Final SCG Chapters on the Eucharist, and the First on Penance

st-john-vianney-confession

In Chapter 62 of Book IV of Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas outlined reasonable difficulties in believing in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. The last one involved our custom at Mass of breaking the Host.

…It even seems absurd to say that the subject of the breaking of the bread at the Mass is the Body of Christ…

Since Christ’s Body, risen from the dead, and subject to no injury or corruption at this point, cannot be broken.

St. Thomas provided the key to solving this difficulty in Chapter 63. Now, in Chapter 67, he answers this particular objection. 

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 67

Next, St. Thomas comments on the saying of Christ that supported all the objections to the Real Presence, Namely:

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 68

Finally, to conclude the section on the Holy Eucharist, St. Thomas considers the use of leavened vs. unleavened bread.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 69

passover seder plate

The next section of Book IV considers the Sacrament of Penance. St. Thomas begins by considering whether an initiated Christian can sin.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 70

Solution to Difficulties with the Real Presence

Ecce Agnus Dei

In Chapter 62 of Book IV of Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas laid out a number of serious difficulties with crediting the Church’s faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Those difficulties include:

How the Body of Christ comes to be on the altar, how His Body can occupy this precise space that was previously occupied by the bread and wine, and how the Body of Christ can have the appearance, taste, and smell of bread, and His Blood the appearance, taste, and smell of wine, not to mention the capacity of bread and wine to nourish and inebriate, or the capacity to spoil or burn.

St. Thomas provides the idea necessary to resolve these difficulties in Chapter 63. The consecration of the Host and Chalice brings about the transformation of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of the Body of Christ. The consecration does not entail bringing about the presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in their proper dimensions in space.

buy the world a coke

This distinction is indeed subtle, but we can understand it, if we think of a loaf of bread.

Let’s say it’s Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel. A distinct substance.

The entirety of Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness is in every slice of the loaf, and in the loaf as a whole, and in even a small bite of one slice. Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness does not, in and of itself, occupy space. It occupies space through the dimensions of the bread, and Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness and the dimensions of the loaf are not the same thing. After all, there are tens of thousands of loaves of the same kind of bread all over the world right now. You don’t have to know how many, in order to know what Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness is.

So if you hold a slice of the bread in your hand to put some mustard on it, you are actually dealing with two things: the reality of Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel-ness, and the size and shape of the slice.

Or think of Coca-Cola. The entirety of Coca-Cola-ness resides in a 12-ounce can, or a 2-liter bottle, or the tank for a soda fountain that dispenses Coke. If you go to Mickey D’s and fill a cup with Coke, you’re actually dealing with two things: Coca-Cola-ness and the size of the cup.

The consecration at Holy Mass involves the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, a miracle as great as the creation of the universe out of nothingIt is also involves a second miracle of similar grandeur: the entire dimensions in space of the bread and wine remain, with everything attendant upon that: that is, the sensible qualities and capacities.

With this solution, St. Thomas does not intend to make it easy to believe in the consecration; he cannot do that. The Angelic Doctor concedes, in fact: believing in the Real Presence is super-humanly difficult, and it should be. Only the grace of supernatural faith suffices. We believe by virtue of a gift from heaven.

What St. Thomas does show, however, is: what we believe by supernatural faith about the Blessed Sacrament does not contradict reason; it is not impossible; it is not absurd. When we premise that God Himself brings about the miracle, the whole thing does make sense.

Solution to difficulties regarding the place of the Body and Blood of Christ:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 64

Solution to difficulties regarding the sensible qualities of the consecrated Host and chalice.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 65

Solution to difficulties regarding the capacity of the consecrated sacrament to nourish you or make you drunk, or to rot or burn.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 66

Short SCG Chapters on the Sacraments of Initiation

Baltimore Catechism sacraments

St. Thomas has outlined an analogy between bodily life and spiritual life. Now he develops that analogy to explain the sacraments of Christian initiation…

Holy Baptism

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 59

Confirmation

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 60

The Holy Eucharist

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 61

SCG on the Sacraments

Rogier Van der Weyden Seven Sacraments altarpiece

Three short chapters.

On having visible sacraments

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 56

On the sacraments of the Law, and of the Gospel

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 57

And on the number of the sacraments, which reflects what is necessary for the propagation and sustenance of bodily life…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 58

SCG on the Suitability of the Incarnation

Palermo Pantocrator Christ priest

First St. Thomas outlines objections to the suitability of the Incarnation…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 53

He outlines a solution, demonstrating the eminent suitability of God becoming man…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 54

Then he answers the objections laid out in chapter 53.

pedagogue = teacher or tutor

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 55

Twenty years ago today, I made my lifetime promises, and then-Cardinal-Archbishop Theodore McCarrick ordained me a transitional deacon. I entered this mysterious thing called “the clerical state.”

May the good Lord preserve me, and all of us, in His service, according to His holy will.

Summa Contra Gentiles on Original Sin

the-fall

St. Thomas has established that believing in the Incarnation does not go against reason. Now he considers the “suitability” of God becoming man.

He begins by identifying Original Sin.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 50

First he considers the Christian doctrine of original sin.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 51

Then he considers objections to the idea.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 52

Then he solves those objections.

The Holy Spirit and The Incarnation

fra-ang-annunc

We rightly attribute the Incarnation to the Holy Spirit.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 46

But Christ is not the “son” of the Holy Spirit.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 47

We cannot call Christ a “creature” without qualification.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 48

[Click HERE to catch up on previous chapters.]