Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December 1076 A.D. Eucharist, Synod of Poitiers, 1076 & Berengar of Poitiers

December 1076 A.D.  Eucharist, Synod of Poitiers, 1076 & Berengar of Poitiers

See the URL for varied footnotes.  They have been removed here while retaining the body of Mr. Hardwick’s exposition.

Hardwick, Charles. A History of the Christian Church: Middle Ages.  London:  Macmillian and Company, 1877), 164-178.  Accessed 30 Sept 2014.

The second controversy that sprang up in the Carolingian era of the Church related to the mode in which the Body and Blood of Christ are taken and received in the Lord's Supper. It employed the leading theologians of the west for several years: and when religion had emerged from the benumbing darkness of the tenth century, it furnished a perplexing theme for the most able of the schoolmen. As the spirit of the Western Church contracted a more sensuous tone, there was a greater disposition to confound the sacramental symbols with the grace they were intended to convey, or, in a word, to corporealize the mysteries of faith. Examples of this spirit may be found in earlier writers who had handled the great question of the Eucharist: but it was first distinctly manifested by Paschasius Radbert in 831. He was a monk, and afterwards (844—851) the abbot, of Corbey; and in a treatise1, On the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, appears to have maintained that, by the act of consecration, the material elements are so transformed as to retain no more than the appearance (' figura') of their natural substance, being truly, though invisibly, replaced by Christ Himself in every way the same as He was born and crucified2. The work of Radbert was composed in the first instance for a pupil, but when he presented a new edition of it (844) to Charles the Bald, it startled nearly all the scholars of the age. Rabanus Maurus8 wrote against it; but unhappily no full account of his objections is preserved. Another monk of Corbey, Ratramnus, whom we saw engaging in a former controversy, was the main antagonist of Radbert. He put forth, at the request of the emperor, a treatise On the Body and Blood of the Lord. It is divided into two parts, the first entering on the question, whether the body and blood of Christ are taken by the faithful communicant in mystery or in truth ('in mysterio an in veritate2'); the second, whether it is the same body as that in which Christ was born, suffered, and rose from the dead. In answering the former question he declared, with St Augustine, that the Eucharistic elements possess a twofold meaning. Viewed externally they are not the thing itself (the 'res sacramenti'); they are simply bread and wine: but in their better aspect, and as seen by faith, the visual organ of the soul, they are the Body and Blood of Christ. The latter question was determined in the same spirit, though the language of Ratramnus is not equally distinct. While he admitted a 'conversion' of the elements into the body of the Lord, in such a manner that the terms were interchangeable, he argued that the body was not Christ's in any carnal sense, but that the Word of God, the Bread Invisible, which is invisibly associated with the Sacrament, communicates nutrition to the soul, and quickens all the faithful who receive Him3. Or, in other words, Ratramnus was in favour of a real, while he disbelieved a corporal, or material presence in the Eucharist.

His views were shared, to some extent at least, by Floras, Walafrid Strabo, Christian Drathmar, and others on the continent, and were identical with those professed in England till the period of the Norman conquest. The extreme position on the other side appears to have been taken by Erigena, who was invited, as before, to write a treatise on the subject of dispute. Although his work has perished, we have reason to infer from other records of his views, that he saw little more in the Eucharist than a memorial of the absent body of the Lord,—or a remembrancer of Christian truths, by which the spirit of the faithful is revived, instructed, and sustained.

Paschasius, unconvinced by opposition, stedfastly adhered to his former ground; and as the theory which he defended was in unison with the materializing spirit of the age, it was gradually espoused in almost every province of the Western Church. The controversy slumbered, with a few exceptions, for the whole of the tenth century, when it broke out with reinvigorated force. The author of the second movement, Berengarius, was archdeacon of Angers (1040), and formerly the head of the thriving schools attached to the cathedral of Tours. Embracing the more spiritual view of the Eucharist, as it had been expounded by Ratramnus", he was forced at length into collision with a former school-fellow, Adelmann, who warned him in 1045 and 1047 of scandals he was causing in the Church at large by his opinions on this subject. Like the rest of the mediaeval reformers, Berengarius had inherited a strong affection for the works of St Augustine; and his confidence in the antiquity and truth of his position is expressed, with a becoming modesty, in his appeal to the celebrated Lanfranc, prior of Bee, in Normandy. This letter had been forwarded to Rome, where Lanfranc was in 1050, and on being laid before a council6, which was sitting at the time, its author was condemned unheard. His friends, however, more particularly Bruno, bishop of Angers, did not abandon him in this extremity; and after a short interval of silence and suspense, he was relieved from the charge of heresy in a provincial synod held at Tours in 1054. The papal representative was Hildebrand, who listened calmly to the arguments of the accused, and when he had most cordially admitted that the bread and wine are (in one sense) the Body and Blood of Christ, the legate took his side, or was at least completely satisfied with the account he gave of his belief. Confiding in the powerful aid of Hildebrand, he afterwards obeyed a summons to appear in Rome (1059), but his compliance ended in a bitter disappointment of his hopes. The sensuous multitude, who had become impatient of all phrases that expressed a spiritual participation in the Eucharist, now clamoured for his death, and through the menaces of bishop Humbert, who was then the leading cardinal, he was eventually compelled to sign a formula of faith, in which the physical conversion of the elements was stated in the most revolting terms. The insincerity of this confession was indeed soon afterwards apparent: for on his return to France he spoke with bitterness, if not contempt, of his opponents, and at length proceeded to develop and defend his earlier teaching. His chief antagonist was Lanfranc, who, while shrinking from expressions such as those which emanated from the Roman synod, argued strongly for a change of substance in the bread and wine. The controversy, in their hands, became a battle-field for putting the new dialectic weapons to the proof; and in a long dispute, conducted with no common skill, they both were able to arrive at clearer definitions than had hitherto been current in the Church. The feverish populace, however, with the great majority of learned men, declared for Lanfranc from the first; and more than once his rival only just escaped the ebullition of their rage. The lenient tone' of Alexander II. in dealing with reputed misbelief, was due perhaps to the pacification of his favourite, Hildebrand; and when the latter was exalted to the papal throne as Gregory VII. (1073), the course of Berengarius promised to grow smoother. But that interval of peace was short. His adversaries, some of whom had private grounds of disaffection to the reigning pontiff, made common cause with the more stringent cardinals; and in 1078, the author of the movement, which continued to distract the Western Church, was cited to appear a second time at Rome. The pope himself, adducing the authority of Peter Damiani as an equipoise to that of Lanfranc, was at first content with an untechnical confession that 'the bread and wine are, after consecration, the true Body and Blood of Christ;' which the accused was ready to accept. But other members of the Roman church, incited by the cardinal Benno, Gregory's implacable opponent, now protested that, as formulae like these did not run counter to the faith of Berengarius, he should be subjected to a stricter test. To this demand the pope was driven to accede, and in a numerous council, held at Rome in the following February (1079), the faith of the accused again forsook him. He subscribed a new confession teaching the most rigorous form of transubstantiation, and retired soon afterwards from Rome with testimonials of his orthodoxy granted by the pope. As in the former case, his liberation was accompanied by bitter self-reproach; but though he seems to have maintained his old opinions8 till his death, in 1088, no further measures of repression were adopted by his foes.

In him expired an able but inconstant champion of the primitive belief respecting the true Presence in the Supper of the Lord. While he contended that the substance of the elements is not destroyed at consecration, he regarded them as media instituted by the Lord Himself for the communication, in a supernatural manner, of His Body and His Blood to every faithful soul. He argued even for the fitness of the term 'conversion' as equivalent to 'consecration,' and in this respect allowed a change in the bread and wine; a change, however, which, according to his view, was nothing like a physical transubstantiation, but was rather a transfiguration, which the elements appeared to undergo, when contemplated by a living faith in Christ, who had appointed them as representatives and as conductors of Himself.

The great bulk of the church-writers who had been produced in the period under our review, are far less worthy of enumeration. We must not, however, pass in silence men like Alfred the Great, the Charlemagne of England (871—901) who, after struggling with the barbarous Northmen, and at length subduing them, stood forward as the ardent patron of the Church and a restorer of religion. Almost every trace of native scholarship had been obliterated in the conflict with the Danes, but through the holy efforts of the king himself, assisted by a band of literati1, a new impulse was communicated to the spiritual and intellectual progress of the Anglo-Saxon race. The English, it is true, like other churches of the west, was not exempted from the corruptions which prevailed so widely in the tenth century: but from the age of Alfred, a more general diffusion of religious truth, in the vernacular language, raised the standard of intelligence. His policy was -carried out by Elfric, the Canonist, Homilist, Grammarian, Monastic Reformer, and Hagiographer, to whom we are indebted for a large proportion of the vernacular literature of his age, but whose identification is one of the most obscure problems of English History.  Aelfric left behind him a set of eighty Anglo-Saxon Homilies for Sundays and great festivals, compiled in almost every case from the earlier doctors of the west; and a second set for Anglo-Saxon Saints' days. There is extant also a collection of contemporary Homilies ascribed to a Bishop Lupus, who has been conjecturally identified with Archbishop Wulfstan of York.

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