Monday, 2 November 2015

Liturgy 6.1 (2015-2016): Introductory Readings
from the Didache and Patristic sources

A colonnade of 14 Corinthian columns on the west side of the Stoa of Smyrna, the only surviving classical site in Izmir. Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote four of his letters, including one to the Church in Smyrna, while he was a prisoner in Smyrna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10:30 to 1 p.m., Mondays, Hartin Room:

2 November 2015

Liturgy 6:

6.1:
Introductory Readings from the Didache and Patristic sources.

6.2: Baptism and Eucharist (1) from the early Church to the Reformers.

6.3: Seminar, the ‘Word’ expressed in music and the arts.

6.1: Introductory Readings from the Didache and Patristic sources:

Baptism and the Eucharist in the Didache

The Didache (ca 90 AD):

The Didache (Διδαχὴ, “Teaching”) is the common name of a brief early Christian treatise (ca 50–160) containing instructions for Christian communities. While the manuscript is commonly referred to as the Didache, this is short for the title used by the Church Fathers, “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (Διδαχὴ τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων).

Some Church Fathers considered it as part of the New Testament but it others rejected it as spurious, and eventually it was excluded from the New Testament canon.

In Chapter 9, the Didache quotes prayers that might correspond with what we might call Consecration and Communion. But there is no reference to the redemptive death of Christ as formulated by Paul. The mention of the chalice before the bread (which is the opposite of the normally accepted tradition) is found in Luke 22: 17-19, in the “Western” text (which omits verse 20).

But this text also parallels what may have been the Jewish blessing of wine and bread at the time and with which the prayers in chapter 9 have a close affinity.

Chapter 10 gives a slightly longer thanksgiving after Communion, which mentions the “spiritual food and drink and eternal life through your child Jesus.” After a doxology come the apocalyptic exclamations: “May grace come, and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If anyone is holy, let him come; if any is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.”

The prayer is reminiscent of the Hosanna and Sanctus of the liturgies, but also of Revelation 22: 17, 20, and I Corinthians 16: 22.

The words in thanksgiving for the chalice are echoed by Clement of Alexandria [Quis Dives Salvetur? 29]: “It is he [Christ] who has poured out the wine, the Blood of the Vine of David, upon our wounded souls”. And they are echoed by Origen, in Judic. Hom. vi: “Before we are inebriated with the blood of the true vine which ascends from the root of David.”

The breaking of bread and Thanksgiving [Eucharist] is on Sunday, “after you have confessed your transgressions, that your Sacrifice may be pure,” and those who are at discord must agree, for this is the clean oblation prophesied in Malachi (1: 11, 14). “Ordain therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons, worthy of the Lord … for they also minister to you the ministry of the prophets and teachers.”

Chapter 7:

1 περι δε του βαπτισματος, ουτω βαπτισατε, ταυτα παντα προειποντες, βαπτισατε εις το ονομα του πατρος και του υιου και του αγιου πνευματος εν υδατι ζωντι.
2 εαν δε μη εχης υδωρ ζων, εις αλλο υδωρ βαπτισον, ει δ' ου δυνασαι εν ψυχρω, εν θερμω.
3 εαν δε αμφοτερα μη εχης, εκχεον εις την κεφαλην τρις υδωρ εις ονομα πατρος και υιου και αγιου πνευματος.
4 προ δε του βαπτισματος προνηστευσατω ο βαπτιζων και ο βαπτιζομενος και ει τινες αλλοι δυνανται, κελευεις δε νηστευσαι τον βαπτιζομενον προ μιας η δυο.

Chapter 8:

1 αι δε νηστειαι υμων μη εστωσαν μετα των υποκριτων. νηστευσουσι γαρ δευτερα σαββατων και πεμπτη, υμεις δε νηστευσατε τετραδα και παρασκευην.
2 μηδε προσευχεσθε ως οι υποκριται, αλλ' ως εκελευσεν ο κυριος εν τω ευαγγελιω αυτου, ουτω προσευχεσθε, πατηρ ημων ο εν τω ουρανω, αγιασθητω το ονομα σου, ελθετω η βασιλεια σου, γενηθητω το θελημα σου ως εν ουρανω και επι γης, τον αρτον ημων τον επιουσιον δος ημιν σημερον, και αφες ημιν την οφειλην ημων, ως και ημεις αφιεμεν τοις οφειλεταις ημων, και μη εισενεγκης ημας εις πειρασμον, αλλα ρυσαι ημας απο του πονηρου, οτι σου εστιν η δυναμις και η δοξα εις τους αιωνας.
3 τρις της ημερας ουτω προσευχεσθε.

Chapter 9:

1 περι δε της ευχαριστιας, ουτως ευχαριστησατε,
2 πρωτον περι του ποτηριου, ευχαριστουμεν σοι, πατερ ημων, υπερ της αγιας αμπελου δαυιδ του παιδος σου, ης εγνωρισας ημιν δια Ιησου του παιδος σου, σοι η δοξα εις τους αιωνας.
3 περι δε του κλασματος, ευχαριστουμεν σοι, πατερ ημων, υπερ της ζωης και γνωσεως, ης εγνωρισας ημιν δια Ιησου του παιδος σου. σοι η δοξα εις τους αιωνας.
4 ωσπερ ην τουτο [το] κλασμα διεσκορπισμενον επανω των ορεων και συναχθεν εγενετο εν, ουτω συναχθητω σου η εκκλησια απο των περατων της γης εις την σην βασιλειαν, οτι σου εστιν η δοξα και η δυναμις δια Ιησου Cριστου εις τους αιωνας.
5 μηδεις δε φαγετω μηδε πιετω απο της ευχαριστιας υμων, αλλ' οι βαπτισθεντες εις ονομα κυριου, και γαρ περι τουτου ειρηκεν ο κυριος. μη δωτε το αγιον τοις κυσι.

Chapter 10:

1 μετα δε το εμπλησθηναι ουτως ευχαριστησατε,
2 ευχαριστουμεν σοι, πατερ αγιε, υπερ του αγιου ονοματος σου, ου κατεσκηνωσας εν ταις καρδιαις ημων, και υπερ της γνωσεως και πιστεως και αθανασιας, ης εγνωρισας ημιν δια Ιησου του παιδος σου, σοι η δοξα εις τους αιωνας.
3 συ, δεσποτα παντοκρατορ, εκτισας τα παντα ενεκεν του ονοματος σου, τροφην τε και ποτον εδωκας τοις ανθρωποις εις απολαυσιν, ινα σοι ευχαριστησωσιν, ημιν δε εχαρισω πνευματικην τροφην και ποτον και ζωην αιωνιον δια Ιησου του παιδος σου.
4 προ παντων ευχαριστουμεν σοι, οτι δυνατος ει, σοι η δοξα εις τους αιωνας.
5 μνησθητι, κυριε, της εκκλησιας σου του ρυσασθαι αυτην απο παντος πονηρου και τελειωσαι αυτην εν τη αγαπη σου, και συναξον αυτην απο των τεσσαρων ανεμων, την αγιασθεισαν, εις την σην βασιλειαν, ην ητοιμασας αυτη, οτι σου εστιν η δυναμις και η δοξα εις τους αιωνας.
6 ελθετω χαρις και παρελθετω ο κοσμος ουτος. ωσαννα τω θεω δαυιδ. ει τις αγιος εστιν, ερχεσθω, ει τις ουκ εστι, μετανοειτω, μαραν αθα, αμην.
7 τοις δε προφηταις επιτρεπετε ευχαριστειν, οσα θελουσιν.

Chapter 7: Of Baptism

1 The procedure for baptizing is as follows. After repeating all that has been said, immerse in running water ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’. 2 If no running water is available, immerse in ordinary water. This should be cold if possible; otherwise warm. 3 If neither is practicable, then pour water three times on the head ‘In the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’. 4 Both baptiser and baptised ought to fast before the baptism, as well as any others who can do so; but the candidate himself should be told to keep a fast for a day or two beforehand.

Chapter 8: Of Fast-Days and Prayer

1 Do not keep the same fast-days as the hypocrites. Mondays and Thursdays are their days for fasting, so yours should be Wednesdays and Fridays.

2 Your prayers, too, should be different from theirs. Pray as the Lord enjoined in His Gospel, thus:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
As in heaven, so on earth;
Give us this today of our daily bread,
And forgive us our debt as we forgive our debtors,
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from the Evil One,
For thine is the power and glory for ever and ever.

3 Say this prayer three times a day.

Chapter 9: the Eucharist

1 At the Eucharist, offer the Eucharistic prayer in this way. 2 Begin with the chalice: ‘We thank to thee, our Father, for the holy Vine of thy servant David, which thou hast made known to us through they servant Jesus.’

‘Glory be to thee, world without end.’

3 Then over the broken bread: ‘We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge thou hast made known to us through thy servant Jesus.’

‘Glory be to thee, world without end.’

4 ‘As this broken bread, once dispersed over the hills, was brought together and became one loaf, so may thy Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into this kingdom.’

‘Thine is the glory and the power, through Jesus Christ, for ever and ever.’

5 No one is to eat or drink of your Eucharist but those who have been baptised in the Name of the Lord; for the Lord’s own saying applies here, ‘Give not that which is holy unto dogs.’

Chapter 10

1 When all have partaken sufficiently, give thanks in these words:

2 ‘Thanks be to thee, holy Father, for thy sacred Name which thou hast caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which thou hast revealed to us through thy Servant Jesus.’

‘Glory be to thee for ever and ever.’

3 ‘Thou, O Almighty Lord, hast created all things for thine own Name’s sake; to all men thou hast given meat and drink to men to enjoy, that they may give thanks to thee, but to us thou hast graciously given spiritual meat and drink, together with life eternal, through thy Servant. 4 Especially, and above all, do we give thanks to thee for the mightiness of thy power.’

‘Glory be to thee for ever and ever.’

5 ‘Be mindful of thy Church, O Lord; deliver it from all evil, perfect it in thy love, sanctify it, and gather it from the four winds into the kingdom which thou hast prepared for it.’

‘This is the power and the glory for ever and ever.’

6 ‘Let Grace come, and this world pass away.’

‘Hosanna to the God of David.’

‘Whoever is holy, let him approach. Whoso is not, let him repent.’

‘Maranatha. Amen.’

7 (Prophets, however, should be free to give thanks as they please.)

(see Maxwell Staniforth and Andrew Louth, Early Christian Writings (London: Penguin), 1988 ed, pp 194-195.)

The Early Father of the Church on the Eucharist:

The Coliseum ... Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome ca AD 80, is one of the earliest Patristic writers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome (80 AD):

Saint Clement refers to the Eucharist as the “offering of the gift” (Corinthians 36: 1).

Corinthians 40:

Since then these things are manifest to us, and we have looked into the depths of the divine knowledge, we ought to do in order all things which the Master commanded us to perform at appointed times. He commanded us to celebrate sacrifices and services, and that it should not be thoughtlessly or disorderly, but at fixed times and hours. He has Himself fixed by His supreme will the places and persons whom He desires for these celebrations, in order that all things may be done piously according to His good pleasure, and be acceptable to His will. So then those who offer their oblations at the appointed seasons are acceptable and blessed, but they follow the laws of the Master and do not sin. For to the high priest his proper ministrations are allotted, and to the priests the proper place has been appointed, and on Levites their proper services have been imposed. The layman is bound by the ordinances for the laity.

The 42-hectare Kültürpark was laid out on the ruins of the Greek quarter of Smyrna ... Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans ca 110 AD (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Ignatius of Antioch (ca 35-ca 98/117)

Saint Ignatius of Antioch ... referred to the Church as a “Eucharistic community” which realises its true nature when it celebrates the Eucharist, and defined the Church as the local community gathered around its bishop, celebrating the Eucharist

Ignatius (ca 35-ca 98/117), who succeeded Peter and Evodius ca 68 as the third Bishop or Patriarch of Antioch, may have been a disciple of the Apostle John. He is one of the Apostolic Fathers, the earliest authoritative group of the Church Fathers, and it is argued that his understanding of the nature of the Church and the Eucharist was close to the Apostles and the Apostolic Church. Ignatius, who died as a martyr in Rome, wrote six letters to the churches in the region and one to a fellow bishop, Polycarp of Smyrna.

He referred to the Church as a “Eucharistic community” which realises its true nature when it celebrates the Eucharist, and defined the Church as the local community gathered around its bishop, celebrating the Eucharist:

“Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptise or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.” – Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8.

Ignatius, therefore, is the first known Christian writer to put great stress on loyalty to a single bishop in each city, who is assisted by both presbyters (priests) and deacons. He also stressed the value of the Eucharist, calling it “a medicine to immortality.” He is also claimed as the first known Christian writer to argue in favour of replacing the Saturday Sabbath with the Lord’s Day, and he is responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός), meaning “universal,” to describe the church.

Ignatius is also the first of the Church Fathers to speak about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Ignatius, “thought of the Church as a Eucharistic society which only realised its true nature when it celebrated the Supper of the Lord, receiving His Body and Blood in the Sacrament.” [Ignatius, quoted in Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, The Orthodox Church, p 21.]

Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 6 (110 AD):

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 Saviour 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.

Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8:1 (110 AD):

Let that Eucharist be held valid which is offered by the bishop or by the one to whom the bishop has committed this charge. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

Epistle to the Romans, 7 (110 AD):

I desire the Bread of God, the heavenly Bread, the Bread of Life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; I wish the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.

Epistle to the Philadephians, 4:1 (110 AD):

Be ye careful therefore to observe one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup unto union in His blood; there is one altar, as there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and the deacons my fellow-servants), that whatsoever ye do, ye may do it after God.

Justin Martyr (100-165):

Justin Martyr (100-165) was an early Christian apologist, and his works represent the earliest surviving Christian apologies of notable size. He was born in Flavia Neapolis (modern Nablus) in Palestine, and, according to tradition, he was martyred in Rome under Marcus Aurelius (ca 162-168).

The most important of all early allusions to Christian worship is the locus classicus of Justin Martyr in his First Apology. [Cresswell, The Liturgy … of ‘The Apostolic Constitutions,’ p 18.] The First Apology was written ca 151 to the Emperor Antoninus Pius to explain the practices and beliefs of Christians and to prove the injustice of the persecution of Christians. He defends Christianity as the only rational creed, and includes an account of the Eucharist, probably to counteract distorted accounts from anti-Christian sources. Chapters 61-67 give accounts of Baptism, Eucharist, and Sunday worship.

Justin emphasises the requirements of baptism and the need to approach the Eucharist prayerfully and with a pure heart. In the Eucharist he shows his devotion by offering bread and wine and by prayer, receiving in return the food consecrated by a formula of Christ’s institution, which is the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus, and by which our flesh and blood are nourished through a kind of transformation (kata metabolen).

In Chapter 67, Justin directly refers to the Eucharistic prayer of “considerable length” and to the active participation of the community. He points out that the Apostles handed down the teaching of Christ’s words at the Last Supper. The Eucharistic celebration is described by Justin in Chapters 65-67:

“And this food is called among us the Eucharist … , as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of his word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.

“For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, said, ‘This do ye in remembrance of me, this is my body;’ and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, ‘This is my blood;’ and gave it to them alone …

“Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.”

Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew (ca AD 155), writes of how the Church, “in every place offer sacrifices to him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify his name.”

Apology, I.66-167 (2nd century):

Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ

It is allowed to no one else to participate in that food which we call Eucharist except the one who believes that the things taught by us are true, who has been cleansed in the washing unto rebirth and the forgiveness of sins and who is living according to the way Christ handed on to us. For we do not take these things as ordinary bread or ordinary drink. Just as our Saviour Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made through the word of prayer instituted by him, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh. Indeed, the Apostles, in the records left by them which are called gospels, handed on that it was commanded to them in this manner: Jesus, having taken bread and given thanks said, “Do this in memory of me, this is my body.” Likewise, having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, “This is my blood,” and he gave it to them alone.

The Sunday Assembly:

Furthermore, after this we always remind one another of these things. Those who have the means aid those who are needy, and we are always united. Over everything which we take to ourselves we bless the Creator of the universe through His Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

On the day called after the sun [Sunday] there is a meeting for which all those dwelling in the cities or in the countryside come together. The records of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time allows. When the reader has stopped, the one who is presiding admonishes and encourages us by a sermon to the imitation of those good examples.

Then we all stand up together and lift up our prayers and, as I said previously, when we have finished our prayer, bread is brought forth and wine and water. The one who is presiding offers up prayers and thanksgiving according to his ability and the people acclaim their assent with “Amen.” There is the distribution of and participation on the part of each one in the gifts for which thanks has been offered, and they are sent to those who are not present through the deacons.

We all come together on the day of the sun since it is the first day, on which God changed darkness and matter and made the world. On that day, Jesus Christ our Saviour arose from the dead. They crucified him on the day preceding that of Saturn, and on the day of the sun he appeared to his Apostles and disciples and taught them these things which we have presented also to you for inspection.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (ca 130-202):

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons ... appealed to the Eucharist to sustain faith in the resurrection of the body

In the 2nd century, Irenaeus of Lyons (ca 130–202) was Bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (now Lyons, France). His writings were formative in the early development of theology, and he is one of the Fathers of the Church. A disciple of Polycarp, who himself was a disciple of John the Evangelist, Irenaeus is thought to have been a Greek from Polycarp’s hometown of Smyrna (Izmir) in Asia Minor, where he was raised in a Christian family.

Irenaeus, who was rigid in his adherence to orthodoxy, was an important figure defending the place of the four main Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament.

Against Heresies, 5,2,2 (180 AD):

If the body be not saved, then in fact, neither did the Lord redeem us with His Blood; and neither is the cup of the Eucharist the partaking of His Blood nor is the Bread which we break the partaking of His Body … He 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.

Against Heresies, 4,17,5:

Again, giving counsel to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits from among His creatures, not as if He needed them, but so that they themselves might be neither unfruitful nor ungrateful, 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 offer to My name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is My name among the gentiles,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Malachi 1: 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.

Against Heresies, 4, 18, 2:

It is not oblations as such that have met with disapproval. There were oblations of old; there are oblations now. There were sacrifices among the people of Israel; there are sacrifices in the Church. Only the kind of oblation has been changed: now it is offered by freemen, not by slaves. There is one and the same Lord, but the character of an oblation made by slaves is distinctive, so too that of an oblation made by sons: their oblations bear the mark of freedom.

We must make oblation to God, and in all things be found pleasing to God the Creator, in sound teaching, in sincere faith, in firm hope, in ardent love, as we offer the first fruits of the creatures that are his. The Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator when it makes its offering to him from his creation, with thanksgiving.

We offer him what is his, and so we proclaim communion and unity and profess our belief in the resurrection of flesh and spirit. Just as bread from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist, made up of two elements, one earthly and one heavenly, so also our bodies, in receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, for they have the hope of resurrection.

Against Heresies, 5,2,2:

If the body be not saved, then in fact, neither did the Lord redeem us with His Blood; and neither is the cup of the Eucharist the partaking of His Blood nor is the Bread which we break the partaking of His Body … He 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.

Saint Clement of Alexandria (ca 150-ca 211/216):

Clement of Alexandria, who was born in the middle of the 2nd century, perhaps in Athens, and died between 211 and 216, is one of the most distinguished teachers in the Church of Alexandria. There he was the head of the Catechetical School, and his pupils included Origen. Clement was the first writer to attempt to set out Christianity in the traditional forms of secular literature. The trilogy into which his principal works are divided are: the Protrepticus (“Exhortation to the Greeks”), the Paedagogus (“The Instructor,” ca 202 AD), and the Stromata (“Miscellanies”)

In The Instructor, Clement of Alexandria says those who take part in the “in faith are sanctified in body and in soul. By the will of the Father, the divine mixture, man, is mystically united to the Spirit and to the Word.”

The Instructor of Children, 1,6,41,3 (202 AD):

When the loving and benevolent Father had rained down the Word, that Word then became the spiritual nourishment of those who have good sense.

The Instructor of Children, 42,1:

O mystic wonder! The Father of all is indeed one, one also is the universal Word, and the Holy Spirit is one and the same everywhere; and one is the Virgin Mother. I love to call her the Church. This Mother alone was without milk, because she alone did not become a wife. She is at once both Virgin and Mother: as Virgin, undefiled; as a Mother full of love.

Calling her children about her, she nourishes them with holy milk, that is with the Infant Word … The Word is everything to a child: both the Father and Mother, both Instructor and Nurse. ‘Eat My Flesh,’ He says, ‘and drink My Blood’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutriments. He delivers over His Flesh, and pours out His Blood; and nothing is lacking for the growth of His children. O incredible mystery!

The Instructor of Children, 2,2,19,4:

The Blood of the Lord, indeed, is twofold. There is His corporeal blood, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and His spiritual Blood, that with which we are anointed. That is to say, to drink the Blood of Jesus is to share in His Immortality. The strength of the Word is the Spirit, just as the blood is the strength of the body.

The Instructor of Children, 2,2, 20,1:

Similarly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. The one, the Watered Wine, nourishes in faith while the other, the Spirit, leads us on to immortality. The union of both, however – of the drink and of the Word – is called Eucharist, a praiseworthy and excellent gift. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and in soul. By the will of the Father, the divine mixture, man, is mystically united to the Spirit and to the Word.

Tertullian (ca 155-230):

Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) was born, lived, and died in Carthage, in present-day Tunisia. He denounced Christian doctrines he considered heretical, but later in life adopted views that came to be regarded as heretical themselves. Tertullian left the Church of Rome late in his life and joined the Montanists, which explains why he has never been regarded as a saint.

He was the first great writer of Latin Christianity, and is sometimes known as the “father of the Latin Church.” He introduced the term Trinity and probably also the formula “three Persons, one Substance.”

In recalling the Last Supper, Tertullian does not mention either giving thanks or breaking the bread, and locates the giving before the interpretative words.

The Resurrection of the Dead, 8,2 (ca 208-212):

The flesh, then, is washed, so that the soul may be made clean. The flesh is anointed, so that the soul may be dedicated to holiness. The flesh is signed, so that the soul too may be fortified. The flesh is shaded with the imposition of hands, so that the soul too may be illuminated by the Spirit. The flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ, so that the soul too may fatten on God. They cannot, then, be separated in their reward, when they are united in their works.

In his treatise on Prayer (6,2), ca 200/206, Tertullian quotes John 6 in connection with a spiritual understanding of the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day our daily bread.” In a spiritual sense, Christ is our daily Bread, presumably because of the practice of the daily reception of the Eucharist.

Later, in the same treatise (19,1), Tertullian writes:

Likewise, regard to days of fast, many do not think they should be present at the sacrificial prayers, because their fast would be broken if they were to receive the Body of the Lord. Does the Eucharist, then, obviate a work devoted to God, or does it bind it more to god? Will not your fast be more solemn if, in addition, you have stood at God’s altar? The body of the Lord having been received and reserved, each point is secured: both the participation in the sacrifice and the discharge of duty.

On worship on the Lord’s Day, Tertullian writes in The Crown (3,4) in 211:

We take anxious care lest something of our Cup of Bread should fall upon the ground.

Origen (185–ca 254):

Origen (Ὠριγενης Ἀδαμαντιος) was one of the most distinguished of the early fathers of the Church. His writings are important as one of the first intellectual attempts to describe Christianity. In 203 he revived the Catechetical School of Alexandria, where Clement of Alexandria had taught.

Contra Celsum, 8:57:

We are not people with ungrateful hearts; it is true, we do not sacrifice ... to such beings who, far from bestowing their benefits upon us, are our enemies; but to God who has bestowed upon us an abundance of benefits ... we fear being ungrateful. The sign of this gratitude towards God is the bread called Eucharist.

Homilies on Exodus, 13,3:

I wish to admonish you with examples from your religion. You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know, when you received the body of the Lord, you reverently exercised every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence. but if you observe such caution in keeping His Body, and properly so, how is it that you think neglecting the word of God a lesser crime than neglecting His Body?

Saint Cyprian of Carthage of Carthage (ca 200-258):

Saint Cyprian was consecrated Bishop of Carthage in 248, was banished in 257 and was later beheaded. He argued that the sacraments are only valid within the Church, and identified the Christian ministry with the priestly and sacrificial functions in the Old Testament. He was the author of the dictum: “Habere non potest Deum patrem qui ecclesiam non habet matrem” (“he cannot have God as his father who does not have the Church as his mother”).

In his account of the Last Supper, Saint Cyprian only quotes part of a Gospel narrative. He uses “blessed” (the word used by Matthew for the bread) rather than “give thanks” (used by both Matthew and Mark) for the cup. He also uses the future tense “will be poured out” rather than the present.

Cyprian, in his Letter of Cyprian to a Certain Magnus (ca 255 AD), wrote: “Finally, the sacrifices of the Lord proclaim the unity of Christians, bound together by the bond of a firm and inviolable charity. For when the Lord, in speaking of bread which is produced by the compacting of many grains of wheat, refers to it as his body, He is describing our people whose unity He has sustained, and when He refers to wine pressed from many grapes and berries, as his blood, He is speaking of our flock, formed by the fusing of many united together.”

In Ephesians (ca 258 AD), he wrote: “The priest who imitates that which Christ did, truly takes the place of Christ, and offers there in the Church a true and perfect sacrifice to God the Father.”

The Lord’s Prayer, Chapter 18 (252 AD):

As the prayer proceeds, we ask and say: ‘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.

Letter of Cyprian to a Certain Magnus, 6 (76), 5 (255 AD):

Finally, the sacrifices of the Lord proclaim the unity of Christians, bound together by the bond of a firm and inviolable charity. For when the Lord, in speaking of bread which is produced by the compacting of many grains of wheat, refers to it as His Body, He is describing our people whose unity He has sustained, and when He refers to wine pressed from many grapes and berries, as His Blood, He is speaking of our flock, formed by the fusing of many united together.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (ca 313-386):

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Κύριλλος Α΄ Ἱεροσολύμων) was a distinguished theologian of the early Church, and came into conflict with his immediate superiors for his opposition to the Arian party in the Church, and a thorough adherent of Nicene Orthodoxy.

Mystagogic Catechesis 4,1 (ca 350 AD):

1. “I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, etc. [I Corinthians 11: 23].” This teaching of the Blessed Paul is alone sufficient to give you a full assurance concerning those Divine Mysteries, which when ye are vouchsafed, ye are of [Ephesians 3: 6] and blood with Christ. For he has just distinctly said, [I Corinthians 2: 23-25] Since then He Himself has declared and said of the Bread, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has affirmed and said, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?

2. He once turned water into wine, in Cana of Galilee, at His own will, and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood? That wonderful work He miraculously wrought, when called to an earthly marriage; and shall He not much rather be acknowledged to have bestowed the fruition of His Body and Blood on the children of the bride chamber?

3. Therefore with fullest 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, mightest 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 diffused through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, [II Peter 1: 4]

4. Christ on a certain occasion discoursing with the Jews said, [I John 6: 53] They not receiving His saying spiritually were offended, and went backward, supposing that He was inviting them to eat flesh.

5. Even under the Old Testament there was showbread; but this as it belonged to the Old Testament, came to an end; but in the New Testament there is the Bread of Heaven, and the Cup of Salvation [cf. Psalm 116:13], sanctifying soul and body; for as the Bread has respect to our body, so is the Word appropriate to our soul.

6. Contemplate therefore the Bread and Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for though sense suggests this to thee, let faith establish thee. Judge not the matter from taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that thou hast been vouchsafed the Body and Blood of Christ.

7. The blessed David also shall advise thee at the meaning of this, saying, [Psalm 23: 5] What he says, is to this effect. Before Thy coming, evil spirits prepared a table for men, foul and polluted and full of all devilish influence; but since Thy coming, O Lord, When the man says to God, , what other does he mean but that mystical and spiritual Table, which God hath prepared , that is, contrary and in opposition to the evil spirits? And very truly; for that had fellowship with devils, but this, with God …

9. These things having learnt, and being fully persuaded that what seems bread is not bread, though bread by taste, but the Body of Christ; and that what seems wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ ...

The Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos has the skull of Saint John Chrysostom (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint John Chrysostom (ca 347-407):

Saint John Chrysostom (Ἰωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος), Patriarch of Constantinople, is known for his eloquence in preaching and oratory, his denunciation of the abuse of authority by the authorities in both Church and State. He has given his name to the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. After his death he was given the name Χρυσόστομος (chrysostomos), or “golden mouthed.”

In the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos, I was shown the skull of Saint John Chrysostom.

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom became the liturgical form favoured in the cathedrals and churches of Constantinople

PG 59: 61

This blood is the salvation of our soul; it cleanses our souls, it beautifies our soul; ... it makes it shine even more than gold. Through the pouring out of this blood, it becomes possible to walk the path of heaven.

Saint Ambrose of Milan (ca 337/340-397):

Saint Ambrose (Aurelius Ambrosius) was Bishop of Milan at the end of the fourth century, elected without having been already ordained priest. He is one of the great influential figures of his time, and is one of the four original Doctors of the Church, alongside Augustine, Jerome and Gregory the Great.

On the Mysteries, 9, 50-52, 58 (391 AD):

Let us be assured that this is not what nature formed, but what the blessing consecrated, and that greater efficacy resides in the blessing than in nature, for by the blessing nature is changed … Surely the word of Christ, which could make out of nothing that which did not exist, can change things already in existence into what they were not. For it is no less extraordinary to give things new natures than to change their natures … Christ is in that Sacrament, because it is the Body of Christ; yet, it is not on that account corporeal food, but spiritual. Whence also His Apostle says of the type: “For our fathers ate spiritual food and drink spiritual drink.” [I Corinthians 10: 2-4] For the body of God is a spiritual body.

De Sacramentis:

Whenever the blood of Christ is being poured out, it flows for the forgiveness of sins.

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430):

Sermons (227):

“I promised you, who have now been baptised, a sermon in which I would explain the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table, which you now look upon and of which you last night were made participants. You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. If you receive worthily, you are what you have received.

Sermons (272):

What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice the Blood of Christ … How is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or what is in the chalice, how is it His Blood? Those elements, brethren, are called Sacraments, because in them one thing is seen, but another is understood. What is seen is the corporeal species, but what is understood is the spiritual fruit ... “You, however, are the Body of Christ and His members.” If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ and His members, your mystery is presented at the table of the Lord, you receive your mystery. To that which you are, you answer: “Amen,” and by answering, you subscribe to it. For you hear: “The Body of Christ!” and you answer: “Amen!” Be a member of Christ’s Body, so that your ‘Amen’ may be the truth.

Explanations on the Psalms (33, 1, 10):

“And he was carried in his own hands” [3 King 20: 13 Septuagint?]. But, brethren, how is it possible for a man to do this? Who can understand it? Who is it that is carried in his own hands? A man can be carried in the hands of another; but no one can be carried in his own hands. How this should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it was meant of Christ. For Christ was carried in His own hands, when, referring to His own Body, He said: “This is My Body.” For He carried that Body in His hands.

Explanations on the Psalms (98, 9):

“And adore the footstool of His feet, because it is holy” [Psalm 98: 9, Septuagint 99: 9] … In another place in the Scripture it says: “The heavens are my throne, but the earth is the footstool of My feet” [Isaiah 66: 1] Is it the earth, then, that He commands us to adore, since in this other place the earth is called the footstool of God’s feet? … I am put in jeopardy by such a dilemma (Anceps factus sum): I am afraid to adore the earth lest He that made heaven and earth condemn me; again, I am afraid not to adore the footstool of My Lord’s feet, but because the Psalm does say to me: “Adore the footstool of My feet.” I ask what the footstool of His feet is; and Scripture tells me: “The earth is the footstool of my feet.” Perplexed, I turn to Christ, because it is He whom I seek here; and I discover how the earth is adored without impiety, how without impiety the footstool of His feet is adored. For He received earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. But no one eats that flesh unless he adores it ; and thus it is discovered how such a footstool of the Lord’s feet is adored; and not only do we not sin by adoring, we do sin by not adoring.

Explanations on the Psalms (98, 9):

“Unless he shall have eaten my flesh he shall not have eternal life” [John 6: 54-55]. [Some] understood this foolishly, and thought of it carnally, and supposed that the Lord was going to cut off some parts of his body to give them ... But he instructed them, and said to them: “It is the spirit that gives life; but the flesh profits nothing: the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” [John 6: 64]. Understand spiritually what I said. You are not to eat this body which you see, nor to drink that blood which will be poured out by those who will crucify me. I have commended to you a certain sacrament; spiritually understood, it will give you life. And even if it is necessary that this be celebrated visibly, it must still be understood invisibly.

The Trinity, (3, 4, 10):

Paul was able to preach the Lord Jesus Christ by means of signs, in one way by his letters, in another way by the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood; for when we speak of the Body of Christ and of his blood, certainly we do not mean Paul’s speaking, nor his parchments nor his ink, nor the meaning of the sounds issuing from his tongue, nor the signs of letters written on skins. By the Body and Blood of Christ we refer only to that which has been received from the fruits of the earth and has been consecrated by the mystical prayer, and has been ritually taken for our spiritual health in memory of what the Lord suffered for us.

Homilies on the Gospel of John (26, 13):

O Sacrament of piety! O sign of unity! O Bread of love! He who desires life finds here a place to live in and the means to live by. Let him approach, let him believe, let him be incorporated so that he may receive life. Let him not refuse union with the members, let him not be a corrupt member, deserving to be cut off, nor a disfigured member to be ashamed of. Let him be a grateful, fitting and healthy member. Let him cleave to the body, let him live by God and for God. Let him now labour here on earth, that he may afterwards reign in heaven.

The City of God (10, 5; 10, 20):

The fact that our fathers of old 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 neighbour the same purpose. A visible sacrifice, therefore, is the sacrament, that is to say, the sacred sign, of an invisible sacrifice. . . . Christ is both the Priest, offering Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the sacramental sign of this should be the daily sacrifice of the Church, who, since the Church is His body and He the Head, learns to offer herself through Him.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria (ca 376-444):

Saint Cyril of Alexandria was the Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444. He came to office when the city was at its height of influence and power within the Roman Empire. He wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological debates of the later 4th and 5th centuries. He was a central figure in the First Council of Ephesus in 431, which led to Nestorius being deposed as Patriarch of Constantinople.

Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew 26, 27 (428 AD):

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.

Sources include:

William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers (3 vols, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1970, 1980, 1994).
JB Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan, 1907).
CC Richardson, Early Christian Fathers (vol 1, London: SCM Press, 1953).
Maxwell Staniforth and Andrew Louth, Early Christian Writings (London: Penguin, 1988 ed).
JWC Wand, The Greek Doctors (London: The Faith Press, 1950).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These resources were prepared for the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality, on the MTh course, on 2 November 2015 in advance of lectures on 16 November 2015.

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