradiction; for, to say that at any time the Universal Church was in or taught error, is to assert that Jesus Christ was faithless to his sacred promise _ "to be with his Church all days, even to the end of the world." Matt. xxviii. 20; and that "the gates of hell should not prevail against her." Matt. xvi. 18. Who would not blush to assert that the Redeemer was faithless to his sacred promises?
But to return to the direct argument The Universal Church peaceably possessed the treasure of the doctrine of the real presence at the time of the Reformation. Then, on a sudden, heretics arose and asserted: "This doctrine was not always believed; a change has taken place; error has been introduced." Now, evidently it is their duty, the obligation is imposed upon them, to prove when the change took place, when, and by whom, the error was introduced. Have they done so? No, never. No Protestant has ever yet answered, nor ever will answer, these questions. They cannot produce a single page of history either sacred or profane, that record, this mighty change. They cannot tell the names of the impostors, in what country they lived, in what age they flourished.
Add to this the sensitive vigilance of the Sovereign Pontiffs, the bishops, and the pastors of the Church in every age. Like faithful sentinels posted on the watchtowers of the Church, at the very shadow of error or heresy they sounded the tocsin of alarm. Councils were convoked, innovators condemned, and the brand of the heretic stamped upon their foreheads, that the faithful might know and shun them. In ecclesiastical history, we have the name of every heresy that was broached from the dawn of Christianity to the present day. Not only can we tell the names of the heresiarchs, the country and age in which they lived, but we have the most minute details of the disputes, and their condemnation by the Church of God. And this in matters not only of faith, but even of discipline ; so vigilant at all times have been the guardians of the deposit of faith. And notwithstanding this, no Protestant can tell when, where, or by whom the allimportant doctrine of the real presence, constituting the daily worship of the faithful, was introduced ! Are we to believe that this great change took place, and that no alarm was raised, no vigilant pastor reclaimed, no trace was left on the page of history! Are we to believe that the Universal Church pastors and people retired to rest one night, believing in a figurative presence, and arose in the morning believing in a real, and then conspired, one and all, to deceive posterity, and not leave a single trace of the change in the records of history! Is not such an hypothesis absurd and impossible ? Hence it follows that no such change was ever made, no such error ever introduced. The doctrine the Church taught and believed at the Reformation. the same she taught and believed in every age, from century to century, to the times of the Apostles, and therefore received from the divine lips of Jesus Christ himself the holy doctrine of the Real Presence.
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