Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 183It was many centuries before the genuine heathen doctrine of Transubstantiation—a change of the elements of the Eucharist into [Pg 314]the real body and blood of Christ Jesus—became a tenet of the Christian faith. This greatest of mysteries was developed gradually. As early as the second century, however, the seeds were planted, when we find Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Irenæus advancing the opinion, that the mere bread and wine became, in the Eucharist, something higher—the earthly, something heavenly—without, however, ceasing to be bread and wine. Though these views were opposed by some eminent individual Christian teachers, yet both among the people and in the ritual of the Church, the miraculous or supernatural view of the Lord's Supper gained ground. After the third century the office of presenting the bread and wine came to be confined to the ministers or priests. This practice arose from, and in turn strengthened, the notion which was gaining ground, that in this act of presentation by the priest, a sacrifice, similar to that once offered up in the death of Christ Jesus, though bloodless, was ever anew presented to God. This still deepened the feeling of mysterious significance and importance with which the rite of the Lord's Supper was viewed, and led to that gradually increasing splendor of celebration which took the form of the Mass. As in Christ Jesus two distinct natures, the divine and the human, were wonderfully combined, so in the Eucharist there was a corresponding union of the earthly and the heavenly.
For a long time there was no formal declaration of the mind of the Church on the real presence of Christ Jesus in the Eucharist. At length a discussion on the point was raised, and the most distinguished men of the time took part in it. One party maintained that "the bread and wine are, in the act of consecration, transformed by the omnipotence of God into the very body of Christ which was once born of Mary, nailed to the cross, and raised from the dead." According to this conception, nothing remains of the bread and wine but the outward form, the taste and the smell; while the other party would only allow that there is some change in the bread and wine themselves, but granted that an actual transformation of their power and efficacy takes place.
The greater accordance of the first view with the credulity of the age, its love for the wonderful and magical, the interest of the priesthood to add lustre, in accordance with the heathens, to a rite which enhanced their own office, resulted in the doctrine of Transubstantiation being declared an article of faith of the Christian Church.
Transubstantiation, the invisible change of the bread and wine [Pg 315]into the body and blood of Christ, is a tenet that may defy the powers of argument and pleasantry; but instead of consulting the evidence of their senses, of their sight, their feeling, and their taste, the first Protestants were entangled in their own scruples, and awed by the reputed words of Jesus in the institution of the sacrament. Luther maintained a corporeal, and Calvin a real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and the opinion of Zuinglius, that it is no more than a spiritual communion, a simple memorial, has slowly prevailed in the reformed churches.[315:1]
Under Edward VI. the reformation was more bold and perfect, but in the fundamental articles of the Church of England, a strong and explicit declaration against the real presence was obliterated in the original copy, to please the people, or the Lutherans, or Queen Elizabeth. At the present day, the Greek and Roman Catholics alone hold to the original doctrine of the real presence.
Of all the religious observances among heathens, Jews, or Turks, none has been the cause of more hatred, persecution, outrage, and bloodshed, than the Eucharist. Christians persecuted one another like relentless foes, and thousands of Jews were slaughtered on account of the Eucharist and the Host.