Garside on Judging earlier saints Ex-Post Facto

The Sacrifice of the Eucharist, and Other Doctrines of the Catholic Church, Explained and Vindicated
by Charles Brierley Garside

The historical fact that the Church has at various periods of time increased the number of her articles of faith has frequently supplied to her enemies an accusation which they consider no less damaging to her charity than to her consistency.

If, they say, any doctrine is defined to be an article of faith, then to deny it, or even to doubt that it is a part of revelation, involves all such individuals in grave sin. The definition makes its acceptance a law binding the conscience of every Catholic throughout the world; it becomes, therefore, an essential test of union with the Church, and no priest can absolve or admit to the sacraments those who refuse to obey that law. Those Catholics, therefore, who happened to be born before the definition of the Immaculate Conception were compelled to submit to a new test and additional yoke after the 8th December 1854.

But this, they go on to argue, is not all ; if it is a heresy now to deny the Immaculate Conception, then that must always have been a heresy, if what the Church alleges is true, namely, that she never decrees anything to be believed as of faith which is not contained in the original revelation of Scripture or tradition. In that case what a terrible consequence is the result!

All Catholics from the beginning of the Church who ever doubted of the doctrine were in mortal sin, and all who denied it were guilty of heresy! This difficulty, so imposing at first sight, springs like many others of a similar kind from a specific ignorance of Catholic theology and from a general confusion of mind.

If by ‘ yoke’ an oppressive or unjust law is meant, then a new definition of the faith cannot possibly be so characterized; because all Catholics believe both in the supernatural infallibility and wisdom of the Church. There is no unfair exaction upon their intellect or will, for they know that ‘ she is the pillar and ground of truth; if they preferred their own judgment to hers they would be Protestants, not Catholics; and it is clear that the command to yield ‘obedience to the faith’ (Rom. i. 5} could be irksome only to those who disbelieved in or distrusted the lawgiver by whom that assent is imposed. Nor can the novelty of the definition be a strain upon the understanding ; on the contrary, as the definition is simply a clearer and fuller unfolding of what they have already believed in substance, the newness gives additional freshness and variety to the object apprehended and additional expansion to the intellect, which thus freely and calmly advances farther into the realm of revealed knowledge, being securely led by the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, whose very office it is to be the way-guide ‘into all truth’ (John xvi. 14). To illuminate the obscure; to precipitate into its natural and definite form what was before a doctrine, held as it were in solution by the minds of the faithful; and to set up unerring landmarks between faith and opinion, must be ever again to Catholics instead of a grievance.

In S. Bernard’s time, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception had not been defined; the question was in agitation, but not authoritatively solved. This illustrious saint, moreover, did not accept the dogma, at all events in the form under which it was presented to his mind. But he acted then precisely as all real Catholics will ever act for the future in analogous circumstances ; he held his opinion with a reservation ; and the language in which he expressed this reservation, more than seven hundred years ago, is interesting as a fact and valuable as illustrative of a principle: ‘ Let what I have remarked be said without prejudice to any one who may have sounder wisdom. I more especially refer this whole matter, as I do all others of the same kind, entirely to the authority and adjudication of the Roman Church; and am prepared, if my opinion is different from it, to conform myself to its judgment’ (Ep. liv. ad Canonicos Lugdunenses).

As the children of the Church faithfully follow her steps wherever she leads them, and like S. Bernard are always prepared to conform their minds to her rule, they cannot be judged guilty, in the nineteenth century, of a crime which it was impossible for them to commit during the preceding ages. You cannot be said to have violated a law that did not exist whilst you were alive. The Immaculate Conception was always a revealed truth, and to deny it now is heresy; but although it was always a revealed truth, the denial of it was not always heresy.

It may be useful here to call the attention of those who are not familiar with Catholic theological terminology to the important distinction that exists between divine faith and Catholic faith; for through ignorance of this distinction, the Church has been often falsely accused of a contradiction between her creed at one time and her creed at another. A doctrine is said to be of divine faith when it is really contained in the revelation of God, written or unwritten; it is divine because it is manifested by and depends upon the authority of God, and therefore it is to be believed with the undoubting assent of faith. But a doctrine may be really a part of the divine revelation, and yet may not have been distinctly promulgated to the whole body of the faithful, as revelation, by the unerring authority of the whole Church. When a revealed truth is so promulgated, it belongs from that moment to the Catholic faith. It is called Catholic because it forms an integral part of that one body of revealed truth which the Church has clearly and publicly taught to be such, and which therefore is, in the full technical sense of the word, the Catholic faith. It is Catholic because it is not only held as revealed, by the private belief of those individuals who may have accurately drawn it from the objective rule of faith, Scripture, and tradition, but because the Church has spoken on this point with the united voice of her teaching power, in the completeness of her entire moral personality, whether collectively together with her head upon earth, or by means of her head alone when acting ex-cathedra. Lastly, it is Catholic because the obligation to believe in it as part of revelation extends to every unit of the whole body of the Church. Thus the terms ‘ divine faith’ and ‘ Catholic faith,’ as applicable to re vealed doctrines, are not necessarily identical, although in popular language they are frequently interchanged as if they were. That which is of Catholic faith must always be some truth divinely revealed—it presupposes that fact ; but a truth may be revealed and yet not be invested, in relation to all the members of the Church, with that stamp of public, universal, ecclesiastical au thority which places it officially in the rank of Catholic faith, and in that case it is said to belong to the class of verities which are of divine faith only, in contrast with the other kind of faith.

When by the act of the Church any particular doc trine passes from the class of divine faith into that of Catholic, or, as it is sometimes called, divine Catholic faith, there is no inconsistency or contradiction of any sort ; and yet there are controversialists who imagine that they have gained a signal victory if they can only prove that any Catholic writer has ever denied a particular doctrine to be an article of the Catholic faith at a given date, when he has admitted that it was, at the same date, an article of divine faith ; as if the two ideas were necessarily identical in meaning and in the chrono logical order of their proposition to the faithful. It cannot be doubted that a truth may be really part of the original revelation, and yet may be so indistinctly contained in Scripture and tradition that the faithful are not obliged to believe it to be certainly and divinely revealed until the Church has clearly proposed it to their faith as revelation. The time and mode of this teaching may vary, they are matters of detail; but the principle on which the obligation of Catholics rests never alters. The contradictory of a revealed dogma is not a heresy until its contradictory dogma has been manifested to be a revealed truth with such a sufficiency of promulgation by the Church as to bind all her members to believe it with divine faith. Where this kind of official manifestation of the faith is absent there is no law, and where there is no law of faith there can be no heresy, and where there is no heresy there can be no heretics. For what is a heretic but a man who denies some doctrine which the Church, either by her ordinary, practical, universal teaching or by some specific decree of Council or Pope, has declared, sufficiently for an obligation of conscience, to be an article of faith?

Unless, therefore, ex-post facto laws made centuries after a man’s death can affect him, it is impossible to charge heresy upon those Catholics who, in ages preceding this era, may have denied the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception or that of the Pontifical Infallibility. There is another consideration that ought to be remembered. It is a first principle with every Catholic, in all religious questions as yet undecided by the Church, to hold his own opinion absolutely subject to the judg ment of the Church if ever and whenever it shall be made known to his consciousness. His will is pledged to the authority of the Church in all its Catholicity of time and place; and his intellect is ever prepared, so to speak, like a photographic plate, to receive the projected image of truth whenever it is disclosed by their divine teacher. Thus m intention he always thinks according to the mind of the Church ; and should he through no fault of his own hold at any given period, or even through his whole lifetime, opinions which will be eventually condemned by the Church, still the loyalty, the purity, and the integrity of his faith are all unim peachable ; for he has held his opinions accidentally and provisionally and as opinions, not as the faith ; his adhesion to the Church has, although unconsciously to himself, virtually pronounced the same condemnation beforehand upon his own intellectual impressions as the Church will pass hereafter; and he has therefore implicitly accepted the opposite doctrine to that which in the days of his flesh lodged temporarily in his brain and was uttered by his lips. It is this grand substantial community of ‘heart and soul’ between the separate members of the Catholic Church and herself which makes them all equally one in the faith throughout every age, although the articles of the Catholic faith, growing as they have done successively in extent, have presented to the understandings of the individual members of the Church a body of revealed truths, varying at different epochs in kind, number, and explicitness of detail, yet identical in the substance of their meaning.

The Cause of Predestination according to Thomism by Fr. Garrigou Lagrange


Fr. Garrigou-Langrange was an eminent French Dominican Theologian who taught at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome between 1909-1960. Among his famous students were Pope St. John Paul II, who wrote his doctoral thesis under the direction of Fr. Garrigou Lagrange.

Note:  The below article, The Cause of Predestination, is from the *synthesis* section of the Book Predestination by Fr. R. Garrigou-Langrange, O.P. 1939.  pp. 194-205

What is the cause of the predestination and of the election whereby God chose certain persons in preference to others for the purpose of bringing them to eternal life?

The liberty of the divine election in the Old Testament comes to our mind.  Seth was elected, and not Cain; then Noe, also Sem in preference to Ismael, and finally Jacob (Isreal) was chosen.  How does the case stand now as regards each of the elect?

We saw from the definitions of the Church in the councils of Cartage (418) and Orange (529), directed against the Pelagians and Semipelagaisn, the cause of predestination cannot be the naturally good works of certain persons which are foreseen by God, or the naturally good beginning of the will in performing a salutary act (initium salutis), or the perseverance in good works until death without a special grace.

According to the same definitions of the councils of Orange and Trent, which refer to the special grace of final perseverance, it is also beyond doubt that the cause of predestination to glory cannot be because God foresees that certain persons without a special grace would retain their supernatural merits until death:  “If anyone saith that one justified is able to persevered without the special help of God in the justice received or that with this help is not able; let him be anathema.”  St. Thomas, moreover, proves inadmissible the opinion of those who say that God chose these particular persons in preference to others because He foreknew that they would make good use of the grace received (at least at the moment of death), just as the king gives a fine horse to a rider because he foresees the good use he will make of it.  St. Thomas points out that this opinion cannot be admitted; for we cannot eliminate from our salutary acts a part of the good as not coming from the primary cause that is the source of all good; therefore, the good use of grace in the elect is itself an effect of predestination, and cannot, therefore, be its cause of motive.  Furthermore, St. Thomas even says, “Whatsoever is in man disposing him towards salvation, is all included under the effect of predestination,” and therefore this includes even the free determination of his salutary acts.

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The Gospel Coalition needs the Real St. Augustine


The Baptism of St. Augustine

The Gospel Coalition just posted a book review for the book Augustine on the Christian Life: Transformed by the Power of God.  The title of the blog post review is “Why You Need Augustine”.   The author of the review believes that Reformed Christians need to appreciate 4th century Christian Bishop and theologian, Augustine of Hippo and we certainly agree.  But the Gospel Coalition and other Reformed Christians usually just get part of Augustine, a piece of him, and not the real St. Augustine.  Their knowledge of Augustine, if they have one at all,  is almost always limited to what he said about Grace or Predestination.  We submit that they need to know the full-throated Catholic St. Augustine; The real St. Augustine.  The Gospel Coalition needs the real St. Augustine who believed and preached not only the overwhelming power of God’s Grace and his eternal plan of Predestination but also the Catholic Doctrines of regenerative baptism, perseverance, Eucharist as sacrifice, purgatory, and the intercession of the Saints.  The Gospel Coalition needs to know the real St. Augustine because they need to know the real Gospel.

The book, Augustine  on the Christian life by Gerald Bray is one in a series of biographies published by Crosssway Books.  It’s “On the Christian Life” series investigates the lives of Protestant Christian Leaders through the lens of the “Christian Walk”.  The Gospel coalition thinks so highly of this book, and Augustine himself, that the article urges their readers to read Bray’s book before the other biographies in the series so that they can better understand the biographies of the reformers who appear earlier in the series.  They say,

 “The likes of John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and others have Augustine to thank for their own theological positions.”

What theological positions do the Puritans and the Confessional Calvinists get from Augustine?  Certainly Augustine, who is rightly referred to as “The Doctor of Grace” is the genesis of Calvinism’s emphasis on the power and efficacy of Grace.  Against Pelagius and the Pelagians, Augustine labored tirelessly to defend the absolute necessity of God’s Grace preceding any supernaturally good work.  Calvinists have a strong view of God’s sovereignty in election, predestination, perseverance, and authority in all things, which are all certainly found throughout Augustine’s writings.

And yet, The Gospel Coalition does not have the entire Augustine.  In fact, they generally only have part of part of Augustine.  The famous Protestant BB Warfield quip that “The reformation was a victory of Augustine’s soteriology over his ecclesiology” is really only partially correct.  The soteriology of Augustine should not be narrowly limited to his doctrines of Grace, Election, and Perseverance.  Augustine taught, among other things, that regeneration happens in the water of baptism, that works are necessary for salvation, that a Christian can atone for his sins through almsgiving, and that the Eucharist is a sacrifice presented on a physical altar by a priest in propitiation for the sins of the world.  These concepts are all integral to how Augustine recognized the economy of salvation.   The Gospel Coalition needs these truths because they’re all part of the Gospel that Augustine taught and the Gospel that can save them.

What is especially interesting to think about, is that even though Augustine held these beliefs which are anathematized by Reformed Christians, he has not been treated like an idolater as the “Popish Church of Rome” has.  For example, famous Scottish Calvinist, John Knox, considered to be the Father of Scottish Presbyterianism, lambasted Roman Catholics because the Catholic Sacrifice of the Mass is idolatrous.

Hear, you Papists! Two witnesses speak against you. How can you deny the opinion of your Mass to be false and vain? You say that it is a sacrifice for sin, but Jesus Christ and Paul say only the death of Christ was sufficient for sin, and after it rests none other sacrifice. Speak! or else you are likely to be condemned. -John Knox

One would think that Augustine would get this same treatment by Knox and the other reformers.  After all, Father Augustine taught that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice! But St. Augustine was given a free pass at the time of the Reformation, and he is certainly given one now.

Why this disconnect?  At the time of the reformation, we would have to attribute a certain level of intentional obfuscation by Reformed leaders.  After all, the leaders of the revolt were all well-versed in the Early Church Fathers.  As for today, we think many of the Reformed don’t actually read St. Augustine in the primary source.  What they get instead is Augustine in sound-bite.  An incisive acquaintance of ours has a father-in-law who read Bray’s book.  He picked it up and flipped through it.  He was shocked at how little Augustine was actually present in the pages of the book.  “10 pages of Augustine in a book 150 pages long”, he said.  Look inside the book for yourself to see how few and far between Augustine actually is.  Notice how Bray barely mentions such important soteriological ideas such as regeneration.  Such little exposure and over-filtering makes it hard to pick up on the nuggets of Catholicism peppered all throughout St. Augustine’s writings.  But they’re certainly there, and in large amounts.

Take for example the closing passage of Augustine’s Confessions (which Bray leans on heavily for his biography).  At the very end of the book, Augustine prays that the readers might prayerful intercede for his deceased mother Monica when they approach the altar and present themselves for the Eucharistic sacrifice:

So, when the body [of Monica] was carried forth, we went and returned without tears. For neither in those prayers which we poured forth unto You when the sacrifice of our redemption was offered up unto You for her – the dead body being now placed by the side of the grave, as the custom there is, prior to its being laid therein—neither in their prayers did I shed tears … … May she [Monica] therefore rest in peace with her husband, whom she obeyed, with patience bringing forth fruit unto You, that she might gain him also for You. And inspire, O my Lord my God, inspire Your servants my brethren, Your sons my masters, who with voice and heart and writings I serve, that so many of them as shall read these Confessions may at Your altar remember Monica, Your handmaid (Confessions, 

Such a belief should have been enough to send Reformers like Knox and his ilk into apoplectic shock.  The propitiatory sacrifice of the mass is certainly the reason why many reformed, even today, refuse to step into a Catholic Church.  But surprisingly, The Reformers have almost always given Augustine the royal, dare we say, Saintly, treatment.

In times past, such ignorance of the full spectrum of beliefs of St. Augustine might be forgivable.  After all, at the time of the Reformation, few men could read Latin, and even fewer had access to a full library of the writings of St. Augustine.  But now, with the advent of the internet, and widespread literacy, any Reformed believer, especially those who are a part of the Gospel Coalition, can read Augustine in his own words and find for themselves, the real Augustine.  The Catholic Augustine.  Maybe in doing so, they might be drawn by the writings of Augustine into the True Gospel Coalition; The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.



Things St. Augustine Never Said Vol 1

Reformed Christians have a deep respect for St. Augustine.  And while Augustine had a notriously high view of Grace and Predestination, he is often misused and abused by Reformed Christians who are likely to claim him as a sort of proto-Calvinist.

Calvinists are likely to say something to the effect of, “Calvin took Augustine’s soeteriology to its logical conclusion.”  More often than not he’s taken wildly out of context, quote-mined, or sadly, even misquoted.

A quote that is often attributed to Augustine that is supposed to buffet his “Calvinistic-Cred” is “Men are not saved by good works, nor by the free determination of their own will, but by the grace of God through faith.”

But Augustine never actually said that.

Here’s a meme posted by “Banner of Truth”facebook page.  Its spread far and wide.


I’ve even seen a meme in this iteration, where the quote is placed next to a canon of the Council of Trent, insinuating that Augustine and Trent are contrary to each other.

This “quote” is actually the Title of Chapter 30 of Augustine’s Enchiridion as it appears in the Phillip Schaff edition of the Early Church Fathers.  The phrase was not written by Augustine at all!  The Chapter titles were not part of Augustine’s original works, but were added later.  Because of this, it can in no way be attributed to Augustine.  For example, notice how in this translation of the Enchiridion, the subsection is merely titled, “The necessity of Grace.

If per chance, you’re wondering whether or not St. Augustine believed that we are saved by “faith alone” as the Protestants believe, read this juicy quote, actually from the pen of Augustine and in his work The Enchiridion:

Now, if the wicked man were to be saved by fire on account of his faith only, and if this is the way the statement of the blessed Paul should be understood—’But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire’—then faith without works would be sufficient to salvation. But then what the apostle James said would be false. And also false would be another statement of the same Paul himself: ‘Do not err,’ he says; ‘neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the unmanly, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God.’ Now, if those who persist in such crimes as these are nevertheless saved by their faith in Christ, would they not then be in the Kingdom of God? But, since these fully plain and most pertinent apostolic testimonies cannot be false, that one obscure saying about those who build on ‘the foundation, which is Christ, not gold, silver, and precious stones, but wood, hay, and stubble’—for it is about these it is said that they will be saved as by fire, not perishing on account of the saving worth of their foundation—such a statement must be interpreted so that it does not contradict these fully plain testimonies.”Augustine, Enchiridion Ch. XVIII

From the above quote, one can see that contrary to the Reformed Christian faith, St. Augustine professed that we are not saved by faith only, but rather, works are necessary.


On the Manner in Which We Eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood


John 6 and Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist

Reformed Christians teach that for the Christian believer who eats and drinks the Lord’s Supper, Christ is truly spiritually present.  But for the non-elect, however, Christ is not present.

Some of the scriptural reasoning behind this belief can be found in the words of Christ in John 6:55-57.  Jesus, speaking to a crowd of believers and unbelievers says:

For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.  As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me.  This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live for ever.

Both the Catholic and the Reformed would agree that we need to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ in order to have eternal life.  But what is the manner in which we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood?

The Catholic Church has historically taught that Christ becomes truly present in the Eucharist at the words of consecration.  The Christian, when coming forward to the Eucharistic table, receives the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.  Christ is present under the species of bread and wine regardless of the state of the man who receives him.  Because of this, the Reformed ask, “When a sinner comes forward to take communion does he participate in Christ in this way? Does he have life in Christ by partaking? Does Christ dwell in him? Is he united to Christ?”

The Catholic answer to this question is No.  The man in sin does not have life, Christ does not dwell in him, he does not dwell in Christ, even though he receives Christ, hidden under the Eucharistic species, into his own body.  How can this be?  It would seem to be that either Christ is present there and all men receive those benefits, or, Christ is only present for the believer.  And because the Catholic Church teaches that not all men who come forward to partake of the Eucharist receive the benefits of dwelling in Christ and eternal life, it would seem to contradict the Catholic teaching that Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity become present under the sacramental species at the words of consecration ex opere operato.  But it doesn’t contradict the Church’s teaching.  

Why?  Because to receive the sacrament is not the same as receiving the virtue of the sacrament; there is a certain mode of eating Christ’s flesh and drinking Christ’s blood in which Christ dwells in the man, and the man in Christ.  When Christ was speaking of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, he was speaking of those who consume his flesh and blood both sacramentally (through the consuming of the Eucharist), and spiritually (through faith).  

The Catholic position is articulated definitively at the Council of Trent.  The Council States:

Now as to the use of this holy sacrament, our Fathers have rightly and wisely distinguished three ways of receiving it. For they have taught that some receive it 1) sacramentally only, to wit sinners: 2) others spiritually only, those to wit who eating in desire that heavenly bread which is set before them, are, by a lively faith which worketh by charity, made sensible of the fruit and usefulness thereof: whereas 3) the third (class) receive it both sacramentally and spiritually, and these are they who so prove and prepare themselves beforehand, as to approach to this divine table clothed with the wedding garment.

So for the sinner who approaches the altar, he receives Christ sacramentally, but not spiritually.  He receives Christ sacramentally into his mouth but not the fruit of the sacrament into his heart, which is union with Christ, and an increase in grace.  The faithful Catholic who approaches the sacrament in faith, receives both the sacrament and the fruit of the sacrament.

This teaching is explained by Aquinas in Question 80 of the Summa:

I answer that, There are two things to be considered in the receiving of this sacrament, namely, the sacrament itself, and its fruits, and we have already spoken of both. The perfect way, then, of receiving this sacrament is when one takes it so as to partake of its effect. Now, as was stated above, it sometimes happens that a man is hindered from receiving the effect of this sacrament; and such receiving of this sacrament is an imperfect one. Therefore, as the perfect is divided against the imperfect, so sacramental eating, whereby the sacrament only is received without its effect, is divided against spiritual eating, by which one receives the effect of this sacrament, whereby a man is spiritually united with Christ through faith and charity. (Summa, 80)

An analogy that will aide in the understanding this mysterious delineation is one from education.  Suppose there are two students who are sitting in a classroom.  They are being taught the same lessons, the same material, with the same teacher.  The first student is paying attention, sincerely focusing, and applying himself to his classwork.  He will receive not only an education, but also the fruit of the education.  The second student is in the same classroom.  Instead of being focused and working diligently, he is distracted.  He doesn’t complete all the assignments.  His attention wanders.  There is not a reasonable man who would suggest that the second student was not given an education.  But the second student will not make an advancement in knowledge, which is the fruit of that education.  In the same way, we can understand how someone can eat Christ’s Flesh and drink His Blood sacramentally, but not spiritually, and so not receive the benefits therein.

But where did this delineation come from?  It came from the venerable St. Augustine.  Curiously, even though St. Augustine and Calvin part ways as to the nature of the Eucharist, St. Augustine had the greatest influence on John Calvin of any of the Early Church Fathers.  Of Augustine, he said, “Augustine is so wholly with me, that if I wished to write a confession of my faith, I could do so with all fullness and satisfaction to myself out of his writings.”  Let us see, then, how St. Augustine teaches, contrary to the Reformed, that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist even for the reprobate.

In his commentary on John 6, Augustine states,

“For so far, my brethren, as relates to this visible corporeal death, do not we too die who eat the bread that comes down from heaven? They died just as we shall die, so far, as I said, as relates to the visible and carnal death of this body. But so far as relates to that death, concerning which the Lord warns us by fear, and in which their fathers died: Moses ate manna, Aaron ate manna, Phinehas ate manna, and many ate manna, who were pleasing to the Lord, and they are not dead. Why? Because they understood the visible food spiritually, hungered spiritually, tasted spiritually, that they might be filled spiritually. For even we at this day receive visible food: but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament another. How many do receive at the altar and die, and die indeed by receiving? Whence the apostle says, Eats and drinks judgment to himself. For it was not the mouthful given by the Lord that was the poison to Judas. And yet he took it; and when he took it, the enemy entered into him: not because he received an evil thing, but because he being evil received a good thing in an evil way. See ye then, brethren, that you eat the heavenly bread in a spiritual sense; bring innocence to the altar.”Tractate 26 (emphasis mine)

St. Augustine makes the clear delineation between the sacrament and the virtue of the sacrament.  To eat the sacrament with our mouth and tongue is not necessarily to partake of its spiritual effects.  He does not, however, say that for the unbeliever it is not spiritual bread.  In fact, he exhorts the Christian to make sure that they “eat the heavenly bread in a spiritual sense.”  This indicates that when one approaches the altar, the heavenly bread can be eaten both sacramentally and spiritually.  Such an idea is contrary to the Reformed position, which would suggest that for the unbeliever, it is common bread, and common wine, and not heavenly bread.  

In Augustine’s commentary on John 6 as noted in the Catena Aurea, he states,

As for those, as indeed there are many, who either eat that flesh and drink that blood hypocritically, or, who having eaten, become apostates, do they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them? Nay, but there is a certain mode of eating that flesh, and drinking that blood, in which he that eats and drinks, dwells in Christ, and Christ in him.  (Augustine, Catena Aurea, John 6 Emphasis Mine)

Here Augustine explains that there is a specific mode or manner in which a man must eat the flesh and drink the blood in order for Christ to dwell in him and he in Christ.  This mode is by bringing innocence to the altar (see above).  Also notice that again, Augustine does not presuppose the Reformed position, which is that the apostate does not eat Christ’s flesh and drink Christ’s blood.  His affirmation that the apostate eats The Flesh and drinks The Blood is congruent with the teaching of the Catholic Church that the sacrament is in reality Christ’s body and blood.  If he held to a Reformed understanding, he would not affirm that the many who eat and drink hypocritically are eating the flesh and blood at all!  

Lastly, at the end of Tractate 27 of his commentary on John 6:60-72 he implores his listeners to participate fully in the sacrament by eating and drinking to the participation of the spirit.  He says,

Let all this, then, avail us to this end, most beloved, that we eat not the flesh and blood of Christ merely in the sacrament, as many evil men do, but that we eat and drink to the participation of the Spirit, that we abide as members in the Lord’s body, to be quickened by His Spirit, and that we be not offended, even if many do now with us eat and drink the sacrament in a temporal manner, who shall in the end have eternal torments. (Tractate 27 -emphasis mine)

Augustine’s commentary on John 6 shows that Augustine does not believe as the Reformed do, that to the unbeliever Christ is not present in the sacrament, but rather, he is present to believer and unbeliever alike.  Augustine specifically identifies the sacramental species consumed by the unbeliever as “the flesh and blood of Christ.”  May we too be found amongst those who eat and drink The Body and The Blood to the participation of the spirit!

It is the Catholic Church, then, and not the Reformed Faith, that retains the exegesis of John 6 from the Early Church when it continues to declare that Christ is truly and substantially present in the Eucharistic Meal.

In closing, it is fitting that we turn to the words of the Holy Synod of Trent, which urged the Christian faithful to speak with one voice and have one mind concerning the Bread of Angels:

And finally this holy Synod with true fatherly affection admonishes, exhorts, begs, and beseeches, through the bowels of the mercy of our God, that all and each of those who bear the Christian name would now at length agree and be of one mind in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of concord; and that mindful of the so great majesty, and the so exceeding love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His own beloved soul as the price of our salvation, and gave us His own flesh to eat, they would believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with such constancy and firmness of faith, with such devotion of soul, with such piety and worship as to be able frequently to receive that supersubstantial bread, and that it may be to them truly the life of the soul, and the perpetual health of their mind; that being invigorated by the strength thereof, they may, after the journeying of this miserable pilgrimage, be able to arrive at their heavenly country, there to eat, without any veil, that same bread of angels which they now eat under the sacred veils.

Lord, help us to reject the spirit of the age, which tells us that it is “impossible” that Christ could be truly and substantially present in the mysteries of the sacred altar.  Let us, like children, accept the words of The Master in a simple faith and an abiding love:

Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you”


Can a Christian make satisfaction for his sins?

It is often claimed by Protestants in general, and so-called Reformed Protestants in p2104grecarticular, that the Early Church Fathers were “more Protestant than Catholic.”  That is, when Protestants read the Early Church Fathers, they tend to see the Early Church Fathers as proto-Protestants.  Faith alone, credo-only baptism, sola scriptura, and double imputation, all distinctively Protestant doctrines are often seen in the writings of the fathers.   The Catholic Church argues, on the other hand, that these Protestant doctrines are novel, and aren’t present within the teachings of the Early Church Fathers.  

This dispute originated during the time of the Protestant Reformation.  The great reformer, John Calvin, highlighted the views of the opposing sides, and forcefully argued that the Reformed “Calvinist” position was more consonant with the beliefs of the Early Church in a letter he wrote to Catholic Archbishop Sadoleto in 1539.

You know, Sadolet, and if you venture to deny, I will make it palpable to all that you knew, yet cunningly and craftily disguised the fact, not only that our agreement with antiquity is far closer than yours, but that all we have attempted has been to renew that ancient form of the Church, which, at first sullied and distorted by illiterate men of indifferent character, was afterwards flagitiously mangled and almost destroyed by the Roman Pontiff and his faction.

I will not press you so closely as to call you back to that form which the Apostles instituted, (though in it we  have the only model of a true Church, and whosoever deviates from it in the smallest degree is in error,) but to indulge you so for, place, I pray, before your eyes, that ancient form of the Church, such as their writings prove it to have been in the age of Chrysostom and Basil, among the Greeks, and of Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine, among the Latins; after so doing, contemplate the ruins of that Church, as now surviving among yourselves.

The purpose of the articles in this series is to show how much of a stretch it is for a Reformed Protestant to claim that the reformation was a return to the Ancient Church of Chrysostom, Basil, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine et al.—in short, we intend to show that this “Ancient Church” was Catholic.  One way to go about investigating the beliefs of the early church, and showing that it was Catholic, is to look at secondary issues.  This can be helpful, we believe, because many of the primary theological issues have been addressed ad nauseum.  For example, whether or not the Early Church Fathers believed in Sola Scriptura as held by the Protestant Reformers has been much discussed.  There are many hundreds of articles as well as many books that have delved into and discussed this particular issue.  Likewise, there are plenty of websites that purport to show how the Early Church Fathers held to the Protestant doctrine of Faith Alone.  We think it might be fruitful, therefore, to attempt to look a level deeper; at a secondary issue.  

For this first article, we will be exploring whether the Early Church Fathers believed that Christians can make satisfaction for their sins to God through prayer, fasting, sacrifice, almsgiving, or other works. This topic, while seemingly secondary, cuts to the heart of what the Gospel is and what the sacrifice on Calvary accomplished.  We will attempt to show that not only did the Ancient Fathers hold to a Roman Catholic understanding of penance and satisfaction, but also that their view is incompatible with how Calvinists view the Gospel message.

John Calvin, in the same letter to Archbishop Sadoleto, claimed that the Early Church did not teach that man can make satisfaction to God for his sins.  In his 1539 letter he said,

“The ancient Church, I admit, had its satisfactions, not those, however, by which sinners might atone to God and ransom themselves from guilt, but by which they might prove that the repentance which they professed was not feigned, and efface the remembrance of that scandal which their sin had occasioned.”

Was Calvin’s claim true?  Did the Early Church’s understanding of sin satisfaction only pertain to Christians showing that they were truly repentant?  Or did the Ancient Church teach that the Christian could satisfy God for his own sins through penance, almsgiving, fasting, and prayer?

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The Saints on Humility

Protestant detractors of Catholicism often claim that The Church’s teaching on the intrinsic necessity of works in one’s salvation causes men to be prideful and boast in themselves.   The supposed “works based salvation” that Protestants accuse Catholics of believing will tend to focus on the mind on one’s accomplishments and not the saving work of Jesus Christ.

One way to determine whether or not this is really the case is to read the writings of the Saints and examine what they have said about humility.  Catholic Saints, of course, are held up by the Church as those who have practiced Catholicism with what is called “heroic virtue”.  They are, to put it rather Crudely, “Catholic All Stars”.

So what the Saints have to say on this topic should be able to give the interested reader a snapshot into how a Catholic ought to view him or herself in light of the perfection of God.

With that being said, I have compiled a short collection of quotations which I think represents how the Saints have suggested the Catholic view him or herself.

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“And he preached to those souls, which were detained in Hades”

1 Peter 3:19
(from the Ancient Syriac Version of the NT – The Peshitta)


The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Christ descended into Hades after he died in order to preach to the Old Testament Saints who were held captive until he conquered sin and death. This teaching is extremely ancient and universal.  It is in the most ancient of Creeds, is taught by all the fathers East and West.  From the start of the Reformation, however, Protestant Christians (starting with Martin Luther) have doubted the local descent into the netherworld.  Popular modern theologians like Wayne Grudem and John Piper have called for the removal of the “descent clause” from the Apostles Creed.

This post is a collection of scriptural, patristic, and creedal witnesses to the truth of the local descent by Christ into the netherworld.

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