ECFs vs. WCF, Part 2
In response to those who have insisted that the dogma of transubstantiation is an illegitimate importation of medieval metaphysics into the teachings of the early church fathers (who denied that the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the very body and blood of Christ), I would adduce the following passages:
For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the transmutation of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus. – St. Justin Martyr First Apology 66
When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him? – St. Irenaeus Against Heresies 5:3
For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity. – Ibid.4.18.5
We give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a sacred body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it. – Origen Against Celsus 8:33
The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ. – St. Cyril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lectures 19:7
He once in Cana of Galilee, turned the water into wine, akin to blood, and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood? – Ibid. 22.2
Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual Hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him; that He may make the Bread the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Ghost has touched, is surely sanctified and changed. Ibid. 23.7
Now we, as often as we receive the Sacramental Elements, which by the mysterious efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the Flesh and the Blood, ‘do show the Lord’s Death.’ – St. Ambrose On the Christian Faith 4, 10:125
We have proved the sacraments of the Church to be the more ancient, now recognize that they are superior. In very truth it is a marvellous thing that God rained manna on the fathers, and fed them with daily food from heaven; so that it is said, “So man did eat angels’ food.” But yet all those who ate that food died in the wilderness, but that food which you receive, that living Bread which came down from heaven, furnishes the substance of eternal life; and whosoever shall eat of this Bread shall never die, and it is the Body of Christ. – St. Ambrose, On the Myseries 8.47
We ought . . . not regard [the elements] merely as bread and cup, but as the body and blood of the Lord, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit. – Theodore of Mopsuestia Catechetical Homilies 5:1
He did not say, ‘This is the symbol of My Body, and this, of My Blood,’ but, what is set before us, but that it is transformed by means of the Eucharistic action into Flesh and Blood.” – Theodore of Mopsuestia Commentary on Matthew 26:26
Rightly then do we believe that the bread consecrated by the word of God has been changed [Gr., metapoieisthai] into the Body of God the Word. For that Body was bread in power, but it has been sanctified by the dwelling there of the Word, who pitched his tent in the flesh. The change that elevated to divine power the bread that had been transformed into that Body causes something similar now. In that case, the grace of the Word sanctified that Body whose material being came from bread and was, in a certain sense, bread itself. In this case, the bread “is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer,” as the Apostle says, not becoming the Body of the Word through our eating but by being transformed [Gr., metapoiumenos] immediately into the body by means of the word, as the Word himself said, ‘This is my Body.’ . . . He shares himself with every believer through the Flesh whose substance comes from bread and wine . . . in order to bring it about that, by communion with the Immortal, man may share in incorruption. He gives these things through the power of the blessing by which he transelements [Gr., metastoikeiosas] the nature of the visible things [to that of the Immortal]. – St. Gregory of Nyssa The Great Catechism 37
He [Jesus] disseminates Himself in every believer through that flesh, whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption. – Ibid.
The bread again is at first common bread; but when the mystery sanctifies it, it is called and actually becomes the Body of Christ – St. Gregory of Nyssa Sermon on the Day of Lights or on The Baptism of Christ
You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That Bread which you see on the altar, consecrated by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what the chalice holds, consecrated by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through those accidents the Lord wished to entrust to us His Body and the Blood which He poured out for the remission of sins. – St. Augustine Sermons 227
The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, becomes Christ’s Body. – St. Augustine Sermons 234:2
It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s. ‘This is my body,’ he says. This word transforms the things offered. – St. John Chrysostom Against the Judaizers 1.6
Far be it from me to censure the successors of the apostles, who with holy words consecrate the body of Christ, and who make us Christians. – St. Jerome Letter to Heliodorus
You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wonderous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ….When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body. – St. Athanasius Sermon to the Newly Baptized
Christ said indicating (the bread and wine): ‘This is My Body,’ and ‘This is My Blood,’ in order that you might not judge what you see to be a mere figure. The offerings, by the hidden power of God Almighty, are changed into Christ’s Body and Blood, and by receiving these we come to share in the life-giving and sanctifying efficacy of Christ. – St. Cyril of Alexandria Commentary on Matthew 26, 27
The body which is born of the holy Virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s body and blood. But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took on Himself flesh that subsisted in Him and was born of the holy Mother of God through the Spirit. And we know nothing further save that the Word of God is true and energises and is omnipotent, but the manner of this cannot be searched out. But one can put it well thus, that just as in nature the bread by the eating and the wine and the water by the drinking are changed into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, and do not become a different body from the former one, so the bread of the table and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, and are not two but one and the same. – St. John of Damascus Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4:13
We see from these citations (1) that the bread and wine “actually become,” are “transformed into,” “made into,” “turned into,” “supernaturally changed into,” are “trans-elemented into,” are “transmuted into,” and confer “the substance” of (2) the “flesh and blood of the incarnate Christ,” “eternal life,” “the Eucharist,” “the sacred Body and Blood of Christ,” and “the Body of God the Word” (3) by means of the “invocation,” “holy prayers,” “Eucharistic action,” “consecration,” “pronouncement of the words,” and “blessing” of (4) a “priest.”
The Westminster Confession, quite to the contrary, says:
[The bread and wine], in substance and nature, still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before. . . . That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason (xxix.5, 6).
Of course, since (as I cited in the comments of the prior ECF thread) Calvin readily admitted that many of the early fathers overstated their case when speaking of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, it is not being untrue or disloyal to Reformed theology whatsoever to concede that Irenaeus, Justin, Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, Cyril of Alexandria, Ambrose, Theodore, John of Damascus, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, Jerome, Athanasius, and Augustine all erred when it comes to the actual transformation of the bread and wine into the flesh of the Incarnate Christ by the Eucharistic prayers of a priest.
I mean, if Sola Scriptura is true, then there’s nothing to lose by such a concession, right?