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Against Consubstantiation


by Francis Turretin


TWENTY-EIGHTH QUESTION: THE CORPOREAL PRESENCE
OF CHRIST IN THE SUPPER AND THE ORAL MANDUCATION OF IT (Part 1)
Is Christ corporeally present in the Eucharist, and is he eaten with
the mouth by believers? We deny against the Romanists and Lutherans.

I. The fiction of transubstantiation having been overthrown, it
remains to treat of his corporeal presence in the Supper and the
oral eating of him, for the sake of which most especially it seems
to have been devised. For since the Scriptures so often propose to
us the communion of the body and blood of Christ as the foundation
and source of all his blessings and our opponents could not
conceive how such a communion could be obtained, unless the body of
Christ was truly really present on earth. Hence they invented a
local and corporeal presence in order that it might be eaten with
the mouth.

II. Now because we have to deal here with the Romanists Opinion of
the and Lutherans, the opinion of both must be distinctly Romanists
und attended to. And as to the Romanists, it is known from of
Lutherans what has already been said that they urge such a mode of
concerning the corporeal presence as is made by a conversion of the
real presence. bread into the body of Christ so that in the
Eucharist it is no longer the substance of bread, but the very body
of Christ which is offered to the communicants. But because this
doctrine concerning transubstantiation is pressed by two most
manifest disadvantages (namely, the conversion of the bread into the
very body of Christ and the existence of accidents without a
subject), therefore, Luther proposed a new mode of presence (to wit,
the inclusion of Christ's body in the bread and of his blood in the
wine; the coexistence of the bread and the body, of the wine and the
blood of Christ, which was called consubstantiation or synousia). It
is not clearly ascertained who was the author of this opinion. Some
ascribe it to Berengar, others to Walrom, others more truly to
Guitmund. Peter d'Ailly, the Cambrian Cardinal, was so much pleased
with it as plainly to declare that he would embrace it, if the
authority of the church, thinking differently, would not oppose.
Luther following his judgment, retained this opinion as the truer
and delivered it to his disciples, and it is even now retained by
them. This is the doctrine set forth in Article 10 of the Augsburg
Confession: "Concerning the Lord's Supper they teach that the body
and blood of Christ are truly present and are distributed to the
partakers in the Lord's Supper; and they disapprove of those
teaching otherwise" (cf. The Book of Concord [ed. T:G. Tappert,
1959], p. 34). It is true that in the copy first shown to the
emperor at Augsburg, it was written: "The body and blood of Christ
are present under the appearance of the bread and wine in the Lord's
Supper" (ibid.) (which phrase Melanchthon seems to have used, in his
effort to lessen the offense of the emperor and the Romanists in
order that they might obtain the toleration they sought). But
because it appeared to approach too nearly to the opinion of the
Romanists, these words being left out in the edition of the
confession, it stood simply: "The body and blood of Christ are
truly present and are distributed in the Lord's Supper" (ibid.).
According to this many of our divines did not refuse to subscribe to
that confession, provided it was understood in an orthodox way and
according to the meaning of the author (as Zanchius, Peter Martyr
and others) inasmuch as the body and blood of Christ are said to be
truly present (namely, spiritually presented by the word of promise
and received by faith). Afterwards in another edition (recognitione)
of the confession, this article is expressed in these words:
"Concerning the Lord's Supper, they teach that, with the bread and
wine the body and blood of Christ are truly bestowed upon the
partakers in the Lord's Supper" (cf. ibid., pp. 179-80). This
opinion is held among Lutherans in our day.

III. However, because many mistakes occur in constituting the
statement of the question, certain preliminaries must be settled
which can throw light upon it. First, since the word "presence" is
relative, it cannot be understood without the relation of the object
which is said to be present, to the subject to which it is present,
and it is nothing more in general than the application of the object
to the faculty fitted to take cognizance of it. Hence a twofold
presence ought to be distinguished according to the twofold nature
of things: corporeal and sensible, or spiritual and intelligible. In
corporeal things, that is said to be present which is so before the
senses or pre-senses (prae sensibus) (as the force of the word
implies) that by that very thing it can be perceived by the sense to
which it offers itself; in spiritual things, things are said to be
present when they are offered to the intellect in such a way that it
can apprehend and enjoy them with its own power Second, presence is
not to be confounded with propinquity. What is near is not always
present, and what is present is not always neat For example, the sun
is present to us (although it is situated far off) when it shines
upon us with its rays and nothing intervenes between it and the
eye. Yet it is said to be absent at night (although sometimes it is
nearer to us than during the day) because we do not feel its power
in the nocturnal darkness. In this sense, Augustine said that the
light surrounding the eyes of a blind man as well as of one who
could see was present to the latte5 absent from the former Hence it
is evident that the presence of created things is not to be
measured either by propinquity or distance of places, but is to be
estimated by that relation by which he to whom the thing is present
can enjoy it suitably. Presence is opposed not to distance, but to
absence. The latter, not the former, intercepts the use and the
enjoyment of the object. Third, the presence of Christ's body can be
regarded either with respect to believers (who use the sacraments)
and to their union with Christ's body; or with respect to the
sacrament and the union which Christ's body can have with the
sacramental signs. In the former sense, Christ is said to be present
to the mind of the believer in the celebration of this mystery; in
the latter, he is said to be present with regard to place in the
signs, while he is conceived to be in the bread or under it or under
its species. Fourth, real presence can be understood in two ways:
either by nearness and corporeal contact, as a body is said to be
really present which is somewhere nearby and by reason of locality;
or by efficacy and virtue which efficaciously operates somewhere.
Fifth, a threefold presence must be accurately distinguished here:
one symbolical and sacramental in the signs; another spiritual and
mystical in the heart; and the other corporeal and of nearness.
Sixth, there is an oral and corporeal manducation of Christ's body
which is said to be with the mouth of the body; and there is a
spiritual and mystical which is the mouth of faith. For the body can
no more eat spiritually, than the soul can eat corporeally The
latter manducation, however is said to be spiritual not with regard
to the object (as if the body of Christ could be converted into a
spirit); but both from the principal efficient cause, which is the
Holy Spirit, by whose virtue this eating is done, and from the
instrumental, which is faith; and from the manner, which consists
in spiritual actions; and from the subject, which is the soul
immediately and primarily; and from the relation, under which the
body to be eaten is exhibited, not simply as a body, but as a body
dead and crucified (in which sense it cannot be apprehended by us
except spiritually).

IV From what has been said the statement of the question is clearly
gathered. First, it is not inquired about the presence of Christ in
general-whether Christ is present in the Eucharist (which is
asserted on both sides)-but concerning the mode of this presence: Is
it corporeal and by indistancy (adiastasian) or is it spiritual? The
Romanists and Lutherans hold the former; we hold the latte~ Second,
the question is not whether the body of Christ is present to the
mind of believers in the Eucharist, and whether it is united closely
with them. Rather the question is whether it is united with the
sacramental signs and locally present with them. This they
maintain; we deny. Third, the question is not about the real and
substantial presence as to efficacy and virtue; for thus we do not
deny that Christ's body is present in the sacrament, inasmuch as in
the lawful use it exerts its power in the communicants according to
God's ordination. But the question (according to the sense of our
opponents) concerns a real presence by nearness (indistantiam).
Fourth, it is not inquired whether our union with Christ is
necessary for salvation (which we acknowledge and urge); but
concerning the mode and bond by which that union ought to be
made-whether the body of Christ ought to enter into our bodies by a
local conjunction (which they wish); or whether it is sufficient
that this be done by the Spirit of Christ and by faith (as we
assert). Fifth, it is not inquired concerning the symbolic and
sacramental presence of Christ's body in the signs, or concerning
the spiritual and mystical in the heart (for we acknowledge and
defend both); but concerning the local presence and presence of
nearness in the Eucharist, either under the species of the bread (as
the transubstantiationists hold) or under the very bread (as the
consubstantiationists assert and we deny). Finally, the question is
not whether there is an eating of the body of Christ (which is
acknowledged on both sides); but whether there is an oral eating of
it. So that the question returns to these limits-Is Christ's body
so present in the Eucharist that it may be said to be in the signs
not only symbolically and is it truly and really (but spiritually)
communicated to and united with the hearts of believers; but is it
also corporeally and indistantly (indistanter) present in the
sacrament, so that it can and ought to be received into and eaten
with the mouth of the body? This they maintain and we deny.

V. The reasons are various. First, here belong all those which have
been adduced against the proper sense and by transubstantiation, to
which we add the following. (1) From the words of institution, which
cannot admit that institution. corporeal presence; both because
Christ's body is proposed in the Supper to us and represented by the
sacramental signs as dead and his blood as poured out of his veins
(in which manner it is impossible for Christ's body to be made
present to us at this day corporeally and indistantly [adiastatos],
since he can die no more); and because Christ commands us "to do
this in remembrance of him" (Lk. 22:19). Now memory is only of
things absent and past, not of those present; nor, if all things are
said to be present to faith, is this understood of a local presence
as to real being (which is beyond the intellect), but of an
objective, as to intentional being and the spiritual hypostasis of
faith. If we are commanded to remember God, his absence from our
mind through thoughtlessness and oblivion is supposed (although he
is always present to us as to himself by his essence). Now although
that remembrance enjoined upon us must be extended to his suffering
and death, which we are commanded to show forth, a remembrance of
Christ himself ought no less on that account to be made, since
Christ expressly affirms it and indeed even until he shall come,
which necessarily supposes his absence now: Nor does that future
advent exclude only the visible presence of his body and not the
invisible, because it is gratuitously supposed that there is an
invisible presence of Christ's body (as will be proved hereafter).
Finally, Christ says that he will not drink any more from that time
of the fruit of the vine. Hence it is evident that he did drink of
it in partaking of the Eucharist. Now who can believe that Christ
was carnally present there, so that he could be eaten and drunk by
himself? That he could thus be at the same time the agent and
patient; the food eaten and the mouth eating?

VI. (2) From the passages in which the departure of Christ from the
world is spoken of. (a) Where he predicts that he will go out of the
world and will no longer Christ. be present here in his body: "Ye
have the poor always
with you; but me ye have not always" (Mt. 26:11); "I came forth from
the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world,
and go to the Father" (Jn. 16:28); "I am no more" (i.e., will be, to
wit, in my body) "in the world, but these" (namely, his disciples)
"are in the world" (Jn. 17:11); "It is expedient for you that I go
away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come among you"
(Jn. 16:7). Hence he elsewhere forbids us to believe in the miracles
of false prophets, who show Christ either in a desert or include him
in secret chambers (tameiois) and with these lies feed the faith of
Christians. "If they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the
desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers" (or
receptacles and hidden places) "believe it not. For as the lightning
cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall
also the coming of the Son of man be" (Mt. 24:26, 27). (b) Where he
is said to have gone from this world and to have ascended up to
heaven. "It came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from
them, and carried up into heaven" (Lk. 24:51). So in Acts 1 and
elsewhere. (c) Where he is said to be in heaven, there to remain
even until the end of the world, at which time he will return. "Whom
the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all
things" (Acts 3:21),~; "They shall see the Son of man coming in the
clouds" (Mt. 24:30). "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven
with the voice of the archangel" (1 Thess. 4:16). "Seek those things
which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God"
(Col. 3:1). From all these, an invincible argument is derived. He
who departed in body from the earth and left the world that he might
betake himself to heaven where he is to remain until the restitution
of all things; who is sought in vain on earth where he no longer is;
and must be sought in heaven, where he sits at the right hand of
God, cannot be said to be carnally present in the sacrament. And yet
all these things are said of Christ. Therefore

VII. See the various objections of the Romanists and Lutherans
discussed in Volume II, Topic XIII, Sections 8, Paragraphs 16, 17,
18 and Question 18, Sections 4, 5, 6. To these we add: ( 1 ) in vain
is the visible corporeal presence and human conversation of Christ
distinguished from his invisible presence, as if that only is
excluded and not this. (a) Because it is gratuitously supposed that
there is granted such an invisible presence of Christ's body,
besides the visible. This was to have been proved before all things,
not to be supposed. For we maintain that it is a sheer invention,
incompatible (asystaton) with the nature of a true body (b) It is
repugnant to the words of Christ, which speak of his departure and
leaving the world, not only concerning the disappearance and
hiddenness of his body. But how can he be said to leave the world
and to be raised up into heaven, if he as yet remains perpetually on
earth? (c) Christ in consoling the minds of his sad disciples ought
to have used this distinction-that he would indeed visibly depart,
but still would be invisibly with them by the presence of his body,
to such a degree that he could be both received into their hands and
taken into their mouths. But he employed far different means (to
wit, the substitution of the Holy Spirit in place of his bodily
presence, whom he promised to send that he might remain with them
forever as his vicar). Now what need was there of the invisible
presence of the Holy Spirit if the flesh of Christ always remains
invisibly? Was that invisible (aorasia) presence to be supplied by
anything visible? Nor ought it to be replied that Christ promised a
new presence: "I will come again:' This by no means favors an
invisible presence, because it can best be explained either with
respect to the appearance of Christ after his resurrection, or with
respect to his spiritual and mystical advent through the grace of
the Spirit, or of his return to judgment. (2) No more rightly do
they wish a distinction to be made between "a finite, created,
definitive presence and a divine, illocal, uncreated, infinite
presence"; that by the former Christ is in heaven, while by the
latter he is in the Supper The radical error (proton pseudos) is
always assumed that there is a twofold kind of presence with
respect to Christ's body, which as impossible and contrary to the
nature of a body-cannot be admitted.

VIII. (3) From the impossibility of such a presence be cause it
overthrows the nature and properties of a true body. As possessed of
quantity and extended, a true body such a presence. ought to be
visible and palpable, located, impenetrable
and circumscribed; which is so in one place that it cannot be in
another; so it has parts outside of parts, so that neither can it
penetrate nor be penetrated by another body. Nevertheless, this
would be done by Christ's body if it were present in the Eucharist
in the way supposed by our opponents. Nor did the exaltation of
Christ (which gave glory and immortality to his body) take away its
nature so that although it was destitute of the infirmities of
animal life and of the conditions of a servile state, still it
retained both the nature of a ' true body and all its properties.
Nor do the examples brought forward sustain their view. Christ might
have entered in to the disciples "the doors having been shut" (ton
thyron kekleismeuon, Jn. 20:19) (i.e., at the time when they had
closed the doors on account of their fear of the Jews), but not
"through closed doors" (dia thyron). It denotes therefore the state
in which the apostles were, but not the mode of entrance. For
although the doors were shut, they could have yielded to the Creator
and opened at his hand. The same is to be said about the stone
placed at the mouth of his sepulchre The creature might have yielded
willingly to the Creator without a penetration of its dimensions,
although the angel of the Lord, since he had descended from heaven,
had not removed the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, as is
said to have been done (Mt. 28:2). Christ is said "to have vanished
out of their sight" (aphantos ap' auton) (to wit, of the disciples
at Emmaus, Lk. 24:31), not by vanishing into thin air, but either by
holding together the eyes of the apostles that they might not see
him going away; or by withdrawing himself very swiftly from them so
that "he may be said to have been carried away from their sight," as
Beza translates it (Annotationes maiores in novum . . . testamentum:
Pars priar [L594], p. 325 on Lk. 24:31). Christ is said to have
passed into the heavens (Heb. 4:14), not by a penetration of
heavenly bodies, but by a passing through them, the heavens being
opened at his approach as they are said to have been opened at his
baptism. Nor does the word dielelythota imply penetration anymore
than when Paul and Barnabas "went through the island" (dielthontes
ton neson, i.e., Cyprus, Acts 13:6) can they be said to have
penetrated the island.

IX. (4) From its inutility. If there was any use for it, it ought to
serve undoubtedly for oral manducation. But many things prove that
no such thing, but only a spiritual is granted. (a) The nature of
food which ought to be eaten by us; for the eating ought to be such
as the food is. Now the food is not corporeal, but spiritual; both
be cause it ought to be a nourishment of the mind not of the body,
and because the life which is to be sustained is not animal and
earthly but spiritual and heavenly (consisting in the remission of
sins and the practice of sanctification), opposed to the death of
sin (which consisted in the curse and corruption); and because the
instrument of eating is not the mouth of the body (because whatever
enters into the mouth goes into the stomach and is thrown into the
sewer, Mt. 15:17; 1 Cor. 6:13), but the mouth of faith, by which
Christ dwells in our hearts (Eph. 3:17) and we apply to ourselves
his flesh given for the life of the world by a living apprehension
of his merit; and because the adjuncts and effects are spiritual,
not corporeal. It is not corruptible food which perishes, but
incorruptible which endures unto everlasting life (Jn. 6:27), whose
effects are spiritual: our mystical union with Christ (Jn. 6:56), a
glorious resurrection (v. 54) and the fruition of eternal life (vv.
47-49).

X. (b) All these are confirmed by Jn. 6, whence various arguments
are drawn for spiritual eating against oral and Capemaitic (whatever
our opponents may bring forward to the contrary). (i) It treats of
the eating which gives eternal life: "Your fathers did eat manna in
the wilderness, and are dead" (v. 49*). "This is the bread which
cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die"
(v. 50); "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood... dwelleth
in me, and I in him" (vv 54, 56). (ii) Of an eating which is
absolutely necessary for the gaining of life: "Except ye eat the
flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in
you" (v. 53). (iii) Of that which answers to spiritual hunger and
thirst and which is performed by faith: "I am the bread of life: he
that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me
shall never thirst" (v. 35). Here coming to Christ and believing on
him are put for the true means of allaying hunger and slaking thirst
(i.e., for the true eating, which Christ means). (iv) Of that for
which faith alone is required. For since Christ had commanded the
Jews to labour for enduring food, and the Jews had asked what they
were to do that they might enjoy that food, he answers that faith
alone is required: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him
whom he hath sent" (v 29). (v) He speaks of the eating which could
be done at that time because he speaks not in the future, but in the
present and urges its perpetual necessity. And yet oral manducation
had not as yet been instituted nor could it have had a place. (vi)
Of the eating which should be done through the Spirit, "because the
flesh profiteth nothing, but it is the Spirit which giveth life" (v.
63). (vii) Many of our opponents confess that Christ treats in this
chapter of spiritual manducation alone, among whom Bellarmine
mentions Gabriel Biel (Canonis Misse Expositio 84 [ed. H. Oberman
and W. Courtenay, 1967], 4:77-95), Cusanus, Cajetan, Tapper, Hessel,
Comelius Jansen ("De Sacramento Eucharistiae," 1.5 Opera, 3:255-57).
To these must be added Aeneas Sylvius (or Pius II), who urging
against the Taborites the restitution of the cup from these words,
"except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood" (v.
53), copiously teaches that Christ speaks only of a spiritual
manducation. However, they who urge the oral manducation confess
that the discourse of Christ up to v. 51 is figurative and is to be
understood of spiritual manducation (as Bellarmine, Salmeron,
Maldonatus). But in vain is this distinction employed, since Christ
uses the same words and treats of the same thing; nor is there any
reason for a change in the discourse.

XI. If anyone seeks further for what purpose Christ employs this
metaphorical kind of speaking in this whole chapter, representing
communion with him by manducation, various reasons can be given. ( 1
) This figurative manner of speaking is most familiar in the
Scriptures and was often employed by Christ. It is his custom to
adumbrate spiritual mysteries and his blessings under the covering
of corporeal things and actions. As elsewhere he describes the grace
of conversion by regeneration and the production of the new man;
thus to this new man he attributes a new life and food by which he
may be nourished and sustained. (2) It is the fittest mode of
speaking to designate our communion with Christ, as is evident from
a manifold analogy. (3) Christ had a special occasion in this place
for using such a metaphor from the miracle performed and a regard
for the crowd which followed him. For as he had filled them with the
loaves miraculously multiplied, so they came to him again to be fed
by him. Hence he seized the opportunity of turning their minds away
from earthly thoughts about material and corporeal bread and
carrying them to the thought of and desire for his grace. This he
designates under the same idea which then occupied their senses
(namely, under the idea of meat and drink). "Ye seek me, not because
ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were
filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat
which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall
give unto you" (Jn. 6:26, 27*). Nothing is more usual with Christ
than to use the occasions offered for setting forth his mysteries.
As from the occasion of the water to which the Samaritan woman
approached, he represents his grace under the symbol of water (Jn.
4:10). From the occasion of his disciples exhorting him to take
food, on which he speaks of doing the will of his Father as of food:
"My meat is to do the will of him that sent me" (Jn. 4:34*). What
wonder, therefore, if Christ, on the occasion of the miracle of the
loaves, describes union with him under the symbol of eating? And for
this reason the more, that he was drawing the answer of the crowd
necessarily to that very thing (Jn. 6:30-32). When they speak of the
manna given to their fathers, on that account he shows that he is
the true celestial bread who gives life to the world and not the
corruptible manna of the Israelites. (4) In this way, Christ also
wished to contrast his body with the legal victims and especially
with those which were offered for the expiation of sin, upon which
it was not lawful to feed, neither as to the flesh, nor as to the
blood. Assuredly this was not done without a mystery to designate
the imperfection and insufficiency of such victims because they were
so involved in the fire of divine justice that nothing could remain
from them for the nourishment of the people. This was a sign that
there was no power in them to appease the divinity and to fill with
consolation the conscience of the offerer But Christ wishes to teach
that this would not be the case with his sacrifice. So far from its
being consumed and absorbed by the fire of the divine wrath, that, a
most full satisfaction having been rendered to his justice, we can
be nourished by his body and blood (i.e., feel its efficacy in
consoling and pacifying the soul). Thus while the Israelites had
communion with the victims only in death (drawing them to the altar
that they might die in their place), Christ wished not only to share
in our death by receiving our sins upon himself, but he wishes that
we may have communion of life with him and to that end gives us his
flesh and blood for spiritual aliment.

XII. Our opponents can find nothing in this chapter which favors
oral manducation. (1) Not what is said in v 55: "My flesh is meat
indeed, and my blood is ": drink indeed:' For he is the true food;
but of the mind, not of the stomach; of the heart and of faith, not
of the mouth. Thus it denotes the truth of the similitude:. between
corporeal food and spiritual and celestial food as to the efficacy
of nutrition, but not as to the mode of eating. As "Why do you
prepare teeth and stomach, believe and thou hast eaten," as
Augustine says on John 6* (Tractate 25, On the Gospel of John*
[NPNFI, 7:164; PL 35.1602]). Thus he is called "the true light" (Jn.
1:9), i.e., far truer than the visible light. Therefore he is called
the true food, but spiritually, not corporeally; for his truth
consists in spiritual no less than in ' corporeal things; yea, on
this account, the more sure because they are wont to be : more
`perfect than the latter In this sense, Christ is called "the true
vine" (Jn. 15:1). "Truly the people is grass (Isa. 40:7). Thus
Cajetan observes on the passage: To signify that his flesh, not
deceptively, not by opinion, but according to the truth nourishes
the soul, he says my flesh is truly meat" ("Commentarii in
Evangelium secundum Ioannem,"quotquot in Sacrae Scripturae [1639],
4:335: on Jn. 5:56). So also Gabriel Biel: "My flesh is truly meat"
(i.e., undoubtedly): "refreshing meat" (Canonis Misse Expositio 86
[ed. H. Oberman and W Courtenay, 1967], 4:135). (2) Not that Christ
"distinguishes eating and drinking by which each species is most
clearly distinguished; since in spiritual manducation by faith, to
drink is the same as to eat." Christ uses that twofold word, not for
the reason that the one ought to be the act of spiritual eating, the
other of spiritual drinking; but to signify that Christ is not our
life and food except as he is dead and that we obtain full spiritual
nourishment in his death and in communion with him, as full
nutrition is attained by meat and drink. (3) Nor that he says, "I
will give in the future and not I give in the present, because
eating by faith belongs to all times." For the verb "to give" in the
future denotes his deliverance unto death (which was as yet future)
not the giving at the feast (which is in the Eucharist). Thus to
give the power of food to the body of Christ implies nothing but the
sacrifice by which he was made the meat of our soul (which cannot be
eaten except as a victim).

XIII. (4) Not that the Jews (understanding a carnal eating of Christ
[v. 52], which they judged to be absurd and impossible) are not
rebuked by Christ; yea, are the more confirmed, but are only
informed of the mode of really eating, which they did not
comprehend. It is gratuitously supposed that Christ did not
reprehend them, since it is clear that he did: "Doth this offend
you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was
before?" (vv. 61, 62). Here he plainly condemns them because they
were offended at his discourse improperly understood, drawing to an
oral and corporeal manducation what he had said about a spiritual
manducation. And in order to relieve them of this gross
imagination, he sets before them his future ascension into heaven,
from which they might still more certainly gather that his words
were to be understood not literally, but figuratively and
mystically (as Augustine observed, Tractate 27, On the Gospel of
John [NPNFI, 7:174-78]). Thus they were not confirmed in their
depraved sense concerning oral manducation (according to which the
body of Christ would have to be present by nearness of place), but
he recalls them from that error, his future ascension being
proposed, by which the presence of his flesh having been withdrawn
from the earth, there could be no method of eating it other than
spiritual and by faith. Christ confirms this further when he adds:
"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the
words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (v.
63). Here he teaches that his flesh orally received conduces not to
salvation, since it belongs to the Spirit alone to vivify us (i.e.,
he applies to our souls unto salvation the vivifying and nutritive
power of Christ's flesh by the merit of his sacrifice). Thus the
words of Christ are Spirit and life (i.e., they are to be understood
spiritually). (5) Not from this-that Christ promises "to give new
food not as yet granted to men, which cannot be understood of
spiritual manducation, which belongs to all times, but only of an
oral:' For Christ certainly promises something new (to wit, the
oblation of his body as a victim for the life of the world), which
had not as yet happened; but he did not on that account command a
new method of eating, because there ought not to be granted a
different method of salvation and of communion with Christ between
the believers of the Old and New Testaments. And the fathers,
believing in Christ who was to come, could eat him spiritually, no
less than we (as the following argument teaches).


 

Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas