St. Augustine on the Eucharist


Concerning the Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Eucharist in St. Augustine

DAVID GOFORTH to PHIL PORVAZNIK on FidoNet OpenBible 4/14/96 --

"You certainly demonstrated you do not understand Augustine or history... If you continue to state otherwise, then go do your 50,000 hours of research. After an hour or two you'll certainly find out you're dead wrong."


DAVID GOFORTH to BRETT JOHNSON on FidoNet OpenBible 4/20/96 --

"Quoting the foremost experts in the world on the church fathers and church history against your views is certainly the MOST VALID form of proof against you since it is not just my opinion or your opinion on what the fathers meant...."


I will be using the following sources to explain Augustine's teaching --

Protestant sources --

A HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST (2 fat volumes) by Darwell Stone (London: Longmans, Green, and Co, 1909)

EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES by J.N.D. Kelly (London: A & C Black Publishers, 1st edition 1958, paperback 1985)

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH by Philip Schaff (Volume 3 -- Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity)

DOCUMENTS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH by Henry Bettenson (Oxford University Press, 1963)


Catholic sources --

THE FAITH OF THE EARLY FATHERS (Volume 3) by William Jurgens (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1979)

NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA (1967) Volumes 1, 2, 5, 12, 14 articles on

"Augustine, St." "Berengarius of Tours" "Eucharist (as Sacrament)" and "Eucharist (as Sacrifice)" "Eucharistic Controversies" "Sacraments, Theology of" and "Sacraments as Signs of Faith" "Transubstantiation"

FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLIC DOGMA by Ludwig Ott (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 1974)

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (Liguori Publications Edition, 1994)

THE IGNATIUS BIBLE RSV -- the most important Catholic Book of all!


DG> Now to deal with your typical Fundie Papist cut and paste routine and complete lack of understanding about Augustine as well as history itself.

All I did was quote St. Augustine. You gave me in return virtually NOTHING from Augustine himself. You also do not know how to properly document your sources. I have no idea what you are quoting and when you are using your own words. Do you have something against quote marks and page numbers? Very, very, very sloppy work, David.

We will soon find out what St. Augustine really believed. First, the previous direct quotes of this Church Father that you completely ignored once again -- Can Luther or Calvin or Zwingli say this?

ST. AUGUSTINE (c. 354 - 430 A.D.)

"That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God IS THE BODY OF CHRIST. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, IS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend HIS BODY AND BLOOD, WHICH HE POURED OUT FOR US UNTO THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS." (Sermons 227)

"The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread [Luke 24:16,30-35]. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, BECOMES CHRIST'S BODY." (Sermons 234:2)

"What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that THE BREAD IS THE BODY OF CHRIST AND THE CHALICE [WINE] THE BLOOD OF CHRIST." (Sermons 272)

"How this ['And he was carried in his own hands'] should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it is meant of Christ. FOR CHRIST WAS CARRIED IN HIS OWN HANDS, WHEN, REFERRING TO HIS OWN BODY, HE SAID: 'THIS IS MY BODY.' FOR HE CARRIED THAT BODY IN HIS HANDS." (Psalms 33:1:10)

"Was not Christ IMMOLATED only once in His very Person? In the Sacrament, nevertheless, He is IMMOLATED for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being IMMOLATED." (Letters 98:9)

"Christ is both the Priest, OFFERING Himself, and Himself the Victim. He willed that the SACRAMENTAL SIGN of this should be the daily Sacrifice of the Church, who, since the Church is His body and He the Head, learns to OFFER herself through Him." (City of God 10:20)

"By those sacrifices of the Old Law, this one Sacrifice is signified, in which there is a true remission of sins; but not only is no one forbidden to take as food the Blood of this Sacrifice, rather, all who wish to possess life are exhorted to drink thereof." (Questions on the Heptateuch 3:57)

"Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator is OFFERED for them, or when alms are given in the church." (Ench Faith, Hope, Love 29:110)

"But by the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the SALVIFIC SACRIFICE, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH OBSERVES THIS PRACTICE WHICH WAS HANDED DOWN BY THE FATHERSthat it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the Sacrifice itself; and the Sacrifice isOFFERED also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, the works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death." (Sermons 172:2)

"...I turn to Christ, because it is He whom I seek here; and I discover how the earth is adored without impiety, how without impiety the footstool of His feet is adored. For He received earth from earth; because flesh is from the earth, and He took flesh from the flesh of Mary. He walked here in the same flesh, AND GAVE US THE SAME FLESH TO BE EATEN UNTO SALVATION. BUT NO ONE EATS THAT FLESH UNLESS FIRST HE ADORES IT; and thus it is discovered how such a footstool of the Lord's feet is adored; AND NOT ONLY DO WE NOT SIN BY ADORING, WE DO SIN BY NOT ADORING." (Psalms 98:9)

From this evidence we clearly see the following from St. Augustine --

(1) The bread having been sanctified "IS THE BODY OF CHRIST"

(2) The wine having been sanctified "IS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST"

(3) We know Christ in the breaking of the bread; and not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ "BECOMES CHRIST'S BODY."

(4) When Christ said "THIS IS MY BODY" He carried "HIS OWN BODY" in "HIS OWN HANDS"

(5) Christ is "IMMOLATED" (sacrificed in an unbloody manner) in the Eucharist every day (this is not a re-crucifixion but a re-presentation or "making present" before the Father for our benefit and application of His one and only Sacrifice)

(6) Christ is Priest and Victim OFFERING Himself and in the daily Sacrifice His Body the Church OFFERS herself through/with Him

(7) All who wish to have eternal life must take as food and drink the Blood of Christ's Sacrifice in Holy Communion

(8) The souls of the dead in Christ find relief through the Sacrifice of the Mediator OFFERED for them and through the prayers of the living Body of Christ on earth

(9) The WHOLE Church observes this practice handed down from the Fathers -- the prayers of the Holy Church, the salvific Sacrifice, and alms and works of piety and mercy are offered for those who have died "in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ" so that the Lord might deal more mercifully with their sins

(10) Christ gave us His own flesh "to be eaten unto salvation" and no one eats that flesh unless He ADORES (worships) it in the Holy Eucharist since Christ is truly present and took flesh in the Incarnation

Again, how much more Roman Catholic can you get?????????????

Real Presence, Sacrifice, and Sacrament of Christian Unity

Now we get into detail what St. Augustine believed concerning the Holy Eucharist. In summary, his statements can be divided into three major sections --

(I) The Eucharist as the REAL PRESENCE of Christ, HIS BODY AND BLOOD

(II) The Eucharist as the SACRIFICE of Christ and His Church

(III) The Eucharist as the SACRAMENT of UNITY

The third part is the only one you mentioned with its stress on faith and the symbolic aspects of St. Augustine's teaching. Philip Schaff discusses all three -- Real Presence, Sacrifice, and Faith. J.N.D. Kelly, Darwell Stone, and Ludwig Ott go into even more depth.


DG> Schaff, "It is remarkable that Augustine, in other respects so decidely catholic in the doctrine of the church and baptism, and in the cardinal points of the Latin orthodoxy, follows the older African theologians, Tertullian and Cyprian, in a symbolical theory of the Supper, which however includes a real spiritual participation of the Lord by faith, and in this respect stands nearest to the Calvinistic or orthodox Reformed doctrine, while in minor points he differs from it as much as from transubstantiation and consubstantiation."

DG> ("Albertinus (De euchar. pp. 602-742) and Ruckert (l.c. p. 353 ff.) have successfully proved that he is no witness for the Roman doctrine".)

Oops, you did not quote that footnote in full. Here is what it says --

"From his immense dogmatic authority, Augustine has been an apple of contention among the different confessions in all controversies on the doctrine of the Supper. Albertinus (De euchar. pp. 602-742) and Ruckert (l.c. p. 353 ff.) have successfully proved that he is no witness for the Roman doctrine; BUT THEY GO TOO FAR WHEN THEY MAKE HIM A MERE SYMBOLIST. That he as little favors the Lutheran doctrine, Kahnis (Vom Abendmahl, p. 221, and in the second part of his Luth. Dogmatik, p. 207) frankly concedes." (Schaff, volume 3, note 3, pg 498-9).

We shall get to the "symbolic" aspects of St. Augustine when we discuss his stress on (III) the Eucharist as the Sacrament of unity. No witness for the Roman Catholic doctrine? I would like to know what Albertinus and Ruckert were reading?

Remember, I am not arguing that Augustine necessarily believed in the full doctrine of transubstantiation. That would be like arguing St. Ignatius of Antioch or Tertullian believed in the Trinity in its full-blown form as defined in the Nicene, Athanasian, or Chalcedonian creeds. But let's at least look at what Catholic doctrines St. Augustine did fully accept!

We have previously seen how "symbolical" Tertullian and Cyprian were! They were so "symbolical" they referred constantly to the Eucharist as the BODY and BLOOD of Christ, believed it was necessary for salvation, that it was a SACRIFICE and had objective efficacy for those alive and departed in Christ. Both were "REAL PRESENCE" believers to the core.

Yes, it is truly "remarkable" that Schaff would say here that Augustine stands nearest to the Calvinist and Reformed and only differs from them "in minor points." Truly remarkable considering Schaff's admitting St. Augustine not only was so decidedly Catholic in his ecclesiology and on Baptism and in following the "cardinal points" of the Latin orthodoxy, but who also believed in the adoration of Christ in the Eucharist (-adorare- at least "in the wider sense") and offering the sacrifice of Christ in the Mass for the dead (Schaff, volume 3, pg 502, 507, 510, etc).

Believe it or not, David, Catholics also believe in a real spiritual participation of the Lord by faith. That is not exclusively a Reformed or Protestant idea. But we and St. Augustine go much further.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church --

1331. Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we UNITE ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body [1 Cor 10:16-17].

1336. The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" [Jn 6:60]. The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. "Will you also go away?" [Jn 6:67] : the Lord's question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has "the words of eternal life" [Jn 6:68] and that to receive IN FAITH the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord Himself.

1361. The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise [Heb 13:10-16] by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible ONLY through Christ: he unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession, so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered THROUGH Christ and WITH him, to be accepted IN him.

What Schaff Really Says on Augustine and Real Presence

Let's give the full story about St. Augustine concerning the Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. First, some Schaff which you forgot --

"Yet this great church teacher at the same time holds fast the REAL PRESENCE of Christ in the Supper. He says of the martyrs: 'They have drunk the blood of CHRIST, and have shed theirOWN blood for Christ.' He was also inclined, with the Oriental fathers, to ascribe a SAVING VIRTUE TO THE CONSECRATED ELEMENTS." (pg 500)

"Ambrose speaks once of the flesh of Christ 'which we today ADORE in the mysteries,' and Augustine, of an ADORATION [at least "in the wider sense" of bowing the knee in respect] preceding the participation of the flesh of Christ [footnotes #2 and #3 gives the original Latin from these Fathers]." (pg 502)

JND Kelly on Augustine and Real Presence

Next, Oxford scholar J.N.D. Kelly concerning St. Augustine --

"If Ambrose's influence helped to mediate the doctrine of a physical change to the West [we'll cover this exhaustively later], that of Augustine was exerted in a rather different direction. His thought about the eucharist, unsystematic and many-sided as it is, is tantalizingly difficult to assess. Some, like F. Loofs, have classified him as the exponent of a purely symbolical doctrine; while A. Harnack seized upon the Christian's incorporation into Christ's mystical body, the Church, as the core of his sacramental teaching. Others have attributed receptionist views to him.

"There are certainly passages in his writings which give a superficial justification to all these interpretations, but a balanced verdict must agree that HE ACCEPTED THE CURRENT REALISM. Thus, preaching on 'the sacrament of the Lord's table' to newly baptized persons, he remarked [Serm 227],

'That bread which you see on the altar, sanctified by the Word of God, IS CHRIST'S BODY. That cup, or rather the contents of that cup, sanctified by the Word of God, IS CHRIST'S BLOOD. By these elements the Lord Christ willed to convey HIS BODY AND BLOOD, which He shed for us.'

"'You know,' he said in another sermon [Serm 9:14], 'what you are eating and what you are drinking, or rather, WHOM you are EATING and WHOM you are DRINKING.' Commenting on the Psalmist's bidding that we should adore the footstool of His feet, he pointed out [Enarr in Ps 98:9] that this must be the earth. But since to adore the earth would be blasphemous, he concluded that the word must mysteriously signify the FLESH which Christ took from the earth and which He gave to us to EAT. Thus it was the EUCHARISTIC BODY WHICH DEMANDED ADORATION.

"Again, he explained [Enarr in Ps 33:1:10] the sentence, 'He was carried in his hands' (LXX of 1 Sam 21:13), which in the original describes David's attempt to allay Achish's suspicions, as referring to the sacrament:


"One could multiply texts like these which show Augustine taking for granted the traditional identification of the elements WITH THE SACRED BODY AND BLOOD. There can be NO DOUBT that he shared the REALISM held by almost ALL his contemporaries and predecessors."


Darwell Stone on Augustine and Real Presence


"As in other matters which the profound and versatile mind of St. Augustine considered, so in regard to the Eucharist different lines of thought are found in his writings. Among them is the identification of the elements WITH THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST.

"In this connection notice must be taken of the passages in which he maintains that at the institution of the Sacrament our Lord HELD HIMSELF IN HIS OWN HANDS; that the breadBECOMES THE BODY OF CHRIST by receiving the blessing of Christ; that the instruction and experience of children in regard to the Eucharist, apart from other knowledge, would naturally lead to their supposing that CHRIST MANIFESTED HIMSELF IN HIS INCARNATE LIFE AS BREAD AND WINE; and that the gift received by worthy and unworthy communicants is the SAME, though with different effects.

"In his -Enarrations on the Thirty-third Psalm- the mystical exposition of the words, 'he changed his behavior [In St. Augustine's Latin version -vultum suum-] before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed,' [Psalm 34 (Hebrew = Psalm 33 in Sept), title] leads St. Augustine to say of our Lord --


'When He gave HIS OWN BODY AND HIS OWN BLOOD, He took IN HIS HANDS what the faithful know; and in a certain manner (quodam modo) HE CARRIED HIMSELF, when He said, "THIS IS MY BODY" [1:10; 2:2].'"

(Stone, volume 1, page 82)

"Elsewhere he says -- 'Not all bread, but that bread which receives the BLESSING of Christ, BECOMES THE BODY OF CHRIST.' [Serm 234:2]

"In a remarkable passage in the treatise -On the Trinity- he writes as follows in reference to the theophanies and types of the OT --

'What man knows how angels made or assumed those clouds and fires to signify what they announced, even if the Lord or the Holy Ghost was manifested in those bodily forms? As in the case of that which is placed on the altar and consumed at the end of the rite of Christian worship little children do not know whence or how it is made and whence it is taken for the use of religion. And if they never learnt by experience of their own or of others and never saw that outward sign (illam speciem rerum) except when it is offered and administered at the celebration of the Sacrament, and if they were taught on the weightiest authority WHOSE BODY AND BLOOD IT IS, they would be sure to believe that THE LORD APPEARED TO THE EYES OF MEN IN THAT FORM (specie) and that it was thatLIQUID WHICH FLOWED FROM SUCH A SMITTEN SIDE.' [3:21]

"In one part of his teaching St. Augustine is EMPHATIC that the identification of the elements WITH THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST is so COMPLETE that even the WICKEDrecipients of the Sacrament receive Christ's body and blood as REALLY, though with different effects, AS THOSE who partake of the Sacrament WORTHILY.

"Thus in his book -On Baptism against the Donatists- he says --

'For as JUDAS, to whom the Lord gave the sop, allowed place in himself to the devil not by receiving what was evil but by receiving in an evil WAY, so one who receives the Sacrament of the Lord unworthily does not bring about that it is evil because he is evil or that he has received nothing because he has not received to salvation. For it is THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD NO LESS in the case of those of whom the Apostle said, "Who eats unworthily and drinks judgment to himself"' [5:9].

"Similarly in one of his -Sermons- he insists that it is possible to 'EAT THE VERY FLESH' and 'DRINK THE VERY BLOOD' of Christ in such a way as to 'eat and drink judgment,' and that there are two ways of 'eating that flesh and drinking that blood,' one of which leads to the recipient abiding in Christ and Christ in him, the other of which leads to judgment [Serm 71:17]."

(Stone, volume 1, page 82-83)

"In an earlier passage than those already quoted from the -Enarrations on the Thirty-third Psalm-, St. Augustine uses the comparison between a mother feeding her child with her own body and the feeding of the children of God with the body and blood of Christ. He there says that our Lord has willed our salvation to be in His body and blood, and that His humility has made it possible for us to eat and drink these. The food which the mother eats becomes fit food for her infant child by means of the process of passing through her flesh. In like manner the Wisdom of God feeds Christians; and the Incarnation and the Passion have made possible the gift to them of the flesh and blood of the Lord." [1:6]

(Stone, volume 1, page 84)


Now, David, the other parts of your post dealt with the technical discussion concerning how St. Augustine understood that "REAL PRESENCE" of the Body of Christ. I will get to that and the later Eucharistic controversies of the 9th and 11th centuries after I'm completely done detailing Augustine's view. Right now that is not relevant.

Whether it was "DYOPHYSITE" versus the conversion view championed by such great Western Fathers as St. Ambrose and defended as well by such Eastern Fathers as St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. John Damascene is not really to the point. Leaving aside this technical debate on how that "REAL PRESENCE" (which Schaff admits Augustine believed) is to be explained, the question remains --

Is St. Augustine's overall teaching compatible with Catholic teaching on the Holy Eucharist? Yes, indeed, it is!


This is the aspect of St. Augustine's teaching you completely ignored. You mentioned his stress on faith in the Sacrament which Catholics do as well but you ignored his equally strong emphasis of the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and Liturgy/Mass which indeed is found throughout the Fathers of the early Christian church.

What Schaff Really Says on Augustine and Eucharistic Sacrifice

First, here is what Philip Schaff said that you conveniently ignored --

"It is not a new sacrifice added to that of the cross, but a daily, unbloody repetition and perpetual application of that ONE ONLY sacrifice. Augustine represents it, on the one hand, as a -sacramentum memoriae-, a symbolical commemoration of the sacrificial death of Christ; to which of course there is no objection [Contr Faust Manich 1.xx.18 Latin given].

"But, on the other hand, he calls the celebration of the communion -verissimum sacrificium- of the body of Christ. The church, he says, offers (immolat) to God the sacrifice of thanks in the body of Christ, from the days of the apostles through the sure succession of the bishops down to our time. But the church at the same time offers, with Christ, herself, as the body of Christ, to God. As all are one body, so also all are together the same sacrifice [De civit Dei x.20 Latin given]." (Schaff, vol 3, pg 507)

"The subject of the sacrifice is the body of Jesus Christ, which is as TRULY PRESENT on the altar of the church, as it once was on the altar of the cross, and which now offers itself to God through his priest. Hence the frequent language of the liturgies: "Thou art he who offerest, and who art offered, O Christ, our God." Augustine, however, connects with this, as we have already said, the true and important moral idea of the self-sacrifice of the whole redeemed church to God. The prayers of the liturgies do the same." (pg 508)

"Even St. Augustine, with Tertullian, teaches plainly, as an OLD tradition, that the eucharistic sacrifice, the intercessions or -suffragia- and alms, of the living are of benefit to the departed believers, so that the Lord deals more mercifully with them than their sins deserve [Serm 172:2 Latin given]. His noble mother, Monica, when dying, told him he might bury her body where he pleased, and should give himself no concern for it, only she begged of him that he would remember her SOUL at the altar of the Lord [Confess 1:9:27 Latin given]. (pg 510)

I will ignore Schaff's editorial comments about the "perversion" of the Sacrifice of the Mass since that is not only irrelevant, it shows Schaff's extreme anti-Catholic bias. I see none of that in Protestant scholars J.N.D. Kelly and Darwell Stone who simply report the historical facts as they see them and statements of the Church Fathers. Schaff does very little quoting but a lot of anti-Catholic preaching.

JND Kelly on Augustine and Eucharist as Sacrifice

"Augustine's conception of the eucharistic sacrifice is closely linked with his ideas on sacrifice in general. 'A true sacrifice,' he writes [De civ dei 10:6], 'is whatever work is accomplished with the object of establishing our holy union with God.' Essentially it is an interior transaction of the will, and what is conventionally termed the sacrifice is the outward sign of this: 'the visible sacrifice is the sacrament, i.e. the sacred symbol (sacrum signum), of the invisible sacrifice.' [De civ dei 10:5]

"The supreme and uniquely pure sacrifice, of course, is the offering of Himself which the Redeemer made on Calvary [Enarr in Ps 149:6]. This is the sacrifice which all the sacrifices of the Jewish Law foreshadowed; it is the memorial of it that Christians celebrate today in the eucharist [C. Faust 6:5; 20:18].

'This sacrifice,' he remarks [De civ dei 17:20:2], 'succeeded all those sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were slaughtered in anticipation of what was to come....For instead of all those sacrifices and oblations His BODY IS OFFERED, and is DISTRIBUTED to the participants.'

"The Christian supper presupposes the death on the cross [Serm 112:1]. The self-same Christ Who was slain there is in a real sense slaughtered daily [sacramentally in an unbloody manner] by the faithful, so that the sacrifice which was offered once for all in bloody form is sacramentally RENEWED upon our altars with the OBLATION of His BODY AND BLOOD [Ep 98:9; C. Faust 20:18; 20:21]. From this it is clear that, if the eucharistic sacrifice is essentially a 'similitude' or 'memorial' of Calvary, it includes MUCH MORE than that. In the first place, it involves a REAL, though sacramental, OFFERING of Christ's BODY AND BLOOD; He is Himself the priest, but also the OBLATION [De civ dei 10:20]. In the second place, however, along with this oblation of the Head, it involves the offering of His members, since the fruit of the sacrifice is, precisely, their union in His mystical body. As Augustine puts it [De civ dei 10:6],

'The whole redeemed community, that is, the congregation and society of saints, is the universal sacrifice offered to God through the great high-priest, Who offered Himself in His passion for us, so that we might be the body of so great a Head...When then the Apostle exhorted us to present our bodies as a living victim [Rom 12:1]... this is the sacrifice of Christians: we who are many are one body in Christ. The Church celebrates it in the sacrament of the altar which is so familiar to the faithful, in which is shown that in what she offers she herself is offered.'

"Or again [De civ dei 19:23:5] : 'The most splendid and excellent sacrifice consists of ourselves, His people. This is the sacrifice the mystery whereof we celebrate in our oblation.'

(Kelly, EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES, page 454-455)

Darwell Stone on Augustine and Eucharist as Sacrifice

"There is like terminology in the West. A canon of the Council of Arles, held in 314 A.D., like the Council of Nicaea eleven years later in the East, incidentally contains the word 'OFFER' to describe the work of the presbyters which the deacons might not perform [Canon 15]. St. Optatus of Milevis uses the words 'SACRIFICE' and 'OFFER' in regard to the Eucharist [2:12].St. Ambrose says that it is part of the work of the Christian ministry to 'OFFER SACRIFICE for the people'; that Christ 'is Himself on earth when the body of Christ is OFFERED'; and that the word of Christ 'consecrates the SACRIFICE which is OFFERED' [In Ps 38 Enar 25]. St. Augustine refers to the Eucharist as 'the SACRIFICE of our redemption,' 'theSACRIFICE of the Mediator,' 'the SACRIFICE of peace,' 'the SACRIFICE of love,' 'the SACRIFICE of the BODY and BLOOD of the Lord,' 'the SACRIFICE of the Church' [Conf 9:32; Enchir 110; In Ps 21 Enar 2:28; In Ps 33 Enar 1:5; De civ Dei 10:20]. St. Leo speaks of 'the OFFERING of the SACRIFICE' as an act of Christian worship [Serm 26:1; 91:3]."

(Stone, volume 1, page 113)

"In the West this connection of the Eucharistic sacrifice with the passion and death of Christ is found in St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. The saying of St. Ambrose that 'Christ' 'is offered as Man, as taking on Himself suffering (recipiens passionem)' [De off 1:248], probably refers rather to the taking of a nature capable of suffering in the Incarnation than to the passion and death in particular; but the same writer elsewhere explicitly states that in the Eucharist 'we proclaim the death of the Lord' [De fide 4:124]. St. Augustine, after referring to Communion, says that our Lord --

'made Himself low that man might eat the bread of angels, and "taking the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, being made obedient even unto death, yea the death of the cross," [Phil 2:7,8] that now from the cross the FLESH AND BLOOD of the Lord might be commended to us as a NEW SACRIFICE.' [In Ps 33 Enar 1:6]

(Stone, volume 1, page 115-116)

"St. Augustine closely connects the Eucharistic ALTAR on EARTH with the ALTAR of our LORD'S OFFERING in HEAVEN; regards our Lord's heavenly work as the fulfillment of the type in the sacrifice which the Jewish high priest offered in the holy of holies; and speaks of the approach to the earthly altar as symbolic both of the present access of Christians to our Lord in heaven and of their future entrance therein.

'There is also an ALTAR before the eyes of God, whither the Priest has entered who first offered Himself for us. There is an ALTAR in HEAVEN; and no one touches that altar who does not wash his hands in innocency. For many who are unworthy touch this ALTAR on EARTH; and God endures that His Sacraments suffer outrage for a time.' [In Ps 25 Enar 2:10]

'That the forgiveness of God may be obtained, PROPITIATION is made by a SACRIFICE. Therefore there is One who is our Priest, who was sent by the Lord God, who took from us what He should offer to the Lord, that is the holy firstfruits of flesh from the Virgin's womb. This burnt-offering He offered to God; He stretched out His hands on the cross....He hung on the cross, and propitiation was made for our wickedness....Thou art the Priest, Thou art the Victim; Thou art the Offerer, Thou art That which is offered.

'He is Himself the Priest who has NOW entered into the parts within the veil, and alone there of those who have worn flesh makes intercession for us. In the type of which thing in that first people and in that first temple, one priest entered into the holy of holies, all the people stood without, and he who alone entered into the parts within the veil offered sacrifice for the people standing without....Propitiation having been made for our sins and iniquities by that evening sacrifice [that is, the sacrifice of the cross], we go unto the Lord, and the veil is taken away. On this account also, when the Lord was crucified, the veil of the temple was rent.' [In Ps 64 Enar 6]

'This ALTAR, which is NOW set in the Church on EARTH for celebrating the symbols of the divine mysteries, exposed to earthly eyes, many even of the wicked can approach....But that altar whither the forerunner Jesus has entered on our behalf, whither the Head of the Church has gone before, while the rest of the members are to follow, none of those can approach of whom, as I have already related, the Apostle said, "those who do such things shall not possess the kingdom of God" [Gal 5:21]. For the Priest alone, yet clearly there the whole Priest, will stand, that is with the body added of which He is the Head, which has already ascended into heaven.' [Serm 351:7]

(Stone, volume 1, page 120-121)

"St. Augustine connects COMMUNION with God with his definition of SACRIFICE, and makes the RECEPTION of Communion part of the Christian SACRIFICIAL ACTION.

'The fact that by the ancient fathers such sacrifices were offered in the victims of beasts, which the people of God now reads of but does not offer, is to be understood in no other way than that by those things are signified these which are celebrated among us with this intent that we may be united (inhaereamus) to God, and that we may promote for our neighbor a like union. A SACRIFICE therefore is a VISIBLE SACRAMENT, that is a sacred sign, of an invisible sacrifice. Whence that penitent in the prophet or the prophet himself seeking to have God PROPITIOUS to his sins says, "If Thou hadst willed sacrifice, I would indeed have given it, Thou wilt not delight in burnt offerings. A sacrifice to God is a troubled spirit; a contrite and humbled heart God will not despise." [Ps 51:16,17] Let us observe how, where he said that God wills not sacrifice, there he shows that God wills sacrifice. He then does not will the sacrifice of a slain beast, but He wills the sacrifice of a contrite heart....That which is called by all men a sacrifice is a sign of a real sacrifice. Now mercy is a real sacrifice; whence is that said which I quoted just now, "For with such sacrifices God is well pleased." [Heb 13:16] Whatever things then in the service of the tabernacle or of the temple in many ways concerning sacrifices are said to have been commanded by God are understood to signify love to God and one's neighbor. For "In these two commandments," as has been written, "hangeth the whole Law and the prophets" [Matt 22:40]. Therefore every work which is done in order that we may be united (inhaereamus) in holy fellowship to God, that is in regard to that end of good whereby we may be truly happy, is a real sacrifice.'" [De civ Dei 10:5,6]

(Stone, volume 1, page 122-123)

"Elsewhere St. Augustine, after explaining that the one true sacrifice which Christ offered was foreshadowed in different ways among heathen and Jews, adds --

'Wherefore now Christians celebrate the memorial of the SAME accomplished sacrifice by the MOST HOLY OFFERING AND RECEPTION OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST.' [C. Faust 20:18]

"The last quotation but one from St. Augustine is pervaded by a favorite thought of this Father, that the true sacrifice is the dedication of self to God. This idea runs through Christian theology as a whole. Instances of it in an earlier period have already been referred to...But it finds its most characteristic expression in the repeated teaching of St. Augustine that in the Eucharist is the SACRIFICE of the Church and of Christians.

'The whole redeemed City itself, that is the congregation and society of the saints, is offered as a universal sacrifice to God by the High Priest, who offered even Himself in suffering for us in the form of a servant, that we might be the body of so great a Head. For this form of a servant did He offer, in this was He offered; for in this is He mediator and priest and sacrifice. And so when the Apostle exhorted us that we should present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, our reasonable service, and that we be not conformed to this world but reformed in the newness of our mind, to prove what is the will of God [Rom 12:1-2], that which is good and well-pleasing and complete, which whole sacrifice we ourselves are.....

'This is the sacrifice of Christians: "the many one body in Christ" [1 Cor 10:17]. Which also the Church celebrates in the Sacrament of the altar, familiar to the faithful, where it is shown to her that in this thing which she offers she herself is offered.' [De civ Dei 10:6]

"After making the distinction that our Lord receives sacrifice in His Godhead and in His Manhood is Himself the sacrifice, he says --

'Thus is He priest, Himself OFFERING, Himself also that which is OFFERED. Of this thing He willed the SACRIFICE of the Church to be the DAILY Sacrament; and the Church, since she is the body of the Head Himself, learns to OFFER herself through Him.' [De civ Dei 10:20]

"Later in the same treatise is the sentence --

'We ourselves, that is His City, and His most splendid and best sacrifice, of which we celebrate the mystery in our oblations which are known to the faithful.' [De civ Dei 19:23 (5)]

"In the course of his explanation that the sacrifice is offered only to God, and not to the martyrs who are commemorated in the offering of it, he writes --

'The sacrifice itself is the body of Christ, which is not offered to them, because they themselves are it.' [De civ Dei 22:10]."

(Stone, volume 1, page 123-124)


I will deal with the rest of your post later concerning the Eucharistic controversies of the 9th and 11th centuries. Right now I want to finish with St. Augustine. This third aspect of his teaching on the Eucharist is the only one you mentioned -- Eucharist as the Sacrament of unity and emphasis on the faith of the communicant.

DG> To Augustine a sacrament is "a visible sign of an invisible thing" (De Cat. Rud. 26.50). He clearly distinguished between the sacramentum (the outward part) and the res sacramenti (the thing itself), (Tract in Joann. 26.15). The clear result of this is that it gives faith in the worshipper a paramount place. "It is not that which is seen that feeds, but that which is BELIEVED." (Sermon 112.5). Only those who dwell in Christ are able to receive Christ in the sacrament. (Joann 26.18). He said of Judas that he only ate the bread of the Lord, while the other apostles "ate the Lord who was the bread". "Why preparest thou the teeth and the belly? Believe and thou has eaten". (Tract in John 25). He claims for the sacrament religious reverence but not superstitious dread as if it were a miracle as you guys do. (De Trinit. 3.10). For the East, the consecration of the elements converted them into the literal body and blood of Christ, but for Augustine it turned them into "a sacrament of commemoration of Christ's sacrifice" (C. Faust 20.21) whose benefit came ONLY to those who believe.

As I said before, you do not document where you are getting this. From what source are these partial quotes of Augustine's teaching found? I want to examine the secondary source you are using.

It looks like part of this was taken from Philip Schaff, volume 3, pages 498-500, although Schaff adds "...but not a superstitious dread, as if it were a miracle OF MAGICAL EFFECT" as if Catholics believed in magic or something. I guess you left that out because you didn't want Schaff to sound completely ignorant of Catholic teaching. The rest I'm not sure from where you are taking this. Do you expect me to believe from these tiny snippets we are supposed to derive St. Augustine's entire teaching on the Eucharist? You now have the rest of his teaching on the Real Presence and Eucharist as Sacrifice. We should try to reconcile ALL that Augustine says. Darwell Stone covers ALL these quotes and much, much, much more! I suggest you order his massive two-volume work through inter-library loan. That's how I acquired them.

First, let's hear what thoughtful Catholic scholars have to say on the "symbolic" aspects of St. Augustine's teaching.

"In the reading of Augustine in the perspective of later problems, an attempt has been made to OPPOSE his realistic and symbolic affirmations regarding the Eucharist. But, in fact, his realism and symbolism are NOT in opposition. The reality of the Eucharist is expressed in the Sacrament, which is essentially a SIGN (C. Admin 12.2) : the reality (-res-) of the Eucharistic bread and wineIS the body of Christ, the WHOLE Christ, the Church (Serm 272; In evang Ioh 21.25.4; 26.15). But without pausing over what has since been termed the -res et sacramentum-, Augustine most OFTEN stressed (Serm 37; 131.1) the ULTIMATE REALITY of this Sacrament of UNITY (Serm 227). All his theology of the Church and of the Sacraments is thus centered onUNITY, which is the ultimate reality, because 'God is love.'"

NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA, volume 1, "St. Augustine", page 1055

Citing Vatican II and St. Augustine, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says --

1323. "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, A SIGN OF UNITY, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us'" [Vatican II SC 47].

So the "symbolic" aspects of the Eucharist is not denied by Catholics.


"The Eucharistic doctrine expounded by St. Augustine is interpreted in a purely spiritual way by most Protestant writers on the history of dogmas. Despite his insistence on the symbolical explanation he does NOT exclude the Real Presence. In association with the words of institution he concurs with the older Church tradition in expressing belief in the Real Presence. Cf. Sermo 227 (quoted earlier several times) :

'The bread which you see on the altar IS, sanctified by the word of God, THE BODY OF CHRIST; that chalice, or rather what is contained in the chalice, IS, sanctified by the word of God, THE BLOOD OF CHRIST."


"When in the Fathers' writings, especially in those of St. Augustine, side by side WITH the clear attestations of the Real Presence, many obscure symbolically-sounding utterances are found also, the following points must be noted for the proper understanding of such passages...."

Ludwig Ott then makes the following points:

(1) The early Fathers were bound by the discipline of the secret, which referred above all to the Eucharist (cf. Origen, In Lev hom 9,10);

(2) The absence of any heretical counter-proposition often resulted in a certain carelessness of expression to which must be added the lack of a developed TERMINOLOGY to distinguish the sacramental mode of existence of Christ's body from its natural mode of existence once on earth;

(3) The Fathers were concerned to resist a grossly sensual conception of the Eucharistic Banquet and to stress the necessity of the spiritual reception in Faith and in Charity (in contradistinction to the external, merely sacramental reception); passages often refer to the symbolical character of the Eucharist as "THE SIGN OF UNITY" [St. Augustine, Sermon 272; Homilies on John 26:13]; THIS IN NO WISE EXCLUDES the Real Presence. (see Ott, page 377-8)

St. Augustine stresses the sacramental and spiritual reception of the body and blood of Christ without denying their Real Presence in the Sacrament. Schaff says much the same (volume 3, pages 498-500). This is not to say that St. Augustine necessarily contradicts the official Catholic teaching concerning the mode of Christ's Presence. The proper terminology to be used to express it had not yet been fully worked out. Catholics also call the bread and wine "SIGNS" and refer to the Eucharist as a sacrificial "memorial" --


1333. At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord's command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: "He took bread...." "He took the cup filled with wine...." The SIGNS of bread and wine BECOME, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to SIGNIFY the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine [Cf. Psalm 104:13-15], fruit of the "work of human hands," but above all as "fruit of the earth" and "of the vine" -- gifts of the Creator. The Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who "brought out bread and wine," a prefiguring of her own offering [Gen 14:18].

This paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is wholly compatible with St. Augustine without going into the technical explanation of the mode of Christ's Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. The bread and wine REALLY "BECOME, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ." So says St. Augustine, and so the Catholic Church has taught for 2,000 years. Here's more on "SIGN" from the NCE (1967) --

"The clearer we see in FAITH, the greater our opportunity for union with God in sacramental encounters. As they are SIGNS of our sanctification, the Sacraments are also SIGNS of our worship as well as of Christ's. In them is expressed our sincere surrender in faith and love, and in proportion to the sincerity of this inner worship does our outward manifestation in sacramentalSIGNS, insofar as it is our act, become authentic. We worship God in these SIGNS, and God responds in them with His sanctification of us. Only he who understands the language of theSIGNS can speak intelligently in his prayer and give himself fully to God in Christ." (Volume 12, "Sacraments (Theology of)," pg 806-7)

"We should not think it is erroneous -- indeed, it is perfectly CORRECT -- to maintain that the Eucharist is a SIGN, FIGURE, and INSTRUMENT of Christ, because ALL Sacraments are such. The Council of Trent even insists that this Sacrament, like the others, is 'the SYMBOL of a sacred REALITY' (Denz 1639). The error is to stop there and deny the deeper mystery of the true and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist [which St. Augustine of course did not]." (Volume 5, "Eucharist (as Sacrament)," pg 604-5)

The passages referred to in the Council of Trent concerning "SYMBOL" read as follows --

"...regarding the doctrine, use and worship of the Sacred Eucharist, which our Savior left in His Church as a SYMBOL of that UNITY and CHARITY with which He wished all Christians to be mutually bound and united...."

"...He wished that this sacrament should be received as the spiritual food of souls [Matt 26:26f], whereby they may be nourished and strengthened, living by the life of Him who said: 'He that eateth Me, the same also shall live by Me' [John 6:58], and as an antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sins. He wished it furthermore to be a pledge of our future glory and everlasting happiness, and thus be a SYMBOL of that one body of which He is the Head [1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:23] and to which He wished us to be UNITED as members by the closest bond of FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY, that we might 'all speak the same thing and there might be no schisms among us' [1 Cor 1:10]."

"The most Holy Eucharist has indeed this in common with the other sacraments, that IT IS A SYMBOL OF A SACRED THING [REALITY] and a visible form of an invisible grace...."

COUNCIL OF TRENT, Session 13, On the Eucharist, Chapters I, II, III