Saint Justin Martyr Proves Ancient Church Belief in Real Presence – ca AD 150 October 6, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Ecumenism, Eucharist, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, history, martyrdom, Saints, sanctity, Tradition, true leadership, Victory, Virtue.
Saint Justin Martyr was a cultured man of letters and one of the first great post-apostolic apologists for the Faith. He carried on a unique and extensive correspondence with the 15th Emperor of Rome, Titus Fulvus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, commonly known as Antoninus Pius, who reigned from AD 138-161. This correspondence is well known among those with more than a very limited knowledge of early Church history, and is one of numerous testimonies from the earliest Church Fathers that prove, without equivocation or the slightest doubt, that the Faith of the Catholic Church of Rome is the exact Faith that was practiced by the earliest Church. This is confirmed in numerous doctrinal beliefs, but one of the most important, and, concomitantly, easiest to confirm, is the total belief in the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar held by the early Church. This is confirmed by numerous writings dating to the earliest part of the 2nd century (over 200 years before Constantine supposedly “corrupted the Church,” according to protestants) from St. Ignatius of Antioch and others on (adding to several FIRST century references a la Pope Saint Clement’s Epistles to Corinth, among others) to the best of the 2nd century, Justin Martyr.
You have to understand the context in which Saint Justin Martyr was writing. Christianity was still almost entirely a secret religion due to persecution. The Mass was not open to the public. As part of the persecution, and partly due to human nature when encountering anything new and different, wild, calumniating rumors flew regarding what went on during the Mass, which was known to feature a Sacrifice. Many of these wild rumors and innuendo’s were started by the earliest Church’s first enemies, the Jews. Jews claimed that Christians sacrificed babies and ate their bodies during the Mass, mixing up scattered bits of the Nativity and Easter narratives, or just being plain malicious. These rumors added further fuel to the already extant persecutions, making them much more severe.
At any rate, the educated, urbane Justin set out to set matters straight, and rather than mess around with middlemen, went straight to the top man himself. He used his connections to establish a correspondence with the Emperor Antoninus Pius. The critical part of the exchange, quoted by St. Alphonsus Liguori in the Victories of the Martyrs (but far more and better coverage is in either Jurgen’s The Faith of the Early Fathers Volume 1, or the The Anti-Nicene Fathers by Roberts and Donaldson but beware the anti-Catholic notes in this Anglican work):
Wherefore having explained the sacred ceremonies of baptism, he proceeds to speak of the Eucharist in the following terms: “He that presides in the assembly is presented with bread and a chalice of wine, mixed with water; whereupon, in the name of the Son and the Holy Ghost, he renders glory to the Father. And by these gifts doth he make thanksgiving, which all the faithful confirm by the word ‘Amen.’ The prayers, praises, and thanksgivings being terminated, the deacons take of the bread and the wine, mixed with water, over which all these holy prayers have been recited, and having distributed them among those present, they carry some to the absent also.
[Liguori here notes that these men would have been the equivalent of today’s full deacons, acting as delegates of the priest or, as he was then called, the presbyter. They were considered separate and “above” lay persons and had received consecration for the task of handling the Sacred Species. The circumstances of the Church under persecution made recourse to use of deacons (and, yes, sometimes lay people) commonly to distribute the Eucharist necessary, and are not an endorsement of lay handling of the Blessed Sacrament as per modern practice. By the late 4th century, doctrine had clearly evolved, as demonstrated in the Spanish Council of Elvira, against ANY lay handling of the Blessed Sacrament. This Doctrine came into place as soon as the period of vicious persecution ended] This food is by us called Eucharist; of which no one can partake who believeth not our doctrines, and who hath not been cleansed from sin in the laver of regeneration. This is not common food or drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior was, for our redemption, by virtue of the Divine Word, composed of flesh and blood; so we are aware that, by virtue of the prayer containing His Divine words, the food by which we are nourished is the Flesh and Blood of the Word Incarnate.” [This is really our Faith in a nutshell. From the Eucharist, everything else flows. That is why the protestants had to turn the Eucharist into a symbol, because with the Eucharist intact, all their changes to the moral law and claims of private interpretation would, in time, crumble upon themselves. And this is no outlier. From the early Fathers you can find confirmation of virtually any Catholic Doctrine you choose, almost always directly but occasionally by inference. Confession? Absolutely. Works vital for salvation? Certainly. Communion/”membership” in the Church necessary for salvation. Heck yes. A hierarchical Church with the pope at its head? You bet.]
Thus we see that the present doctrine of the Catholic Church is that which was believed and practiced in the apostolic times, in which our Saint flourished.
Unfortunately, Saint Justin failed to convince the obstinate infidel “Pius.” He also got his head lopped off for his trouble.
There you go. You get a double-dose of catechesis today. Perhaps this bit of knowledge might come in handy when dealing with protestant family and/or friends.