Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

1Co 11:23  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,
1Co 11:24  And giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat: This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of me.

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.

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 (Matt 26:26); (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,” “broke,” “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 (Ps 14:1), “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 22:20—”This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be 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 9:6) ; and when Isaiah also says of Him (Isa 45:15): “Verily thou art a hidden God, the 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 (John 13:1), “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 6:57, S. Matt 26:29. 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 10:17). 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 22:16), “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 (Luke 22:17). 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. John6:63): “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 6:35-65. 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 19:24., 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 difierent 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 13:31), 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 (Praef. 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. N 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 earthy’ 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 shedfor 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.” Put 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 startingpoint, “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 transsubstantiative, 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.).

1Co 11:25  In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me.

In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice 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 tlie 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, O 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 chalice 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, sealed, 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 tins 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. Exodus 24. 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, O 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 15:9-10, 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 34:18. 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 Exodus 24. 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 9:15 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 Exodus 24:8, 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 cf 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 Exodus 24, 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 8:10.

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. i), 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 Exodus 24:8, “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 Missd, 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.

1Co 11:26  For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.

For as  often as you shall 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 Lord’s death when we die unto sin and live unto Christ, or wheti 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 (12:11), 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.

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One Response to Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

  1. Pingback: Commentareis for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) | stjoeofoblog

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