How to Be "Born Again" the Bible Way

February 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Baptism = Born Again

By Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem.
The early Church knew how to get born again the “Bible way.”


Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus was speaking about baptism, the effects of which are eradication of original sin, remission of all actual sins, and an infusion of sanctifying grace.

In spite of the scriptural evidence (Acts 2:14-40, 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 6:11; Col. 2:11-12; Gal. 3:27; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21), many if not most Protestants deny that the sacrament of baptism is necessary for salvation and that it has any intrinsic power to take away sin or bestow divine grace. Let’s look at what the earliest Christians believed and taught on this subject.

Hermas

“Before a man bears the name of the Son of God he is [spiritually] dead, but when he receives the seal he lays aside his deadness and receives life. The seal then is the water; they descend into the water dead and they arise alive. And to them accordingly was this seal preached, and they made use of it that they might enter into the kingdom of God” (The Shepherd 9:16 [A.D. 96]).

“Regarding [baptism], we have the evidence of Scripture that Israel would refuse to accept the washing which confers the remission of sins, and would set up a substitution of their own instead . . . Here he is saying that after we have stepped down into the water burdened with sin and defilement, we come up out of it bearing fruit, with reverence in our hearts and the hope of Jesus in our souls” (ibid. 11:1-10).

The Epistle of Barnabas

“We descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear of God and trust in Jesus in our spirit” (11 [A.D. 138]).

Epistola Apostolorum

Just as in the Gospels, baptism is an indispensable source of forgiveness and salvation, under the condition of faith and good works:

“[Christ says] And I poured out upon them with My right hand the water of life and forgiveness and salvation from all evil, as I have done unto you and to them that believe in Me. But if any believes in Me and does not follow My commandments, although he has confessed My Name he shall have no profit from It” (27 [A.D. 140]).

St. Justin Martyr

This great apologist for the Catholic Faith is worth quoting more than once. He defended the Church’s teachings against pagan attacks. >

 “Then they [catechumens] are brought by us to where there is water, and they are reborn in the same manner in which we were ourselves reborn. For in the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.’. . . That they may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again and has repented of his sins, the Name of God the Father and Lord of the universe . . . But also in the Name of Jesus Christ Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the Name of the Holy Spirit, Who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed” (First Apology 61 [ante A.D. 165]).

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

This great defender of the Faith refuted the prominent heresy of his day, Gnosticism (an early version of today’s New Age Movement). He was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. Irenaeus speaks of how Polycarp taught him the truths of the Faith and how he often heard Polycarp reminisce about his personal encounters with St. John.

“Before all else the Faith insistently invites us to remember that we have received baptism for the remission of sins in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of Jesus Christ, Son of God incarnate, dead and risen, and in the Holy Spirit of God, that baptism is the seal of eternal life, the new birth in God, so that we are no longer sons of mortal men, but of God, eternal and indestructible” (Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching 3 [A.D. 175]).

“The baptism which makes us be born again passes through these three articles of faith (in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), and permits us to be reborn to God the Father through His Son and in the Holy Spirit” (ibid. 7 [A.D. 175]).

St. Theophilus of Antioch

Theophilus, like Ignatius, was bishop of Antioch in Syria. He wrote a treatise to a pagan friend explaining Christianity and answering his friend’s objections. Interestingly, he is the first Christian writer to use the word “trinity” (Greek: triados, the cognate of the Latin, Trinitas) in reference to the mystery of three Persons in one God. Here he discusses the divine life which is at the heart of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration:

“Those three days of creation before the lights in the heavens are an image of the Trinity, of God, of His Word, and His Wisdom (i.e., the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God blessed the creatures of the water, so that this might be a sign that men would receive penance and remission of sins through water and the bath of rebirth, as many, that is, as came to the truth and were reborn, and received blessing from God” (Ad Autolycum 2:15 [A.D. 181]).

Tertullian

While he was still a Catholic, during the time of persecutions before the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Tertullian wrote the only complete work on a sacrament of baptism. This treatise, On Baptism, is a powerful defense of baptismal regeneration. Specifically, he refutes those who claim that faith in Christ alone (apart from the sacrament of baptism) is sufficient for the
forgiveness of sins and spiritual rebirth described by Christ in John 3:3-5:

 “A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous. . . . [t]aking away death by the washing away of sins. The guilt being removed, the penalty, of course, is also removed. . . . Baptism itself is a corporal act by which we are plunged into the water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from our sins” (On Baptism 1:1; 5:6; 7:2 [circa A.D. 198]).

 “Good enough, but faith means faith in all Christ did and said to do, so it includes being baptized. . . . And so they say, ‘Baptism is not necessary to them to whom faith is sufficient, for after all, Abraham pleased God by no sacrament of water, but of faith.’ But in all cases it is the later precedent that proves the point. Grant, for the sake of argument, that in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and has become a faith which believes in His Nativity, Passion, and Resurrection, there has been an amplification added to the faith; this is the sealing act of baptism. . . . For the law of baptism has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: ‘Go,’ He said ‘and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ The comparison of this law with that definition, ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,’ has tied faith to the necessity of baptism” (Ibid. 13 [A.D. 198]).

St. Clement of Alexandria

“When we are baptized we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal. ‘I say,’ God declares, ‘you are gods and sons all of the Most High’ (Psalm 81:6). This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins; a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted; an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation – that is, by which we see God clearly; and we call that perfection which leaves nothing lacking. Indeed, if a man know God, what more does he need? Certainly, it were out of place to call that which is not complete a true gift of God’s grace. Because God is perfect the gifts he bestows are perfect” (The Instructor of Children 1:6, 26:1 [ante A.D. 202]).

St. Cyprian of Carthage

“As water extinguishes fire, so almsgiving quenches sin.’ Here also is shown and proved, that as in the bath of saving water the fire of hell is extinguished, so by almsgiving and works of righteousness the flame of sins is subdued. And because in baptism the remission of sins is granted once only, constant and ceaseless labor, following the likeness of baptism, once again bestows the mercy of God. . . .” (On Works and Alms 2 [A.D. 254]).

 

“In the baptism of water is received the remission of sins, in the baptism of blood, the reward of virtues,” (To Fortunatus preface [A.D. 257]).

St. Ephraim the Syrian

Outside the Roman Empire, coming from a background that was neither Latin nor Greek, the teachings of this Syrian Father, St. Ephraim, are proof that the Catholic Faith is not some Greco-Roman perversion of the New Testament Church. Here is a passage from one of his hymns for use in liturgical worship, a hymn still used today by Syrian Catholics. It is addressed to the newly baptized:

 “Your garments glisten as snow; and fair is your shining in the likeness of angels. . . . Woe in paradise did Adam receive, but you have received glory this day. . . . The good things of heaven you have received; beware of the devil lest he deceive you. . . . The evil one made war and deceived Adam’s house; through your baptism, behold! he is overcome today. . . Glory to them that are robed in the birth that is from the water; let them rejoice and be blessed!” (Hymn for the Feast of the Epiphany: of the Baptized 12 [A.D. 370]).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

“If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation. The only exception is the martyrs, who, even without water will receive baptism, for the Savior calls martyrdom a baptism (cf., Mark 10:38). . . . Bearing your sins, you go down into the water; but the calling down of grace seals your soul and does not permit that you afterwards be swallowed up by the fearsome dragon. You go down dead in your sins, and you come up made alive in righteousness” (Catechetical Lectures 3:10,12 [circa A.D. 350]).

St. Basil the Great

“For prisoners, baptism is ransom, forgiveness of debts, death of sin, regeneration of the soul, a resplendent garment, an unbreakable seal, a chariot to heaven, a protector royal, a gift of adoption” (Sermons on Moral and Practical Subjects: On Baptism 13:5 [ante A.D. 379]).

St. Ambrose of Milan

“The Lord was baptized, not to be cleansed himself but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the Flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of baptism. Whoever comes, therefore, to the washing of Christ lays aside his sins” (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 2:83 [circa A.D. 389]).

St. John Chrysostom

“How then shall we be able to give an account of the unseen birth by baptism, which is far more exalted than these?… Even angels stand in awe while that birth takes place . . . the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work it all. Let us then believe the declaration of God, for that is more trustworthy than actual seeing. The sight often is in error, but God’s Word cannot fail; let us then believe it. . . . What then does it say? That what happens is a birth. . . . If any inquire, ‘Why is water needed?’ let us ask in return, ‘Why did God use earth to form man?’. . . Do not be over-curious. That the need of water is absolute and indispensable you may learn in this way” (Homily 25 on John 2 [A.D. 391]).

St. Augustine of Hippo :p>

Baptism is not merely an external sign of faith already possessed by the one to be baptized; it is the power of God cleansing the soul of the sinner, even in the case of infants:

“The cleansing would not at all be attributed to a passing and corruptible element, unless the word were added to it. This word possesses such power that through the medium of him who in faith presents, blesses, and pours it, even a tiny infant is cleansed, although he is as yet unable to believe with the heart unto justice, and to make profession with the mouth for salvation” (Commentaries on St. John 80:3 [A.D. 411]).

 

References

Additional texts from the Church Fathers on baptismal regeneration:

St. Ignatius of Antioch: Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 7 (A.D. 117); St. Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho 14 (ante A.D. 165); Didymus the Blind: On the Trinity 2:12 (A.D. 391); St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures 2:4; Protocatechesis 16 (A.D. 350); St. John Chrysostom: Homilies on John 10:3, 25:2 (A.D. 391); Homilies on Hebrews 5:3,19:2-3 (A.D. 403); St. Ambrose of Milan: On the Mysteries 1-7 (A.D. 390); St. Pacian of Barcelona: Sermon on Baptism (ante A.D. 392); St. Jerome: Letter 69 5-7 (A.D. 397); Dialogue Against the Pelagians 3:1 (A.D. 413);  an>St. Augustine of Hippo: Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Charity 64 (A.D. 421); On Marriage and Concupiscence 1:33-38 (A.D. 419); On Adulterous Spouses 2:16 (A.D. 420); On the City of God 20:6 (A.D. 426); On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism 1:9, 24; 2:27 (A.D. 412); On Baptism 1:12 (A.D. 400); Sermon on the Creed 1:7 214 (A.D. 418?); On the Gospel of John 6:7, 15-16 (A.D. 408); Pope St. Leo the Great: Letter 16 2-7 (A.D. 447).

(Catholic teaching on the sacrament of baptism is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1213  & 1284.)

 Source: Envoy Magazine. Copyright 1996-2009, all rights reserved.

Don’t Be Discouraged!

As you all know, we’re living through some very difficult, even perilous, times. Many people are moving beyond nervous to scared. The next step for some will be a deep discouragement that could lead to a lack of trust in God that He will see us through the troubles and trials ahead. Whether you are tending toward discouragement yourself, or you know someone who is, please take a moment right now and read this free, new Envoy Institute of Belmont Abbey College special report that I’ve prepared for you called “Don’t Be Discouraged.” Just click the banner or the link to retrieve it.

Don't Be Discouraged


Please help me spread the word about this special report, far and wide, to all your friends, family, co-workers, and even total strangers. If you’d like to post either of these banners on your website or blog, that would be great. You can grab the banner code at the bottom of this page: http://www.envoymagazine.com/banner_program.htm. Thank you!

Don't Be Discouraged!

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

As you all know, we’re living through some very difficult, even perilous, times. Many people are moving beyond nervous to scared. The next step for some will be a deep discouragement that could lead to a lack of trust in God that He will see us through the troubles and trials ahead. Whether you are tending toward discouragement yourself, or you know someone who is, please take a moment right now and read this free, new Envoy Institute of Belmont Abbey College special report that I’ve prepared for you called “Don’t Be Discouraged.” Just click the banner or the link to retrieve it.

Don't Be Discouraged


Please help me spread the word about this special report, far and wide, to all your friends, family, co-workers, and even total strangers. If you’d like to post either of these banners on your website or blog, that would be great. You can grab the banner code at the bottom of this page: http://www.envoymagazine.com/banner_program.htm. Thank you!

Irena Sendler, a True Catholic Hero

This is the true story of a Polish Catholic woman who saved thousands of Jewish children during World War II. Her heroism, self-sacrifice, and love for her persecuted neighbors is astonishing and wonderful. I pray that her courageous example will inspire many of our generation to emulate her, especially during what could be another wave of persecutions that appear to be headed our way. Please share her story, far and wide.


Irena Sendler, a True Catholic Hero

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

This is the true story of a Polish Catholic woman who saved thousands of Jewish children during World War II. Her heroism, self-sacrifice, and love for her persecuted neighbors is astonishing and wonderful. I pray that her courageous example will inspire many of our generation to emulate her, especially during what could be another wave of persecutions that appear to be headed our way. Please share her story, far and wide.


A Little More on the Church Fathers and the Real Presence

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog


No Apologies #65 – Church Fathers and the EucharistClick here for more amazing videos

And here’s an interesting discussion about the early Church Fathers and their teaching on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist written by a blog friend of mine. 

More Foolishness from Certain Protestant Apologists

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog



Something that has been repeatedly impressed upon me over the past 22 years that I’ve been engaged in the work of Catholic apologetics is the fact that many of today’s Protestant pop-apologists are generally ignorant of patristics. Typically, they demonstrate at best a superficial familiarity with the writings of the early Church Fathers. Some don’t seem to have ever done any real reading of the Fathers, apart from some cherry-picked quotes assembled in a Protestant apologetics book. I was just directed to yet another example of this problem.


On a certain Protestant blog a certain Protestant writer has been doing damage-control over a minor (actually, insignificant) instance of another Protestant’s misquotion of a statement by St. Augustine. Apparently, this error, which was probably inadvertent, was pointed out by a Catholic blogger. But in his effort to defend the misquote mistake and push back at the Catholic critic, this Protestant committed a mistake of his own when he declared that St. Augustine didn’t really believe in the continued bodily presence of Jesus Christ (referring to Christ’s words in Matthew 26:11) after his death and Resurrection, his implication being that St. Augustine did not believe in the Real Presence of Christ — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — in the way that the Catholic Church teaches that doctrine (c.f., CCC 1374 and 1413).

I note with some amusement that this Protestant carefully avoided mentioning the name of the Catholic being responded to, referring to him only as “a lay apologist for Catholism” (this, was not a reference to me, by the way). It’s amusing because this is the same group of Protestants who complained (and still do complain) that one of them was not identified by name in an article written by a bona-fide Catholic patristics scholar, critiquing one of that Protestant’s more lame attempts at interpreting the Early Church. (The article appeared some years ago in Envoy  Magazine, the Catholic journal I publish).

I can only chuckle at the double standards so visible among those particular Protestants. But I’ve come to expect this kind of thing from that crowd. And since that blogger deemed it better not to mention any names, I shall follow suit here.

To provide a quick corrective for erroneous claims and implications about St. Augustine’s theology of the Eucharist, especially those which allege that he denied what the Catholic Church teaches about the Real Presence (and let’s not forget that Augustine was a Catholic bishop, after all), here’s a link to a brief but representative collection of quotes from St. Augustine on this subject. There are others, of course, but hopefully these are sufficient to (yet again) refute the clumsy attempts these Protestant pop-apologists make to portray the early Church Fathers as teaching things they really didn’t teach.

To get you started, here are three samples from that brief collection of quotes linked to above:

St. Augustine on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

Sermons, [227] A.D. 391-430:

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

Sermons, [272] A.D. 391-430:
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] A.D. 392-418:
`And he was carried in his own hands [3 Kgs 20:13 LXX? corrupted].’ 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.

For additional popular-level rescources on the patristic testimony about the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, see also herehere, here, here, and here.

It would be a good thing, too, to read Pope Benedict XVI’s book The Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine.  And if you desire further scholarly discussion of the patristic teaching on this doctrine, be sure to read Fr. James T. O’Connor’s The Hidden Manna, which includes a helpful chapter explaining the deficiencies of the major Reformation theories on the Eucharist, including Luther’s, Calvin’s, and Zwingli’s. See also Fr. Louis Bouyer’s Eucharist. For the Latin texts of much of Augustine’s work go here, and a large collection of his works in English is found here.

More Foolishness from Certain Protestant Apologists

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog



Something that has been repeatedly impressed upon me over the past 22 years that I’ve been engaged in the work of Catholic apologetics is the fact that many of today’s Protestant pop-apologists are generally ignorant of patristics. Typically, they demonstrate at best a superficial familiarity with the writings of the early Church Fathers. Some don’t seem to have ever done any real reading of the Fathers, apart from some cherry-picked quotes assembled in a Protestant apologetics book. I was just directed to yet another example of this problem.


On a certain Protestant blog a certain Protestant writer has been doing damage-control over a minor (actually, insignificant) instance of another Protestant’s misquotion of a statement by St. Augustine. Apparently, this error, which was probably inadvertent, was pointed out by a Catholic blogger. But in his effort to defend the misquote mistake and push back at the Catholic critic, this Protestant committed a mistake of his own when he declared that St. Augustine didn’t really believe in the continued bodily presence of Jesus Christ (referring to Christ’s words in Matthew 26:11) after his death and Resurrection, his implication being that St. Augustine did not believe in the Real Presence of Christ — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — in the way that the Catholic Church teaches that doctrine (c.f., CCC 1374 and 1413).

I note with some amusement that this Protestant carefully avoided mentioning the name of the Catholic being responded to, referring to him only as “a lay apologist for Catholism” (this, was not a reference to me, by the way). It’s amusing because this is the same group of Protestants who complained (and still do complain) that one of them was not identified by name in an article written by a bona-fide Catholic patristics scholar, critiquing one of that Protestant’s more lame attempts at interpreting the Early Church. (The article appeared some years ago in Envoy  Magazine, the Catholic journal I publish).

I can only chuckle at the double standards so visible among those particular Protestants. But I’ve come to expect this kind of thing from that crowd. And since that blogger deemed it better not to mention any names, I shall follow suit here.

To provide a quick corrective for erroneous claims and implications about St. Augustine’s theology of the Eucharist, especially those which allege that he denied what the Catholic Church teaches about the Real Presence (and let’s not forget that Augustine was a Catholic bishop, after all), here’s a link to a brief but representative collection of qu
otes from St. Augustine on this subject
. There are others, of course, but hopefully these are sufficient to (yet again) refute the clumsy attempts these Protestant pop-apologists make to portray the early Church Fathers as teaching things they really didn’t teach.

To get you started, here are three samples from that brief collection of quotes linked to above:

St. Augustine on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

Sermons, [227] A.D. 391-430:

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

Sermons, [272] A.D. 391-430:
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] A.D. 392-418:
`And he was carried in his own hands [3 Kgs 20:13 LXX? corrupted].’ 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.

For additional popular-level rescources on the patristic testimony about the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, see also herehere, here, here, and here.

It would be a good thing, too, to read Pope Benedict XVI’s book The Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine.  And if you desire further scholarly discussion of the patristic teaching on this doctrine, be sure to read Fr. James T. O’Connor’s The Hidden Manna, which includes a helpful chapter explaining the deficiencies of the major Reformation theories on the Eucharist, including Luther’s, Calvin’s, and Zwingli’s. See also Fr. Louis Bouyer’s Eucharist. For the Latin texts of much of Augustine’s work go here, and a large collection of his works in English is found here.

The Church Fathers Explain the Mass

February 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog


The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

By Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem.
The Church Fathers explain the biblical basis of this historic Christian teaching.


Some argue against the Catholic teaching that the Mass is a sacrifice. The early Church Fathers tell us that it is. In Genesis 14:18 Melchisedek the High Priest and King of Salem offers a sacrifice of bread and wine. In Hebrews 7 Christ is priest after the order of Melchisedek in fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 110:4: “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek.”

Did Christ then offer up bread and wine like Melchisedek, who prefigured His eternal priesthood?

Answer: At the Last Supper in the Gospels Christ the High Priest commands His Apostles to do as He did with the bread and wine in commemoration of Him.

Were the Apostles then meant to share in that one priesthood of Christ as His instruments offering His Body and Blood under the appearances of a sacrifice of bread and wine?

Answer: Yes. We read that the Apostles offered the Eucharist in Jerusalem and Troas (Acts 2 and 20), and in Corinth the sacrifice of Christians is contrasted with the sacrifices of the Temple and to the sacrifice of the pagans (1 Cor. 10-11). In Malachy 1:11 the last of the Old Testament prophets declares: “From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation” (Mal. 1:11).

Has this prophecy of Malachy come true? Is there everywhere in the world offered a sacrifice which is, according to the Hebrew word he uses (minhah) an unbloody or grain offering?

Answer: Just go to Holy Mass in any Catholic Church and you’ll find the answer is “yes.” You’ll see the fulfillment of that biblical prophecy: “so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.” What is true of the Mass today has been true since the beginning of Christianity.

Let’s see what the early Fathers of the Church taught about the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the offering up under the appearances of bread and wine of the Body and Blood of Christ, which were offered for our salvation on the cross at Calvary. These quotations are drawn from Eastern and Western Church Fathers and span the first six centuries of Christianity. They attest to the universal teaching in the early Church that the Eucharistic Liturgy is a sacrifice.

The Didache

This passage contains a direct reference to the fulfillment of Malachy’s prophecy being the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (cf. Malachy 1:11, 14). The Didache is one of the most ancient and authoritative Christian writings, reflecting the teachings and liturgical practices of the first-century Church.

“On the Lord’s own day assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure . . . your sacrifice must not be defiled. For here we have a saying of the Lord: ‘In every place and time offer Me a pure sacrifice’ (Greek: thysia) . . . for I am a mighty king says the Lord and My name spreads terror among the nations’” (A.D. 98).

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Writing just after the end of the first century, only a few years after the death of St. John the Apostle, St. Ignatius gives us a short but powerful indication of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. He refers to those who absent themselves from the Eucharist celebrated by the bishop and his priests. The Greek word he uses for the “altar” used in Christian worship is thysiasterion, which means “place where sacrifices are offered.” “Let no one deceive himself,” St. Ignatius warns, “whoever keeps away from the altar (thysiasterion) deprives himself of the divine bread” (Letter to the Ephesians 5:2; A.D. 110).

Epistola Apostolorum

This work, only discovered in 1895, was originally composed in Greek but exists today only in Coptic, Ethiopian, and Latin translations. The Ethiopian version is the most complete and contains a beautiful dialogue between Christ and His Apostles after the Resurrection about the offering of the Christian paschal sacrifice. This passage, translated especially for Envoy magazine, is not found in any English language collections of the Fathers. It’s as though the objections of Protestants against the sacrifice of the Mass where already being anticipated and answered back then:

“The Lord said, ‘You will celebrate the memorial of My death, that is, the Passover Sacrifice . . . at the cock’s crow, at dawn, you will perform My feast of love and My memorial’ . . . . The Apostles said, ‘Lord, haven’t You drunk to the full of the Passover Sacrifice? Is it then necessary that we do it again?’ Jesus responded, ‘Yes, it is necessary, until I come again from the Father’” (Epistola Apostolorum 13; A.D. 140).

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

This great Church Father was a disciple of St. Polycarp and, as such, was the “spiritual grandson” of St. John the Apostle, since St. Polycarp knew the Apostle. This means that the teachings St. Irenaeus received from his mentor came directly from the Apostles. This fact is important to keep in mind, since it demonstrates that the purity of apostolic teaching was handed on intact to each subsequent generation of Christians. The teaching on the Eucharist and the Mass as a Sacrifice that St. Irenaeus speaks of in this passage he received from the Apostles, through St. Polycarp.

“He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks and said, ‘This is My Body.’ And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His Blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant, which the Church, receiving from the Apostles, offers to God throughout the world . . . concerning which Malachy, among the twelve prophets, thus spoke beforehand: ‘From the rising of the sun to the going down, My name is glorified among the gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name and a pure sacrifice . . . ‘ indicating in the plainest manner that in every place sacrifice shall be offered to Him, and at that a pure one” (Against Heresies 4,17,5; A.D. 170).

St. Hippolytus of Rome

St. Hippolytus composed a beautiful Eucharistic prayer at the beginning of the third century. The second Eucharistic prayer of the Missal of Pope Paul VI, which we use now, is based on it. In a commentary on Daniel 4:35 St. Hippolytus refers to the outlawing of the Church’s sacrifice by the Antichrist at the end of time. Like many other Fathers who teach on the Sacrifice of the Mass, he too uses the language of the prophecy of Malachy.

“For when the gospel is preached in every place, the times being then accomplished . . . the abomination of desolation will be manifested, and when he (the Antichrist) comes, the sacrifice and oblation will be removed, which are now offered up to God in every place by the gentiles” (Commentary on Daniel 22; A.D. 220).

St. Cyprian of Carthage

Later in the same century, this martyr bishop of Carthage, in the midst of the ferocious persecution of Christians by the Romans, clearly explains the Lord’s Eucharistic Sacrifice as being “according to the order of Melchisedek.”

“In the priest Melchisedek we see prefigured the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Lord, according to what Divine Scripture testifies, and says, ‘And Melchisedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine.’ Now he was a priest of the most High God, and blessed Abraham. And that Melchisedek was a type of Christ, the Holy Spirit declares in the Psalms, saying from the person of the Father to the Son: ‘Before the morning star I have begotten Thee; Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedek.’ This order is assuredly the one coming from that sacrifice: that Melchisedek was a priest of the Most High God; that he offered wine and bread; that he blessed Abraham. For who is more a priest of the most high God than Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who offered a sacrifice to God the Father, and offered the very same thing which Melchisedek had offered, that is, bread and wine, to wit, His Body and Blood? . . . For if Jesus Christ Our Lord and God is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded that this be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly the priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates what Christ did; and he offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ Himself to have offered” (Letter 62: 4,14; A.D. 253).

St. Serapion of Thmuis

This great bishop of Lower Egypt (that means Northern Egypt Ñ the Nile is lower near the sea) was a good friend of St. Athanasius, the defender of the Divinity of Christ against the Arian heretics. He offers us the earliest text we have of a Eucharistic prayer which was actually used in the Divine Liturgy of the Eucharist.

“Heaven is full, and the earth as well is full of your magnificent glory, O Lord of Hosts. Fill too this sacrifice with Your power and communion, for we offer You this living sacrifice and unbloody offering . . . Thus we offer bread, celebrating the likeness of His death and we implore You, O God of Truth, to reconcile us to all and have mercy on us through this sacrifice . . . and we offer wine using the likeness of blood. May Your holy Word come upon this bread, O God of Truth, that it might become the Body of the Word, and upon this chalice that it might become the Blood of the Truth” (The Anaphora of Serapion 4; A.D. 339 [original translation]).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The newly baptized converts of the Church in Jerusalem were treated to the classiest instruction on the sacraments ever given, the amazingly beautiful lectures of their bishop, St. Cyril. He describes the Holy Eucharist as an “awe-inspiring” sacrifice. Here he explains the liturgy after the consecration:

“Next, when the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless worship has been completed, over that sacrifice of propitiation we beseech God for the public peace of the Churches . . . for all, in a word, who need help, we all pray and offer this sacrifice. Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep . . . for all those who have gone before us, believing that this [Eucharistic sacrifice] will be the greatest benefit to the souls of those on whose behalf our supplication is offered in the presence of the holy, of the most dread sacrifice” (Catechetical Lectures 5, 8-9; A.D. 350).

St. Ephraem the Syrian

This is my favorite patristic text on the sacrifice of the Mass. You won’t find it anywhere published in an English translation Ñ except for here. St. Ephraem so closely identifies the action of Christ in the Eucharist with His sacrifice on the cross that he counts the three days of Christ’s death and burial as beginning with His mystical, sacramental ‘slaying’ at the Last Supper:

“From the moment when He broke His Body for His disciples, and gave it to them, one begins to count the three days during which He was among the dead. Adam practically, after eating of the fruit of the tree, lived a long time, even though he was counted among the dead for having disobeyed the commandment of God. God had spoken to him thus ‘The day when you eat of it, you will die.’ Thus it was for Our Lord. It was because He had given them His Body to eat in view of the mystery of His death that He entered into their bodies as He entered later on into the earth” (Commentary on the Diatessaron 19, 4 [translated from the Armenian version]; A.D. 363).

The Liturgy of St. Maruthas

This liturgy of Syrian origin is attributed to St. Maruthas, the great Syrian missionary bishop in Persia and ally of St. John Chrysostom. St. Maruthas, known for his corpulence (there have been some fat saints!), was martyred around A.D. 412. He expands on the words of institution and consecration in the Mass to identity the Eucharistic Sacrifice with the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. (This text is not found in any English selections, so I have translated the passage.)

“On that last night on which He was about to save His creatures, observe and fulfill the law, and begin His New Covenant, while teaching those saved by Him the true doctrine, He took the bread into His pure hands, and giving thanks to His Father, He blessed, sanctified, broke, and divided it among His disciples and said: ‘Take eat, believe, and be certain, and so teach and preach that This is My Body which is broken for the salvation of the world, and to those who eat it and believe in Me it gives the expiation of sins and eternal life’ Truly Lord we have done wickedly, evilly, and foolishly, and we have provoked Your wrath, nor have we kept even one of Your commandments. May you, O Good Lord, excuse us and be merciful for our crimes for the sake of the Sacrifice placed before You this day. Indeed it is You who have told us, ‘Whosoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood, and believes in Me, abides in Me and I in him, and I will raise him up on the last day May He (the Holy Spirit) change this simple bread and make it the very Body which was immolated for us on the cross for the remission of sins and the eternal life of those receiving it.” (Liturgy of St. Maruthas of Maiferkat; circa A.D. 390).

St. Ambrose of Milan

The Roman Canon, or “First Eucharistic Pray-er” of the Latin Church, is cited by St. Ambrose in his instructions on the sacraments given to the newly baptized during the week of Easter:

“And the priest says, ‘Therefore, mindful of His most glorious passion and resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, we offer You this immaculate victim, a reasonable sacrifice, an unbloody victim, this holy bread, and the chalice of eternal life. And we ask You and pray that You accept this offering just as You deigned to accept the sacrifice the high priest Melchisedek offered You.’ So as often as you receive, what does the Apostle say to you? As often as we receive, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If death [then], we proclaim the remission of sins. If as often as blood is shed, it is shed for the remission of sins, I ought always to accept Him, that He may always dismiss my sins. I, who always sin, should always have a remedy” (On the Sacraments 4,6; A.D. 392 [original translation]).

In his Commentary on the Psalms, not yet available in English, St. Ambrose speaks clearly of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered on Christian altars:

“We priests follow [Christ's cross] as we are able, so that we might offer sacrifice for the people, since, even though Christ is not seen to offer, nevertheless He is offered on earth when the Body of Christ is offered. Or rather, He is shown to offer in us, by whose word is consecrated the sacrifice which is offered” (Commentary on Psalm 38, 25; circa A.D. 395 [original translation]).

St. Augustine of Hippo

There are so many texts of St. Augustine in which he speaks of the Catholic Sacrifice of the Mass, that it’s hard to choose which ones to quote! Here are two representative examples of his teaching on this subject.

“Was not Christ immolated once in Himself, and nevertheless under the sacrament He is immolated for the people not only on every Paschal Feast Day, but even every day, and is it not also the case that he does not err at all who, when asked, responds that He is so immolated?” (Letter 98, 9; A.D. 410 [original tanslation]).

“Recognize in this bread what hung on the cross, and in this chalice what flowed from His side whatever was in many and varied ways announced beforehand in the sacrifices of the Old Testament pertains to this one sacrifice which is revealed in the New Testament.” (Sermon 3, 2; circa A.D. 410 [original translation]).

(Source: Envoy Magazine)

The Church Fathers Explain the Mass

February 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog


The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

By Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem.
The Church Fathers explain the biblical basis of this historic Christian teaching.


Some argue against the Catholic teaching that the Mass is a sacrifice. The early Church Fathers tell us that it is. In Genesis 14:18 Melchisedek the High Priest and King of Salem offers a sacrifice of bread and wine. In Hebrews 7 Christ is priest after the order of Melchisedek in fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 110:4: “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek.”

Did Christ then offer up bread and wine like Melchisedek, who prefigured His eternal priesthood?

Answer: At the Last Supper in the Gospels Christ the High Priest commands His Apostles to do as He did with the bread and wine in commemoration of Him.

Were the Apostles then meant to share in that one priesthood of Christ as His instruments offering His Body and Blood under the appearances of a sacrifice of bread and wine?

Answer: Yes. We read that the Apostles offered the Eucharist in Jerusalem and Troas (Acts 2 and 20), and in Corinth the sacrifice of Christians is contrasted with the sacrifices of the Temple and to the sacrifice of the pagans (1 Cor. 10-11). In Malachy 1:11 the last of the Old Testament prophets declares: “From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation” (Mal. 1:11).

Has this prophecy of Malachy come true? Is there everywhere in the world offered a sacrifice which is, according to the Hebrew word he uses (minhah) an unbloody or grain offering?

Answer: Just go to Holy Mass in any Catholic Church and you’ll find the answer is “yes.” You’ll see the fulfillment of that biblical prophecy: “so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.” What is true of the Mass today has been true since the beginning of Christianity.

Let’s see what the early Fathers of the Church taught about the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the offering up under the appearances of bread and wine of the Body and Blood of Christ, which were offered for our salvation on the cross at Calvary. These quotations are drawn from Eastern and Western Church Fathers and span the first six centuries of Christianity. They attest to the universal teaching in the early Church that the Eucharistic Liturgy is a sacrifice.

The Didache

This passage contains a direct reference to the fulfillment of Malachy’s prophecy being the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (cf. Malachy 1:11, 14). The Didache is one of the most ancient and authoritative Christian writings, reflecting the teachings and liturgical practices of the first-century Church.

“On the Lord’s own day assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure . . . your sacrifice must not be defiled. For here we have a saying of the Lord: ‘In every place and time offer Me a pure sacrifice’ (Greek: thysia) . . . for I am a mighty king says the Lord and My name spreads terror among the nations’” (A.D. 98).

St. Ignatius of Antioch

Writing just after the end of the first century, only a few years after the death of St. John the Apostle, St. Ignatius gives us a short but powerful indication of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. He refers to those who absent themselves from the Eucharist celebrated by the bishop and his priests. The Greek word he uses for the “altar” used in Christian worship is thysiasterion, which means “place where sacrifices are offered.” “Let no one deceive himself,” St. Ignatius warns, “whoever keeps away from the altar (thysiasterion) deprives himself of the divine bread” (Letter to the Ephesians 5:2; A.D. 110).

Epistola Apostolorum

This work, only discovered in 1895
, was originally composed in Greek but exists today only in Coptic, Ethiopian, and Latin translations. The Ethiopian version is the most complete and contains a beautiful dialogue between Christ and His Apostles after the Resurrection about the offering of the Christian paschal sacrifice. This passage, translated especially for Envoy magazine, is not found in any English language collections of the Fathers. It’s as though the objections of Protestants against the sacrifice of the Mass where already being anticipated and answered back then:

“The Lord said, ‘You will celebrate the memorial of My death, that is, the Passover Sacrifice . . . at the cock’s crow, at dawn, you will perform My feast of love and My memorial’ . . . . The Apostles said, ‘Lord, haven’t You drunk to the full of the Passover Sacrifice? Is it then necessary that we do it again?’ Jesus responded, ‘Yes, it is necessary, until I come again from the Father’” (Epistola Apostolorum 13; A.D. 140).

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

This great Church Father was a disciple of St. Polycarp and, as such, was the “spiritual grandson” of St. John the Apostle, since St. Polycarp knew the Apostle. This means that the teachings St. Irenaeus received from his mentor came directly from the Apostles. This fact is important to keep in mind, since it demonstrates that the purity of apostolic teaching was handed on intact to each subsequent generation of Christians. The teaching on the Eucharist and the Mass as a Sacrifice that St. Irenaeus speaks of in this passage he received from the Apostles, through St. Polycarp.

“He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks and said, ‘This is My Body.’ And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His Blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant, which the Church, receiving from the Apostles, offers to God throughout the world . . . concerning which Malachy, among the twelve prophets, thus spoke beforehand: ‘From the rising of the sun to the going down, My name is glorified among the gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name and a pure sacrifice . . . ‘ indicating in the plainest manner that in every place sacrifice shall be offered to Him, and at that a pure one” (Against Heresies 4,17,5; A.D. 170).

St. Hippolytus of Rome

St. Hippolytus composed a beautiful Eucharistic prayer at the beginning of the third century. The second Eucharistic prayer of the Missal of Pope Paul VI, which we use now, is based on it. In a commentary on Daniel 4:35 St. Hippolytus refers to the outlawing of the Church’s sacrifice by the Antichrist at the end of time. Like many other Fathers who teach on the Sacrifice of the Mass, he too uses the language of the prophecy of Malachy.

“For when the gospel is preached in every place, the times being then accomplished . . . the abomination of desolation will be manifested, and when he (the Antichrist) comes, the sacrifice and oblation will be removed, which are now offered up to God in every place by the gentiles” (Commentary on Daniel 22; A.D. 220).

St. Cyprian of Carthage

Later in the same century, this martyr bishop of Carthage, in the midst of the ferocious persecution of Christians by the Romans, clearly explains the Lord’s Eucharistic Sacrifice as being “according to the order of Melchisedek.”

“In the priest Melchisedek we see prefigured the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Lord, according to what Divine Scripture testifies, and says, ‘And Melchisedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine.’ Now he was a priest of the most High God, and blessed Abraham. And that Melchisedek was a type of Christ, the Holy Spirit declares in the Psalms, saying from the person of the Father to the Son: ‘Before the morning star I have begotten Thee; Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedek.’ This order is assuredly the one coming from that sacrifice: that Melchisedek was a priest of the Most High God; that he offered wine and bread; that he blessed Abraham. For who is more a priest of the most high God than Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who offered a sacrifice to God the Father, and offered the very same thing which Melchisedek had offered, that is, bread and wine, to wit, His Body and Blood? . . . For if Jesus Christ Our Lord and God is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded that this be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly the priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates what Christ did; and he offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ Himself to have offered” (Letter 62: 4,14; A.D. 253).

St. Serapion of Thmuis

This great bishop of Lower Egypt (that means Northern Egypt Ñ the Nile is lower near the sea) was a good friend of St. Athanasius, the defender of the Divinity of Christ against the Arian heretics. He offers us the earliest text we have of a Eucharistic prayer which was actually used in the Divine Liturgy of the Eucharist.

“Heaven is full, and the earth as well is full of your magnificent glory, O Lord of Hosts. Fill too this sacrifice with Your power and communion, for we offer You this living sacrifice and unbloody offering . . . Thus we offer bread, celebrating the likeness of His death and we implore You, O God of Truth, to reconcile us to all and have mercy on us through this sacrifice . . . and we offer wine using the likeness of blood. May Your holy Word come upon this bread, O God of Truth, that it might become the Body of the Word, and upon this chalice that it might become the Blood of the Truth” (The Anaphora of Serapion 4; A.D. 339 [original translation]).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The newly baptized converts of the Church in Jerusalem were treated to the classiest instruction on the sacraments ever given, the amazingly beautiful lectures of their bishop, St. Cyril. He describes the Holy Eucharist as an “awe-inspiring” sacrifice. Here he explains the liturgy after the consecration:

“Next, when the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless worship has been completed, over that sacrifice of propitiation we beseech God for the public peace of the Churches . . . for all, in a word, who need help, we all pray and offer this sacrifice. Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep . . . for all those who have gone before us, believing that this [Eucharistic sacrifice] will be the greatest benefit to the souls of those on whose behalf our supplication is offered in the presence of the holy, of the most dread sacrifice” (Catechetical Lectures 5, 8-9; A.D. 350).

St. Ephraem the Syrian

This is my favorite patristic text on the sacrifice of the Mass. You won’t find it anywhere published in an English translation Ñ except for here. St. Ephraem so closely identifies the action of Christ in the Eucharist with His sacrifice on the cross that he counts the three days of Christ’s death and burial as beginning with His mystical, sacramental ‘slaying’ at the Last Supper:

“From the moment when He broke His Body for His disciples, and gave it to them, one begins to count the three days during which He was among the dead. Adam practically, after eating of the fruit of the tree, lived a long time, even though he was counted among the dead for having disobeyed the commandment of God. God had spoken to him thus ‘The day when you eat of it, you will die.’ Thus it was for Our Lord. It was because He had given them His Body to eat in view of the mystery of His death that He entered into their bodies as He entered later on into the earth” (Commentary on the Diatessaron 19, 4 [translated from the Armenian version]; A.D. 363).

The Liturgy of St. Maruthas

This liturgy of Syrian origin is attributed to St. Maruthas, the great Syrian missionary bishop in Persia and ally of St. John Chrysostom. St. Maruthas, known for his corpulence (there have been some fat saints!), was martyred around A.D. 412. He expands on the words of institution and consecration in the Mass to identity the Eucharistic Sacrifice with the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. (This text is not found in any English selections, so I have translated the passage.)

“On that last night on which He was about to save His creatures, observe and fulfill the law, and begin His New Covenant, while teaching those saved by Him the true doctrine, He took the bread into His pure hands, and giving thanks to His Father, He blessed, sanctified, broke, and divided it among His disciples and said: ‘Take eat, believe, and be certain, and so teach and preach that This is My Body which is broken for the salvation of the world, and to those who eat it and believe in Me it gives the expiation of sins and eternal life’ Truly Lord we have done wickedly, evilly, and foolishly, and we have provoked Your wrath, nor have we kept even one of Your commandments. May you, O Good Lord, excuse us and be merciful for our crimes for the sake of the Sacrifice placed before You this day. Indeed it is You who have told us, ‘Whosoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood, and believes in Me, abides in Me and I in him, and I will raise him up on the last day May He (the Holy Spirit) change this simple bread and make it the very Body which was immolated for us on the cross for the remission of sins and the eternal life of those receiving it.” (Liturgy of St. Maruthas of Maiferkat; circa A.D. 390).

St. Ambrose of Milan

The Roman Canon, or “First Eucharistic Pray-er” of the Latin Church, is cited by St. Ambrose in his instructions on the sacraments given to the newly baptized during the week of Easter:

“And the priest says, ‘Therefore, mindful of His most glorious passion and resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, we offer You this immaculate victim, a reasonable sacrifice, an unbloody victim, this holy bread, and the chalice of eternal life. And we ask You and pray that You accept this offering just as You deigned to accept the sacrifice the high priest Melchisedek offered You.’ So as often as you receive, what does the
Apostle say to you? As often as we receive, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If death [then], we proclaim the remission of sins. If as often as blood is shed, it is shed for the remission of sins, I ought always to accept Him, that He may always dismiss my sins. I, who always sin, should always have a remedy” (On the Sacraments 4,6; A.D. 392 [original translation]).

In his Commentary on the Psalms, not yet available in English, St. Ambrose speaks clearly of the holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered on Christian altars:

“We priests follow [Christ's cross] as we are able, so that we might offer sacrifice for the people, since, even though Christ is not seen to offer, nevertheless He is offered on earth when the Body of Christ is offered. Or rather, He is shown to offer in us, by whose word is consecrated the sacrifice which is offered” (Commentary on Psalm 38, 25; circa A.D. 395 [original translation]).

St. Augustine of Hippo

There are so many texts of St. Augustine in which he speaks of the Catholic Sacrifice of the Mass, that it’s hard to choose which ones to quote! Here are two representative examples of his teaching on this subject.

“Was not Christ immolated once in Himself, and nevertheless under the sacrament He is immolated for the people not only on every Paschal Feast Day, but even every day, and is it not also the case that he does not err at all who, when asked, responds that He is so immolated?” (Letter 98, 9; A.D. 410 [original tanslation]).

“Recognize in this bread what hung on the cross, and in this chalice what flowed from His side whatever was in many and varied ways announced beforehand in the sacrifices of the Old Testament pertains to this one sacrifice which is revealed in the New Testament.” (Sermon 3, 2; circa A.D. 410 [original translation]).

(Source: Envoy Magazine)

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