1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eucharist
EUCHARIST (Gr. εὐχαριστία, thanksgiving), in the Christian Church, one of the ancient names of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. The term εὐχαριστία was at first applied to the act of thanksgiving associated with the sacrament; later, so early as the 2nd century, to the objects, e.g. the sacramental bread and wine, for which thanks were given; and so to the whole celebration. The term Mass, which has the same connotation, is derived from the Lat. missa or missio, because the children and catechumens, or unbaptized believers, were dismissed before the eucharistic rite began. Other names express various aspects of the rite: Communion (Gr. κοινωνία), the fellowship between believers and union with Christ; Lord’s Supper, so called from the manner of its institution; Sacrament as a consecration of material elements; the Mystery (in Eastern churches) because only the initiated participated; the Sacrifice as a rehearsal of Christ’s passion. In this article the history of the rite is first traced up to A.D. 200 in documents taken in their chronological order; differences of early and later usage are then discussed; lastly, the meaning of the original rite is examined.
St Paul (1 Cor. xi. 17-34) attests that the faithful met regularly in church, i.e. in religious meetings, to eat the dominical or Lord’s Supper, but that this aim was frustrated by some who ate up their provisions before others, so that the poor were left hungry while the rich got drunk; and the meetings were animated less by a spirit of brotherhood and charity than of division and faction. He directs that, when they so meet, they shall wait for one another. Those who are too hungry to wait shall eat at home; and not put to shame those who have no houses (and presumably not enough food either), by bringing their viands to church and selfishly eating them apart.
It was therefore not the quantity or quality of the food eaten that constituted the meal a Lord’s Supper; nor even the circumstances that they ate it “in church,” as was assumed by those guilty of the practices here condemned; but only the pervading sense of brotherhood and love. The contrast lay between the Dominical Supper or food and drink shared unselfishly by all with all, and the private supper, the feast of Dives, shamelessly gorged under the eyes of timid and shrinking Lazarus. By way of enforcing this point Paul repeats the tradition he had received direct from the Lord, and already handed on to the Corinthians, of how “the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed” (not necessarily the night of Passover) “took bread and having given thanks brake it and said, This is my body, which is for your sake; this do in remembrance of me. In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant through my blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” Paul adds that this rite commemorated the Lord’s death and was to be continued until he should come again, as in that age they expected him to do after no long interval: “As often as ye eat this bread and drink the cup, ye do (or ye shall) proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.”
The same epistle (x. 17) attests that one loaf only was broken and distributed: “We who are many, are one loaf (or bread), one body; for we all partake of the one loaf (or bread).” As a single loaf could not satisfy the hunger of many, the rehearsal in these meals of Christ’s own action must have been a crowning episode, enhancing their sanctity. The Fractio Panis probably began, as the drinking of the cup certainly ended, the supper; the interval being occupied with the common consumption by the faithful of the provisions they brought. This much is implied by the words “after supper.” If, in any case, all present had eaten in their homes beforehand, the giving of the cup would immediately follow on the breaking and eating of the one loaf, but Paul’s words indicate that the common meal within the church was the norm. Those who ate at home marked themselves out as both greedy and lacking in charity. There is no demand that they should come fasting, or Paul could not recommend in (xi. 34) that those who were too hungry to wait until all the brethren were assembled in church, should eat at home and beforehand.
Mark xiv. 22-25, Matt. xxvi. 26-29, Luke xxii. 14-20, are, in order of time, our next accounts, Mark representing the oldest tradition. They all in substance repeat Paul’s account; but identify the night on which Jesus was betrayed with that of the Pascha. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus says of the bread “Take ye it, this is my body,” omitting the idea of sacrifice imported by Paul’s addition “which is for you”; but in them Jesus enunciates the same idea when he says of the cup: “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many,”adding “for the remission of sins,” a phrase which savours of Heb. ix. 22: “apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission.” It is a later addition, and so may be the words “which is poured out for many.” But the words which follow have an antique ring: “Amen, I say unto you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” For here Jesus affirms his conviction, in view of his impending death, which unlike his disciples he foresaw, that, when the kingdom of God is instituted on earth, he will take his place in it. But this is the last time he will sit down upon earth with his disciples at the table of the millenarist hope. These sources do not hint that the Last Supper is to be repeated by Christ’s followers until the advent of the kingdom. Luke’s account is too much interpolated from Paul, and the texts of his oldest MSS. too discrepant, for us to rely on it except so far as it supports the other gospels. It emphasizes the fact that the Last Supper was the Pascha. “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover, before I suffer”; and places the bread after the wine, unless indeed the Pauline interpolation comprises the whole of verse 19.
The fourth gospel, written perhaps A.D. 90–100, sublimates the rite, in harmony with its general treatment of the life of Jesus: “I am the living bread which cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die” (John vi. 51). As in 1 Cor. x. the flesh of Christ is contrasted with the manna which saved not the Jews from death, so here the latter ask: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” and Jesus answers: “Amen, Amen I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves.... He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him.” In an earlier passage, again in reference to the manna, Jesus is called “the bread of God, which cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” They ask: “Lord, ever more give us this bread,” and he answers: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” This writer’s thought is coloured by the older speculations of Philo, who in metaphor called the Logos the heavenly bread and food, the cupbearer and cup of God; and he seems even to protest against a literal interpretation of the words of institution, since he not only pointedly omits them in his account of the Last Supper, but in v. 63 of this chapter writes: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life.”
In Acts ii. 46 we read that, “the faithful continued steadfastly with one accord in the temple”; at the same time “breaking bread at home they partook of food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God.” All such repasts must have been sacred, but we do not know if they included the Eucharistic rite. The care taken in the selecting and ordaining of the seven deacons argues a religious character for the common meals, which they were to serve. Their main duty was to look after the duty of the Hellenistic widows, but inasmuch as meats strangled or consecrated to idols were forbidden, it probably devolved on the deacons to take care that such were not introduced at these common meals. The Essenes, similarly, appointed houses all over Palestine where they could safely eat, and priests of their own to prepare their food. Some Christians escaped the difficulties of their position by eating no meat at all. “He that is weak,” says Paul (Rom. xiv. 1), “eateth herbs”; that is, becomes a vegetarian. Rather than scandalize weaker brethren, Paul was willing to eat herbs the rest of his life.
The travel-document in Acts often refers to the solemn breaking of bread. Thus Paul in xxvii. 35, having invited the ship’s company of 276 persons to partake of food, took bread, gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and brake it and began to eat. The rest on board then began to be of good cheer, and themselves also took food. Here it is not implied that Paul shared his food except with his co-believers, but he ate before them all. Whether he repeated the words of institution we cannot say.
In Acts xx. 7 the faithful of Troas gather together to break bread “on the first day of the week” after sunset. After a discourse Paul, who was leaving them the next morning, broke bread and ate. This was surely such a meeting as we read of in 1 Cor. x., and was held on Sunday by night; but long before dawn, since after it Paul “talked with them a long while, even till break of day.” In 1 Cor. xvi. 1 Paul bids the Corinthians, as he had bidden the churches of Galatia, lay up in store on the first of the week, each one of them, money for the poor saints of Jerusalem. This is the first notice of Sunday Eucharistic collections of alms for the poor.
Here seems to belong in the order of development the Cathar Eucharist (see Cathars). The Cathars used only the Lord’s prayer in consecrating the bread and used water for wine.
The next document in chronological order is the so-called Teaching of the Apostles (A.D. 90–110). This assigns prayers and rubrics for the celebration of the Eucharist:—
“1. Now with regard to the Thanksgiving, thus give ye thanks.
“2. First concerning the cup:—We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David thy servant, which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy servant; to thee be the glory for ever.
“3. And concerning the broken bread:—We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy servant; to thee be the glory for ever.
“4. As this broken bread was (once) scattered on the face of the mountains and, gathered together, became one, even so may thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom; for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.
“5. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this the Lord hath said. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.
“1. Then, after being filled, thus give ye thanks:—
“2. We give thanks to thee, holy Father, for thy holy name, which thou hast caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which thou didst make known to us through Jesus Christ thy servant; to thee be the glory for ever.
“3. Thou Almighty Sovereign, didst create all things for thy name’s sake, and food and drink thou didst give to men for enjoyment, that they should give thanks unto thee; but to us thou didst of thy grace give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through thy servant.
“4. Before all things, we give thee thanks that thou art mighty; to thee be the glory for ever.
“5. Remember, Lord, thy church to deliver it from all evil, and to perfect it in thy love, and gather it together from the four winds, the sanctified, unto thy kingdom, which thou hast prepared for it; for thine is the power and the glory for ever.
“6. Come grace, and pass this world away. Hosanna to the God of David! If any one is holy, let him come. If any one is not, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.
“But allow the prophets to give thanks as much as they will.”
From a subsequent section, ch. xiv. 1, we learn that the Eucharist was on Sunday:—“Now when ye are assembled together on the Lord’s day of the Lord, break bread and give thanks, having first confessed your transgressions, so that your sacrifice may be pure.”
The above, like the uninterpolated Lucan account, places the cup first and has no mention of the body and blood of Christ. But in this last and other respects it contrasts with the other synoptic and with the Pauline accounts. The cup is not the blood of Jesus, but the holy vine of David, revealed through Jesus; and the holy vine can but signify the spiritual Israel, the Ecclesia or church or Messianic Kingdom, into which the faithful are to be gathered.
The one loaf, as in Paul, symbolizes the unity of the ecclesia, but the cup and bread, given for enjoyment, are symbols at best of the spiritual food and drink of the life eternal given of grace by the Almighty Father through his servant (lit. boy) Jesus. The bread and wine are indeed an offering to God of what is his own, pure because offered in purity of heart; but they are not interpreted of the sacrifice of Jesus’ body broken on the cross, or of his blood shed for the remission of sin. It is not, as in Paul, a meal commemorative of Christ’s death, nor connected with the Passover, as in the Synoptics. Least of all is it a sacramental eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of Jesus, a perpetual renewal of kinship, physical and spiritual, with him. The teaching rather breathes the atmosphere of the fourth gospel, which sets the Last Supper before the feast of the Passover (xiii. 1), and pointedly omits Christ’s institution of the Eucharist, substituting for it the washing of his disciples’ feet. The blessing of the Bread and Cup, as an incident in a feast of Christian brotherhood, is all that the Didache has in common with Paul and the Synoptists. The use of the words “after being filled,” in x. 1, implies that the brethren ate heartily, and that the cup and bread formed no isolated episode. The Baptized alone are admitted to this Supper, and they only after confession of their sins. Every Sunday at least they are to celebrate it. A prophet can “in the Spirit appoint a table,” that is, order a Lord’s Supper to be eaten, whenever he is warned by the Spirit to do so. But he must not himself partake of it—a very practical rule. The prophets are to give thanks as they like at these “breakings of bread,” without being restricted to the prayers here set forth. In xv. 3 the overseers or bishops and deacons, though their functions are less spiritual than administrative and economic, are allowed to take the place of the prophets and teachers. The phrase used is λειτουγεῖν τὴν λειτουργίαν, “to liturgize the liturgy.” This word “liturgy” soon came to connote the Eucharist. The prophets who normally preside over the Suppers are called “your high-priests,” and receive from the faithful the first-fruits of the winepress and threshing-floor, of oxen and sheep, and of each batch of new-made bread, and of oil. Out of these they provide the Suppers held every Lord’s day, offering them as “a pure sacrifice.” Bishops and deacons hold a subordinate place in this document; but the contemporary Epistle of Clement of Rome attests that these bishops “had offered the gifts without blame and holily.” The word “liturgy” is also used by Clement.
Pliny’s Letter (Epist. 96), written A.D. 112 to the emperor Trajan, about the Christians of Bithynia, attests that on a fixed day, stato die (no doubt Sunday), they met before dawn and recited antiphonally a hymn “to Christ as to a god.” They then separated, but met again later to partake of a meal, which, however, was of an ordinary and innocent character. Pliny regarded their meal as identical in character with the common meals of hetairiae, i.e. the trade-gilds or secret societies, which were then, as now, often inimical to the government. Even benefit societies were feared and forbidden by the Roman autocrats, and the “dominical suppers” of the Christians were not likely to be spared. Pliny accordingly forbade them in Bithynia, and the renegade Christians to whom he owed his information gave them up. These suppers included an Eucharist; for it was because the faithful ate in the latter of the flesh and blood of the Son of God that the charge of devouring children was made against them. If, then, this afternoon meal did not include it, Pliny’s remark that their food was ordinary and innocent is unintelligible.
Ignatius, about A.D. 120, in his letter to the Ephesians, defines the one bread broken in the Eucharist as a “drug of immortality, and antidote that we should not die, but live for ever in Jesus Christ.” He also rejects as invalid any Eucharist not held “under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it.” For the Christian prophet has disappeared, and with him the custom of holding Eucharists in private dwellings.
In the Epistle to Diognetus, formerly assigned to Justin Martyr, we read (v. 7) that “Christians have in vogue among themselves a table common, yet not common” (i.e. unclean). In Justin’s first apology (c. 140) we have two detailed accounts of the Eucharist, of which the first, in ch. 65, describes the first communion of the newly baptized:—
“After we have thus washed the person who has believed and conformed we lead him to the brethren so called, where they are gathered together, to offer public prayer both for ourselves and for the person illuminated, and for all others everywhere, earnestly, to the end that having learned the truth we may be made worthy to be found not only in our actions good citizens, but guardians of the things enjoined.
“We salute one another with a kiss at the end of the prayers. Then there is presented to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of water (and of a mixture,) and he having taken it sends up praise and glory to the father of all things by the name of the Son and Holy Spirit, and he offers at length thanksgiving (eucharistia) for our having been made worthy of these things by him. But when he concludes the prayer and thanksgiving all the people present answer with acclamation ‘Amen.’ But the word ‘Amen’ in Hebrew signifies ‘so be it.’ And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have so answered, those who are called by us deacons distribute to each of those present, for them to partake of the bread (and wine) and water, for which thanks have been given, and they carry portions away to those who are not present. And this food is called by us Eucharistia, and of it none may partake save those who believe our teachings to be true and have been washed in the bath which is for remission of sin and rebirth, and who so live as Christ taught. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink. For as Jesus Christ our Saviour was made flesh by Word of God and possessed flesh and blood for our sake; so we have been taught that the food blessed (lit. thanked for) by prayer of Word spoken by him, food by which our blood and flesh are by change of it (into them) nourished, is both flesh and blood of Jesus so made flesh. For the apostles in the memorials made by them, which are called gospels, have so related it to have been enjoined on them: to wit, that Jesus took bread, gave thanks and said: This do ye in memory of me; this is my body, and the cup likewise he took and gave thanks and said, This is my blood; and he distributed to them alone. And this rite too the evil demons by way of imitation handed down in the mysteries of Mithras. For that bread and a cup of water is presented in the rites of their initiation with certain conclusions (or epilogues), you either know or can learn.”
The second account, in ch. 67, adds that the faithful both of town and country met for the rite on Sunday, that the prophets were read as well as the gospels, that the president after the reading delivered an exhortation to imitate in their lives the goodly narratives; and that each brought offerings to the president out of which he aided orphans and widows, the sick, the prisoners and strangers sojourning with them. These contributions of the faithful seem to be included by Justin along with the bread and cup as sacrifices acceptable to God. But he also particularly specifies (Dialog. 345) that perfect and pleasing sacrifices alone consist in prayers and thanksgivings (thusia). The elements are gifts or offerings. Justin was a Roman, but may not represent the official Roman church. The rite as he pictures it agrees well with the developed liturgies of a later age.
Irenaeus (Gaul and Asia Minor, before 190) in his work against heresies, iv. 31, 4, points to the sacrament in proof that the human body may become incorruptible:
“As bread from the earth on receiving unto itself the invocation of God is no longer common bread, but is an Eucharist, composed of two elements, an earthly and a heavenly, so our bodies by partaking of the Eucharist cease to be corruptible, and possess the hope of eternal resurrection.”
There is a similar passage in the 36th fragment (ed. Harvey ii. p. 500), sketching the rite and calling the elements antitypes:
“The oblation of the Eucharist is not fleshly, but spiritual and so pure. For we offer to God the bread and the cup of blessing (εὐλογία), thanking him for that he bade the earth produce these fruits for our sustenance. And therewith having finished the offering (προσφορά) we invoke the Holy Spirit to constitute this offering, both the bread body of Christ and the cup the blood of Christ, that those who partake of these antitypes (ἀντίτυπα, i.e. surrogates) may win remission of sins and life eternal.”
Here we note the stress laid on the Invocation of the Spirit to operate the transformation of the elements, though in what sense they are transformed is not defined. This Epiklesis survives in the Greek liturgies, but in the Roman a prayer takes its place that the angel of the Lord may take the oblation laid on the visible altar, and carry it up to the altar sublime into the presence of the divine majesty. We must not forget that the church of Irenaeus was Greek.
To the second century, lastly, belongs in part the evidence of the catacombs, on the walls of which are depicted persons reclining at tables supporting a fish, accompanied by one or more baskets of loaves, and more rarely by flasks of wine or water. The fish represents Christ; and in the Inscription of Abercius, bishop of Hierapolis about A.D. 160, we have this symbolism enshrined in a literary form: “In company with Paul I followed, while everywhere Faith led the way, and set before me the fish from the fountain, mighty and stainless, whom a pure virgin grasped, and gave this to friends to eat always, having good wine and giving the mixt cup with bread.” This representation of baskets of loaves and several fishes, or of one fish and several loaves, seems to contradict the usage of one loaf. It may represent the agapé or Lord’s Supper as a whole, of which the one loaf and cup formed an episode. Or the entire stock of bread may have been regarded as flesh of Jesus in virtue of the initial consecration of one single loaf.
To the second century also belong two gnostic uses. Firstly, that of Marcus, a Valentinian, of South Gaul about 150, whose influence extended to Asia Minor. Irenaeus relates (Bk. I., ch. vii. 2), that this “magician” used in the Eucharist cups apparently mixt with wine, but really containing water, and during long invocations made them appear “purple and red, as if the universal Grace χάρις dropped some of her blood into the cup through his invocation, and by way of inspiring worshippers with a passion to taste the cup and drink deep of the influence termed Charis.” Such a rite presupposes a belief in a real change of the elements; and water must have been used. In the sequel Irenaeus recites the Invocation read by Marcus before the communicants:—
“Grace that is before all things, that passeth understanding and words, replenish thy inner man, and make to abound in thee the knowledge of her, sowing in the good soil the grain of mustard seed.”
The Acts of Thomas, secondly, ch. 46, attest an Eucharistic usage, somewhat apart from the orthodox. The apostle spreads a linen cloth on a bench, lays on it bread of blessing (εὐλογία), and says:
“Jesus Christ, Son of God, who hast made us worthy to commune in the Eucharist of thy holy body and precious blood, Lo, we venture on the thanksgiving (Eucharistia) and invocation of thy blessed name, come now and communicate with us. And he began to speak and said: Come Pity supreme, come communion of the male, come Lady who knowest the mysteries of the Elect one, . . . come secret mother . . . come and communicate with us in this Eucharist which we perform in thy name and in the love (agapé) in which we are met at thy calling. And having said this he made a cross upon the bread, and brake it and began to distribute it. And first he gave to the woman, saying: This shall be to thee for remission of sins and release of eternal transgressions. And after her he gave also to all the rest that had received the seal.”
In the 2nd century the writer who nearest approaches to the later idea of Transubstantiation is the gnostic Theodotus (c. 160):
“The bread no less than the oil is hallowed by the power of the name. They remain the same in outward appearance as they were received, but by that power they are transformed into a spiritual power. So the water when it is exorcised and becomes baptismal, not only drives out the evil principle, but also contracts a power of hallowing.”
In the Fathers of the first three or four centuries can be traced the same tendency to spiritualize the Eucharist as we encountered in the fourth gospel, and in the Didache. Ignatius, though in Smyrn. 7 he asserts the Eucharist to be Christ’s “flesh which suffered for our sins,” elsewhere speaks of the blood as being “joy eternal and lasting,” as “hope,” as “love incorruptible,” and of the flesh as “faith” or as “the gospel.” Clement of Alexandria (c. 180) regards the rite as an initiation in divine knowledge and immortality. The only food he recognizes is spiritual; e.g. knowledge of the divine Essence is “eating and drinking of the divine Word.” So Origen declares the bread which God the Word asserted was his body to be that which nourishes souls, the word from God the Word proceeding, the Bread from the heavenly Bread. Not the visible bread held in his hand, nor the visible cup, were Christ’s body and blood, but the word in the mystery of which the bread was to be broken and the wine to be poured out. “We drink Christ’s blood,” he says elsewhere, “when we receive His words in which standeth Life.” So the author of the Contra Marcellum writes in view of John vi. 63 as follows (De eccl. Theol. p. 180):
“In these words he instructed them to interpret in a spiritual sense his utterances about his flesh and blood. Do not, he said, think that I mean the flesh which invests and covers me, and bid you eat that; nor suppose either that I command you to drink my sensible and somatic blood. Nay, you know well that my words which I have spoken unto you are spirit and life. It follows that the very words and discourses are his flesh and blood, of which he that constantly partakes, nourished as it were upon heavenly bread, will partake of the heavenly life. Let not then, he says, this scandalize you which I have said about eating of my flesh and about drinking of my blood. Nor let the obvious and first hand meaning of what I said about my flesh and blood disturb you when you hear it. For these words avail nothing if heard and understood literally (or sensibly). But it is the spirit which quickens them that can understand spiritually what they hear.”
But these views were not those of the uninstructed pagans who filled the churches and needed a rite which brought them, as their old sacrifices had done, into physical contact and union with their god. Their point of view was better expressed in the scruples of priests, who, as Tertullian (c. 200) records (De Corona, iii.), were careful lest a crumb of the bread or a drop of the wine should fall on the ground, and by such incidents the body of Christ be harassed and attacked!
The Eucharist as a Sacrifice.—Before the 3rd century we cannot trace the view that in the Eucharistic rite the death of Christ, regarded from the Pauline standpoint as an atoning or redemptive sacrifice for the sins of mankind, is renewed and repeated, though the germ out of which it would surely grow is already present in the words “My blood ... which is shed for many” of Matt. and Mark; yet more surely in Paul’s “my body which is in your behoof” and “this do in commemoration of me,” where the Greek word for do, Gr. ποιεῖτε, Lat. facite, could to pagan ears mean “this do ye sacrifice.” In the first two centuries the rite is spoken of as an offering and as a bloodless sacrifice; but it is God’s own creations, the bread and wine, alms and first-fruits, which, offered with a pure conscience, he receives as from friends, and bestows in turn on the poor; it is the praise and prayers which are the sacrifice. In these centuries baptism was the rite for the remission of sin, not the Eucharist; it is the prophet in the Didache who presides at the Lord’s Supper, not the Levitically conceived priest; nor as yet has the Table become an Altar. Among Christians, prayers, supplications and thanksgivings have taken the place of the sacrifices of the old covenant.
In Cyprian of Carthage (c. 250) we first find the Eucharist regarded as a sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood offered by the priest for the sins of the living and dead. We cannot drink the blood of Christ unless Christ has been first trodden under foot and pressed.... As Jesus our high priest offered himself as a sacrifice to his Father, so the human priest takes Christ’s place, and imitates his action by offering in church a true and full sacrifice to God the Father (Ep. 63). He speaks of the dominical host (hostia), and takes the verb to do in Paul’s letter in the sense of to sacrifice. As early as Tertullian prayers for the dead, who were named, were offered in the rite; but there was as yet no idea of the sacrifice of Christ being reiterated in their behalf. After Cyprian’s day this view gains ground in the West, and almost obscures the older view that the rite is primarily an act of communion with Christ. In harmony with Cyprian’s new conception is another innovation of his age and place, that of children communicating; both were the natural accompaniment of infant baptism, of which we first hear in his letters. In the East we do not hear of the sacrifice of the body and blood before Eusebius, about the year 300. In the Armenian church of the 12th century the idea of a reiterated sacrificial death of Christ still seemed bizarre and barbarous. But as early as 558 in Gaul the bread was arranged on the altar in the form of a man, so that one believer ate his eye, another his ear, a third his hand, and so on, according to their respective merits! This was forbidden by Pope Pelagius I.; but in the Greek church the custom survives, the priest even stabbing with “the holy spear” in its right side the human figure planned out of the bread, by way of rehearsing in pantomime the narrative of John xix. 34.
The change from a commemoration of the Passion to a re-enacting of it came slowly in the Greek church. Thus Chrysostom (Ham. 17, ad Heb.), after writing “We offer (ποιοῦρεν) not another sacrifice, but the same,” instantly corrects himself and adds: “or rather we perform a commemoration of the sacrifice.” This was exactly the position also of the Armenian church.
Wine or Water?—Justin Martyr perhaps contemplated the use of water instead of wine, and Tatian his pupil used it. The Marcionites, the Ebionites, or Judaeo-Christians of Palestine, the Montanists of Phrygia, Africa and Galatia, the confessor Alcibiades of Lyons, c. A.D. 177 (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. v. 3. 2), equally used it. Cyprian (Ep. 63) affirms (c. 250) that his predecessors on the throne of Carthage had used water, and that many African bishops continued to do so, “out of ignorance,” he says, “and simplemindedness, and God would forgive them.” Pionius, the Catholic martyr of Smyrna, c. 250, also used water. In the Acts of Thomas it is used. Such uniformity of language has led Prof. Harnack to suppose that in the earliest age water was used equally with wine, and Eusebius the historian, who had means of judging which we have not, saw no difficulty in identifying with the first converts of St Mark the Therapeutae of Philo who took only bread and water in their holy repast.
Abercius and Irenaeus are the first to speak of wine mixt with water, of a krāma (κρᾶμα) or temperamentum. In the East, then as now, no one took wine without so mixing it. Cyprian insists on the admixture of water, which he says represented the humanity of Jesus, as wine his godhood. The users of water were named Aquarii or hydroparastatae in the 4th century, and were liable to death under the code of Theodosius. Some of the Monophysite churches, e.g. the Armenian, eschewed water and used pure wine, so falling under the censure of the council in Trullo of A.D. 692. Milk and honey was added at first communions. Oil was sometimes offered, as well as wine, but it would seem for consecration only, and not for consumption along with the sacrament. With the bread, however, was sometimes consecrated cheese, e.g. by the African Montanists in the 2nd century. Bitter herbs also were often added, probably because they were eaten with the Paschal lamb. Many early canons forbid the one and the other. Hot water was mixt with the wine in the Greek churches for some centuries, and this custom is seen in catacomb paintings. It increased the resemblance to real blood.
Position of the Faithful at the Eucharist.—Tertullian, Eusebius, Chrysostom and others represent the faithful as standing at the Eucharist. In the art of the catacombs they sit or recline in the ordinary attitude of banqueters. In the age of Christ standing up at the Paschal meal had been given up, and it was become the rule to recline. Kneeling with a view to adoration of the elements was unheard of in the primitive church, and the Armenian Fathers of the 12th century insist that the sacrament was intended by Christ to be eaten and not gazed at (Nerses, op. cit. p. 167). Eucharistic or any other liturgical vestments were unknown until late in the 5th century, when certain bishops were honoured with the same pallium worn by civil officials (see Vestments).
In the Latin and in the Monophysite churches of Armenia and Egypt unleavened bread is used in the Eucharist on the somewhat uncertain ground that the Last Supper was the Paschal meal. The Greek church uses leavened.
Transubstantiation.—In the primitive age no one asked how Christ was present in the Eucharist, or how the elements became his body and blood. The Eucharist formed part of an agapé or love feast until the end of the 2nd century, and in parts of Christendom continued to be so much later. It was, save where animal sacrifices survived, the Christian sacrifice, par excellence, the counterpart for the converted of the sacrificial communions of paganism; and though charged with higher significance than these, it yet reposed on a like background of religious usage and beliefs. But when the Agapé on one side and paganism on the other receded into a dim past, owing to the enhanced sacrosanctity of the Eucharist and because of the severe edicts of the emperor Theodosius and his successors, the psychological background fell away, and the Eucharist was left isolated and hanging in the air. Then men began to ask themselves what it meant. Rival schools of thought sprang up, and controversy raged over it, as it had aforetime about the homoousion, or the two natures. Thus the sacrament which was intended to be a bond of peace, became a chief cause of dissension and bloodshed, and was often discussed as if it were a vulgar talisman.
Serapion of Thmuis in Egypt, a younger contemporary of Athanasius, in his Eucharistic prayers combines the language of the Didache with a high sacramentalism alien to that document which now only survived in the form of a grace used at table in the nunneries of Alexandria (see Agapé). He entreats “the Lord of Powers to fill this sacrifice with his Power and Participation,” and calls the elements a “living sacrifice, a bloodless offering.” The bread and wine before consecration are “likenesses of his body and blood,” this in virtue of the words pronounced over them by Jesus on the night of his betrayal. The prayer then continues thus: “O God of truth, let thy holy Word settle upon this bread, that the bread may become body of the word, and on this cup, that the cup may become blood of the truth. And cause all who communicate to receive a drug of life for healing of every disease and empowering of all moral advance and virtue.” Here the bread and wine become by consecration tenements in which the Word is reincarnated, as he aforetime dwelled in flesh. They cease to be mere likenesses of the body and blood, and are changed into receptacles of divine power and intimacy, by swallowing which we are benefited in soul and body. Cyril of Jerusalem in his catechises 51 enunciates the same idea of μεταβολή or transformation.
Gregory of Nyssa also about the same date (in Migne, Patrolog. Graeca, vol. 46, col. 581, oration on the Baptism) asserts a “transformation” or “transelementation” (μεταστοιχείωσις) of the elements into centres of mystic force; and assimilates their consecration to that of the water of baptism, of the altar, of oil or chrism, of the priest. He compares it also to the change of Moses’ rod into a snake, of the Nile into blood, to the virtue inherent in Elijah’s mantle or in the wood of the cross or in the clay mixt of dust and the Lord’s spittle, or in Elisha’s relics which raised a corpse to life, or in the burning bush. All these, he says, “were parcels of matter destitute of life and feeling, but through miracles they became vehicles of the power of God absorbed or taken into themselves.” He thus views the consecration of the elements as akin to other consecrations; and, like priestly ordination, as involving “a metamorphosis for the better,” a phrase which later on became classical. John of Damascus (c. 750) believed the bread to be mysteriously changed into the Christ’s body, just as when eaten it is changed into any human body; and he argued that it is wrong to say, as Irenaeus had said, that the elements are mere antitypes after as before consecration. In the West, Augustine, like Eusebius and Theodoret, calls the elements signs or symbols of the body and blood signified in them; yet he argues that Christ “took and lifted up his own body in his hands when he took the bread.” At the same time he admits that “no one eats Christ’s flesh, unless he has first adored” (nisi prius adoraverit). But he qualifies this “Receptionist” position by declaring that Judas received the sacrament, as if the unworthiness of the recipient made no difference.
Out of this mist of contradictions scholastic thought strove to emerge by means of clear-cut definitions. The drawback for the dogmatist of such a view as Serapion broaches in his prayers was this, that although it explained how the Logos comes to be immanent in the elements, as a soul in its body, nevertheless it did not guarantee the presence in or rather substitution for the natural elements of Christ’s real body and blood. It only provided an ἀντίτυπον or surrogate body. In 830–850, Paschasius Radbert taught that after the priest has uttered the words of institution, nothing remains save the body and blood under the outward form of bread and wine; the substance is changed and the accidents alone remain. The elements are miraculously recreated as body and blood. This view harmonized with the docetic view which lurked in East and West, that the manhood of Jesus was but a likeness or semblance under which the God was concealed. So Marcion argued that Christ’s body was not really flesh and blood, or he could not have called it bread and wine. Paschasius shrank from the logical outcome of his view, namely, that Christ’s body or part of it is turned into human excrement, but Ratramnus, another monk of Corbey, in a book afterwards ascribed to Duns Scotus, drew this inference in order to discredit his antagonists, and not because he believed it himself. The elements, he said, remain physically what they were, but are spiritually raised as symbols to a higher power. Perhaps we may illustrate his position by saying that the elements undergo a change analogous to what takes place in iron, when by being brought into an electric field it becomes magnetic. The substance of the elements remain as well as their accidents, but like baptismal water they gain by consecration a hidden virtue benefiting soul and body. Ratramnus’s view thus resembled Serapion’s, after whom the elements furnish a new vehicle of the Spirit’s influence, a new body through which the Word operates, a fresh sojourning among us of the Word, though consecrated bread is in itself no more Christ’s natural body than are we who assimilate it. Other doctors of the 9th century, e.g. Hincmar of Reims and Haimo of Halberstadt, took the side of Paschasius, and affirmed that the substance of the bread and wine is changed, and that God leaves the colour, taste and other outward properties out of mercy to the worshippers, who would be overcome with dread if the underlying real flesh and blood were nakedly revealed to their gaze!
Berengar in the 11th century assailed this view, which was really that of transubstantiation, alleging that there is no substance in matter apart from the accidents, and that therefore Christ cannot be corporally present in the sacrament; because, if so, he must be spatially present, and there will be two material bodies in one space; moreover his body will be in thousands of places at once. Christ, he said, is present spiritually, so that the elements, while remaining what they were, unremoved and undestroyed, are advanced to be something better: omne cui a Deo benedicatur, non absumi, non auferri, non destrui, sed manere et in melius quam erat necessario provehi. This was the phrase of Gregory of Nyssa.
Berengar in a weak moment in 1059 was forced by the pope to recant and assert that “the true body and blood are not only a sacrament, but in truth touched and broken by the hands of the priests and pressed by the teeth of the faithful,” and this position remains in every Roman catechism. Such dilemmas as whether a mouse can devour the true body, and whether it is not involved in all the obscenities of human digestive processes, were ill met by this ruling. Each party dubbed the other stercoranists (dung-feasters), and the controversy was often marred by indecencies.
As in the 3rd century the Roman church decided in respect of baptism that the sacrament carries the church and not the church the sacrament, so in the dispute over the Eucharist it ended, in spite of more spiritual views essayed by Peter Lombard, by insisting on the more materialistic view at the fourth Lateran Council in 1215, whose decree runs thus:—“The body and blood of Jesus Christ are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the species of bread and wine, the bread and wine respectively being transubstantiated into body and blood by divine power, so that in order to the perfecting of the mystery of unity we may ourselves receive from his (body) what he himself receives from ours.” In 1264 Urban IV. instituted the Corpus Christi Feast by way of giving liturgical expression to this view.
Communion in One Kind.—Up to about 1100 laymen in the West received the communion in both kinds, and except in a few disciplinary cases the wine was not refused. In 1099, by a decree of Pope Paschal II., children might omit the wine and invalids the bread. The communion of the laity in the bread alone was enjoined by the council of Constance in 1415, and by the council of Trent in 1562. The reformed churches of the West went back to the older rule which Eastern churches had never forsaken.
Mass.—The term mass, which survives in Candlemas, Christmas, Michaelmas, is from the Latin missa, which was in the 3rd century a technical term for the dismissal of any lay meeting, e.g. of a law-court, and was adopted in that sense by the church as early as Ambrose (c. 350). The catechumens or unbaptized, together with the penitents, remained in church during the Litany, collect, three lections, two psalms and homily. The deacon then cried out: “Let the catechumens depart. Let all catechumens go out.” This was the missa of the catechumens. The rest of the rite was called missa fidelium, because only the initiated remained. Similarly the collect with which often the rite began is the prayer ad collectam, i.e. for the congregation met together or collected. The corresponding Greek word was synaxis.
After the catechumens were gone the priest said: “The Lord be with you, let us pray,” and the service of the mass followed.
In the West, says Duchesne (Origines, p. 179), not only catechumens, but the baptized who did not communicate left the church before the communion of the faithful began (? after the communion of the clergy). In Anglican churches non-communicants used to leave the church after the prayer for the Church Militant. Ritualists now keep unconfirmed children in church during the entire rite, through ignorance of ancient usage, in order that they may learn to adore the consecrated elements. For this moment of homage to material elements ritually filled with divine potency may be so exaggerated as to obscure the rite’s ancient significance as a communion of the faithful in mystic food.
Ideas of Reformers.—The 16th-century reformers strove to avoid the literalism of the words “This is my body,” accepted frankly by the Roman and Eastern churches, and urged a Receptionist view, viz. that Christ is in the sacrament only spiritually consumed by worthy recipients alone, the material body not being actually chewed. This is seen by a comparison of other confessions with the Profession of Catholic Faith in accordance with the council of Trent, in the bull of Pius IV., which runs thus:—
“I profess that in the Mass is offered to God a true, proper and propitiatory sacrifice, for the living and the dead, and that in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist there is truly really and in substance the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that there does take place a conversion of the entire substance of the bread into the body, and of the entire substance of the wine into the blood, which conversion the Catholic Church doth call Transubstantiation. I also admit that under one of the other species alone the entire and whole Christ and the true sacrament is received.”
The 28th Article of Religion of the Church of England is as follows:—
“The Supper of the Lord . . . is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death; insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ, and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.
“Transubstantiation . . . cannot be proved by holy writ. . . .
“The Body of Christ is given, taken and eaten, in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.
“The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.”
At the end of the communion rite the prayer-book, in view of the ordinance to receive the Sacrament kneeling, adds the following:—
“It is hereby declared, that thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine, there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored (for that were idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians); and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.”
These monitions and prescriptions are rapidly becoming a dead-letter, but they possess a certain historical interest.
The Helvetic Confession of A.D. 1566 (caput xxi. De sacra coena Domini) runs as follows:—
“That it may be more rightly and clearly understood how the flesh and blood of Christ can be food and drink of the faithful, and be received by them unto eternal life, let us add these few remarks. Chewing is not of one kind alone. For there is a corporeal chewing, by which food is taken into the mouth by man, bruised with the teeth and swallowed down into the belly. . . . As the flesh of Christ cannot be corporeally chewed without wickedness and truculence, so it is not food of the belly. . . . There is also a spiritual chewing of the body of Christ, not such that by it we understand the very food to be changed into spirit, but such that, the body and blood of the Lord abiding in their essence and peculiarity, they are spiritually communicated to us, not in any corporeal way, but in a spiritual, through the Holy Spirit which applies and bestows on us those things which were prepared through the flesh and blood of the Lord betrayed for our sake to death, to wit, remission of sins, liberation and life eternal, so that Christ lives in us and we in him. . . .
“In addition to the aforesaid spiritual chewing, there is also a sacramental chewing of the Lord’s body, by which the faithful not only partakes spiritually and inwardly of the true body and blood of the Lord, but outwardly by approaching the Lord’s table, receives the visible sacrament of his body and blood. . . . But he who without faith approaches the sacred table, albeit he communicate in the sacrament, yet he perceives not the matter of the sacrament, whence is life and salvation. . . .”
The Augustan Confession presented by the German electors to Charles V. in the section on the Mass merely protests against the view that “the Lord’s Supper is a work (opus) which being performed by a priest earns remission of sin for the doer and for others, and that in virtue of the work done (ex opere operato), without a good motive on the part of the user. Also that being applied for the dead, it is a satisfaction, that is to say, earns for them remission of the pains of purgatory.”
The Saxon Confession of Wittenberg, June 1551, while protesting against the same errors, equally abstains from trying to define narrowly how Christ is present in the sacrament.
Consubstantiation.—The symbolical books of the Lutheran Church, following the teaching of Luther himself, declare the doctrine of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the eucharist, together with the bread and wine (consubstantiation), as well as the ubiquity of his body, as the orthodox doctrine of the church. One consequence of this view was that the unbelieving recipients are held to be as really partakers of the body of Christ in, with and under the bread as the faithful, though they receive it to their own hurt. (Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctr. ii. 300.)
Of all the Reformers, the teaching of Zwingli was the farthest removed from that of Luther. At an early period he asserted that the Eucharist was nothing more than food for the soul, and had been instituted by Christ only as an act of commemoration and as a visible sign of his body and blood (Christenliche Ynleitung, 1523, quoted by Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctr. ii. 296, Clark’s translation). But that Zwingli did not reject the higher religious significance of the Eucharist, and was far from degrading the bread and wine into “nuda et inania symbola,” as he was accused of doing, we see from his Fidei ratio ad Carolum Imperatorem (ib. p. 297).
Original Significance of the Eucharist.—It is doubtful if the attempts of reformers to spiritualize the Eucharist bring us, except so far as they pruned ritual extravagances, nearer to its original significance; perhaps the Roman, Greek and Oriental churches have better preserved it. This significance remains to be discussed; the cognate question of how far the development of the Eucharist was influenced by the pagan mysteries is discussed in the article Sacrament.
That the Lord’s Supper was from the first a meal symbolic of Christian unity and commemorative of Christ’s death is questioned by none. But Paul, while he saw this much in it, saw much more; or he could not in the same epistle, x. 18-22 assimilate communion in the flesh and blood of Jesus, on the one hand, to the sacrificial communion with the altar which made Israel after the flesh one; and on the other to the communion with devils attained by pagans through sacrifices offered before idols. It has been justly remarked of the Pauline view, that—
“The union with the Lord Himself, to which those who partake of the Lord’s Supper have, is compared with the union which those who partake of a sacrifice have with the deity to whom the altar is devoted—in the case of the Israelites with God, of the heathen with demons. This idea that to partake of sacrifice is to devote oneself to the deity, lies at the root of the ancient idea of worship, whether Jewish or heathen; and St Paul uses it as being readily understood. In this connexion the symbol is never a mere symbol, but a means of real union. ‘The cup is the covenant’” (Prof. Sanday in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, 3, 149).
Paul caps his argument thus:—“Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons: ye cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” And these words with their context prove that Paul, like the Fathers of the church, regarded the gods and goddesses as real living supernatural beings, but malignant. They were the powers and principalities with whom he was ever at war. The Lord also is jealous of them, if any one attempt to combine their cult with his, for to do so is to doubt the supremacy of his name above all names. Both in its inner nature then and outward effects the Eucharist was the Christian counterpart of these two other forms of communion of which one, the heathen, was excluded from the first, and the other, the Jewish, soon to disappear. It is their analogue, and to understand it we must understand them, not forgetting that Paul, as a Semite, and his hearers, as converted pagans, were imbued with the sacrificial ideas of the old world.
“A kin,” remarks W. Robertson Smith (Religion of the Semites, 1894), “was a group of persons whose lives were so bound up together, in what must be called a physical unity, that they could be treated as parts of one common life. The members of one kindred looked on themselves as one living whole, a single animated mass of blood, flesh and bones, of which no member could be touched without all the members suffering.” “In later times,” observes the same writer (op. cit. p. 313), “we find the conception current that any food which two men partake of together, so that the same substance enters into their flesh and blood, is enough to establish some sacred unity of life between them; but in ancient times this significance seems to be always attached to participation in the flesh of a sacrosanct victim, and the solemn mystery of its death is justified by the consideration that only in this way can the sacred cement be procured, which creates or keeps alive a living bond of union between the worshippers and their god. This cement is nothing else than the actual life of the sacred and kindred animal, which is conceived as residing in its flesh, but specially in its blood, and so, in the sacred meal, is actually distributed among all the participants, each of whom incorporates a particle of it with his own individual life.”
The above conveys the cycle of ideas within which Paul’s reflection worked. Christ who knew no sin (2 Cor. v. 21) had been made sin, and sacrificed for us, becoming as it were a new Passover (1 Cor. v. 7). By a mysterious sympathy the bread and wine over which the words, “This is my body which is for you,” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” had been uttered, became Christ’s body and blood; so that by partaking of these the faithful were united with each other and with Christ into one kinship. They became the body of Christ, and his blood or life was in them, and they were members of him. Participation in the Eucharist gave actual life, and it was due to their irregular attendance at it that many members of the Corinthian church “were weak and sickly and not a few slept” (i.e. had died). As the author already cited adds (p. 313): “The notion that by eating the flesh, or particularly by drinking the blood, of another living being, a man absorbs its nature or life into his own, is one which appears among primitive peoples in many forms.”
But this effect of participation in the bread and cup was not in Paul’s opinion automatic, was no mere opus operatum; it depended on the ethical co-operation of the believer, who must not eat and drink unworthily, that is, after refusing to share his meats with the poorer brethren, or with any other guilt in his soul. The phrases “discern the body” and “discern ourselves” in 1 Cor. xi. 29, 31 are obscure. Paul evidently plays on the verb, krinô, diakrinô, katakrinô (κρίνω, διακρίνω, κατακρίνω). The general sense is clear, that those who consume the holy food without a clear conscience, like those who handle sacred objects with impure hands, will suffer physical harm from its contact, as if they were undergoing the ordeal of touching a holy thing. The idea, therefore, seems to be that as we must distinguish the holy food over which the words “This is my body” have been uttered from common food, so we must separate ourselves before eating it from all that is guilty and impure. The food that is taboo must only be consumed by persons who are equally taboo or pure. If they are not pure, it condemns them.
The “one” loaf has many parallels in ancient sacrifices, e.g. the Latin tribes when they met annually at their common temple partook of a “single” bull. And in Greek Panegureis or festivals the sacrificial wine had to be dispensed from one common bowl: “Unto a common cup they come together, and from it pour libations as well as sacrifice,” says Aristides Rhetor in his Isthmica in Neptunum, p. 45. To ensure the continued unity of the bread, the Roman church ever leaves over from a preceding consecration half a holy wafer, called fermentum, which is added in the next celebration.
With what awe Paul regarded the elements mystically identified with Christ’s body and life is clear from his declaration in 1 Cor. xi. 27, that he who consumes them unworthily is guilty or holden of the Lord’s body and blood. This is the language of the ancient ordeal which as a test of innocence required the accused to touch or still better to eat a holy element. A wife who drank the holy water in which the dust of the Sanctuary was mingled (Num. v. 17 foll.) offended so deeply against it, if unfaithful, that she was punished with dropsy and wasting. The very point is paralleled in the Acts of Thomas, ch. xlviii. A youth who has murdered his mistress takes the bread of the Eucharist in his mouth, and his two hands are at once withered up. The apostle immediately invites him to confess the crime he must have committed, “for, he says, the Eucharist of the Lord hath convicted thee.”
It has been necessary to consider at such length St Paul’s account of the Eucharist, both because it antedates nearly by half a century that of the gospels, and because it explains the significance which the rite had no less for the Gnostics than for the great church. The synoptists’ account is to be understood thus: Jesus, conscious that he now for the last time lies down to eat with his disciples a meal which, if not the Paschal, was anyhow anticipatory of the Millennial Regeneration (Matt. xix. 28), institutes, as it were, a blood-brotherhood between himself and them. It is a covenant similar to that of Exodus xxiv., when after the peace-offering of oxen, Moses took the blood in basins and sprinkled half of it on the altar and on twelve pillars erected after the twelve tribes, and the other half on the people, to whom he had first read out the writing of the covenant and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.”
But the covenant instituted by Jesus on the eve of his death was hardly intended as a new covenant with God, superseding the old. This reconstruction of its meaning seems to have been the peculiar revelation of the Lord to Paul, who viewed Christ’s crucifixion and death as an atoning sacrifice, liberating by its grace mankind from bonds of sin which the law, far from snapping, only made more sensible and grievous. This must have been the gist of the special revelation which he had received from Christ as to the inner character of a supper which he already found a ritual observance among believers. The Eucharist of the synoptists is rather a covenant or tie of communion between Jesus and the twelve, such as will cause his life to survive in them after he has been parted from them in the flesh. An older prophet would have slain an animal and drunk its blood in common with his followers, or they would all alike have smeared themselves with it. In the East, even now, one who wishes to create a blood tie between himself and his followers and cement them to himself, makes under his left breast an incision from which they each in turn suck his blood. Such barbarisms was alien to the spirit of the Founder, who substitutes bread and wine for his own flesh and blood, only imparting to these his own quality by the declaration that they are himself. He broke the bread not in token of his approaching death, but in order to its equal distribution. Wine he rather chose than water as a surrogate for his actual blood, because it already in Hebrew sacrifices passed as such. “The Hebrews,” says Robertson Smith (op. cit. p. 230), “treated it like the blood, pouring it out at the base of the altar.” As a red liquid it was a ready symbol of the blood which is the life. It was itself the covenant, for the genitive τῆς διαθήκης in Mark xiv. 24 is epexegetic, and Luke and Paul rightly substitute the nominative. It was, as J. Wellhausen remarks, a better cement than the bread, because through the drinking of it the very blood of Jesus coursed through the veins of the disciples, and that is why more stress is laid on it than on the bread. To the apostles, as Jews bred and born, the action and words of their master formed a solemn and intelligible appeal. It belongs to the same order of ideas that the headship of the Messianic ecclesia in Judea was assigned after the death of Jesus to his eldest brother James, and after him for several generations to the eldest living representative of his family.
To the modern mind it is absurd that an image or symbol should be taken for that which is imaged or symbolized, and that is why the early history of the Eucharist has been so little understood by ecclesiastical writers. And yet other religions, ancient and modern, supply many parallels, which are considered in the article Sacrament.
Authorities.—Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites; Goetz, Die Abendmahlsfrage; G. Anrich, Das antike Mysterienwesen (Göttingen, 1894); Sylloge confessionum (Oxford, 1804); Duchesne, Origins of Christian Culture; Funk’s edition of Constitutiones Apostolicae; Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, vol. ii.; Geo. Bickell, Messe und Pascha; idem. “Die Entstehung der Liturgie,” Ztsch. f. Kath. Theol. iv. Jahrg. 94 (1880), p. 90 (shows how the prayers of the Christian sacramentaries derive from the Jewish Synagogue); Goar, Rituale Graecorum; F. E. Brightman, Eastern Liturgies; Cabrol and Leclercq, Monumenta liturgica, reliquiae liturgicae vetustissimae (Paris, 1900); Harnack, History of Dogma; Jas. Martineau, Seat of Authority in Religion, bk. iv. (London, 1890); Loofs, art. “Abendmahlsfeier” in Herzog’s Realencyklopädie (1896.) Spitta, Urchristentum (Göttingen, 1893); Schultzen, Das Abendmahl im N.T. (Göttingen, 1895); Kraus, Real-Encykl. d. christl. Altert. (for the Archaeology); art. “Eucharistic”; Ch. Gore, Dissertations (1895); Hoffmann, Die Abendmahlsgedanken Jesu Christi (Königsberg, 1896); Sanday, art. “Lord’s Supper” in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible; Th. Harnack, Der christl. Gemeindegottesdienst. (F. C. C.)
Reservation of the Eucharist
The practice of reserving the sacred elements for the purpose of subsequent reception prevailed in the church from very early times. The Eucharist being the seal of Christian fellowship, it was a natural custom to send portions of the consecrated elements by the hands of the deacons to those who were not present (Justin Martyr, Apol. i. 65). From this it was an easy development, which prevailed before the end of the 2nd century, for churches to send the consecrated Bread to one another as a sign of communion (the εὐχαριστία mentioned by Irenaeus, ap. Eus. H.E. v. 24), and for the faithful to take it to their own homes and reserve it in arcae or caskets for the purpose of communicating themselves (Tert. ad Uxor. ii. 5, De orat. 19; St Cypr. De lapsis, 132). Being open to objection on grounds both of superstition and of irreverence, these customs were gradually put down by the council of Laodicea in A.D. 360. But some irregular forms of reservation still continued; the prohibition as regards the lay people was not extended, at any rate with any strictness, to the clergy and monks; the Eucharist was still carried on journeys; occasionally it was buried with the dead; and in a few cases the pen was even dipped in the chalice in subscribing important writings. Meanwhile, both in East and West, the general practice has continued unbroken of reserving the Eucharist, in order that the “mass of the presanctified” might take place on certain “aliturgic” days, that the faithful might be able to communicate when there was no celebration, and above all that it might be at hand to meet the needs of the sick and dying. It was reserved in a closed vessel, which took various forms from time to time, known in the East as the ἀρτοφόριον, and in the West as the turris, the capsa, and later on as the pyx. In the East it was kept against the wall behind the altar; in the West, in a locked aumbry in some part of the church, or (as in England and France) in a pyx made in the form of a dove and suspended over the altar.
In the West it has been used in other ways. A portion of the consecrated Bread from one Eucharist, known as the “Fermentum,” was long made use of in the next, or sent by the bishop to the various churches of his city, no doubt with the object of emphasizing, the solidarity and the continuity of “the one Eucharist”; and amongst other customs which prevailed for some centuries, from the 8th onward, were those of giving it to the newly ordained in order that they might communicate themselves, and of burying it in or under the altar-slab of a newly consecrated church. At a later date, apparently early in the 14th century, began the practice of carrying the Eucharist in procession in a monstrance; and at a still later period, apparently after the middle of the 16th century, the practice of Benediction with the reserved sacrament, and that of the “forty hours’ exposition,” were introduced in the churches of the Roman communion. It should be said, however, that most of these practices met with very considerable opposition both from councils and from theologians and canonists, amongst others from the English canonist William Lyndwood (Provinciale, lib. iii. c. 26), on the following grounds amongst others: that the Body of Christ is the food of the soul, that it ought not to be reserved except for the benefit of the sick, and that it ought not to be applied to any other use than that for which it was instituted.
In England, during the religious changes of the 16th century, such of these customs as had already taken root were abolished; and with them the practice of reserving the Eucharist in the churches appears to have died out too. The general feeling on the subject is expressed by the language of the 28th Article, first drafted in 1553, to the effect that “the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped,” and by the fact that a form was provided for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist for the sick in their own homes. This latter practice was in accordance with abundant precedent, but had become very infrequent, if not obsolete, for many years before the Reformation. The first Prayer-Book of Edward VI. provided that if there was a celebration in church on the day on which a sick person was to receive the Holy Communion, it should be reserved, and conveyed to the sick man’s house to be administered to him; if not, the curate was to visit the sick person before noon and there celebrate according to a form which is given in the book. At the revision of the Prayer-Book in 1552 all mention of reservation is omitted, and the rubric directs that the communion is to be celebrated in the sick person’s house, according to a new form; and this service has continued, with certain minor changes, down to the present day. That the tendency of opinion in the English Church during the period of the Reformation was against reservation is beyond doubt, and that the practice actually died out would seem to be equally clear. The whole argument of some of the controversial writings of the time, such as Bishop Cooper on Private Mass, depends upon that fact; and when Cardinal du Perron alleged against the English Church the lack of the reserved Eucharist, Bishop Andrewes replied, not that the fact was otherwise, but that reservation was unnecessary in view of the English form for the Communion of the Sick: “So that reservation needeth not; the intent is had without it” (Answers to Cardinal Perron, &c., p. 19, Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology). It does not follow, however, that a custom which has ceased to exist is of necessity forbidden, nor even that what was rejected by the authorities of the English Church in the 16th century is so explicitly forbidden as to be unlawful under its existing system; and not a few facts have to be taken into account in any investigation of the question. (1) The view has been held that in the Eucharist the elements are only consecrated as regards the particular purpose of reception in the service itself, and that consequently what remains unconsumed may be put to common uses. If this view were held (and it has more than once made its appearance in church history, though it has never prevailed), reservation might be open to objection on theological grounds. But such is not the view of the Church of England in her doctrinal standards, and there is an express rubric directing that any that remains of that which was consecrated is not to be carried out of the church, but reverently consumed. There can therefore be no theological obstacle to reservation in the English Church: it is a question of practice only. (2) Nor can it be said that the rubric just referred to is in itself a condemnation of reservation: it is rather directed, as its history proves, against the irreverence which prevailed when it was made; and in fact its wording is based upon that of a pre-Reformation order which coexisted with the practice of reservation (Lyndwood, Provinciale, lib. iii. tit. 26, note q). (3) Nor can it be said that the words of the 28th Article (see above) constitute in themselves an express prohibition of reservation, strong as their evidence may be as to the practice and feeling of the time. The words are the common property of an earlier age which saw nothing objectionable in reservation for the sick. (4) It has indeed been contended (by Bishop Wordsworth of Salisbury) that reservation was not actually, though tacitly, continued under the second Prayer-Book of Edward VI., since that book orders that the curate shall “minister,” and not “celebrate,” the communion in the sick person’s house. But such a tacit sanction on the part of the compilers of the second Prayer-Book is in the highest degree improbable, in view of their known opinions on the subject; and an examination of contemporary writings hardly justifies the contention that the two words are so carefully used as the argument would demand. Anyhow, as the bishop notes, this could not be the case with the Prayer-Book of 1661, where the word is “celebrate.” (5) The Elizabethan Act of Uniformity contained a provision that at the universities the public services, with the exception of the Eucharist, might be in a language other than English; and in 1560 there appeared a Latin version of the Prayer-Book, issued under royal letters patent, in which there was a rubric prefixed to the Order for the Communion of the Sick, based on that in the first Prayer-Book of Edward VI. (see above), and providing that the Eucharist should be reserved for the sick person if there had been a celebration on the same day. But although the book in question was issued under letters patent, it is not really a translation of the Elizabethan book at all, but simply a reshaping of Aless’s clever and inaccurate translation of Edward VI.’s first book. In the rubric in question words are altered here and there in a way which shows that its reappearance can hardly be a mere printer’s error; but in any case its importance is very slight, for the Act of Uniformity specially provides that the English service alone is to be used for the Eucharist. (6) It has been pointed out that reservation for the sick prevails in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the doctrinal standards of which correspond with those of the Church of England. But it must be remembered that the Scottish Episcopal Church has an additional order of its own for the Holy Communion, and that consequently its clergy are not restricted to the services in the Book of Common Prayer. Moreover, the practice of reservation which has prevailed in Scotland for over 150 years would appear to have arisen out of the special circumstances of that church during the 18th century, and not to have prevailed continuously from earlier times. (7) Certain of the divines who took part in the framing of the Prayer-Book of 1661 seem to speak of the practice as though it actually prevailed in their day. But Bishop Sparrow’s words on the subject (Rationale, p. 349) are not free from difficulty on any hypothesis, and Thorndike (Works, v. 578, Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology) writes in such a style that it is often hard to tell whether he is describing the actual practice of his day or that which in his view it ought to be. (8) There appears to be more evidence than is commonly supposed to show that a practice analogous to that of Justin Martyr’s day has been adopted from time to time in England, viz. that of conveying the sacred elements to the houses of the sick during, or directly after, the celebration in church. And in 1899 this practice received the sanction of Dr Westcott, then bishop of Durham. (9) On the other hand, the words of the oath taken by the clergy under the 36th of the Canons of 1604 are to the effect that they will use the form prescribed in the Prayer-Book and none other, except so far as shall be otherwise ordered by lawful authority; and the Prayer-Book does not even mention the reservation of the Eucharist, whilst the Articles mention it only in the way of depreciation.
The matter has become one of no little practical importance owing to modern developments of English Church life. On the one hand, it is widely felt that neither the form for the Communion of the Sick, nor yet the teaching with regard to spiritual communion in the third rubric at the end of that service, is sufficient to meet all the cases that arise or may arise. On the other hand, it is probable that in many cases the desire for reservation has arisen, in part at least, from a wish for something analogous to the Roman Catholic customs of exposition and benediction; and the chief objection to any formal practice of reservation, on the part of many who otherwise would not be opposed to it, is doubtless to be found in this fact. But however that may be, the practice of reservation of the Eucharist, either in the open church or in private, has become not uncommon in recent days.
The question of the legality of reservation was brought before the two archbishops in 1899, under circumstances analogous to those in the Lambeth Hearing on Incense (q.v.). The parties concerned were three clergymen, who appealed from the direction of their respective diocesans, the bishops of St Albans and Peterborough and the archbishop of York: in the two former cases the archbishop (Temple) of Canterbury was the principal and the archbishop of York (Maclagan) the assessor, whilst in the latter case the functions were reversed. The hearing extended from 17th to 20th July; counsel were heard on both sides, evidence was given in support of the appeals by two of the clergy concerned and by several other witnesses, lay and clerical, and the whole matter was gone into with no little fulness. The archbishops gave their decision on the 1st of May 1900 in two separate judgments, to the effect that, in Dr Temple’s words, “the Church of England does not at present allow reservation in any form, and that those who think that it ought to be allowed, though perfectly justified in endeavouring to get the proper authorities to alter the law, are not justified in practising reservation until the law has been so altered.” The archbishop of York also laid stress upon the fact that the difficulties in the way of the communion of the sick, when they are really ready for communion, are not so great as has sometimes been suggested.
See W. E. Scudamore, Notitia eucharistica (2nd ed., London, 1876); and art. “Reservation” in Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, vol. ii. (London, 1893); Guardian newspaper, July 19 and 26, 1899, and May 2, 1900; The Archbishops of Canterbury and York on Reservation of the Sacrament (London, 1900); J. S. Franey, Mr Dibdin’s Speech on Reservation, and some of the Evidence (London, 1899); F. C. Eeles, Reservation of the Holy Eucharist in the Scottish Church (Aberdeen, 1899); Bishop J. Wordsworth, Further Considerations on Public Worship (Salisbury, 1901). (W. E. Co.)
- Ps. lxxx. 8-19.
- Acts iv. 25, 27.
- 1 Cor. x. 17; Soph. iii. 10.
- Matt. vii. 6.
- Matt. xxiv. 31.
- 1 Cor. xvi. 22.
- We should probably omit the words bracketed.
- The codex Othobonianus omits the words bracketed.
- See Nerses of Lambron, Opera Armenice (Venice, 1847), pp. 74, 75, 101, &c.
- This represents the views of Calvin.
- Das Evangelium Marci, p. 121.