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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Gabriel Vasquez on Eucharistic Sacrifice

In my dissertation project on Andrewes, I am looking to him as a catalyst for ecumenism. While doing so, I am also having to look very closely at the theology of Eucharistic Sacrifice in Andrewes and in the Roman Catholic understanding of Eucharistic Sacrifice. What one honestly finds when taking a deep look at someone like Vasquez and other Roman Catholic scholars is quite a bit different from what your friendly Protestant seminary professor may tell you what they meant. If one is very honest with the text, I believe a very large roll in the (mis)understandings of what was being taught was semantics. Now, that does not mean that there were not abuses by way of practices and practice does often belie one's theology. For anyone to ever suggest that the Sacrifice of the Eucharist is a NEW sacrifice of Christ is dead wrong and is not teaching what the Fathers taught on the Eucharistic Sacrifice. But, the question must then be asked as to what WAS the teaching on Eucharistic Sacrifice by the Roman Catholic Scholars of the day. I have posted a long quotation from Vasquez so that the readers here can actually see what one Jesuit actually said in his explanation of the theology of Trent. One of the main issues in thinking about Eucharistic Sacrifice is coming to an understanding of a definition of what people believe constitutes a sacrifice. Vasquez offers his definition. There is language that Vasquez has in here that would make most Protestants fall over themselves to even repeat in public. But, they need to get over it and deal with the issues at hand.

It is very interesting to me that Andrewes told Bellarmine in his Responsiothat if Rome would take away Transubstantiation there would be no difference between them (Rome) and us (England) on Sacrifice. Now, think about that for a moment. Andrewes writes numerous times and preaches more on what he understands the Eucharistic Sacrifice to entail. When I read Vasquez, I saw some very similar langauge used by Andrewes as well. But what Rome actually teaches is that the "Commemorative Sacrifice" of the Mass is NOT some new sacrifice of Christ where there is a destruction or anything happening to the risen and glorified Lord but rather the Sacrifice of the Mass and that of the Altar of the Cross are ONE and the SAME sacrifice. It is the means by which the forgiveness of sins is applied to those who partake without impediment. I do not pretend to imply that the RC scholars all agreed on sacrifice and destruction. Theologians such as Suarez SJ would have some differences but nothing majour other than the sacrifice not being completed until there was consumption. When a term is used like ex opera operato, we must realize that this does not mean magic and that the Sacrament works on its own. What it means is that the Sacrifice's power of application via the Sacrament finds that its power and efficacy is in that of the Cross. Let's get that straight. What Rome was teaching was that the Sacrifice of the Mass was the application of the ONE sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. Andrewes argues the exact same way using Irenaeus's words to support this position. There are some serious theological issues that need working through on this but before that can happen, we have to represent the teaching accurately so that when I say that this is what Rome teaches and believes they must respond, yes, that's what we believe. Once that is accomplished, we can have honest dialogue on differences and the nature of the Eucharistic Sacrifice within the theology of the Church. Here is Vasquez on Sacrifice. The source is Darwell Stone A History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. I hope that this stirs some conversation
:"From what has been said we can shortly and easily collect a right definition of sacrifice both by way of form and by way of matter. First, by way of form, that is, by way of signification, sacrifice is a mark existing in a thing whereby we acknowledge that God is the Author of life and death. . . . By way of matter this is the definition, a sacrifice is a thing which is offered to God by means of a change in itself, or a change m a thing which is offered to God. . . . There are two kinds of sacrifice. One of them is an absolute sacrifice, namely, that which is not the commemoration of another sacrifice, as the slaying of a sheep, or the consumption of something. The other is a relative or commemorative sacrifice, the only example of which we have in the sacrifice of the altar, which can be called a commemorative sacrifice; and, although in this no change takes place in the thing which is offered in this way, yet there is found a real sign and mark of the almighty power of God, as in an absolute sacrifice; and therefore this has the real nature of sacrifice no less than a bloody and absolute sacrifice." (The Catholic doctrine is that Christ is really and properly offered as a sacrifice in the Mass." "The right opinion is that the whole essence of this sacrifice consists of the consecration of the Sacrament alone in such a way that no other action belongs to its completeness, but that everything else which takes place in the Mass is either part of the preparation for the consecration or something which follows from and succeeds it. But, because the whole essence of this sacrifice is to be placed in the presentation of the death of Christ, which was a bloody sacrifice, and this is represented in the consecration not of one species only but of both taken together, therefore we say that the real and complete essence of the sacrifice exists in the consecration not of one species only but of both." Although an absolute sacrifice, that is, one which is not commemorative of another, requires a change in the thing offered, yet the change is not formally of the nature of the sacrifice but a requisite by way of its matter. The formal nature of sacrifice was placed in the signifying of the almighty power of God as the Author of life and death. Therefore, if there be any offering by means of which without a real and actual change in the thing offered God can be denoted and worshipped as the Author of life and death, it ought to be called really and properly a sacrifice. Now the consecration of the body and blood of Christ is of this kind without any actual change in Christ Himself simply on account of the representation of His death; therefore it is really and property a sacrifice." "The desition and conversion of the bread and wine have nothing to do with the nature of the sacrifice, but the sacrifice consists simply in the presence of the body and blood of Christ under the two species by the force of the words, and it would take place in the same way if the body and blood of Christ existed under the two species without any conversion of the bread and wine." (If the bloodless sacrifice which we priests offer in the Mass is compared with the sacrifice whereby Christ was altered on the cross, it is certain that it coincides -with it, and is wholly the same, so far as concerns the victim and the thing offered, but differs in method and way of offering. . . . Though the same Christ offers in each sacrifice, yet He does not offer in the same way; for in the bloody sacrifice of the cross He offered directly, since by His own action He underwent suffering and death, in which the offering of that sacrifice consisted; but in the sacrifice of the Mass He does not offer directly and by His own action but by the ministry of the priests, whom He has commanded to consecrate the Sacrament in His name and to offer this bloodless sacrifice ; for Christ is now said to offer in this sacrifice only in this way, that He commanded and instituted that priests should offer in His name, and not because He Himself exercises the action of sacrificing." "Although Christ is said to offer this sacrifice remotely and only because He instituted it, yet He is rightly called not only the offerer but the principal offerer, whereby He immediately offers, since there s no other who comes between offering principally. For not only did He command it to be offered, but also by His institution He gave it power by reason of His merits and death, so that from the work wrought (ex opere operato), as Sacraments, it might accomplish something in those for whom it should be offered, and also that it might obtain something for them after the manner of an impetrative cause. . . . Christ did not only command and institute that this sacrifice should be offered, but also as High Priest out of the merits of His works and sacrifice which He offered on the cross, gave it power " and so though He offers remotely, none the less as priest, and as chief or principal offerer, He is said to offer it." 362 363 364

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    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
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