St. Peter Chrysologos (380-450) on the Heavenly Bread of the Lord’s Prayer

One of the under-appreciated giants of the early Church is St. Peter Chrysologus (380-450), who was Archbishop of Ravenna. He has his given last name “Chrysologus” because it means, literally, “the Golden-worded” (Χρυσο-λόγος, i.e., he preached gold.) It is similar to St. John Chrysostom whose name Chrysostomos means “the Golden Tongue”.

He gives a nugget of gold in his commentary on the Lord’s prayer on the part which says, “give us our daily bread”, and I am happy to share it with you all. *Notice the continuity of “flesh” from that which took residence in Mary, died on the cross, and was buried in the tomb with what St. Peter believed was placed in the Church and its altars. A spiritual presence (absent of substance) doesn’t get placed somewhere (or at least, it is very unlikely he thought of it this way)*

He writes:

“The heavenly Father is encouraging us, as heavenly sons, to ask for heavenly bread. He said: 𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘯 (John 6:41). He is the Bread sown in the Virgin, leavened in the flesh, moulded in His passion, baked in the furnace of the sepulchre, 𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒆𝒅 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒉𝒖𝒓𝒄𝒉𝒆𝒔, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒆𝒕 𝒖𝒑𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒂𝒍𝒕𝒂𝒓𝒔, 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒉 𝒅𝒂𝒊𝒍𝒚 𝒔𝒖𝒑𝒑𝒍𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒗𝒆𝒏𝒍𝒚 𝒇𝒐𝒐𝒅 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒇𝒂𝒊𝒕𝒉𝒇𝒖𝒍”

(Sermon 67; Eng. Trans: Claire Russell, 𝐺𝑙𝑖𝑚𝑝𝑠𝑒𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐶ℎ𝑢𝑟𝑐ℎ 𝐹𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑠: 𝑆𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑠 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑊𝑟𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐹𝑎𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐶ℎ𝑢𝑟𝑐ℎ (London: Scepter, 2008), 365.)

14 thoughts on “St. Peter Chrysologos (380-450) on the Heavenly Bread of the Lord’s Prayer

  1. What is quite interesting is that fundamentally the conception of a spiritual presence seems unavoidable. And not only that, but efficaciousness of the sacrament derived only from faith.

    For example, let us consider the Aristotelian logic of Transubstantiation-

    In the sacrament, you have the substance of Christ without its proper accidents and the accidents of bread and wine without their proper substance.

    Now, the accidents of bread and wine have no subject. None. They are not garments of Christ, he is not clothed in them, he does not possess them and he takes no ownership of them. We could say that it is lawful to venerate the kings throne because it is the King’s, it is possessed by him and is associated with his identity, he appropriates it and what it symbolizes.
    In transubstantiation there is zero appropriation of the accidents of bread and wine. Effectively, they are illusions. Shells of a reality that has been annihilated (according to Scotus and Ockham).

    So the implications are that if you bisect a host to examine it, Christ is not between the pieces. If you divide it further, he is still not there. When you touch a host you touch the accidents, not the substance. In fact, if you pulverize the accidents to the point where they can no longer signify bread, the sacramental presence essentially evaporates, much as dissolving it in water (which is why stressing about particles that no longer effectively signify bread is theologically absurd even from a Catholic perspective).

    This means that if you receive the host in the hand, you never touched the substance of Christ, you never drank the substance of Christ. You touched and tasted and received only the accidents. In fact, the only meaningfully efficacious way of receiving the Eucharist is by faith in the union between the sign and the thing signified. Between the bread and Christ’s promise to be present in it somehow.

    But the Aristotelian logic both destroys and makes meaningless the spiritual reality which can only be apprehended by faith. What is the significance of putting Christ’s substance in your stomach? Zero. But what is the significance of faithfully appropriating the price of your redemption and eating by faith the lamb whose blood is posted on the doorways of your heart? Dare I say it- what a hope for assurance!

    But the notion of Transubstantiation brings nothing to this reality. Because the metaphysical need for a corporeal presence that abolishes the signification of the sign (effectively) doesn’t amount to anything. The bread must remain true bread to truly signify what is intended. The wine must remain true wine to truly signify what intended. Non-entities cannot be signs. Insubstantial realities cannot be signs. And the irony is that this is implicitly admitted by saying the destruction of the accidents results in the evaporation of the sacramental presence.

    Let the Sacramental presence be real. Let it be even corporeal. Let it be a real partaking in the body and blood of Christ. But let the signs retain their necessary reality REALLY in themselves, and then they will really efficaciously make present he who makes all places present to himself and elevates the sacrament celebrated in many places to his one throne of Grace.

    If the Grace cannot but be spiritual, and if it cannot be received but by faith, and if what we touch and eat has no objective reality, then there is no point in insisting on Transubstantiation, for we do not need it to explain our sacramental union with Christ. And it creates an unnecessary anxiety over elements that in the end cannot actually harm Christ present, because nothing can break the barrier of accidents and get to the substance! So it seem rather pointless to even need it.

    • Yes, I’ve heard this before. The owner/author of Apologia Anglicana pitched the same points. He recently converted to Catholicism and changed his site to “Militant Thomist”.

      I qualified spiritual presence with (absence of substance). That the body of Christ in the eucharist is a spiritual body is biblical, patristic, and liturgical. The point that is relevant is that St. Peter makes a straight line of reasoning from the embryonic presence in the Virgin, the corporeal presence in Jesus of Nazareth, the human body that was crucified and buried, to the presence that exists in the churches and her altars. Pointing out the absence of subject (of its kind) in the miracle of the event does not undermine it, but merely signifies it as further unexplainable to the point of comprehension.

      On another note – what contemporary Christian community can you or I go to that is a viable option as the Lord’s visibly instituted Church that goes around delineating this qualification you’ve provided above about the Eucharistic presence? And please provide the reference I can observe. We can take it from there.

      My guess is that you are going to cite Anglican thinkers, but we then have further qualify after that given the 39 articles. And now we are back to where, again?

      • Well remember for me this is somewhat hypothetical. Argument is part of the struggle. But confessional Lutheranism seems actually more robust than Anglicanism and is equally anti-Arminian.

      • Right, I bring up the question of confessions because it always good to take a pause from the weeds and step back to see whether there is any treasure to be found after chasing a certain thought after all. In this case, if I was going to go Lutheran, I’d have to reject the Melchizedekian style of Christ’s priesthood since they reject a propitiatory sacrifice in the bread and wine, renewed at every Mass. That is far too biblical and patristic to let go of. In that case, I can take my time with chasing the tail of a missing subject (of its kind) to the visible accidents of bread and wine.

      • Christian B. Wagner here (Militant Thomist), I had similar objections to you, and after plenty of turmoil found the solutions to specifically the question of the inherence of the accidents, here is an article I wrote refuting what I wrote for the North American Anglican (which can be found here:

        Objection: It seems that accidents cannot inhere sine subjecto, for, accidents are those beings which inhere in the being of substance (as Grenier calls them, “being of being”), to inhere by Divine power goes against this definition, ERGO…
        There are two genera of responses to this objection. First, one may respond by distinguishing the major premise (“accidents are those beings which inhere…”). Second, one may respond by denying the minor premise (“to inhere by Divine power goes against this definition…”).

        To the first, it seems as if this merely accounts for the action of an accident (which does not account for a true definition), rather we should seek the quiditas of the thing by accounting for the genus and differentia. As St. Thomas teaches, “The term ‘quiddity,’ surely, is taken from the fact that this is what is signified by the definition” (DeEnte.C1.4), and “the term ‘nature’ used in this way seems to signify the essence of a thing as it is ordered to the proper operation of the thing.” (Ibid.) Now, inherence would be the “proper operation of the thing [accidents].” Therefore, in no way can it be the definition of an accident.

        Now, accidents are regarded to be a category of being, as the Philosopher teaches, in the Organon. Yet, it is also a principle of Thomistic philosophy that being is not a genus, as the Philosopher teaches in the Metaphysics. But, this does not hinder us from regarding being as the linguistic subject of predication in a definition and thus said to be the “genus” of definition.

        In a similar way, being itself cannot be properly defined, only improperly defined. As Grenier teaches, “Being cannot be defined, because every definition is composed of a genus and a differentia. But there can be no gensu above being; nor can being have a differentia properly so called. Therefore being cannot be defined.” (Cursus Philosophiae 491)
        The differentia of an accident ought rather to be defined, as one which does not exist by its own inherent virtue, as St. Thomas teaches, “Since being is not a genus, then being cannot be of itself the essence of either substance or accident. Consequently, the definition of substance is not—a being of itself without a subject, nor is the definition of accident—a being in a subject; but it belongs to the quiddity or essence of substance to have existence not in a subject; while it belongs to the quiddity or essence of accident to have existence in a subject.” (). This provides for the principle of natural inherence, rather than defining a thing based on its natural act.

        From this, the solution is clear. For, being does not exist ipsum, rather being exists ab alio (from another) in ipsum esse (that is, God). As St. Thomas teaches, “Every creature may be compared to God, as the air is to the sun which enlightens it. For as the sun possesses light by its nature, and as the air is enlightened by sharing the sun’s nature; so God alone is Being in virtue of His own Essence, since His Essence is His existence; whereas every creature has being by participation, so that its essence is not its existence.” (ST.I.Q104.A1.C.6)

        Thus the tradition has affirmed that being is not an essential predicate of created being, but only of God in whom essence is existence. As Grenier teaches, “An essential predicate is a predicate which designates the essence of the thing of which it is predicated…Being as signifying existence, is not an essential predicate of creatures, because creatures are being by participation…not essentially.” (496.1)

        Thus, in accounting for accidents as “being of being,” they are better described as “being existing from Being itself, through the instrumentality of being.” In this, the being of substance is merely the instrumentality (instrumental cause) through which accidents participate in Being itself, rather than an indispensable element. If we were to dispense with substance, accidents would not exist, unless God upheld the participation in His Being, it would transfer from mediate to immediate.

        Thus, we can claim Divine power for this miracles. Just as God dispensed with instrumentality in the conception of Our Lord, so also may God dispense with instrumentality in the participation of accidents in His Being. In light of this, the argument of St. Thomas follows that God may dispense with secondary causes.

        Second, I deny the minor premise that “to inhere by Divine power goes against this definition…” For, in this definition given by Aristotle, the genus is “being” (note: the qualifications above) and the specific differentia is that of “inherence.” “Inherence” is a certain operation of a thing. It is not essential for a certain operation to terminate in the completion of its act in order for it to be a specific differentia. Rather, as Bl. Scotus argues, it needs only be necessary that the operation be active and be said to “tend towards” completion of the act. Further, to have the faculties for such an operation in potentia also is sufficient to qualify for such a definition.

        This will be clear by analogy. The genus of man is that he is an “animal” and the specific differentia is that he is “rational.” Now, rationality refers not to the operation or actualization of the rational faculties, but the possession of the faculties (even in potentia). A man who is in a coma is not said to be “definitionally not a man,” but, rationally exists, 1. In faculties present, 2. In Potentia, and 3. In the inherent tending towards rational actions present within him.

        In the same way, while inherence does not reach the terminus of inhereing in a substance, still, 1. The faculties of inherence are present, 2. The accidents inhere in potentia, and 3. Accidents still tend towards inherence.

      • How can there be actual and meaningful signification if the thing signifying has no substantial reality? Is it fitting that illusory properties of reality (accidents without substantial subject) signify ultimate reality?

        Moreover, what is the significant point of Transubstantiation that is lacking in sacramental union? Why is it necessary that I literally put Jesus’ divinized flesh in my stomach? That’s the point.

      • Internetsecurity82 says:

        >>Is it fitting that illusory properties of reality (accidents without substantial subject) signify ultimate reality?<<

        An argument in the realm of dogma…. from fittingness?

  2. So, in regard to what I wrote against Francis de Sales-

    Actually, the reason I wrote that refutation is to demonstrate that his work, while rhetorical and pastoral, is hardly objective. It’s a series of assertions based on an unexamined presupposition- That legitimate mission means to be sent by Rome. It’s largely a work of rhetoric without any serious thought or meaningful objection. For example, claiming the Protestants did no miracles is moot- the point of Luther’s reformation was to essentially be the Vatican II of its time, in reality. The irony is that Catholicism in its current form has moved closer to Lutheranism in both theological expression and liturgical celebration. The Lutherans are not becoming Catholic- the Catholics are becoming Lutheran. Even the language of Material sufficiency of Scripture, that good works are an inevitable fruit of true justification, the abandonment of the language of needing to merit justification and the abandonment of the “two sources of revelation” language are concessions to reformation ideas.

    However, even in the midst of any strong assertion I do practice mental reservation in the event I am wrong.

    The issue is that Roman Catholicism does carry with it certain unexamined ramifications that are apparently ludicrous if taken to their logical conclusion.

    For example- transubstantiation is an essentially Apollinarian eucharistic theology- the qualities of bread remain but the substance is displaced entirely by the substance of Christ, just as for Apollinaris the Accidents of Humanity remain, but the substantial form (the soul) is replaced by the Logos.

    The Catholic idea of grace building upon nature is replaced by grace displacing/annihilating nature. The bread isn’t real. So, if all that remains are accidents united to a separate substance, how does that signify our union in Christ? Are we all ultimately unreal phantasms of the divine mind that are just incidental manifestations of his one goodness and holiness? It’s possible, but it guts the substantial reality of US being in HIM. Even the illusory nature of the reality of bread as mere accidents united to a substance could be said to smack of the Gnosticism latent in Apollinarianism, the conviction that a real and substantial nature that is not God is bad and unfitting to receive him.

    For this reason, as Pope Gelasius seems to argue, the Sacramental nature of real and proper bread that has Christ present with and in and alongside it, to say nothing of its secondary mode of consecration, as that which is set aside for a holy purpose, more fully signifies the reality of the union we ought to have in Christ, one where reality isn’t set aside in favor of divinity, but the one is made holy by the indwelling of the other, without annihilation.

    • Book of Concord and the 2nd Vatican Council/All the clarificatory documents are antithetical on all the same points that they were in the 16th century. On transubstantiation, the fathers teach that something is changed into what it isn’t, and they don’t mean that bread/wine is changed into bread/wine alongside body/blood. It is a derivative doctrine that remains mysterious. There is no problem. What is a problem, however, is the entertainment of Lutheranism though Lutheranism would have had no place to sit at any of the ecumenical councils. So where is the commissioner for Luther? Augsburg? German princes? Who?

      • So in Lutheranism following several church fathers like Theodore’s and Gelasius, the CHANGE is the sacramental union.

        Remember St. Justin Martyr?
        “For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

        So the Lutheran asserts there is a change, the bread is not mere bread, but is the true body of Christ, and what is received ought to be adored in being received, as Chemnitz defends. But the fact that the reality of bread is still present doesn’t detract from the fact that it has changed from profane to sacred and left behind its ordinary Character to be united to Christ.

        Ironically Catholicism itself ostensibly has no problem with the fact that in the Eucharist you receive two realities- for the accidents are real, not illusory as some Cartesian theologians said (according to Ott). So you receive with Christ the outward signs and accidents of bread and wine, which have no relationship to him, because they have no subject.

        So what if the outward signs are simply substantial with the substantial body? How does it make a difference? Even Paul says that it is partaking of bread that is a participation of the body of Christ.

        So I would say there is a change in the sense that the ordinary and common is left behind in consecration in the sacramental union of Christ with the bread and wine which are now sacred things to be adored, not common things to be treated profanely.

      • I referred to the *change* that Lutherans believe occurs when I said that the change that occurs is not one where it goes from bread/wine to bread/wine and body/blood. So this has already been accounted for in my prior comment. As for the statements of Gelasius/Theodoret – let’s just say they taught the full blown presence of bread/wine are retained in both substance/accident in their conversion into divine bread. What does that mean? That just means that the precise theological definition of what happens in the Supper was not yet dogmatically defined. Could it be that Gelasius might have said, “Ah, by substance and nature is meant the visible species and accidents”? Who really knows. But this is what is clear – the teaching of a change of the bread to what it is not is greatly testified by the Fathers and is the teaching that won out in Trent’s dogmatic definition. Would either Gelasius or Theodoret have an ecclesiology akin to the Augsburg Confession or to the Articles of the Book of Concord? It is far easier to believe these men would go with the doctrine of the Spiritually empowered Church rather than departing from the Church to reconstruct something anew that was hitherto not known prior to. So what motivates you to transfer out what sanity would compel you to do, namely, interpret the Church’s doctrine according to her best merits, and in its place insert the absurdity that Lutheranism might have, after all, been the correct form of Christianity. One of the best historical theologians of this era, Allister McGrath, has already released the 4th version of his book on Iustitia Dei which says both the Latin and Greek Fathers held to a form of the gospel that classical Protestantism has condemned. Is that true or false? If it is true, what anchor exists in Protestantism for which you find reason to take the crumbs of defense for it as if they were a weight worth consideration?

      • I would say that prior to any assertion is the underlying assumption. So we have to examine the foundations to understand the structure. A cathedral of thought is a haunt of evil spirits if it’s foundation is not sound.

        I would say that since scripture has ontological primacy and authority, it must have normative and norming authority. But simultaneously it is not right to imagine it in everybody’s hands doing what they want. At the same time, Christ makes no promise to the Church that each particular church or any particular church will remain perpetually faithful to apostolic teaching. That promise does not exist. There is a promise that hades will not prevail over those who confess as Peter did, specifically the assembly of the righteous, the ekklesia. He promises resurrection trampling down the gates of Hades and bursting forth from within. That’s the imagery of Christ’s promise to Peter.

        Also, Paul is clear that the Galatians are to essentially take the gospel into their own hands and flee the judaizers, those who would add to the faith by which we are justified, which justification at any point in our life is never a reward for a work, nor merited.

        So, when I see Pistoia condemned for innovating in ways favorable to Protestants (simple altars, vernacular Mass, emphasis on Grace, reduced veneration to Mary, saying the Church had erred up until that point and caused confusion), and then see Vatican II DO what is condemned at Pistoia (simplify the liturgy, allow the vernacular, give control over implementation to episcopal synods, reduce veneration to Mary, emphasize evangelism) those are all moves, according to Auctorem Fidei, toward Protestantism. And in the name of fixing the stodgy old Church which apparently has not been able to actually fulfill the people’s felt needs. Sarcasm, but you get the point.

        So, it seems to me that any honest person wouldn’t want to live in a halfway house. Be either Tridentine or Lutheran. Or I suppose you could accept some of the innovations of Cranmer at the Ordinariate parish, but that’s also inconsistent isn’t it?

      • The first explanation is the classic doctrine of the invisible church based upon the invisible gospel. I am willing to hear more about that, but let’s not pretend it is something else.

        Before moving to the next comments, could you cite the condemnations of Pistoia so that the readers can examine whether what we are talking about are flips flops from the apostolic depository and whether Vatican II has also committed to doing what is priorly condemned? It is not enough to have a good hunch that this is what happened. To my knowledge, confessional Lutherans like J. Cooper still see the Rome as not budging on the essential matters.

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