Augustine on the Eucharist

This was our family reading for Corpus Christi a couple weeks ago. It's a rather lengthy reading for a blog post, but I was astounded when I read it to see Augustine encapsulate the position on the Lord's Supper that I hear proclaimed in church every week. (Note: Was Augustine an FV guy? I'll alert the committee to check it out.) Anyway, enjoy.

You see on God's altar bread and a cup. That is what the evidence of your eyes tells you but your faith requires you to believe that the bread is the body of Christ, and the cup is the blood of Christ. In these few words we say perhaps all that faith requires. Yet faith does crave understanding; so you may now say to me: 'You have told us what we have to believe, but explain it so that we can understand it'...

These things, my sisters and brothers, are called sacraments, because our eyes see in them one thing, and our understanding another. Our eyes see a material reality; our understanding perceives its spiritual effect. If you want to know what the body of Christ is, you must listen to what the apostle Paul tells the faithful: 'Now you are the body of Christ, and individually you are members of it.'

If that is so, it is the sacrament of yourselves that is placed on the Lord's table, and it is the sacrament of yourselves that you are receiving. You reply 'Amen' to what you are, and thereby agree that such you are. You hear the words 'The body of Christ' and you reply 'Amen.' Be, then, a member of Christ's body, so that your 'Amen' may accord with the truth.

Yes, but why all this in bread? Here let us not advance any ideas of our own, but listen again to what the Apostle says when speaking of this sacrament: 'Because there is one loaf, we, though we are many, form one body.' Let your mind assimilate that statement and be glad, for there you will find unity, truth, devotion and love. Bear in mind that bread is not made of a single grain, but of many. Be, then, what you see, and receive what you are.

So much for what Paul says about the bread. As for the cup, what we have to believe is equally clear, though Paul does not mention it expressly. Just as Scripture describes the unity of the faithful in the words: 'They were of one mind and heart in God,' so the image of the wine functions in the same way as that of the kneading of many grains into one visible loaf. Think how wine is made. Many grapes hang on the vine in clusters, but their juice flows together into an indivisible liquid once they are crushed. It was in these images that Christ our Lord signified to us that we should belong to him, when he hallowed the sacrament of our peace and unity on his table.

Comments

Anonymous said…
What is the citation for this quote, please?
Rick said…
I got it from a book called Celebrating the Seasons compiled by Robert Atwell. His footnote for the quote was Volume 28 of the 221 Volume set Patrologiae Cursus Completus : Series Latina
Xindaeltal said…
You want an update, fine, I'll give you an update.... maybe...