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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Theodoret and Sacramental Symbols

Today I have been reading the dialogue between Cardinal Perron and Lancelot Andrewes on the nature of the symbols of the Eucharist. Cardinal Perron used Theodoret Dia. II to argue for the Adoration of the Sacrament. Theodoret argued for the adoration using the word proskuneitai (bow down) but qualified this and seemed to understand it to speak of it as honouring or reverencing the Sacrament but not offering worship as a divine object. He bases his argument on the nature of Symbols. I was surprised that Perron went to this passage as it shows clearly that Theodoret is not arguing for the common Roman position of Transubstantiation. I offer it here for your reading and comments. Maybe Professor Tighe can comment if he comes by or the Pontificator! :-)

Eran.—One ought “to stir every stone,” as the proverb says,126 to get at the truth; above all when it is a question of divine doctrines.
Orth.—Tell me now; the mystic symbols which are offered to God by them who perform priestly rites, of what are they symbols?
Eran.—Of the body and blood of the Lord.
Orth.—Of the real body or not?
Eran.—The real.
Orth.—Good. For there must be the archetype of the image. So painters imitate nature and paint the images of visible objects.
Eran.—True.
Orth.—If, then, the divine mysteries are antitypes of the real body,127 therefore even now the body of the Lord is a body, not changed into nature of Godhead, but filled with divine glory.
Eran.—You have opportunely introduced the subject of the divine mysteries for from it I shall be able to show you the change of the Lord’s body into another nature. Answer now to my questions.
Orth.—I will answer.
Eran.—What do you call the gift which is offered before the priestly invocation?
Orth.—It were wrong to say openly; perhaps some uninitiated are present.
Eran.—Let your answer be put enigmatically.
Orth.—Food of grain of such a sort.
Eran.—And how name we the other symbol?
Orth.—This name too is common, signifying species of drink.
Eran.—And after the consecration how do you name these?
Orth.—Christ’s body and Christ’s blood.
Eran.—And do yon believe that you partake of Christ’s body and blood?
Orth.—I do.
Eran.—As, then, the symbols of the Lord’s body and blood are one thing before the priestly invocation, and after the invocation are changed and become another thing; so the Lord’s body after the assumption is changed into the divine substance.
Orth.—You are caught in the net you have woven yourself. For even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before. But they are regarded as what they are become, and believed so to be, and are worshipped128 as being what they are believed to be. Compare then the image with the archetype, and you will see the likeness, for the type must be like the reality. For that body preserves its former form, figure, and limitation and in a word the substance of the body; but after the resurrection it has become immortal and superior to corruption; it has become worthy of a seat on the righthand; it is adored by every creature as being called the natural body of the Lord.
Eran.—Yes; and the mystic symbol changes its former appellation; it is no longer called by the name it went by before, but is styled body. So must the reality be called God, and not body.
Orth.—You seem to me to be ignorant—for He is called not only body but even bread of life. So the Lord Himself used this name’ and that very body we call divine body, and giver of life, and of the Master and of the Lord, teaching that it is not common to every man but belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ Who is God and Man. “For Jesus Christ” is “the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.”

Schaff, P. 1997. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Second Series Vol. III. Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historial Writings, etc. p. 200.

3 Comments:

Anonymous William Tighe said...

I fail to be suurprised. The term "transubstantiation" had no place in official Catholic theology until it was used, more or less in passing, at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and even the Council of Trent cotented itself with declaring that the term was "most suitably" used to describe the "change" that takes place at the consecration. Theodoret (d. ca. 465) lived along time earlier.

It is just like the term "homoousios": while it became a watchword of orthodoxy in the aftermath of the Council of Nicaea, it had no such "value" beforehand; if anything, it had suspiciously Sabellian associations.

After all, Cardinal du Perron's point was that Theodoret commended and practiced veneration of the sacrament. I would be delighted to learn (and not wholly surprised if it should be the case) that Andrewes was in agreement with du Perron that such veneration was legitimate and praiseworthy, and that the dispute between the two was over the philosophical understanding of the "change" -- but was this actually the case?

4:19 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

That indeed was actually the case!

He goes on to remind Perron that “for Saint Augustine presently is careful to warn his auditors, that the word manducat there is to be spiritually understood, and he bringeth in Christ thus speaking. Andrewes was agreeing that there is a proper veneration of the physical Sacrament but not a worshipping of it with divine qualities. Andrewes goes on to turn Perron’s own use of Theodoret against him showing that the Sacramental Symbols, after the consecration, go not from their own nature, but abide in their former substance, shape, and kind. Andrewes concludes his answer saying,

And he gains nothing by it; for proskunei/tai in the Cardinal’s sense, may be taken pour venerer, (that is, to honour and reverence;) and is to be taken in that sense, and cannot, here, be taken in any other. For the Symbols so abiding, it is easily known no divine adoration can be used to them, nor any other than hath been said.

Andrewes’s stance against divine adoration of the Sacrament is tied to his denial of transubstantiation. Having gone to examine Theodoret Dialogue II for myself, I too find that it is strange that Perron would use this passage that speaks against what he is seeking to argue for. Contextually, Andrewes is correct to argue that the sense in which Theodoret is using proskunei/tai is with reference to giving reverence and welcoming respectfully. In that sense, Andrewes agrees with the custom of bowing and venerating (venerationem) the Sacrament as a symbol of God’s divine presence and worshipping the Christ of the Sacrament.

4:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Pontificator here. Am away from my home computer and can't remember my blogger username. :-)

One thought immediately comes to mind. Theodoret's understanding of the eucharistic transformation reminds me of the iconoclastic understanding--namely, the Eucharist is an icon of the Body and Blood. The council fathers replied, No, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood.

Compare, for example, Theodoret and St Nicholas Cabasilas.

6:25 pm  

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