He reproveth them, because in holy assemblies 4 their men prayed with their heads covered, and 6 women with their heads uncovered, 17 and because generally their meetings were not for the better but for the worse, as 21 namely in profaning with their own feasts the Lord’s supper. 23 Lastly, he calleth them to the first institution thereof.
E ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered dishonoureth his head.
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you. That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Douay Rheims Version
Women must have a covering over their heads. He blameth the abuses of their love feasts and upon that occasion treats of the Blessed Sacrament.
E ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.
The Apostle proceeds to deal with the third point put before him, that of the veiling of women; for the Corinthians had asked of S. Paul whether or no women ought to be veiled. He replies that they ought, and especially at the time of public prayer, and he supports his decision by five reasons. (I.) that womanly honour and modesty demand it (vers. 5 and 14); (2.) that they are subject to men (vers. 7 et seq.); (3.) that if they go forth with uncovered head they offend the angels (ver. 10); (4.) that nature has given them hair for a )covering (ver. 15); (5.) that this is the custom of the Church (ver. 16).
The second part of the chapter (ver. 17) treats of the Eucharist, and in this he censures as an abuse that in the agape, or common meal, the rich excluded the poor, and sat apart by themselves, giving themselves to self-indulgence and drunkenness. Then (ver. 23) he gives an account of the institution of the Eucharist by Christ, and declares the guilt and punishment of those who approach unworthily, and bids each one examine himself before he approach to it.
Ver. 1.—Be ye followers of me, even as also I am of Christ. This is a continuation of the preceding chapter. Imitate me, 0 Corinthians, in that, as I said, I do not seek my own advantage but that of many, that they may be saved; and in this I imitate the zeal of Christ, who sought not His own good but our salvation, and to gain it descended from heaven to earth, took our flesh, toiled, and gave Himself to the death of the Cross.
Ver. 2.—Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things. He here passes on and paves the way for a fresh question. In the following verses he proceeds to censure the abuses of the Corinthians in suffering their women to go unveiled, and in approaching the Eucharist when full of wine and mutual discords, and according to his custom he softens his rebuke that the Corinthians may take it the more readily and kindly, in the same way that physicians sugar their pills. He says, therefore, “I praise you that ye remember me in all things,” which, as Erasmus says, means “that ye keep in memory all my things,” or, as Euthymius says, “that ye are mindful of everything that belongs to me” Supply “precepts, teachings, or exhortations” after “all.” All these precepts, &c., must be understood with some limitation, and must mean that most of them were kept by the better sort of the Corinthians, for in other parts of this Epistle he censures some faults of the Corinthians, and especially in this chapter their abuse of the Eucharist, as a departure from the ordinance of Christ and His own precepts.
As I delivered them to you.—The Greek gives, when translated literally, as even Beza admits, “Ye keep the traditions as I delivered them to you.” Hence, since these traditions were not committed to writing by the Apostles, for no previous letter to the Corinthians containing a record of them is extant, it plainly follows that not everything which concerns faith and morals has been written down in Holy Scripture, and that S. Paul and the other Apostles delivered many things by word of mouth. This is even more clearly stated in vers. 23 and 34. It is evident, moreover, from the fact that before that had been written which S. Paul here writes about the Eucharist, &c, the Corinthians were bound to obey the precepts respecting them given by Christ and S. Paul, as he says himself in ver. 23. The law preserved in tradition binds equally with the written law. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others.
Ver. 3.—But I would have you know, that . . . the head of Christ is God. S. Paul here lays the foundation for his precepts about the veiling of women. We must bear in mind that the Corinthian women were greatly given, not only to lust, but also to the worship of Venus, so much so that a thousand maidens were every day exposed as prostitutes at her temple and in her honour. (Cf. notes to chap. vi. at the end.) Moreover, they thought this to be to their own honour and an act of piety, and they hoped to conciliate the goddess in this way to bestow upon them and their daughters, or to continue to them, a happy marriage. They were consequently wanton, and forward to attract lovers by exposing their features and displaying their form; and this was regarded at Corinth as a custom honourable, becoming and elegant, and Christian women thought that they ought to retain the custom of their fathers. Some of the Corinthians whose minds were of a higher cast advised S. Paul of this fact, and put to him the question whether it was lawful or becoming, for Christian women to go about with uncovered head, and especially in the Church. Paul replies that it is neither becoming nor lawful, and he begins here to give his reasons. The first is that the woman is subject to the man as her head, therefore she ought to be veiled; again, man is subject to God as His image, and therefore he is not to be veiled. In vers. 7 and 10 he proves both conclusions.
Head here has the meaning of lord, superior, or ruler. So God, as being of a higher nature, is the head and ruler of Christ as man; while Christ, as being of the same nature with the Church, is her Head, and that, as S. Thomas says, in four ways: (1.) by reason of conformity of nature with other men, for Christ as man is the Head of the Church; (2.) by reason of the perfection of His graces; (3.) by reason of His exaltation above every creature; (4.) by reason of His power over all, and especially over the Church. So the man, S. Thomas says, is head of the woman in four ways: (1.) He is more perfect than the woman, not only physically, inasmuch as woman is but man with a difference, but also in regard to mental vigour, according to Eccles. vii. 28: “One man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.” (2.) Man is naturally superior to woman, according to Eph. v. 22, 23: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife.” (3.) The man has power to govern the woman, according to Gen. iii. 16: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (4.) The man and the woman enjoy conformity of nature, according to Gen. ii 18: “I will make him an help meet for him.”
Vers. 4 and 5.—Every man praying, &c. This is the second reason: It is disgraceful for a man to be veiled, and, therefore, the honour, freedom, and manliness of man require that he veil not his head, but leave it free and unconstrained. On the other hand, it is disgraceful for a woman not to be veiled, for womanly honour and modesty require a woman to veil her head; therefore the woman ought to be veiled, the man ought not. The phrase, “Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth,” does not use “prophesieth” in its strict, and proper meaning of uttering a prophecy or an exposition, but in the improper sense of singing hymns or psalms to the praise of God. For S. Paul is here speaking of the public assembly, in which he does not allow a woman to speak or to teach, but only to sing her part well when the whole congregation sings. Prophet means singer in 1 Chron. xxv. 1, and in 1 Sam. x. 10. So Saul is said to have been among the prophets, that is among the singers of praises to God. So in the Books of Kings those are called prophets who served God with praises.
Some explain “that prophesieth” to mean “that hears prophecy;” but “prophecy” has never this passive meaning. Moreover, the Apostle here means any woman, whether unmarried, virgin, married, or unchaste. He bids all alike to go veiled. So Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c. 4 and 5) lays down, and adds that the Corinthians understood this to be S. Paul’s meaning, for up to that time, he says, they follow S., Paul’s injunction, and veil their wives and daughters.
Ver. 6.—For if a woman be not covered, let her also be shorn. For here is not causal, but an emphatic continuative. It is as disgraceful for a woman to have her head uncovered as to have her hair cut short or cut off. Heretics infer from this that it is wrong for religious virgins to be shorn; but I deny that it follows; for the Apostle is speaking in general of women living in the world, especially of married women, who are seen in public in the temple: he is not speaking of religious who have left the world. These latter rightly despoil themselves of their hair, to show (i.) that they contemn all the pomp of the world, (2.) that they have no husband but Christ. This was the custom at the time of S. Jerome, as he says (Ep. 48 ad Sabin.). The Nazarites did the same (Num. vi. 5).
It may be urged that the Council of Gangra (can. 17) forbids virgins to be shorn under pretext of religion. I reply from Sozomen (lib. iii. c. 13) that this canon does not refer to religious, but to heretical women, who left their husbands and against their will cut off their hair, in the name of religion, and donned man’s dress.
It is these that the Council excommunicates, as Baronius rightly points out (Annals, vol. iv.). Add to this that religious virgins wear a sacred veil instead of their hair.
It should be noticed that, although Theodosius (Codex Theod. lib. 27, de Epis. et Cler.) forbade virgins to be shorn in the West, that is to say, younger women not living within the walls of a monastery, but wishing to profess a religious life of chastity in the world, his reason was to prevent scandal, which would be caused if, as sometimes was the case, they happened to fall away into the ordinary secular life. This actually happened in the very same year that this law was passed by Theodosius, as Baronius has well pointed out (Annals, A.D. 390). Sozomen, too (lib. vii. c. 26), gives the same reason for its being passed. A young matron at Constantinople, and of noble birth, and a deaconness, had been, it would seem, seduced by a deacon; and when, according to custom, by the order of her confessor she was making a public confession of certain sins, she proceeded to confess also this sin of fornication to the great scandal of the people; and because of this Nectarius abolished public confession and the office of public penitentiary. Still it has ever been the common practice of the Church that virgins, when taking vows of religion, should be shorn. S. Jerome (Ep. 48) says that in Egypt and Syria women who had dedicated themselves to God were accustomed to cut off their hair. He says: “It is the custom of the monasteries in Egypt and Syria, that both virgin and widow who have vowed themselves to God, and have renounced and trodden underfoot all the delights of the world, should offer their hair to be cut off, and afterwards live, not with head uncovered, which, is forbidden by the Apostle, but with their heads both tied round and veiled.” Palladius (in Lausiaca) is our authority for saying that the Tabeunesiotæ, an order of sacred virgins founded by S. Pachomius in obedience to the command of an angel, did the same. Moreover, S. Basil (in Reg. Monach.) prescribes, that at the very beginning of the monastic life the head should be shaven, for he says that this well becomes him who is mourning for his sins.
Ver. 7.—For a man indeed ought two to cover his head, inasmuch as he is the image and glory of God. This is a hendiadys, for man is the image of the glory of God, or the glorious image of God, in whom the majesty and power of God shine forth most clearly. He is placed on the topmost step in nature, and is as it were God’s vicegerent, ruling everything This is the major of a syllogism of which the minor is: but the glory of God must be manifested, the glory of man hidden. Therefore, since woman is the glory of the man, the man of God, it follows that woman should be veiled, that the man should not. S. Anicetus (Ep. ad. Episc. Galliæ) takes this verse of the Apostle chiefly of men in the ranks of the clergy, and of priests in particular, who, in obedience to S. Paul, ought not only to have their heads uncovered, but also a tonsure in the shape of a crown, as S. Peter had (Bede, Hist. Ang. lib. v. c. 23, and Greg. of Tours, de Glor. Conf. c. xxvii.), to represent Christ’s crown of thorns and the contumely endured by S. Peter and his fellow Apostles, from which they expect a crown of glory in the heavens.
It should be remarked that in the Old Testament the high-priest offered sacrifices with bare feet and covered head, i.e., wearing his mitre (Exod. xxviii. 37), but in the New Testament the priests offer the sacrifice of the Mass with their feet shod and with uncovered head. Epiphanius says (Hæres. 8o) that, in the New Testament, Christ, who is our Head, is conspicuous and manifest to us, but was veiled and hidden from the Jews in the Old Law. However, the Apostle is evidently referring here to all men in general, not to the clergy only.
It is not contrary to this precept of the Apostle for our priests, when they celebrate, to use the amice among the other vestments, for they do not cover the head with it while sacrificing, but only use it round the opening in the chasuble (Rupert, de Div. Off. lib. i. c. 10). The amice is not used, then, to cover the head, but to represent the ephod of the high-priest under the Old Law, as Alcuin and Rabanus say, or to signify the veil with which the Jews bound the eyes of Christ (S. Matt. xxvi 67). Cf. Dom. Soto, lib. iv. dist. 13, qu. 2, art. 4, and Hugh Vict. de Sacr. lib. ii. c. 4.
But S. Paul wishes to abolish the heathen custom, first instituted, say Plutarch and Servius, by Æneas, of sacrificing and making supplication to their gods with veiled head. Tertullian (in Apol.) remarked this distinction between Christians and heathen, and Varro (de Ling. Lat. lib. iv.) records that the Roman women, when sacrificing, had their heads veiled in the same way.
But the woman is the glory of the man. Woman was made of man to his glory, as his workmanship and image; therefore she is subject to him, and should be veiled, in token of her subordination.
The woman, that is the wife, is the glory of the man, his glorious image, because God formed Eve out of the man, in his likeness, so that the image might represent the man, as a copy the model. This image is seen in the mind and reason, inasmuch as the woman, like the man, is endowed with a rational soul, with intellect, will, memory, liberty, and is, equally with the man, capable of every degree of wisdom, grace, and glory. The woman, therefore, is the image of the man, but only improperly; for the woman, as regards the rational soul, is man’s equal, and both man and woman have been made in the image of God; but the woman was made from the man, after him, and is inferior to him, and created like him merely. Hence the Apostle does not say that “the woman is the image of the man,” but only “the woman is the glory of the man.” The reason is no doubt the one that Salmeron has pointed out, that woman is a notable ornament of man, as given to him for a means to propagate children and govern his family, and as the material over which he may exercise his jurisdiction and dominion. For man’s dominion not only extends to inanimate things and brute animals, but also to rational beings, viz., to women and wives.
Vers. 8, 9.—For the man is not of the woman . . . but the woman for the man. By two reasons he proves that the woman is the glory of man as her head—(1.) that woman is of later date than man, produced from him, and consequently man is the source and principle from which woman sprang. (2.) She was created to be a help to the man, the sharer of his life, and the mother of his children. As, then, man is the beginning from which, so is he the end for which woman was made. Hence the woman is the glory of the man, and not vice versâ.
Ver. 10—For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. There is no good authority for reading “veil” instead of “power,” as some do. We should observe: (1.) Power denotes here the authority, right, or rule of the man over the woman, not of the woman herself. The reference is to Gen. iii. 16. (2.) Power, by metonymy, signifies here the symbol of the man’s power, the veil which the woman wears on her head to signify her subjection to her husband’s power, and to denote that the man, as it were, is enthroned upon and holds dominion over her head. Power here, then, is used with an active meaning with regard to the man, with a passive in regard to the woman; for a veil is worn by one who reverences the power of another. As a bare and unconstrained head is a sign of power and dominion, so when veiled it is a sign that this power of his is as it were veiled, fettered, and subdued to another. Hence Tertullian (de Cor. Mil, c. xiv.) calls this covering worn by women, “The burden of their humility,” and (de Vel. Virg. c. xvii.) “their yoke.” S. Chrysostom calls it “The sign of subjection;” the Council of Gangra (sess. xvii.), “The memorial of subjection.” (3.) From this covering it was that, by the Latins, women are said nubere, that is, caput obnubere, when they pass into the power of a husband. On the other hand, in the case of a man, a cap was the badge of the freedman, as Livy says at the end of lib. 45. Hence slaves who were to be enrolled as liable to military service, were said to be called “to the cap,” that is, to liberty.
Because of the angels. 1. The literal sense is that women ought to have a covering on the head out of reverence to the angels; not because angels have a body, and can be provoked to lust, as Justin, Clement, and Tertullian thought—this is an error I exposed in the notes to Gen. vi.—but because angels are witnesses of the honest modesty or the immodesty of women, as also of their obedience or disobedience. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Theodoret, S. Thomas, Anselm.
2. Clement (Hypotypos, lib. ii.) understands by “angels,” good and holy men.
3. Ambrose, Anselm, and S. Thomas take it to mean priests and Bishops, who, in Rev. ii., are called angels, and who might be provoked to lust by the beauty of women with uncovered heads. Hence Clement of Alexandria (Pæd. lib. ii. c. 10) thinks that this bids them cover, not merely their heads, but also their forehead and face, as we see the more honourable do in church. But the first meaning is the most literal and pertinent.
This reverence that is due to the angels is the third reason given by S. Paul why women should cover their heads. It is especially to be shown in church, for angels fill the church, and take notice of the gestures, prayers, and dress of every one present. Hear what S. Nilus relates happened to his master, S. Chrysostom, not once or twice (Ep. ad Anast.). He says: “John, the most reverend priest of the Church at Constantinople, and the light of the whole world, a man of great discernment, saw almost always the house of the Lord filled with a great company of angels, and especially whilst he was offering the holy and unbloody sacrifice; and it was soon after this that he, full of amazement and joy, related what he had seen to his chief friends. ‘When the priest had begun,’ he said, ‘the most holy sacrifice, many of these Powers immediately descended, clad in the most beautiful robes, barefooted, and with rapt look, and with great reverence silently prostrated themselves around the altar, until the dread mystery was fulfilled. Then they dispersed hither and thither through the whole building, and kept close to the bishops, priests, and deacons, as they distibuted the precious body and blood, doing all they could to help them.’”
S. Chrysostom himself (Hom. de Sac. Mensa) says in amazement: “At the altar cherubim stand; to it descend the seraphim, endowed with six wings and hiding their faces. There the whole host of angels joins the priest in his work of ambassador for you.” S. Ambrose, commenting on the first chapter of S. Luke, speaks of the angel who appeared to Zacharias, and says: “May the angel be present with us as we continually serve at the altar, and bring down the sacrifice; nay, would that he would show himself to our bodily eyes. Doubt not that the angel is present when Christ comes down and is immolated.” S. Gregory (Dial. lib. iv. c 58) says: “Which of the faithful doubts that at the moment of immolation, the heavens are opened at the voice of the priest, that the choirs of angels are present in this mystery of Jesus Christ; that the lowest are joined to the highest, things earthly with divine, that things visible and invisible become one?” S. Dionysius Areopagites (Cælest. Hierarch. c. v. and ix.), says that angels of the highest order preside over the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the administration of the sacraments. Tertullian (de Orat. c. xiii.), censuring the custom of sitting during the Mass, says: “If indeed it is a mark of irreverence to sit down under the very eyes of one whom you fear and reverence, how much more impious is it to do so in the sight of the living God, while the angel of prayer is still standing? What else is it but to insult God because we are tired of praying?” John Moschus (in Prato Spir. c. 50) relates that a Roumelian Bishop, when celebrating Mass in the presence of Pope Agapitus, suddenly stopped, because he did not see as usual the descent of the Holy Spirit; and when the Pope asked him why he stopped, he said, “Remove the deacon from the altar who holds the fly-flap.” When this had been done, the wonted sign was given, and he finished the sacrifice. Metaphrastes (Vitâ S. Chrys.) says that the same thing happened to S. Chrysostom, through a deacon casting his eyes on a woman.
We should note (1.), that out of modesty and dignified reserve head-coverings were worn in the time before Christ by the women of Judæa, Troy, Rome, Arabia, and Sparta. Valerius Maximus (lib. vi. c. .3) relates the severe punishment inflicted by C. Sulpicius on his wife: he divorced her because he had found her out of doors with uncovered head. Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c. xiii). says: “The Gentile women of Arabia will rise up and judge us, for they cover, not only the head, but also the whole face, leaving only one eye to serve for both, rather than sell the whole face to every wanton gaze.” And again (de Cor. Milit. c. iv.) he says: “Among the Jewish women, so customary is it to wear a head-covering that they may be known by it.” As to the Spartan women, Plutarch (Apophth. Lacon.) records that it was the custom for their maidens to go out in public unveiled, but married women veiled. The reason was that the one might so find husbands, while those who already had husbands might not seek to attract the attention of other men. But, as Clement of Alexandria says (Pædag. lib. ii. c. i. c), that it is a reproach to the Spartans that they wore their dress down to the knee only, so neither are their maidens to be praised for going forth in public with unveiled face, for in that way maiden modesty was lost by being put up for sale.
2. Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c. ii.) blames those women who used a thin veil, because it was a provocation to lust rather than a protection to modesty, and was borrowed more from the custom of Gentile women than of believers in Christ. In chapter xii. he calls those women who consulted their mirrors for evidence of their beauty, sellers of their chastity. Moreover, S. Justin, writing to Severus (de Vitâ Christ.), hints plainly enough that Christians at that time abhorred mirrors. In short, Tertullian wrote a treatise (de Vel. Virg.) on this very point, to prove that all women, married or unmarried, religious or secular, should be veiled, any custom to the contrary notwithstanding, because so the Apostle enjoins. The Corinthians he says, (cap. 4), so understood S. Paul, and up to that time kept their maidens veiled. Moreover, the reasons given by the Apostle apply to all women alike, so that any breach of the precept ought to be censured and corrected. In some places, e.g., maidens go abroad with the head wholly uncovered, to show their beauty and attract a husband, when all that they really do is to peril the chastity of themselves and others, and to expose themselves daily to the wiles of panders, and hence we see and hear of so many shipwrecks to chastity.
Let, then, a maiden be veiled, and go abroad covered, lest she see herself what she ought not, or others be too much attracted by her features. For those who have ruined themselves, or slain others through the eye, are not to be numbered, and therefore the greatest watch should be kept over the eyes. Hence Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c. 15), says: “Every public display of a maiden is a violation of her chastity,” no doubt meaning that any one who walks about freely with roving eyes and exposed face, to see and be seen, is easily robbed of the purity of her mind. This very want of control is an index that the mind is not sufficiently chaste. Hence Tertullian goes on to say: “Put on the armour of shame, throw around thee the rampart of modesty, raise a wall about thy sex which will suffer neither thy eyes to go out nor those of others to come in.”
3. The head-dress of sacred virgins formerly consisted of a bridal-veil, of which Tertullian (de Vel. Virg. c. 15) says: “Pure virginity is ever timid, and flies from the sight of men, flees for protection to its head-covering as its helmet against the attacks of temptation, the darts of scandal, against suspicions and back-bitings.” He adds that it was usual to solemnly bless these veils, whence the virgins were said to be wedded to God. Innocent I. (ad Victric. Ep. ii. c. 12) says too: “These virgins are united to Christ in spiritual wedlock, and are veiled by priests.” These virgins lastly were clad in a dark-coloured dress, and covered with a long cloak. On the other hand Lucian, (Philopater) thus satirises the first dress of Christian men: “A sorry cloak, bare head, hair cut short, no shoes.” They went then bare-footed, or at all events like the Capuchins, wearing only sandals.
Ver. 11.—Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. This is to be referred to ver. 9, not to the words immediately preceding, which by some Bibles are rightly put in a parenthesis. Having said, in ver. 9, that the woman was created for the man, the Apostle, lest he might seem to have given to men an occasion for pride, to women of indignation, here softens the force of it by adding that in marriage neither can man be without woman, nor woman without man. Each needs the other’s help, and that “in the Lord,” that is, by the will and disposition of the Lord. Cf. S. Ambrose and the following verse.
“In the Lord” may also be understood “in Christ, by Christian truth and law.” The rule of Christian law and of God’s ordinance is that the husband and wife give mutual help, procreate children, and educate them piously. This seems to be a reminder to married people of their duty to each other, and of Christian piety.
Ver. 12.—As the woman is of the man, &c. The first woman, Eve, was formed from, man; man is conceived, formed, born, propagated through woman: all is done, ordered, and disposed by God.
Ver. 14.—Doth not even nature itself teach you? The Latin Version reads, “Neither doth nature itself teach you,” i.e., Nature doth not teach that women should be veiled, but it does teach that if a man grow long hair, it is a disgrace to him; if a woman, it is her glory.
Ver. 15.—But if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her. To let the hair grow long is contrary to what becomes man, is the mark of a weak and effeminate mind, unless it is done because of ill-health or intense cold. Hence S. Augustine reproves some monks who wore their hair down to their shoulders, to gain the appearance and reputation of holiness (de 0p. Monach.). Again, it seems fitting for a man to pray with uncovered head, for a woman with covered, as the Apostle has proved here. The woman ought, therefore, to let her hair grow long, but not the man, for her hair was given her for her covering.
Take note, however, that it is not absolutely enjoined, either by natural, Divine, or ecclesiastical law, that a woman should let her hair grow long and man should not. Hence, as was said in the notes to ver. 6, religious women cut off their hair. On the other hand, the men of some tribes, like the Gauls, used to let their hair grow long for an ornament. Hence we get the name of Gallia Comata. Homer, too, frequently speaks of the “long-haired Achæans.” The Romans, also, in ancient times, grew their hair long, and did not apply the scissors till the time of Scipio Africanus. Pliny says (lib. vii. c. 59) that the first barbers came into Italy from Sicily, A.U.C. 454. Lycurgus also enacted that the Lacedæmonians should retain their hair. S. Paul, therefore, is not laying down any rule, but merely points to the teaching of nature, that it is fitting for a woman, when she goes out in public, to go with bonnet and veil, but not for a man. Still, he here adopts the decency taught by nature, and wishes the Corinthians to observe it as if it were a precept, hence he adds—
Ver. 16.—But if any man seem to be contentious. To be contentious is to contend for renown and victory, not for truth; and here it is to contend that Christian women should not be veiled when they pray in Church, but should be bareheaded, according to the ancient custom of the heathen.
Ver. 17.—Now in this that I declare unto you, I praise you not, &c. This is the fourth reason why women should be veiled, drawn from nature itself, which has given woman hair for a covering, to teach her that she ought to cover herself. The Apostle says, “In giving you this precept about the veiling of women, I do not at the same time, praise you for coming together, not for the better but for the worse.” What this means is explained in the next verse.
Ver. 18.—For first of all . . . I hear that there be divisions among you. Observe the word “Church,” which shows that, in the time of S. Paul, there were places set apart for worship. For the early form of churches, their paintings, use of the Cross, the separation of the sexes, &c., see Baronius in his commentary on this verse.
The Apostle here passes from the subject of the veiling of women to correct the abuses of the Corinthians in the Eucharist.
For there must also be heresies among you. Looking at the fickleness, pride, newness in the faith, and quarrelsomeness of the Corinthians, who were saying, “I am of Paul, I of Apollos,” which God permitted to prove them, it was necessary that there should he heresies. So Cajetan, Ambrose, Chrysostom. “Heresies” here denotes the divisions on points of faith and manners, which existed among the Corinthians about the Eucharist, e.g., where they should sit, when the Supper should begin, about the food and drink, about the persons they should sit down with. In the Lord’s Supper and the agapæ, the rich Corinthians excluded the poor and had their meat by themselves.
That they which are approved may be made manifest among you. In the time of heresy and schism, we see who are built on the foundation of faith and piety, as here amongst the Corinthians was seen the patient constancy of the poor, who were scorned by the rich, and also the modesty and charity of the rich who hated divisions, and invited the poor to their feasts and their agapæ. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Œcumenius.
Ver. 20.—When ye come together, therefore, into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. When you come together in this way to the Eucharist and the supper of the Lord, your supper is no longer that of the Lord, as it once was; and your eating is no longer an eating of the Lord’s Supper. You do not institute a supper of the Lord, who admitted to His sober and holy meal all the Apostles, including even Judas, but a supper to Bacchus or Mars; for you come together to get drunk, and to exclude the poor, and so each one fills himself with wine, and the poor with violence. So Anselm, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Vatablus, and Erasmus read for “it is not,” “it is not lawful,” i.e., “it is not lawful for you to eat the Lord’s Supper, and for this reason.” But the first meaning is more thorough, more forcible, and better reproves the Corinthians.
Ver. 21.—For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper. (1.) S. Augustine (Ep. 118) understands this to mean that they took their supper before they came to the Eucharist, and that ver. 33 orders them to wait for one another at the supper before the Eucharist; because at the Eucharist itself or after it there was no need of waiting, since it was not celebrated till all had assembled, when the poor would receive it mingled indiscriminately with the rich.
We must remark that, at the time of S. Paul, in imitation of Christ, who, after the common meal on the Passover lamb, instituted the Eucharist, the Christians instituted before the Eucharist a meal common to all, rich and poor alike, in token of their mutual Christian charity. This custom lasted in some Churches for several centuries. As late as the time of Sozomen, as he relates (Hist.lib. vii. c. 29), it was the custom in many towns and villages of Egypt, first to take a meal in common, and then, following Christ’s example, celebrate and partake of the Holy Eucharist. The Third Council of Carthage (can. 29) points to the same custom as prevailing in several other Churches. The Apostle does not here censure this custom wherever or whenever it was allowed, but only the abuse of it by those who got drunk in this supper, and allowed others who were poor to go hungry. Hence he says, “0ne is hungry and another is drunken;” and again he says, that a man will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord who eats unworthily, i.e., in the mortal sin of drunkenness and contempt of the poor. He therefore, in ver. 33, bids them wait for one another when they eat the Lord’s Supper. He speaks, therefore, of the assembly which took place before, not after the Eucharist.
2. Others, however, think that “the supper taken before” is the agape after the Eucharist. In the primitive Church, in imitation of Christ, the richer members were in the habit of spreading a feast for rich and poor alike after the Holy Communion, in token of love, whence it was called the “agape;” but as charity grew cold and the number of the faithful increased, the practice became abused; for the rich would spread their own table sumptuously, even getting intoxicated, and would sit apart by themselves, the poor being excluded or not expected, far less invited, as ver. 33 implies, and it is this that the Apostle here censures. Cf. Chrysostom (Hom. xxiii. Moral.), Tertullian (Apol. 29), and Baronius in loco. It was for this reason that the Council of Laodicea (can. 28) abolished the agape.
But the former explanation seems the better for the reasons given above; for the agape in S. Paul’s time was held, not after but before the Eucharist; although shortly after these early days, when the Church laid down that, out of reverence, the Eucharist should be received fasting only, the agape was kept after the Eucharist, as will be seen by reference to the passages of Tertullian and Chrysostom, quoted above, and to S. Augustine (Ep. 118). By parity of reasoning this passage of S. Paul can be applied to those of the rich who celebrated the agape after the Eucharist; for he censures drunkenness and pride in the agape, whether before or after the Eucharist. Wherefore some Protestants are wrong in twisting this verse into an argument against private Masses, in which the priest alone communicates, merely because no one else wishes to communicate; for others are not excluded, nay, the Church wishes (Council of Trent, sess. xxii. can. 6 and 8) those who hear Mass to communicate. For the Apostle is not referring to this, nor is he speaking of the Eucharist at all, but of the common meal called the agape, as I have shown.
Ver. 22.—What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? &c. Why do you put to shame the poor who have not your wealth, and cannot contribute the delicacies which you can to the common meal? If you wish to feast and enjoy yourselves, do it at home among your equals, not in the church. For if you do it in church you sin in two ways: (1.) because you defile the church by your self-indulgence; (2.) because, by neglecting and despising the poor, you rend the Christian Church, which is common to rich and poor.
Ver. 23.—That which also I delivered unto you. Not by writing, as I said before, but by word of mouth. This is one authority for the traditions which, orthodox divines teach, should be added to the written word of God.
Vers. 23, 24.—That the Lord Jesus the same night, &c. Five actions of Christ are here described: (1.) He took bread; (2.) He gave thanks to the Father; (3.) He blessed the bread, as S. Matthew also says (xxvi. 26); (4.) He brake it; (5.) He gave it to His disciples, and in giving it, He said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” These are the words of one who gives as well as of one who consecrates.
Hence there is no foundation for the argument of Calvin, who says that all these words “took,” “blessed,” “brake,” “gave,” refer to bread only, and that therefore it was bread that the Apostles took and ate, not the body of Christ. My answer is that these words refer to the bread, not as it remained bread, but as it was changed into the body of Christ while being given, by the force of the words of consecration used by Christ. In the same way Christ might have said at Cana of Galilee, “Take, drink; this is wine,” if He had wished by these words to change the water into wine. So we are in the habit of saying, Herod imprisoned, slew, buried, or permitted to be buried, S. John, when what he buried was not what he imprisoned: he imprisoned a man; he buried a corpse. Like this, and consequently just as common, is this way of speaking about the Eucharist, which is used by the Evangelists and S. Paul.
Notice too from Christ’s words, “Take, for this is,” &c. that He seems to have taken one loaf, and in the act of consecration to have broken it into twelve parts, and to have given one part to each Apostle, and that each one seems to have received it into his hand. Hence the custom existed for a long time in the Church of giving the Eucharist into the hands of the faithful, as appears from Tertullian (de Spectac.), from Cyril of Jerusalem (Myst. Catech. 5), from S. Augustine (Serm. 44). Afterwards, however, it was put into the mouth to prevent accidents, and out of reverence.
This is My body. Heretics say that this is a figure of speech, a metonymy, or something of the sort, and that the meaning is, “This is a figure of My body,” “This represents My body.”
But that this is no mere figure of speech is evident (1.) from the emphasis on the word “This,” and from the words, “My body and My blood,” as well as from the whole sentence, which is so clearly expressed that it could not have been put more plainly. Add to this that the words were used on the last day of Christ’s life, at the time that He left His testament, instituted a new and everlasting covenant with His unlettered and beloved disciples, and also instituted this most sublime sacrament, at once a dogma and a Christian mystery, all which things men generally express as they ought to do in the clearest terms possible. Who can believe that the great wisdom and goodness of Christ would have given in His last words an inevitable occasion for false doctrine and never-ending idolatry?—which He surely did if these so clear words, “This is My body,” were meant to be understood merely as a figure of speech. If this is indeed true, then the whole Church, for the last 1500 years, has been living in the most grievous error and idolatry, and that too through Christ’s own words, which Luther thought so clear that he wrote to the men of Argentum: “If Carlstad could have persuaded me that in the sacrament there is nothing but bread and wine, he would have conferred a great kindness upon me; for so I should have been most utterly opposed to the Papacy. But I am held fast: there is no way of escape open; for the text of the Gospel is too apparent and too convincing, its force cannot well be evaded, much less can it be destroyed by words or glosses forged in some brain-sick head.” And Melancthon (ad. Fred. Myconium) says: “If you understand ‘My body’ to mean ‘a figure of My body,’ what difficulty is there that you will not be able to explain away? It will then be easy to transform the whole form of religion.” With Servetus, you will be able to say that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are but three names of the one God, not Three Persons; that Christ took flesh, but only in appearance; that He died and suffered, but only as a phantasm, as the Manichæans teach. In short, in this way who will not be able to say that the Gospel is the Gospel, Christ is Christ, God is God figuratively, and so come, as many do, to believe nothing at all? Observe how the Sacramentaries open here a door to atheism. Cardinal Hosius most truly prophesied that heretics would in course of time become atheists, and that the end of all heresy is atheism. When they fall away from Catholic truth into heresy, and find in that nothing fixed, or firm, or durable, what remains for them but to abjure their heretical opinions and believe nothing, and become that of which the Psalmist sings (xiv. 1), “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God?” Would that we did not daily see the truth of this.
Again, not only Paul, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the institution in the same way and in the same words: “This is My body; this is My blood.” Not one, then, can say it is a figure of speech, or maintain that one explains the other where he is obscure. Erasmus was convinced by this argument, and replied to the attempts of Conrad Pellican to convert him to Zwinglianism: “I have always said that I could never bring my mind to believe that the true body of Christ was not in the Eucharist, especially when the writings of the Evangelists and S. Paul expressly speak of the body as given and of the blood as shed. . . . If you have persuaded yourself that in Holy Communion you receive nothing but bread and wine, I would rather under go all kinds of suffering, and be torn limb from limb, than profess what you do; nor will I suffer you to make me a supporter or associate of your doctrine; and so may it be my portion never to be separated from Christ. Amen.”
2. If in the Eucharist bread remains bread, then the figure of bread has succeeded to the figure of the lamb. Who is there that does not see that it is wrong to say that that can be? The lamb slain under the Old Law was a plainer representation of Christ suffering than the bread in the New Law. Again, the lamb would have been a poor type of the Eucharist if it is, as Calvin says, bread and nothing else. Any one would rather have the lamb, both for itself and as a figure of Christ, than the bread.
3. This is still more evident in the consecration of the cup. “This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for you”—words which are clearest of all in S. Luke xxii. 20—“This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you.” The relative in this verse undoubtedly refers to “cup.” S. Luke, therefore, says that the cup, or the chalice of the blood of Christ, was poured out for us; therefore, in this chalice there was truly the blood of Christ, so that, when this chalice was drunk from, there was poured out, not wine, which was before consecration, and, as heretics say, remains after consecration also, but the blood of Christ, which was contained in it after consecration; for this is the meaning of “the cup of My blood which is poured out for you.” Otherwise it was a cup of wine, not of blood, that was poured out for us, and Christ would have redeemed us with a cup of wine, which is most absurd. This will still more plainly appear from the next verse. Nor can it be said, as Beza does, that the text is corrupt, for all copies and commentators read it as we do, and always have so read it.
4. All the Evangelists and S. Paul explain what “this body” means by adding, “which is given for you,” or, as S. Paul says, “which is broken for you.” But it was not the figure of the body, but the true body of Christ that was given and “broken for us;” therefore it was the true body of Christ that Christ gave to His Apostles. Moreover, S. Paul says: “Whosoever shall eat this bread . . . unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” Therefore there is here really “the body and blood of the Lord,” and he who handles and takes it unworthily does it an injury.
In short, the Greek and Latin Fathers of all ages explain these words of consecration literally. This was how the Church understood them for 1050 years, till the time of Berengarius. He was the first who publicly taught the contrary, being a man untaught indeed, but ambitious of obtaining the name of a new teacher. For J. Scotus and Bertram, who, at an earlier date, held the same views as Berengarius, were but little known, and were at once refuted and silenced by Paschasius Radbert, and others. This opinion of Berengarius was at once opposed as a dogma that had seen light for the first time by Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, Guidmund, Alger, and the whole Catholic Church. The error of Berengarius was condemned at a council held at Versailles, under Leo IX., and at another held at Tours, under Victor II., at which Berengarius was present, and being convicted, he at once abjured his heresy, but having relapsed, he was once more convicted in a Roman council of 113 bishops, under Nicholas II., and his books were burnt. Having again lapsed, he condemned his error in a third Roman council, under Gregory VII., and uttered the following confession of faith given by Thomas Wald. (de Sacram. vol. ii. c. 43): “I, Berengarius, believe with my heart and profess with my mouth that the bread and wine are charged into the true and real and lifegiving flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that, after consecration, there is His true body which he took of the Virgin, and that there is the very blood which flowed from His side, not merely by way of sign, but in its natural properties, and in reality of substance.” Would that those who follow Berengarius now in his error would follow him also in his repentance. The heresy of Berengarius has been renewed in the present century by Andrew Carlstadt, who was at once opposed by Luther. Carlstadt was followed by Zwingli, he by Calvin; and yet there is no single article of faith which has such firm support of all the Fathers and of the whole Church as this of the reality of the body of Christ in the Eucharist.
The same truth has been defined in eight General Councils—the First and Second Nicene, the Roman under Nicholas II., the Lateran, those of Vienne, of Constance, Florence, and Trent, as well as by many provincial synods. If any one doubts this, let him read John Garetius, who gives in order the testimonies of the Fathers for sixteen centuries after Christ, and of the Councils of each century, who alike unanimously and clearly confess this truth. He also brings forward the profession of the same faith given by the Churches of Syria, Ethiopia, Armenia, and India. Let him read also Bellarmine (de Eucharistiâ), who gives and comments on the words of each. Whoever reads them will see that this has been the faith of the Church in all ages, so that Erasmus might well say to Louis Beer: “You will never persuade me that Christ, who is Truth and Love, would so long suffer His beloved bride to remain in so abominable an error as to worship a piece of bread instead of Himself.”
And here appears the art and ingenuity of Zwingli, Calvin, and their friends. They bring forward a new view of the Eucharist, and teach that in it there is not really the body of Christ, but merely a figure of the body. How do they prove it? From the Scriptures. Well, then, let the words be studied, let all the Evangelists be read, let Paul too be read, and let it be said whether they support them or us and the received teaching of the Church. What else do all clearly proclaim but a body, and that a body given for us? What else but blood shed for us? Where here is room for shadow, or figure, or type? But they say these words must be explained figuratively. Admit, then, that the words of Scripture, do not favour you, for you say that the mind of Scripture is to be ascertained elsewhere than from the words of Scripture. How, then, do you prove that these words ought to be explained figuratively? If they are ambiguous, whence is the exposition to be sought? Who is to end the strife save the Church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth handed down to her from the Fathers? What save the primitive authority of the Fathers, the tradition of our forefathers, and the consent of the first ages of the Church? We quote and allege the Fathers of every century, all our forefathers, the national and General Councils of each century: all take the words of Christ as they stand, and condemn the figurative interpretation. What remains, then, but to follow the plain words of Scripture, and the clear exposition of the Fathers and of the whole Church in all ages? And yet you obstinately adhere to your figurative explanation. What Scripture supports you—whose authority—what reason? You can only say that your heresy has so determined, and that you follow the trumpet of Luther. So I think, so I choose, so I will, so I determine: let my will do instead of reason. This is the only ground you have for all your beliefs.
Melancthon wrote far more truly and more soundly about this (de Ver. Corp. et Sang. Dom.): “If, relying on human reason, you deny that Christ is in the Eucharist, what will your conscience say in time of trial? What reason will it bring forward for departing from the doctrine received in the Church? Then will the words, ‘This is My body,’ be thunderbolts. What will your panic-stricken mind oppose to them? By what words of Scripture, by what promises of God will she fortify herself, and persuade herself that these words must necessarily be taken metaphorically, when the Word of God ought to be listened to before the judgment of reason?” At all events in the hour of death, and in that terrible day when we stand before the tribunal of Christ, to be examined of our life and faith, if Christ ask me, “Why didst thou believe that My body was in the Eucharist?” I can confidently answer, “I believed it, 0 Lord, because Thou saidst it, because Thou didst teach it me. Thou didst not explain Thy words as a figure, nor did I dare to explain them so. The Church took them in their simple meaning, and I took them as the Church did. I was persuaded that this faith and this reverence were due from me to Thy words and to Thy Church.”
If Christ ask the Calvinist, “Why didst thou wrest My words from their proper meaning into a figure of speech?” what answer will he make? “I thought that I must do so, for my reason could not understand how they could or ought to be true.”—“But,” He will reply, “which ought you to have listened to—your reason, which has human infirmity, or My word, which is all-powerful, than which nothing can be truer? Reason dictated to the Gentiles that to believe in Me as God, when born, suffering, and crucified, was folly. Yet you thought and believed that you should believe all this about Me, and you were persuaded of it from the words of Scripture only, which say this simply. Why, then, in this one article of the Eucharist did you presume to interpret what I expressly said, by the rule of your reason, according to the measure of your brain? Why did you not bow to the authoritative exposition of the Church of all ages? Why desire to be wiser than it?” What answer will he give—how excuse himself—whither turn? Let each one think earnestly of this ere it be too late, let him submit himself to God’s word and the Church with humble and loyal obedience, lest he be confounded in that day of the Lord, and receive his lot with the unbelievers in the lake of fire that burneth with fire and brimstone, lest he hear the words of thunder, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” Nor let him marvel at such a wonderful mystery in the Eucharist, when Christ, throughout His whole life, was wonderful for His mysteries (Isa. ix. 6) ; and when Isaiah also says of Him (Isa. xly. 6): “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, 0 God of Israel, the Saviour.” If an angel should conceal himself under the form of the Host, he would be really there though hidden; you would see, touch, and taste bread only, not an angel; yet you would believe that an angel was hidden beneath it if an angel or a prophet had said so. Why, then, in like manner, do you not believe that Christ is concealed under the Host, when Christ Himself, who cannot lie, says so? For God, who is Almighty, can supernaturally give this mode of existence—spiritual, invisible, indivisible—to the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Let no one then faithlessly say: “How can Christ be in so small a Host?” Let him think that Christ is there, as an angel might be; let him not inquire as to the mode, but embrace instead the wonderful love of Christ, whose delights are with the sons of men, who went about to pass from the world to the Father; as S. John says (xiii. 1), “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end;” and of whom says the verse of S. Thomas—
“By birth their Fellow-man was He,
Their meat when sitting at the board;
He died their Ransomer to be;
He ever reigns, their great Reward.”—
that by His love He might compel our love in return, that as often as we see and take our part in these mysteries we might think of Him as addressing us in the words: “So Christ gives Himself here wholly to thee; give, nay give again thyself wholly to Him.”
You will perhaps object that the Eucharist is called “bread and fruit of’ the vine,” i.e., wine, in S. John vi. 57, S. Matt. xxvi. 29. I answer that in the account of the institution of the Eucharist it is called bread by no one, if it is elsewhere, and also that “bread” there denotes any kind of food. (See note on x. 17). So wine might signify any kind of drink, as being the common drink among the Jews, as it is now in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.
But the better answer is that Christ applied the name “fruit of the vine,” not to what was in the Eucharistic chalice, but to that in the cup of the Passover Supper. For, as He said of the lamb (S. Luke xxii. 16), “I will not eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God,” so of the cup of the lamb, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God shall come.” For S. Luke plainly makes a distinction, not observed by S. Matthew and S. Mark, between the lamb and the cup of the Passover supper, and relates that Christ spoke of both before the Eucharist (xxii. 17). Christ simply meant to say that He would not afterwards live with them, or take part in the common supper, as He had hitherto done, because He was going to His death, as Jerome, Theophylact and others say in their comments on the passage.
You may perhaps object, secondly, that the words, “This is My body” are a sacramental mode of speech, and are, therefore, typical and figurative.
But I deny that this follows; for this is a sacramental mode of speech, because, by these words, a true sacrament is worked, viz., because, under the species of bread and wine as the visible signs, there is present the very body of Christ. The words are not sacramental in the sense of being typical or figurative, for sacraments properly speaking signify what they contain and effect. For a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality which it causes and effects, as, e.g., when we say, “I baptize thee,” i.e., “wash thee,” the meaning is not, “I give thee a sign or figure of washing,” but strictly, “By this sacrament I wash thy body, and by this I wash thy soul from the stains of thy sins.” So when we say, “I absolve thee,” “I confirm thee,” “I anoint thee,” there is signified, not a figurative but a real and proper absolution, confirmation, and anointing of the body and soul.
If Christ, therefore, when He said “body,” had meant “figure of My body,” He ought to have explained Himself, and said, “I am speaking, not only sacramentally, but figuratively,” otherwise He would have given to the Apostles and to the whole Church an evident occasion for the most grievous error. The conclusion then has no basis that Christ is in the Eucharist as in a sacrament, that is, figuratively or typically, as the commentary ascribed to S. Ambrose says, in which it is followed by some of the Fathers, and that therefore He is not really there, but only figuratively; the contrary should be inferred. Christ is not, therefore, there figuratively, but truly and properly; for a sacrament signifies what is really present, not what is falsely absent. As, then, the conclusion is valid that where there is smoke there is fire, because smoke is the sign of the presence of fire; and again this body breathes, therefore life is present in it, because breathing is a sign of life, so also it rightly follows that the body of Christ is in the Eucharist as in a Sacrament; therefore, He is really there, because the Sacrament and the sacramental species signify that they as the true sacraments of Christ’s body, truly contain it.
You will object perhaps, thirdly, that Christ said (S. John vi. 63): “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing;” therefore the flesh of Christ is not present, and is not eaten in the Eucharist.
3. I answer that it cannot be said without impiety that the flesh of Christ, suffering and crucified for us, profits us nothing. Indeed, the very opposite of this is taught by Christ Himself throughout S. John vi. 35-65. He says in so many words that His flesh greatly profits us. His meaning therefore is, as S. Cyril points out, (1.) that the flesh of Christ has not its quickening power in the Eucharist from itself, but from the Spirit, that is from the Godhead of the Word, to which it is hypostatically united. (2.) That this manducation, as S. Chrysostom says, of Christ’s flesh in the Eucharist is not carnal: that we do not press it with our teeth, as we might bull’s flesh, but that we eat it after a spiritual manner, one suited to the nature of spirit, viz., mysteriously sacramentally, invisibly. For you here eat the flesh of Christ in exactly the same way as you would feed on and appropriate the substance of an angel, if he lay concealed in the sacrament. The opposite of this was what was understood by the unspiritual people of Capernaum, and it is against them only that Christ says these words. Hence He proceeds to say: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” In other words, “They are spiritual, and must be understood spiritually: you will not eat My flesh in the carnal sense of being bloody, cut into pieces and chewed, but only in a spiritual way, as though it were a spirit couched invisibly and indivisibly beneath the Blessed Sacrament.” In the same way, “My words are life,” that is full of life, giving life to him that heareth, believeth, and eateth My flesh.
4. You will perhaps again urge that it seems impossible that Christ, being so great, should be in so small a Host and at so many different altars, and that it seems incredible that Christ should be there, subject to the chance of being eaten by mice or vomited, &c.
I reply to the first, “With God all things are possible.” Hence we say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty.” God can do more than a miserable man, nay, more than all the hosts of angels and men can conceive, else He would not be God. Moreover, faith transcends human capacity: these mysteries are matters for faith, not for reason. “Faith,” says S. Augustine (in Joan. Tract. 27 and 40), “is believing what you see not.” And S. Gregory (in Evang. Hom. xxvi.) says: “Faith has no merit where human reason supplies proof.” S. Thomas, therefore, well sings of this sacrament—
“Faith alone, though sight forsaketh,
Shows true hearts the mystery.”
Moreover, it can be shown by a similar case that it is not impossible for the body of Christ to be in so small a Host; for the body of Christ was born of the Virgin, i.e., came forth from her closed womb; He therefore penetrated the Virgin’s womb in such a way that when He was born He was in the same place as His mother’s womb was. Similarly, Christ rose from the closed sepulchre, and entered to His disciples when the doors were shut. He was therefore in the same place as the stone before the tomb and the door of the upper room.
Now I argue thus: If two whole bodies can be at once in the same place, e.g., Christ and the stone, so also two parts of the same body, e.g., the head and feet of Christ, can be in the same place, as, e.g., in the same Host. If two can be; then can three or four or five, or as many as God shall see fit to put in the same place. Christ says the same in S. Matt. xix. 24., in the words, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” But God can absolutely draw a rich man to heaven, therefore He can make a camel go through the eye of a needle, and therefore the body of Christ through so small a Host.
Now, if two bodies can be in the same place, so, by parity of reasoning, the same body, viz., that of Christ, can be in different places and different Hosts; for both are of equal difficulty and of equal power.
We can show, thirdly, the possibility of this by another example; for God can make an angel, nay, an angel can make himself expand from filling a single point to fill a whole room; and on the other hand He can make a body that is spread through some extent of space contract to a single point. If He, can do that, why not this, especially since He is Almighty? for both belong to the same order and present the same difficulty, nor does one involve more contradiction than the other.
Further, not only does God do this in the case of an angel, who is spirit and not body, but He does it also to bodies in the world of nature. For fire will rarefy and expand water to ten times its volume, nay, make it boil over and escape; and, again, cold can so condense this same water, when the heat of the fire is taken from it, as to contract it to its original volume. Why, then, cannot God, who infinitely surpasses the workings of nature, reduce the body of Christ, which is but of six feet, to the dimensions of a single Host, nay, of a single point? As God can increase anything indefinitely, so can He diminish it in the same way; for both the infinite power of God is requisite and sufficient.
Lastly, Christ compares Himself and His Gospel to a grain of mustard-seed (S. Matt. xiii. 31), which, from being of small dimensions, attains great size by its inherent vigour, and spreads itself out into wide-spreading branches, and becomes a large tree. If God does this to a grain of mustard-seed by natural agencies, why can He not do the like in the Eucharist according to His promise?
2. As to the indignity offered to Christ, I reply that Christ suffers nothing: it is the species alone that are affected. For Christ is here after a mysterious and indivisible manner, as a spirit. As, then, an angel who should enter the Host, or as God, who is in reality in every body and every place, suffers nothing if the Host or the body containing Him is vomited, burnt, or broken, so neither does the body of Christ in the Eucharist suffer anything, because it is like to an angel. Erasmus (Præf. in lib. Algeri.) says. “God, who, according to nature, is as truly in the sewers as the skies, cannot be hurt or defiled, nor can the glorified body of the Lord.” And again (ad Conrad Pellican) he says: “Up to the present, with all Christians I have adored in the Eucharist Christ, who suffered for me, nor do I yet see any reason why I should abandon my belief. No human reasons will ever have power to draw me away from the unanimous belief of the Christian world. Those few words, ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,’ have more weight with me than all the arguments of Aristotle and the rest of the Philosophers, by which they strive to show that the heavens and the earth had no beginning. So, too, here we have the words of God, ‘This is My body, which is given for you,’ ‘This is My blood, which is shed for you.’”
I have dealt with these objections at some length, because of the importance of their subject, and because of the modern Protestant controversies, which, I observe, are causing some of our neighbours, and especially the Dutch, to swerve from the ancient orthodox faith, because of the supposed difficulty or incredibility of this article of the Eucharist, when, as a fact, there is no other article in Holy Scripture, the Fathers, or councils so firmly fixed as this is.
From what has been said, it appears (1.) that in the Eucharist the species of bread does not remain, but is transubstantiated into the body of Christ, as the wine is into His blood, as the Lateran Council lays down, and as the Church has always held. Consequently it also appears (2.) that the accidents only of the bread and wine remain without a subject, and (3.) that the body of Christ is present after the manner of a spiritual substance, invisible, indivisible, the whole in the whole and the whole in each part of the host, as is thought universally by theologians. Let us now weigh the meaning of the words of consecration.
This. This pronoun is not so much a substantive denoting an indefinite individual (as some think it to stand for “this thing,” or “what is contained under these species,” whether, bread or the body of Christ) as it is an adjective signifying the same thing. indeterminately, as “My body” signifies distinctly and by name. Similarly, when we say, “This is a servant,” “This is a man,” the word “this” merely points out the servant or the man in an indeterminate way. You will perhaps reply that when Christ said “this,” it was not yet the body of Christ, and therefore the word cannot stand for it. I answer that, as this is a form of consecration, the words are not enuntiative but efficacious, and that, therefore, the word “this” refers to that which is not yet, but which comes through the use of the formula, and will be there when that has been said.
Perhaps you will urge again: This efficacious form of words signifies, This is transubstantiated into My, body: therefore this refers to the bread; for it is the bread alone that is so transubstantiated. I deny the major, viz., that transubstantiation is here signified primarily and directly. Primarily there is only signified that the body of Christ is made to be present in such a way that when the species is signified, so too is the body; it then follows secondarily, that the bread is transubstantiated and annihilated. Still, if you wish to explain “this is” indirectly as meaning “This is transubstantiated into My body,” then I grant that it refers to the bread. It is no wonder if this pronoun stands for two different things, because the one proposition, “This is My body,” is of manifold meaning, efficacious, enuntiative, nay, efficacious in a twofold way.
But to clearly understand all this, take notice that if Christ had taken the species only of bread without the substance, and had then consecrated it, nay, if He had taken not even the species but had created it, as He consecrated, out of nothing, by saying, “This is My body,” then primarily He would have done just what He did when He took the bread and consecrated it and said, “This is My body.” But in the two supposed cases He would not have transubstantiated anything, for no substance of bread would have been there before, nor would the pronoun “this” have referred to bread or any other substance, but only to the body of Christ, which would be simply produced; therefore in our last case, and in the actual consecration, there is not primarily signified transubstantiation, nor does “this” refer to the bread but to the body of Christ.
Similarly, when God created the heaven, He could have said, “This is heaven,” i e., this is created and brought into being, and is heaven; “This is earth,” i.e., this is created, is produced, and at the same time, by these very words, the earth is; “This is Eve,” i.e., she is produced, and at the very instant that she comes into being she is Eve. In like manner, when it is said, “This is My body; this is My blood,” the meaning is, This is consecrated, produced, and becomes My body and blood, so that at the close of the consecration it is in fact My body and blood.
This form of consecration then, “This is My body,” seems, from what has been said, to signify properly and primarily, not the starting point, viz., the change and annihilation of the bread, but the goal, viz., the production of the body and blood of Christ; and this is pointed to in the pronoun “this.” In other words, that which under the species of bread and wine is produced and comes into being, and when it comes into being exists, is My body and blood. Still, in a secondary sense, the form of words denotes the destruction of the starting point, the bread, and its transubstantiation. For, as under these species the substance of bread and wine formerly existed, and as they have to give place to the body and blood of Christ, which are produced by virtue of the words of consecration, so the pronoun “this” refers to nothing else but the body and blood of Christ. Hence, since by these words it is signified that the body of Christ is produced, it is necessarily also signified that the bread is done away with and transubstantiated into the body.
The words of consecration are (1.) simply practical, and denote, “This is made My body;” (2.) enuntiative, denoting, This at the end of the consecration is My Body; (3.) conversive and transubstantiative, and denote that “this” substance of bread contained under this species is changed into the body of Christ, in such a way that, when the consecration is finished, bread no longer remains, but has been changed into the body of Christ.
Is. (1.) We must notice that Christ does not seem to have said is, for the Hebrew and Aramaic do not use the verb substantive but understand it, nay, they do not possess the present tense. Consequently in Greek and Latin the verb is not of the essence of the form of consecration; still in practice it ought not to be omitted, and cannot be omitted without grievous sin, for the form of consecration would be ambiguous without it. (2.) The verb “is” is better supplied than “is made,” (a) because there is no change here from not being to being, as “is made” would imply, for the flesh of Christ existed before; (b) because “is” expresses the instantaneousness of the change, and includes what is and what was; (c) because the pronoun “this” properly points to what is, not to what is being made, for what is not yet cannot, strictly speaking, be seen and pointed to, yet it is afterwards said to be pointed to when it is shown to be coming into existence so as to be seen . (d) because “is” signifies the abiding, unchanging truth of this sacrament; (e) because, lastly, it is better to say, “Take eat: this is My body,” than, “This is being made My body.”
(3.) Notice again that Christ consecrated by the words, “This is My body,” and not when He blessed the bread. So priests now consecrate by them in imitation of Christ, as the Councils of Florence and Trent and all the Fathers lay down, in opposition to the Greeks. Hence these words are used by the priest (a) historically, as relating what Christ did; (b) personally, as imitating in consecrating the exact actions of Christ. Hence in consecrating and transubstantiating the priest puts on the person of Christ.
My Body.—1. Notice that “body” here signifies, not the whole man, but the flesh as distinguished from the soul, which flesh is here present by the force of the words alone. The soul and divinity are present, however, by concomitance, both with the body and the blood. So too by concomitance the blood is with the body under the species of bread, and the body in turn is with the blood under the species of wine. Cf. the Council of Trent.
2. Notice that Christ here instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist for all to partake of, and at the same time a sacrifice for the priests to offer to God. So, the Church teaches, following Apostolical tradition, and so the Council of Trent lays down (sess. xxii. c. 1). This is the one sacrifice of the New Law, the antitype of all that were under the Old Law. Therefore this one sacrifice is at once Eucharistic, a sin-offering, a burnt-offering, and a peace-offering.
Which is broken for you. 1. According to Ambrose and Theophylact, the body of Christ is now being broken under the species, or by means of the species of bread, which are being broken and consumed, and so it is, as S. Luke has it, given to God, that is, sacrificed. All this is implied in the word “broken.” Formerly, in the sacrifice called the “mincha,” when the bread was offered to God, it had to be broken, blessed, and eaten, as S. Thomas points out (iii. qu. 85, art. 3, ad. 3). Hence the Catholic confession of Berengarius, in which he recanted his error about the Eucharist, runs, that the body of Christ is in truth handled and broken by the hands of the priests, and pressed by the teeth of the faithful, viz., through the sacramental species of bread, which is handled, broken, and pressed. For this species is no longer that of bread, but of Christ’s body, which alone is the substance here under such species or accidents. Hence it is that, when this species is seen, touched, and named, it is the substance of the body of Christ that is seen, touched, and named, and nothing else, just as before consecration, by the same species was seen, touched, and named the substance of bread.
2. “Is broken” denotes, shall be shortly broken and immolated on the Cross. So Anselm. This breaking and immolation were not so much future as present, for the day of the Passover and Christ’s suffering had begun when Christ said these words. It was therefore a kind of prolonged present. It was, says Cajetan, to be broken with scourgings in its skin, nails in its hands and feet, and a spear in its side.
3. Bellarmine (de Missa, lib. i. c. 12) says. “In the Eucharist the body of Christ is broken, i.e., is divided and destroyed, viz., when under the distinct and different species of bread and wine. It is offered to God, taken, and consumed, to represent the suffering and death of Christ.” Hence S. Chrysostom says. “The breaking of the body in the sacrament is a symbol of the Passion, and of the body broken on the Cross.” Tropologically this breaking denotes mortification. Cf. S. Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. c. iii.).
Ver. 25.—After the same manner also He took the cup when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood. Notice (1.) that Christ, after He celebrated the typical supper of the Paschal lamb, and afterwards the common supper on other meats, instituted the third, viz., the Eucharistic supper. 2. Notice that the heathen offer their sacrifices after a banquet, as giving thanks to God for their feast, and offered Him libations and sang His praises crowned with garlands. (Cf. Athen. lib. i. c. ix. and lib. xv. c. 20, also Virg. Æn. lib. viii. also Giraldus, de Diis Gentium.) The ancient ritual records of the Hebrews show that they did the same in the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb. When the supper was over, the head of the family took a piece of unleavened bread and broke it into as many parts as there were guests, and gave a piece to each, saying, “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt: whosoever hungers, let him come nigh and complete the Passover.” Then he would take a cup and bless it, saying, “Blessed art Thou, 0 Lord, who hast created the fruit of the vine,” &c. Then he would taste of it, and hand it on to the next, and he to his neighbour, and so on till it had made the round of the table.
Christ follows their customs in instituting the Eucharist, and He left it as His last farewell and testament, and to give us and His disciples a symbol and proof of His great love, and to replace the typical lamb by the verity of the Eucharist. And this is why Christ supped first and instituted the Eucharist last of all. Now, however, through reverence for so great a sacrament, the Eucharist, by Apostolic tradition, is always received fasting.
This cup is the new testament in My blood. This is the authentic instrument, and as it were the paper on which the new testament has been written and sealed, i.e., the new covenant ratified, and the new promises of God confirmed, and My last will to give you an eternal inheritance, scaled, if only you will believe on Me and obey Me. It has been written, not in letters of ink, but in My blood, contained in this cup, just as a sheet of parchment contains the writing of the will.
You will perhaps object that SS. Matthew and Mark have: “This is the blood of the new testament.” Why, then, does S. Paul say, “This cup,” i.e., the blood contained in this cup, “is the testament?” I answer that testament has a twofold meaning—(a) the last will, of a testator, in which sense it is used by the two Evangelists, who speak of the, blood in which the last will of Christ was confirmed; and (b) it signifies the writing or the instrument of this last will. So S. Paul uses it here, and calls the blood itself the testament.
Notice (1.) that Christ is here alluding to the covenant of Moses between God and the people, ratified by the blood of victims, which in an allegory represented this covenant, ratified by the blood of Christ. Cf. Exod. xxiv. Notice (2.) that the ancients were wont to ratify their covenants with the blood of victims. Livy (lib. i.), speaking of the treaty drawn up between the Romans and Albans, says: “When the laws of the treaty had been agreed upon, the Fetial priest said, ‘The Roman people will not be the first to break them. If it shall at any time do so, by common consent and with hostile intent, then do thou, 0 Jupiter, on the same day strike the Roman people as I this day strike this boar. Strike them the harder as thy power is the greater.’ Then he killed the boar by a blow from a flint stone.” Cf. too Virg. (Æn. lib. viii.). This same custom was common also long before that amongst true worshippers of God. Hence (Gen. xv. 9, 10, 17) the Lord ordered a bullock, a ram, and a she-goat to be sacrificed for a sign and confirmation of the covenant that He had made with Abraham, and He divided them in the midst. When this was done, a lamp representing God passed through between the pieces, typifying that so should he be divided who should break the covenant. Cf. Jeremiah xxxiv. 18. Hence Cyril (contra Julian, lib. x.), shows from Sophocles that this custom was observed in later times, when they went through the midst of a fire carrying a sword in their hands when they took an oath. Cf. also in this connection Exod. xxiv. The blood of the victims was here sprinkled, to signify that he who should break the covenant would in like manner pay with his own blood for his broken faith. But because it was between God and the people that the covenant was made, it was necessary for both God and the Israelites to divide the blood between them to be sprinkled with it; and since God is incorporeal, and so cannot be sprinkled with blood, the altar was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifices in His stead.
In the same way Christ the Lord ratified the new covenant with His own blood, being the blood of a federal victim; especially because by His blood He won redemption, grace, and an inheritance for us, and all the other good things which He promised us in His covenant. Cf. Hebrews ix. 15 et seq. He expressed this in the institution of the Eucharist when He said: “This cup is the new testament in My blood,” or as S. Matthew more clearly expresses it, “This is My blood of the new testament.” From this we may collect a strong argument against the Sacramentaries for the verity of the body of Christ; for if the old covenant was ratified in blood, as we see it was from Exod. xxiv. 8, where we read, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you,” so too is the new covenant ratified with actual blood, as we see from the words, “This is My blood of the new testament.” For here the old was a type of the new and the real covenant, and it is certain that Christ here referred to it.
It may be said, Christ speaks of the blood of the new testament, not of the new covenant, as Moses does in Exod. xxiv., and therefore the two sprinklings are dissimilar. I answer that testament here has a twofold meaning: (a) specially for the last will of a testator, or his authentic instrument; and when his will is conditioned, his promise takes the form of an agreement or covenant. Even if his will be absolute, yet there is always involved a mutual obligation on the testator’s side to bequeath his goods, and on the side of the beneficiary to undertake the debts and burdens of the testator, and to carry out his wishes. But since a testament contains the last wishes of a man, and so makes, as it were, a closely binding agreement, the word has come to mean (b) any agreement, promise, or covenant, as S. Jerome says (in Malachi ii.), and Innocent (de Celeb. Miss. cap. cum Marth.), and S. Augustine (Locut. in Genes. 94). This is proved to be the meaning in both Latin and Greek by Budæus.
Hence it is that Christ and S. Paul, following the Septuagint, mean by the “blood of the testament” the blood of the covenant, whether in its looser or stricter meaning; for testament here can be understood in both ways: (1.) the Eucharist gives us the blood of Christ as an earnest of our promised possession in heaven, or of the covenant entered into with us about it; (2.) this covenant was Christ’s last will, and is therefore a testament most important and most sure. Hence, too, the Apostle teaches us that Christ, the testator, sealed this testament with His blood. Cf. notes to Heb. viii. 10.
Do this, that I have just done—consecrate, offer as a sacrifice, take, distribute the Eucharist, as I have consecrated, offered, taken and distributed it. Hence the Apostles were here ordained priests. So the Council of Trent says (sess. xxii. c. 1), following the perpetual belief of the Church.
It may be objected that Christ did not say, “I have sacrificed: do you also sacrifice.” I answer 1. that neither did He say, “I have instituted the sacrament: do you celebrate it.” Nor did He say on the Cross, “I offer Myself as a sacrifice,” but He actually did so. So, too, this consecration was a real offering of sacrifice, inasmuch as by it, through a real transubstantiation, there was offered to the glory of God a most worthy victim, viz., the body of Christ under the species of an animal slain and dead, that is, a body separated from the blood as far as the act of consecration goes.
2. That the Eucharist is a sacrifice is also implied by the phrase “when He had supped.” In other words, after the sacrifice of the typical lamb, Christ instituted the true and blessed Eucharistic sacrifice which the lamb had foreshadowed. Since the Paschal lamb was a type of the Eucharist and was a sacrifice, as is agreed by all, it follows that the Eucharist is a sacrifice.
3. The word “testament” also implies the sacrifice of the Eucharist, for the blood by which covenants were ratified was the blood of victims. As then, when it is said in Exod. xxiv. 8, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord hath made with you,” we understand the blood of the victims sacrificed, by which the old covenant was ratified; so when Christ said, “This is My blood of the new testament,” we must understand the blood of the sacrifice by which the new testament was ratified, and which was prefigured by the old covenant, and by the blood of the sacrifice. Lastly, in the Eucharist alone Christ is properly and perfectly the Priest after the order of Melchizedech; for on the cross (if the victim and its slaughter, the oblation and the effusion of the blood be considered) Christ was a Priest after the order of Aaron only, i.e., His priesthood was like Aaron’s. So the Fathers lay down. See them quoted in Bellarmine (de Missâ, lib. i. c. 6 and 12). This too is the voice and mind of the Church of all ages.
It may be said again that the Eucharist is a commemoration of the sacrifice on the Cross, and therefore it is not a sacrifice. I deny that this follows, for if so the ancient sacrifices would not be true sacrifices, although they prefigured the sacrifice of the Cross. Similarly, the Eucharist is a true sacrifice, though it is done in commemoration of the sacrifice of the Cross.
Ver. 26.—For as often as ye eat this bread, &c. Ye show it forth not only in word (as in the canon of the Mass are the words, “Wherefore we, mindful of Thy blessed Passion,” &c.), but better still in deed, both to yourselves and to the people. So Anselm, Theophylact, Ambrose.
Theophylact draws the moral lesson: “When you take the Eucharist you should feel just as if you were with Christ on the evening of the Paschal feast and at supper with Him, lying by His side on the couch, and receiving from His own hands the sacred food; for that is the supper, and that is the death which we announce and show till His second advent.”
Take note that it is His death rather than the mighty deeds of His life that Christ bids us show. The reason is, that by His death the testament of Christ was completed, together with His last will, and our redemption, and the supreme love that He had for us, which caused Him to die for us. Of all these the Eucharist is the memorial.
S. Basil says tropologically (in Reg. Brev. 234): “We announce the Lords death when we die unto sin and live unto Christ, or when the world is crucified unto us and we unto the world.”
Lastly, S. Hippolytus (de Consumm. Mundi.) says, with S. Chrysostom and Theophylact, that the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist will publicly last till the second coming of Christ and the coming of Anti-Christ, who will remove it, as Daniel foretold (xii. 11), and prevent it from being publicly celebrated at all events. S. Paul implies this when he says, “Until He come,” that is, till the glorious Lord come to judgment. Hence, as S. Thomas says, it appears that the celebration of the Eucharist will last to the end of the world.
Ver. 27.—Whosoever shall eat this bread . . . unworthily shall be guilty, &c. He will be guilty of violating, of taking and handling the Lord’s body unworthily, as Judas and the Jews did. So Photius, Theophylact, and Chrysostom. The two latter say that he will be as guilty of the Lord’s death as if he had slain the Lord and had shed His blood. We must understand this, however; with some reserve and regard for proportion; for absolutely the homicide, or rather deicide of Christ was a greater sin than an unworthy communion, just as it is a greater injury to slay a king than to spit on him. Ambrose (in Heb. x.) agrees with Chrysostom, for he says: “By this sin the body of the Lord is trodden under foot.” Cyprian too says (Serm. de Lapsis): “Force is applied to the Lord’s body, and by hands and mouth we sin against Him.” Cf. also S. Basil (de Bapt. Serm. 2). As one who lies at a king’s table with hatred in his heart does him great injury, so does he who, is partaker of the Lord’s table when in mortal sin, nay, he does Him greater injury, for he feeds on Christ Himself, and receives Him into a heart full of hatred.
The Latin version has or drink this cup of the Lord, whence is inferred the sufficiency of communion in one kind.
It appears, moreover, from this verse, that in the Eucharist there is the true body of Christ; for it is not true of the bare sign that he who takes it unworthily is guilty of the Lord’s body. Besides this, if you say with Calvin that the unworthy communicant is guilty of the Lord’s body, not because he has violated it in itself, but its image in the Eucharist, then at all events it follows that images (as they say the Eucharist is) are to be venerated, and that the iconoclasts who break them are guilty of the body and blood of Christ and His saints. How then can Calvin and his supporters have the audacity to lay violent hands on them and destroy them?
Ver. 23.—But let a man examine himself. Calvin says that he is to examine himself to see whether he has faith; but it is presumed that he has this, for the Apostle is speaking of the Corinthian faithful. But according to Calvin each is most certain, and by divine faith is bound to believe that he has this faith, so that if this be so there is no need for examination. The true meaning is that a man is to examine himself whether he is fit and rightly disposed towards so great mysteries, and then fittingly prepare himself, and see if he knows of any sin, especially mortal sin, as, e.g., drunkenness or pride (ver. 21), and then purge himself by contrite confession. The Council of Trent (sess. xiii. c. 7) lays down that this examination and confession are of Divine law of Christ’s institution, according to S. Paul. The same was said 1200 years before this Council, by S. Leo (Ep. 91 ad Theod. Foroj.) and by Cyprian (de Lapsis). Let a man too examine himself, with the pious intention of uprooting all venial sins by the help of prayer. So Chrysostom and Ambrose. Hence before the Passover supper, before their common meal, and before the Eucharist, Christ washed the disciples’ feet, including Judas, to signify the purity with which we should approach the feast (S. John xiii. 5).
It will greatly stimulate this examination if the following words of S. Gregory (Dial. lib. iv. c. 58) be earnestly meditated on: “This victim singularly saves the soul from eternal death, and repairs mysteriously the death of the Only-Begotten Son, who, being risen from the dead, dieth no more, and death hath no more dominion over Him, yet liveth an immortal and incorruptible life, and is sacrificed again for us in the mystery of this oblation. . . . Who is there of the faithful that doubts that at the moment of sacrifice the heavens are opened at the priest’s words, the choirs of angels are present at this mystery of Jesus Christ, the lowest are joined to the highest, things earthly with divine, and things visible and invisible become one? . . . But when we join in these mysteries, we must sacrifice ourselves to God with contrite hearts; for we, who celebrate the mysteries of the Lord’s Passion, ought to show it in our lives. Then the Victim will be of real avail for us before God, when we have made ourselves victims to Him.”
Meditate, also, on the words of Thomas Theodidactus (de Imit. Christi, lib. iv. c 2): “When you celebrate or hear Mass, it ought to seem to you as great, as fresh, and as joyous as if at that very moment Christ was for the first time descending into the Virgin’s womb, or hanging on the Cross, and suffering and dying for us men and for our salvation.” S. Cassius, Bishop of Narnia, thus thought and did. S. Gregory writes (Hom 37 in Evang.): “His custom was to offer the daily sacrifice, and when he came to the hour for the sacrifice, he was wholly overcome by tears and offered himself with contrite heart a willing sacrifice.” Therefore he merited to hear his Lord saying: “Do what you are doing: finish the work you have begun, let not thy foot cease nor thy hand tarry; on the birthday of the Apostles you shall come to Me, and I will pay you your great reward.” He died on the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, and his soul was taken to heaven. In the same way S. Gregory, too, daily celebrated Mass, with careful preparation and perfect contrition. On one occasion he discovered that a poor man had died in a remote place, and for some days he abstained from the Mass, and gave himself up to grief, to expiate his fault, as though it had been by his negligence that the poor man had died of hunger. On the contrary, his charity, and the trouble he took, were so great that he provided with the, necessaries of life all the poor, not only of Rome, but also of nearly the whole of Italy. So S. Thomas Aquinas, when at the point of death, prepared himself by floods of tears for the Holy Communion.
Ver. 29.—For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, &c. This is, say Photius and Anselm, he that treats it as ordinary and everyday kind of food. For, as S. Justin says (Apol. ad Ant. Pium): “We Christians take the Eucharist not as common food, but we believe that, as by the Word of God the Son of God was made man, so by the words of consecration are the body and blood of Christ made to be present in the Eucharist.” Therefore, too, S. Francis, writing to the priests of his order (tom. v. Biblioth. Pat.) says: “Listen, my brothers: if the Blessed Virgin is rightly honoured, who bore Him in her holy womb; if S. John Baptist trembled and was afraid to touch the Lord’s head; if such honour is paid to the tomb in which He sometime lay, how holy, just, and worthy ought he to be, how should he quake and fear who handles with his hands, takes in his heart and mouth, and gives to others Him who is to die no more, but lives for ever in glory, upon whom the angels desire to gaze. . . . A great and pitiable weakness is it, that when you have Him present in this way you should care for anything else in the world. Let the whole man tremble, all the world quake, and the heavens rejoice, when Christ, the Son of the living God, is upon the altar in the priest’s hands.”
Ver. 30.—For this cause many are weak. So at the present day, says S. Anselm, are many taken with various diseases after the Eucharist because they have received unworthily the Lord’s body.
And many sleep. Die prematurely, and sleep in death, because they have communicated unworthily and without preparation. So S. Anselm and Chrysostom. They were even vexed by the devil because of this sin. Cf. S. Chrysostom (Hom. 5 in 1 Tim.). S. Cyprian (de Lapsis) gives examples. He says that some who had eaten things offered to idols, and then received the Eucharist, were struck dumb; another pulled out her tongue; a girl, after eating of idol-meats, vomited the elements. Francis Suarez piously warns us from this how careful a watch should be kept by every communicant over his tongue, because the tongue is the first member to receive Christ, and is the instrument by which He begins to be assimilated.
Ver.31.—But if we judge ourselves. That is, according to the Latin Fathers, punish ourselves; according to the Greek, condemn ourselves; or thirdly, prove and examine ourselves to see if there be any sin in us, and then expiate it by contrite confession, as was ordered in ver. 28. So Cajetan and Gagneius. This third meaning is the best and most literal
We should not be judged. Not be punished by the judgment of God with diseases and death, as in ver. 30. So Erasmus and Vatablus. S. Augustine (Senten. 210) well says: “Sins, whether small or great, cannot go unpunished. They are smitten either by the repentance of the penitent or by the judgment of the Great Judge. But Divine vengeance gives way if man’s conversion forestall it. For God loves to spare them that confess their sins, and to refrain from judging that judge themselves.”
Ver. 32.—But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, &c. When we are punished in this present life with diseases and death, it is to prevent us from being condemned with unbelievers and sinners. We are warned by God’s chastening to expiate the sin of unworthy communion by repentance, and so be saved. So S. Augustine (Sent. 274) says. “When God corrects the human race, and troubles it with the scourges of holy chastening, He is exercising discipline before judgment, and for the most part He loves whom He chastens, being unwilling to find one to condemn.”
Vers. 33, 34.—Wherefore, my brethren . . . if any man hunger, let him eat at home. The Apostle here gives orders that after the Eucharist they all wait for each other before beginning the agape; or rather, as was said at ver. 21, that they wait for each other at the supper which preceded Communion, so that they all might come together at the same time for this feast with common charity and concord, and recruit themselves in it moderately and soberly, and so not approach afterwards to take the Lord’s body unworthily, viz., in drunkenness and discord. If there is any one who cannot wait for this meal, the Apostle bids him go home and eat it there. He says this to shame them. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Œcumenius.
It is deduced from this passage that it was then the custom for those who were going to communicate to fast for the whole day until the common meal; this is why the Apostle says that they came to it hungry. Anselm says somewhat differently, that if any one cannot fast till the time for Communion, let him eat at home, but not communicate afterwards. But the first meaning is the better.
That ye come not together unto condemnation. Because of your pride, gluttony, drunkenness and disobedience.
The rest will I set in order when I come. The other things, that is, which make for the worthy and decent celebration of the Eucharist. This is a well-known passage in support of the traditions of the Church. S. Augustine (Ep. 118) says: “The Church’s tradition is for the Eucharist to be taken fasting, although Christ instituted it after supper.” Another tradition is for water to be mingled with the wine. Cf. S. Cyprian (Ep. 63 ad Cæcil.). Another is for the Mass to be offered for the living and the dead, and with a well-defined form of words, and ornaments of the priest and altar, &c.
Christians formerly communicated in this way. (1.) They fasted till the Lord’s Supper, as was seen at ver. 34. “If any man hunger, let him eat at home.” (2.) The people offered in the Church bread and wine to the deacons at a certain place. By them their offerings were taken to the altar. Little tables were set up for those who were going to communicate, just as now-a-days the people communicate at a table covered with a cloth. Before communion a deacon cried out, “Holy things for the holy.” The priest in communicating any one said, “The body of Christ.” The answer was given, “Amen.” They received not with the mouth, but in the hand, the man with his right hand ungloved, placed over his left in the form of a cross, whence the hands were washed beforehand; the woman with her hand covered with a clean white piece of linen called the “dominical.” The Council of Auxerre (can. 36) enacted that no woman should take the Eucharist with bare hands, and also that each woman should have her “dominical” when she communicated. If she had not got it, she was not to communicate till the next Sunday (can. 39). Cyril of Jerusalem (Catach. 5) says: “When you approach for communion, do not come with outspread bands, or fingers disjoined, but make the left hand a throne for the right, which is to receive so great a king, and with hollowed palm receive the body of Christ with the reply, ‘Amen.’ Moreover the Eighth Council of Constantinople (can. 10l) enacted the same thing in the words: “If any one of unstained body wish to communicate, before he do so let him put his hands into the shape of a cross to receive the sacrament of love. Those who make receptacles of gold or other material to do the duty of their hands in receiving the Holy Communion are not to be admitted, inasmuch as they prefer some inanimate form of matter to the image of their God.” Again, each one put into his mouth the Eucharist he had received in his hand, that is the species of bread, and it was taken daily, fasting. In S. Cyprian’s time they received the Eucharist also under the species of wine, in order that in times of persecution they might be strengthened to shed a martyr’s blood by receiving the blood of Christ. Hence S. Cyprian (Ep. 56 ad Thibarit.) says “A more severe and more bloody fight is at hand, for which the soldiers of Christ ought to prepare themselves with uncorrupted virtue and robust faith, recollecting that they daily receive the chalice of the blood of Christ for the very object of enabling them to shed their blood for Christ.” As S. Chrysostom says, “We leave that table like lions breathing out fire, and made terrible to the devils.”