REFUTATION X. – THE HERESY OF BERENGARIUS, AND THE PRETENDED REFORMERS, CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST.
1. Mosheim, the Protestant Ecclesiastical Historian, asserts (1) that in the 9th century, the exact nature of the faith of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist was not established, and that, therefore, Pascasius Radbertus laid down in a book he wrote two principal points concerning it; first, that after the consecration nothing remained of the substance of the bread and wine, and, secondly, that in the consecrated Host is the very body of Jesus Christ, which was born of Mary, died on the cross, and arose from the sepulchue, and this, he said, is ” what the whole world believes and professes.” This work was opposed by Retramn, and perhaps others, and hence Mosheim concludes that the dogma was not then established. In this, however, he is astray, for, as Selvaggi writes (note 79, vol. iii), there was no controversy at all about the dogma, in which Retramn was agreed with Radbert; he only attacked some expressions in his work.
(1) Mosh. His. t. 3, Cent. IX. c. 3, p. 1175.
The truth of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the altar has been always established and universally embraced by the whole Church, as Vincent of Lerins says, in 434 : ” Mos iste semper in Ecclesia viguit, ut quo quisque forte religiosior, eo promtius novellis adinventionibus contrairet.” Up to the ninth century the Sacrament of the Eucharist never was impugned, till John Scotus Erigena, an Irishman, first published to the world the unheard-of heresy that the body and blood of Christ were not in reality in the Holy Eucharist, which, he said, was only a figure of Jesus Christ.
2. Berengarius, or Berenger, taught the same heresy in the year 1050, taking his opinions from the works of Scotus Erigena, and in the twelfth century we find the Petrobrussians and Henricians, who said that the Eucharist was only a mere sign of the body and blood of our Lord. The Albigenses held the same error in the thirteenth century, and finally, in the sixteenth century the modern Reformers all joined in attacking this Holy Sacrament. Zuingle and Carlostad said that the Eucharist was a signification of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and Ecolampadius joined them afterwards, and Bucer, also, partially. Luther admitted the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but said that the substance of the bread remained there also. Calvin several times changed his opinion on the matter; he said, in order to deceive the Catholics, that the Eucharist was not a mere sign, or naked figure of Christ, but was filled with his Divine Virtue, and sometimes he even admitted that the very substance of the body of Christ was there, but his general opinion was that the presence of Christ was not real but figurative, by the power placed there by our Lord. Hence Bossuet says in his ” Variations,” he never wished to admit that the sinner, in communicating receives the body of Christ, for then he should admit the Real Presence. The Council of Trent (Sess. xiii, c. 1), teaches, ” that Jesus Christ, God and man, is really, truly, and substantially contained under the appearance of those sensible things in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine.”
3. Before we prove the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we must know that it is a true Sacrament, as the Council of Florence declares in its Decree or Instruction for the Armenians; and the Council of Trent (Sess. vii. c. 1), in opposition to the Socinians, who say that it is not a Sacrament, but merely a remembrance of the death of our Saviour. It is, however, an article of Faith that the Eucharist is a true Sacrament; for, First, we have the sensible sign, the appearance of bread and wine. Secondly, there is the institution of Christ : ” Do this in commemoration of me” (Luke, xxii). Thirdly, there is the promise of Grace : ” Who eats my flesh hath eternal life.” We now have to inquire what in the Eucharist constitutes a Sacrament. The Lutherans say that it is in the use, with all the actions that Christ did, at the last Supper, that the Sacrament consists, as St. Matthew tells us : ” Jesus took bread, blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to his disciples” (Matt. xxvi). The Calvinists, on the other hand, say that it is in the actual eating that the Sacrament consists. We Catholics believe that the consecration is not the Sacrament, because that is a transitory action, and the Eucharist is a permanent Sacrament, as we shall show hereafter (sec. 3), nor the use or communion, for this regards the effect of the Sacrament, which is a Sacrament before it is received at all, nor in the species alone, for these do not confer Grace, nor the body of Jesus Christ alone, because it is not there in a sensible manner; but the sacramental species, together with the body of Christ, form the Sacrament, inasmuch as they contain the body of our Lord.