Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Treadmill of Sacramentalism? Crank It Up!

On Christmas Eve I blogged about the privilege of going to Mass twice in 24 hours! Here is what I said:

"We celebrate Jesus coming into the world as Lord and Savior. We prepare him room in our hearts during Advent with prayers, fasting and giving. As Catholics, we continue to receive him, soul, body and divinity through the gift of the Eucharist as often as we take the Blessed Sacrament. That miracle that occurred 2000 years ago continues to occur on altars throughout the world as Christ gives us His flesh in an ongoing re-presentation of his sacrifice once for all.
We have the opportunity to receive Jesus today in Mass as well as tomorrow or tonite in Midnight vigil Mass. Not an obligation, a holy privilege!"

My blog was read by a Protestant apologist/blogger and he then posted this in response on his blog:

"I am so thankful that I have a finished sacrifice that does not need to be "re-presented" on an altar. I am so thankful that the death of Christ perfects. What a tragedy that so many will be going to Mass, thinking they are approaching a "re-presentation" of the Cross, but will go away once again imperfect, without lasting peace, for they have no finished work, no imputed righteousness, upon which to stand. May God be pleased to continue to free men and women from slavery to such a treadmill of sacramentalism and bring them into the glorious truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ!"

In my Christmas Eve blog post, I was reflecting on how beautiful it is to receive Christ and I was attempting to make the point that Catholics don’t re-crucify Jesus with every Mass as we are often accused. The Altar of the Mass is where Christ’s sacrifice accomplished once and for all 2000 years ago is re- presented. In the spirit of charity, I do admire his heart for Catholics that he perceives as being in slavery and I appreciate his prayers for me. (we all could use more prayer). You are in my prayers too, brother James!

Catholics seem to think less of time and eternity as linear and more of God working mysteriously outside the dimensions of our perception of time. We don't have a problem with the non- bloody sacrifice being re-presented on the altar on a regular basis, though we believe full well as Protestants do, that His death on the cross was a one time event. It's a mystery not easily explainable or "exegeted" but yet experienced by the people of God for two millenia.

Therefore, I present to you the writings of the early Church. A "snapshot picture" of the early Church and its beliefs about the Sacrifice of the Altar via the Father's words. Truly these gems are worth much more than this blogger's 1000 words comments and apologetic arguments 1600 or more years later.

Could all these folks below have gotten it wrong? Logic tells me that the water is always purest closest to the source.

Here we go:

The Didache
"Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]" (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

Pope Clement I
"Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release" (Letter to the Corinthians 44:4–5 [A.D. 80]).

Ignatius of Antioch
"Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice—even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God" (Letter to the Philadelphians 4 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr
"God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [minor prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the Gentiles . . . [Mal. 1:10–11]. He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians] who in every place offer sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 41 [A.D. 155]).

"He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body.’ The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his blood. He taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachi, one of the twelve [minor] prophets, had signified beforehand: ‘You do not do my will, says the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is my name among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty’ [Mal. 1:10–11]. By these words he makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; but that in every place sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure one, for his name is glorified among the Gentiles" (Against Heresies 4:17:5 [A.D. 189]).

Cyprian of Carthage
"If Christ Jesus, our Lord and God, is himself the high priest of God the Father; and if he offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father; and if he commanded that this be done in commemoration of himself, then certainly the priest, who imitates that which Christ did, truly functions in place of Christ" (Letters 63:14 [A.D. 253]).

"Accept therewith our hallowing too, as we say, ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord Sabaoth, heaven and earth is full of your glory.’ Heaven is full, and full is the earth, with your magnificent glory, Lord of virtues. Full also is this sacrifice, with your strength and your communion; for to you we offer this living sacrifice, this unbloody oblation" (Prayer of the Eucharistic Sacrifice 13:12–16 [A.D. 350]).

Cyril of Jerusalem
"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 Spirit has touched is surely sanctified and changed. Then, upon the completion of the spiritual sacrifice, the bloodless worship, over that propitiatory victim we call upon God for the common peace of the churches, for the welfare of the world, for kings, for soldiers and allies, for the sick, for the afflicted; and in summary, we all pray and offer this sacrifice for all who are in need" (Catechetical Lectures 23:7–8 [A.D. 350]).

Gregory Nazianzen
"Cease not to pray and plead for me when you draw down the Word by your word, when in an unbloody cutting you cut the Body and Blood of the Lord, using your voice for a sword" (Letter to Amphilochius 171 [A.D. 383]).

Ambrose of Milan
"We saw the prince of priests coming to us, we saw and heard him offering his blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being priests, and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. Even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. Even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the sacrifice, nevertheless it is he himself that is offered in sacrifice here on Earth when the body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer himself he is made visible in us, he whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered" (Commentaries on Twelve Psalms of David 38:25 [A.D. 389]).

John Chrysostom
"When you see the Lord immolated and lying upon the altar, and the priest bent over that sacrifice praying, and all the people empurpled by that precious blood, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven?" (The Priesthood 3:4:177 [A.D. 387]).

"Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the sacrificial victim who is placed thereon!" (Homilies on Romans 8:8 [A.D. 391]).

"‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion of the blood of Christ?’ Very trustworthy and awesomely does he [Paul] say it. For what he is saying is this: What is in the cup is that which flowed from his side, and we partake of it. He called it a cup of blessing because when we hold it in our hands that is how we praise him in song, wondering and astonished at his indescribable gift, blessing him because of his having poured out this very gift so that we might not remain in error; and not only for his having poured it out, but also for his sharing it with all of us. ‘If therefore you desire blood,’ he [the Lord] says, ‘do not redden the platform of idols with the slaughter of dumb beasts, but my altar of sacrifice with my blood.’ What is more awesome than this? What, pray tell, more tenderly loving?" (Homilies on First Corinthians 24:1(3) [A.D. 392]).

"In ancient times, because men were very imperfect, God did not scorn to receive the blood which they were offering . . . to draw them away from those idols; and this very thing again was because of his indescribable, tender affection. But now he has transferred the priestly action to what is most awesome and magnificent. He has changed the sacrifice itself, and instead of the butchering of dumb beasts, he commands the offering up of himself" (ibid., 24:2).

"What then? Do we not offer daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of his death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This sacrifice is a type of that, and this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one body. And just as he is one body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one sacrifice" (Homilies on Hebrews 17:3(6) [A.D. 403]).

"In the sacrament he is immolated for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being immolated. For if sacraments had not a likeness to those things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all; and they generally take the names of those same things by reason of this likeness" (Letters 98:9 [A.D. 412]).

"For when he says in another book, which is called Ecclesiastes, ‘There is no good for a man except that he should eat and drink’ [Eccles. 2:24], what can he be more credibly understood to say [prophetically] than what belongs to the participation of this table which the Mediator of the New Testament himself, the priest after the order of Melchizedek, furnishes with his own body and blood? For that sacrifice has succeeded all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were slain as a shadow of what was to come. . . . Because, instead of all these sacrifices and oblations, his body is offered and is served up to the partakers of it" (The City of God 17:20 [A.D. 419]).

Sechnall of Ireland
"[St. Patrick] proclaims boldly to the [Irish] tribes the name of the Lord, to whom he gives the eternal grace of the laver of salvation; for their offenses he prays daily unto God; for them also he offers up to God worthy sacrifices" (Hymn in Praise of St. Patrick 13 [A.D. 444]).

Fulgentius of Ruspe
"Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that the only-begotten God the Word himself became flesh [and] offered himself in an odor of sweetness as a sacrifice and victim to God on our behalf; to whom . . . in the time of the Old Testament animals were sacrificed by the patriarchs and prophets and priests; and to whom now, I mean in the time of the New Testament . . . the holy Catholic Church does not cease in faith and love to offer throughout all the lands of the world a sacrifice of bread and wine. In those former sacrifices what would be given us in the future was signified figuratively, but in this sacrifice which has now been given us is shown plainly. In those former sacrifices it was fore-announced that the Son of God would be killed for the impious, but in the present sacrifice it is announced that he has been killed for the impious" (The Rule of Faith 62 [A.D. 524]).

Well, as for me, crank up that sacramental treadmill, I’m jumping on and going to do a few laps with Augustine and Ambrose, at daily Mass . What is more awesome than this? (in the words of St. John Chrysostom) Besides, physical exercise profiteth little.

The inability for some folks to understand the sacraments may lie in the difficulty of accepting that God created matter, or stuff of earth, in which to conveys His grace. The early church was a sacramental church and being Jewish they didn't struggle with the way in which God used the stuff of earth to convey his grace. God created stuff, so he can use stuff; wine , bread, water, oil to convey his marvelous grace to us won through his redemption on the Cross.


Anonymous christopher said...

It shouldn't be too difficult for our Protestant friends to understand, "that God created matter, or stuff of earth, in which to conveys His grace".
All they need to do is look at Christ's healings: why use spit, mud and water? Why use His prayer shawl? Why have folks lower their friend on a mat? Why have Christ, the God-Man, use anything at all to heal...
...unless it was for us. We humans are the sensual (of the senses) creatures. That's why eating and sex fell so good!
And that's why God gave us the sacraments! He who is God became Man - tangible (also an appeal to our senses) and left us with the tangible - Church, priest, Mass, sacraments, and, after all this, the Bible, too!
Thank you, Jesus, for your gifts to us!

December 30, 2006 10:11 AM  
Blogger TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Great quotes. While I was in RCIA, it was some of these very same writings from the early Church fathers that opened my eyes to the truth and won my heart over. Once you believe in the real presence as a convert, you cant go back to crackers and juice.

Or as St. Ignatius of Antioch said in about 110 AD: "I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ"

But like you I understand the misguided concern of your friend. I have many friends like that as well. And you are right to remind him that we do not re-crucify Christ.

But his argument is hard to argue against unless he had truly tasted of the Real Thing. Heres an analogy:

Two men went to dine in seperate places. One was served some plain rice and water. The server told him "this food will last you the rest of your life" and he was over joyed. The other went and was served a huge banquet with fine foods, choice wine and smoked meats. The server said, come back again tomorrow its free. So he came back again and again. His friend scoffed at him because he had already eaten a meal that would last him his whole life.

As time went on, the one who was no longer eating began to waste away but he convinced himself pyschologically that his server was correct.

Is the one who goes to the banquet each day "in slavery" to his feast? Certainly not! And as you said, it is a privelege. How very true. At the end of mass, I never think "Im already incomplete and need to go again" I think to myself "thanks be to God for His grace, I can't wait for next time" and until you have experienced that, you cannot understand it.

Great post keep them coming!

December 30, 2006 10:17 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey GFF and Christopher,
Thanks for the comments! You guys get me thinking, and that's probably a bit dangerous!
The analogy to the sacrament of marriage is an interesting one.
If we were to symbolize the sacrament of marriage, can you imagine the honeymoon? We stare into eachother's eyes and think about the beautiful oneness of our holy matrimony. Somehow , I just don't think that it would cut it!

Regarding the idea of the feast, GFF, what a nice word picture of the Eucharist! Truly a feast that we desire to come back to, not because His death is not sufficient, but that he continues to nourish us in an ongoing way through his body and blood.
The comment made by the Protestant blogger makes the wrong assumption that Catholics desperately seek the sacraments out of a sense of lack, imperfection
and absence of peace. I have not heard any Catholics complain to me about the tragedy of having to go to Mass regulary to "fill up that which is lacking." Have you all?

December 30, 2006 11:26 AM  
Blogger Prodigal Daughter said...

"I am so thankful that I have a finished sacrifice that does not need to be "re-presented" on an altar. I am so thankful that the death of Christ perfects. What a tragedy that so many will be going to Mass, thinking they are approaching a "re-presentation" of the Cross..."

"May God be pleased to continue to free men and women from slavery to such a treadmill of sacramentalism..."

I decided to use this blogger's logic regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony. Just this morning I said to my husband "We already consummated our marriage once. Why do we have to keep doing it over and over again? After all, the first time was perfect!"

December 30, 2006 11:30 AM  
Blogger TheGodFearinFiddler said...

There are certainly Catholics who view Mass as a chore as there are Protestants who view Church in the same way. And that is a tragedy to be sitting at a great banquet table and not even realize it.

The issue in both cases is a lack of faith. I heard someone say that Einstein could try to explain relativity to a 3 year old, but he wouldnt have the capacity to receive it. In the same way, all the grace in the world is contained in the Eucharist although there are many who come to receive it who are spiritual toddlers and unable to benefit fully from it's grace.

December 30, 2006 3:21 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey Prod!
Yes it is a good thing to renew the sacraments. They never seem to lose the grace they impart even with repeated use! :)

December 30, 2006 3:39 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Greetings O Fiddling One!
I was one of those Catholics who was born in the Church but never realized fully what I had in the Eucharist. Was it a lack of faith? I don't know. Even in my most depraved times as a rebellious young catholic kid, I still prayed nightly before bed and knew I needed Him at some level, just don't tell me what to do though.
I suspect in the 60's and 70's when I was in catechism classes before I left Cathoilicism for evangelicalism, the focus of the American Church was not on the Blessed Sacrament and relationship with Jesus, but ecumenism, horizontal vs vertical relationships etc. I remember the feeling of total shock when I read the Chruch Fathers for the first time 3 years ago and found out that this was what the Church always believed! I either didn't know it, didn't believe it, or was "innoculated" against receiving the truth as a result of constant familiarity. An issue that evangelicals struggle with also as their children who grow up with Scripture, prayer, Bible Study, and frequent immersion in christian subculture.
Yet, I have met devout Catholics with 6 kids and each is serving the Lord and remaining faithful to the teachings of the Church. I raised both my boys in Bible based Churches, victory camps in summer, VBS, scripture memory, prayer meetings , home bible reading etc and neither has a strong interest in the christian life at this time.(St Monica pray for them) So it's hard to figure.
But what you say is true, if we don't receive the sacraments with our heart in a proper state or disposition, it's like water down a ducks back! As we use to say , the Holy Spirit is a gentleman and doesn't force his way on us if we are not open. Blindly receiving the Eucharist is definitely not going to be life changing and as St. Paul admonished, could be dangerous!!!

December 30, 2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger Prodigal Daughter said...

Tiber Jumper said...
Hey Prod!
Yes it is a good thing to renew the sacraments. They never seem to lose the grace they impart even with repeated use! :)

Proddy says: Yes dear...

December 30, 2006 4:02 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

TJ, have you read Scott Hahn's The Lamb's Supper. A very fascinating look at the Mass from Scripture and history and its relation to the book of Revelation - which is an eye-opener to this former evangelical who was raised on all those end-times theories we've heard over the years. I highly recommend it.

December 30, 2006 9:00 PM  

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