Some common mistakes about baptism and the Eucharist, which are given this week and corrected next. Some of these are, to us, obviously bad. Some are subtler.
1 Of course, just as when Christ spoke these words [mentioned in the last note last week], some of the disciples were troubled and said: “This saying is hard, and who can bear it?” (John 6:61), so, also, against the teaching of the Church some heretics have arisen to deny this truth.
They say that the body and blood of Christ are not really present in this sacrament, but by way of sign only; thus, one understands Christ’s saying when He indicated the bread: “This is My body” (Mat. 26:26) as though He were saying: “This is a sign or figure of My body.” And in this way the Apostle spoke: “And the rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4), that is, “a figure of Christ”; and to such an understanding they refer whatever is said in the Scriptures in a similar way.
2 Of course, the occasion of this opinion is taken from our Lord’s words. Speaking of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, to quiet the scandal which had arisen among the disciples He, said, as though explaining Himself: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:64); as though His words were to be understood not literally, but in a spiritual sense.
3 They are also induced to their dissent by the many difficulties which seem to follow this teaching of the Church; by reason of these “this saying” of Christ and the Church appears hard to them.
4 In the first place, there seems to be a difficulty in the way in which the true body of Christ begins to be on the altar. For a thing begins to be where it was not before in two ways: either by local motion, or by the conversion of another into itself. This is clear in the case of fire, which begins to be in some place either because it is newly lighted there or because it is newly carried there. Manifestly, of course, the true body of Christ was not always on the altar; for the Church confesses that Christ in His body ascended into heaven.
5 But it seems impossible to say that here something is newly converted into the body of Christ. For nothing seems converted into the pre-existent, since what is converted into something begins to be by this sort of conversion. But, manifestly, the body of Christ pre-existed, let us say, as conceived in the virginal womb. Therefore, it does not seem possible that on the altar it begins to be anew by the conversion of another into itself.
6 In a similar fashion, it cannot be there by a change of place, since whatever is moved locally begins to be in one place in such wise that it ceases to be in another in which it was before. Therefore, one will have to say that when Christ begins to be on this altar whereon the sacrament is enacted He ceases to be in heaven where He arrived after His ascension. Furthermore, no local motion has two places simultaneously as its term. But, clearly, this sacrament is celebrated simultaneously on different altars. Therefore, it is not possible that the body of Christ begins to be thereon by local motion.
7 The second difficulty comes from the place. For parts are not contained in separated places if a thing remains a whole. But, manifestly, in this sacrament the bread and wine, are apart from one another in separate places. Therefore, if the flesh of Christ is under the appearance of bread and the blood under the appearance of wine, it seems to follow that Christ does not remain whole; but whenever this sacrament is performed His blood is separated from His body.
8 Furthermore, it seems impossible that a larger body be enclosed in the place of a smaller one. Clearly, of course, the true body of Christ is greater in quantity than the bread which is offered on the altar. It seems, then, impossible that the true body of Christ be whole and entire there where the bread is seen. Of course, if it is not the whole there, but one of its parts, then the first awkwardness recurs: Whenever this sacrament is performed the body of Christ is scattered into parts.
9 It is further impossible that one body should exist in many places. But, manifestly, this sacrament is celebrated in many places. Therefore, it seems impossible that the body of Christ is truthfully contained in this sacrament—unless one says, perhaps, that the body is contained in one of its particles here, and in another there. And on this it follows, once again, that by the celebration of this sacrament the body of Christ is divided into parts; for all that, at the same time, the quantity of the body of Christ does not seem to suffice for the division of as many particles from the body as there are places where this sacrament is performed.
10 The third difficulty lies in the things which we perceive by our senses in this sacrament. For, clearly, in this sacrament we sense, even after the consecration, all the accidents of bread and wine: color, taste, odor, figure, quantity, and weight; and concerning these we cannot be deceived, for “the sense is never deceived about the proper sensibles.”
11 But accidents of this kind cannot be in the body of Christ as in a subject; in like fashion, neither can they be in the surrounding air; for, since many of them are natural accidents, they call for a subject of a determined nature, which is not like the nature of the human body or of the air.
12 Nor can they subsist in themselves, since “the being of an accident is by inherence.”
13 Also, since accidents are forms, they cannot he individuated except through a subject. Wherefore, with the subject removed they would be universal forms. Therefore, this remains: Accidents of this kind are in their determined subjects; namely, in the substance of bread and wine. Therefore, the substance of bread and wine is there, and the substance of the body of Christ is not, since it seems impossible that the two bodies be there simultaneously.
14 The fourth difficulty arises from the actions and passions which appear in the bread and wine after the consecration just as they did before it. For the wine, if taken in large quantity, would make one warm and would make one drunk; the bread, of course, would strengthen and would nourish. They seem, also, if kept long and carelessly, to rat or to be eaten by mice, they can even be burned, and reduced to ashes and smoke. But none of this agrees with the body of Christ, since the faith preaches that it is incapable of suffering. Therefore, it seems impossible that the body of Christ be contained substantially in this sacrament.
Notes The drunkenness argument has to be a favorite.
15 A fifth difficulty seems to arise especially from the breaking of the bread; indeed, this breaking appears sensibly and cannot be without a subject. It even seems absurd to say that the subject of that breaking is the body of Christ. Therefore, the body of Christ seems not to be there, but only the substance of the bread and wine.
16 These, then, and points of this kind are the reason why the teaching of Christ and the Church concerning this sacrament appears hard.