The Cathars and Transubstantiation

The Cathars are another famous sect in history that denied the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  The Cathars were dualists as they believed in One god who was evil, and another that was good.  The movement was essentially a revived type of Gnosticism as physical matter was also deemed evil (Lecture Note).  They denied that Jesus ever had a human body, and as result they would deny that the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ.  They denied all sacraments because of the physical properties contained within them. The Cathars thrived in Southern France between the 12th and 14th centuries.

 The church had to respond swiftly as Catharism was a growing movement.  The church used Aristotelian terms such as “substance” and “accidents” to describe the Eucharist.  The distinction between ‘substance’ and ‘accident’ gave the Church language to describe its belief that what looked like bread and wine were, in fact, the Body and Blood of Christ.  This language brought forth a term that we use still today.  The term “transubstantiation” was used against the Cathars at the fourth Lateran Council in 1215. 

It was at this council that the teaching of the Cathars was formally condemned.  The terminology that was developed during the controversy with the Cathars changed the landscape of Catholic theology.  Transubstantiation may have been a new term to describe the miracle that happens on the altar, but it was by no means a new idea.  Transubstantiation was the term coined at the council, but not when the teaching started being taught.  The church has always taught that the Eucharist was the body and blood of the Lord.  Transubstantiation just gives the term to describe how it can be the body and blood of the lord and still look like bread and wine.

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Ratramnus and the First Eucharistic Controversy

From the time of the apostles until the 9th century the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was unchallenged.  It was accepted as fact, and the faithful never questioned it. Paschasius Radbertus and Ratramnus were the two central figures in this first eucharistic controversy.  St Paschasius was abbot of Corbie in the early 9th century, and he wrote extensively about the Eucharist in his work On the Body and Blood of the Lord .  He wrote that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ and that he dwells in us.  He dwells in us because we partake of him, and because of that we are one with Christ.  In writing to a monk under his tutelage he writes, “Christ however lives on account of the father, because he was born the only begotten one of the father, and we live on account of him, because we eat him”.  St. Paschasius came to this conclusion from sacred scripture and testimony of the Church Fathers (Catholic Encyclopedia).  This view would be challenges by a fellow monk by the name of Ratramnus.

Ratramnus was monk whose superior was St. Paschasius.  Ratramnus’s view on the Eucharist was quite different that his superior and is documented in his work also titled “On the Body and Blood of the Lord”.  He explained, as most Protestants do today, that in the body of Christ is received “in figure”.  It is not a physical manifestation but is a spiritual reality.  He denies the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and insists that Christ is present in faith.

In these two men we see a conflict of two worldviews.  In Ratramnus we see a separation from the sacramental worldview that had been firmly established.  We see the separation of physical and spiritual realities in which God has interacted with man since the beginning of creation.  This separation has a domino effect and centuries down the road would manifest itself in humanism and a materialist worldview, though that was not his intention.  In St. Paschasius we see that the physical contact with the risen Christ was part of what salvation was.  Through that physical contact of consuming him we came into union with the Holy one.  He is in us working to transform us and make us like him.

 

Works Cited

Pohle, Joseph. “St. Paschasius Radbertus.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 23 May 2018 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11518a.htm&gt;.

The Jewishness of Christ

Within theology there are many different topics.  One such topic is known as Christology, and it deals with who Jesus is.  It deals with his nature, divinity, and how it is portrayed within the New Testament.  There are many views of Christology that have been debunked over the years, and some are still taught today.  Who was Jesus, and how does his Jewish heritage affect our understanding of the New Testament? 

When we read the New Testament, we tend to read it through modern eyes.  We read the Gospel accounts and see the divinity of Christ, but we often overlook key aspects that assist us in understanding him in a deeper way.  We may have a good understanding of the doctrines that Christ preached, but pay little attention to his relationships and social interactions (Carter 150).  In fact, understanding the Jewishness of Christ will have a big impact on our exegesis of the New Testament.  By viewing the Jewishness of Christ, we are removing the presuppositions of western culture, and placing the New Testament back into its cultural and societal context.

One thing that many see Jesus as doing is abolishing the law, but is this really accurate?  Certainly, there are some things a that are no longer applicable under the New Covenant, but Jesus tells us himself that he came to fulfill the law in Matthew 5:17.  This seems to indicate that He recognized his Jewishness and embraced it.  Regarding this Gerald Collins writes, “We throw away any right to comment on the way Jesus perceived reality, if we ignore the earthly particularity of his language (Collins 47).

Jesus spoke in a manner in which his Jewish audience would understand.  Like other Rabbis of the time, he taught lessons by telling a story.  One example is His example of putting new wine into old wineskins in Luke 5:36. A surface reading of the text suggests a disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees in regard to Jewish dietary laws.  These parables give us peeks into Jewish culture, and a proper understanding of them assists us in understanding the New Testament in a fuller way.

As previously stated, we tend to read these parables within the context of our western culture, but to do so is to miss the point.  By reading scripture in this manner we run the risk of coming to a conclusion that in totally foreign to the intention of the text.  That has ramifications for how we engage the rest of the New Testament. 

Jesus was Jewish, and the first Christians were Jewish.  The worshipped in the synagogue, kept kosher dietary laws, and strove to keep other aspects of the law.  Most Christians are gentiles, and as a result it becomes hard to imagine Jesus as a Jewish man.  We say it, but it is something that comes from our mouth with little understanding of the ramifications.  This means that the Gospels should be seen as a conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders of his day, particularly in regard to the interpretation of the law.  It also means that we measure what Jesus said with the understanding that he was a Jewish Rabbi in 1st century Palestine.  These two things may be difficult for us to grasp, but when we do so we see the New Testament in its proper context, and the message of scripture become more fully alive.

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Works Cited

Carter, Warren. “Proclaiming (in/against) Empire Then and Now,” Word & World 25/2 (2005) 149-158.

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Six Books Every Catholic Should Read

There are so many books out there about the faith. Some are excellent, and others…well, not so much. In this video I detail six book (There are many others) that every catholic should check out. Two of them are mandatory. Enjoy!

Mystery and Sacraments

When one begins to study sacred scripture the idea of mystery becomes very apparent.  The New Testament and Septuagint speak of the Greek word Mysterion.  When St. Jerome was translating the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into what would be the Latin Vulgate, he used the word sacramentum, or sacrament in English. In fact, the sacraments are celebrations of the mysteries of God. The Old Testament has no shortages of these mysteries that give us clues of the nature of God and the sacred mysteries.  This paper will seek to define mysterion, give examples of how these mysteries help reveal God’s identity, the role of ritual and sacrifice, and how God chooses to communicate with His people.

The word mystery is an anomaly of sorts.  In some circles it is something that is not to be questions, but to be accepted.  To others it is an invitation to explore, learn, and grow.  At most basic level a mystery is something hidden, and the information needed to understand is not available.  When it comes to God it is the opposite.  God is not some cosmic force that wants to remain hidden from us.  He was us to know Him, and he wants to be known by us.  We come to know these mysteries of God through our senses, reason, and faith.

It is through our physical senses that we get to know the word around us.  We learn what things smell like, we can see, hear, and see that this amazing world came from something.  Science tells us that everything has an origin and cannot come from nothing.  It is in this way that our senses testify to the existence of a creator.  Secondly, we come to know these mysteries through the uses of our reason.  We come to knowledge of the meaning and purpose of creation, even the creation of our own human lives, through our ability to reason.  Through reason we enter into relationship with God.  Lastly, the third way we understand the mysteries is through faith.  The utilization of faith informs reason and is necessary for a personal relationship with God.

In the Old Testament there are many examples of how these mysteries reveal God’s identity, his relationship with humanity, and the nature and destiny of humanity.  God’s identity is perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of all because he is transcendent and outside of time.  We get a clue in the book of Exodus when God and Moses are interacting.  The passage in question is Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks for God’s name, and God relies “This is what you shall tell the Israelites I AM sent me to you” (NAB).  He also has power over creation as he can calm the storms and cause beasts to retreat. This reveals a God who is creator or all and nothing is above him.  This has huge implications when it comes to God’s relationship with humanity.  God is not inaccessible and not wanting to be discovered, but quite the contrary.  Humanity was made in the image of him who is existence itself.  We read this in Genesis 1:27 which states, “God created man in his image; I the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (NAB).  This shows that we were made to be in relationship with God.  When we are in proper relationship we are that image of the divine creator, but when we sin and reject him we die.  We have turned our back on God as is seen in Genesis 3:19. The nature and destiny of humanity is to live.  God created man in his image, and he uses our physical senses to make him.  He uses all means or creation, including the human body, to make himself known.

Within the Old Testament there are also many lessons regarding the priesthood and the role of ritual sacrifice and offerings.  Regarding the priesthood, it is vital to understand that it is God who chooses and calls an individual to the priesthood.  It is through the priesthood that pleasing sacrifices are offered to God to maintain the Abrahamic and Noahic covenants.  In Numbers chapter 16 Moses describes the corrupt priests Korah who stood against Moses and Aaron.  Not everyone has a claim to the priesthood because it is God who calls him.  Scripture states this very clearly in Numbers 16:5 when Moses states, “May the Lord make known tomorrow morning who belongs to him and who is the holy one and whom he will have draw near to him!” (NAB).  Later is verse 10 Moses states that it is God who allows the priests to approach him, and all the evil priests of Korah were destroyed.  In Genesis 8:20 Noah offered a burnt offering for the Lord made a covenant to never destroy the Earth by flood.  Likewise Abraham, then known as Abram, built an altar and offered a burnt offering to God and God made a covenant with him.  This shows that ritual and sacrifice are important ways in which God communicates with his people through his priesthood.

In the Old Testament God also uses special ways to communicate with his people.  One such example is with Moses in the book of Exodus.  In Exodus 3:3 God uses the burning bush to communicate with Moses.  Moses was intrigued by the site of a bush that was on fire but was not being destroyed.  When Moses approached God told him to take his sandals off because it was holy ground.  Another example with Moses is seen in Exodus 4:1-4.  Moses was balking at the mission that God gave him to do.  God told Moses to throw down the staff that he gave him, and the staff turned into a snake.  God then told him to pick it up by the tail, and it turned back inti a staff.  This got the attention if Moses, and Moses returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh.  Another example of God communicating with his people is the prophet Daniel.  In Daniel chapter 2:19-23 God communicated with Daniel in a dream.  In fact, there are many times in sacred scripture where God communicates through dreams.  One has to be in close relationship with God to discern if it is truly God speaking.

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Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

Holy Bible, New American Bible

St. Irenaeus and the Rule of Faith

In the second century Gnosticism threatened to tear the young church apart.  It was a heresy that taught that all matter was evil, Jesus was spirit, and that true salvific doctrine was passed down through a secret oral tradition[1].  To combat this growing problem the early church father Irenaeus wrote a lengthy treatise titled Against Heresies.  One of the methods used by the great church father was the rule of faith.  In describing the rule of faith Irenaeus writes, “The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation [2].”  This rule of faith would lay the groundwork for what would become the Apostles’ Creed.  Ireneaus argues that the faith was given by Christ to the Apostles, and then to the bishops to whom the disciples appointed.  This is what we now call Apostolic Succession.

The rule of faith also shows that Christ was truly incarnate, and that matter was created by an eternal God and not evil.  The rule of faith was a vital part in combating gnostic teaching because it showed that they had no historical, scriptural, or apostolic support for the claims that they were making.  It helped expose their schismatic and anti-scriptural view of Christianity.  Irenaeus also appealed to Ephesians 1:10 in his refutation of Gnosticism.  That passage of scripture states, “as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth [3].”  The church was to be a unified body of believers with Jesus Christ as its head and the gnostic heresy was causing division.  It is linked with the rule of faith in that there was only one faith handed down from Christ.  There was not one faith for one group, and a special secret faith for a select few.  The faith in Christ is available to all people and in that we should be unified.

The rule of faith previously cited is a great tool in confronting false doctrines in our own times, and in our churches.  There is no shortage of false doctrine and some of these groups are outpacing evangelical churches in evangelization even though there number are smaller.  The rule of faith is a great tool because it shows that the faith is not a new invention, but was passed down by Christ himself.  It shows that Christ is God incarnate, and firmly teaching that the Trinity is one being with three distinct persons.  Many of these groups deny the Trinity and showing scriptural support, and that it was taught from the beginning is good place to start.   Whether it be in person, phone, or email dialogue about the truth can mean a lot to someone caught in false doctrine.  It gives them someone to ask questions to and the Holy Spirit can plant a seed.

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Works Cited

1.  Olsen, Roger E.  The Story of Christian Theology:  Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform.  (Downers Grove, IL:  IVP Academic, 1999), 29.

2.  Irenaeus.  Against Heresies.  Christian Classics Etherreal Library, retrieved May 19, 2018

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.ii.xi.html

3.  Ephesians 1:10, New Revised Standard Version

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