Much of what has been said in this study has perforce been general, and it has been possible to give only a few illustrations. It would be a pity not to include a closer case study, to illustrate something of the texture of the philosophical treatment of theological problems in the Middle Ages. A convenient case in point is the controversy over the Eucharist, out of which the doctrine of transubstantiation evolved in the course of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
This debate constituted in fact only one area of a much fuller discussion of the saving power of the sacraments in the Church, which was to run on into the Reformation and beyond. It was agreed in the Middle Ages that Christ had instituted baptism and the Lord's Supper as means of grace, that is, as a 'trust' of which the Church was steward, through which the Holy Spirit could work in a regular and orderly way in the lives of God's people. The theology of baptism was relatively uncontroversial. Infant baptism became the norm in the West after the fourth century. Administered in the name of the Trinity and with water, and with a profession of faith made on behalf of the candidate, which the candidate made for himself when he was old enough, baptism was understood to remove once and for all the guilt of original sin, and all penalties of actual sins committed before baptism.
PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES The unbaptised could not, it was generally held, be saved. The Eucharist was increasingly seen as a means of applying the saving work of Christ in his death to the needs of sinners who accumulated the penalties for fresh sins throughout their lives, and needed to find forgiveness for them.
The precise relationship between the body of Christ as he died on the Cross, his risen body in heaven, and the bread consecrated as his body in the Mass therefore became important. From the eleventh century until the fifteenth it was usual to speak of the 'true body and blood' of Christ in the Eucharist, rather than of the 'real presence'. This emphasis created a preoccupation with the physics and metaphysics of the manner in which the bread and wine became body and blood, and gave rise to debates of ever-increasing technical complexity as scholars got to grips with Aristotelian physics in the high Middle Ages. The word 'true' threw its own shadow epistemologically, and in terms of the vastly more sophisticated signification theory of centuries beyond the eleventh, over the debates about analogy, and the figurative use of words and things.
Between 1050 and 1079 the grammarian Berengar and Lanfranc of Bec, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, with a number of other scholars in succeeding decades, were engaged in a dispute over the exact nature of the change. Berengar was brought on two occasions to agree that the bread and wine become 'true body and blood'. In the first recantation that is taken to mean that they are capable of being 'in truth' handled by the priest and broken, and attacked by the teeth of the faithful.8 That seems to imply a rough equation of bodily reality with tangibility. In the second we find the statement that the change takes place substantialiter, and the reference to touching has gone.9 That may be partly because of pressure on the discussion already being generated by a question which was to become by far the most common on this subject in the circle of the Cathedral school at Laon at the end of the century: whether at the Last Supper itself Christ gave his mortal and passible body, as it was then, or his incorruptible body, as it is now; if the former, the act of breaking and tearing would be a fearsome matter. In any case, it shifts into sharp focus the issue of 'substance'.
Two existing bodies of discussion would have come naturally to mind in this connection. The first is the Augustinian legacy of vocabulary and concepts developed in debating the question of one substance and three Persons in the Trinity. We find Berengar himself discussing this, and it was raised by William of Champeaux too.10 Augustine could use 'substance' (substantia) interchangeably with 'essence' (essentia) and 'nature' (natura) in this area, and we find all three terms among the anti-Berengarian authors.11
The second authority to which it would be natural to turn was Aristotle-
Boethius. In thinking about the application of the Categoria to the divine there was Augustinian as well as Boethian precedent for the clear understanding that God presents a special case. We find William of Champeaux reflecting on the application of 'quality' and of 'doing' and 'suffering', for example;12 quantity arises everywhere because of the puzzle as to how one body can make so many hosts; time and place present difficulties because of Christ's presence not only everywhere and at all times in the Eucharists upon earth, but also simultaneously in heaven; relation is discussed by Alger of Liège.13 William of St Thierry expresses the special character of talk of the categories in relation to the Eucharist in various ways. He points out that while in ordinary cases the substance 'makes' the accidents (efficit), that is not so in the Mass. The body of Christ in its actual substance (quantum in sua substantia) does not make the whiteness of the bread white or its roundness round.14 In answer to the question whether anything changes in the quality of Christ's substance, for he becomes, it seems, tractable and able to be tasted (tractabile et gustabile), he reminds us that God's substance in itself is good without quality; it is great without quantity; it is omnipresent without place.15 That is to say, when the substance of the bread changes into the substance of the body of Christ, all the 'attributes' of Christ (to use the term improperly) are present in the substance of his body, and although the bread is left as accidents without substance, Christ is not incomplete when his substance is present, as it were, without accidents. (It was suggested elsewhere that even the bread and wine do not 'perish', for to 'change into another substance' is not to perish.)16
Part of the discussion turned on the 'substances' (plural) of the bread and wine. Lanfranc and others after him distinguish between the species (that is, the bread and wine) and 'certain other qualities' (such as flavour, roundness) in his comments on these.17 The burning issue here - a pastoral one in origin - was whether if one of the faithful received only wine (as was common for young children), or only bread (for 'peasants', rustici), he or she had received less than someone who received both elements; or conversely, whether to receive both was to receive something extra.18 William of Champeaux tries to explain that in each species, bread and wine, there is the whole Christ (who since the Resurrection is invisible, impassible and indivisible), in such a way that the blood is not without flesh (sine came) and the flesh not bloodless (sine sanguine), and neither is without the human soul of Christ; and that total human nature of Christ is never 'without the Word personally joined with it' ('sine verbo Deo sibi personaliter counito').19 'Substance' would seem to be used in a straightforward, physical way, in speaking of the bread and wine as 'substances', but something very different
PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES is to be understood of the divine substance which is not only the body of Christ, but his blood, his soul, and whole human nature the Word of God. Many mid-twelfth-century questions were asked in this area: about whether the transubstantiation (transubstantiatio) of the bread took place before that of the wine, and if so, whether the Eucharist could be complete without the wine; when exactly in the process of consecration the change was made, of bread-substance and of wine-substance.20
But the heart of the matter, of course, was the nature of the change itself. Some authors avoid the technical question with a vague term such as 'turned' (vertitur).11 Robert of Melun tries to be more exact. It is not, he says, a case of the bread being taken away and the body of Christ being put in its place.22 To say that would be heresy. One substance passes (transit) into the other, but Robert is not prepared to say whether that happens all at once or bit by bit (tota in totam or partes in partes)2 Master Simon in his De Sacramentis speaks of commutatio rather than transubstantiatio, 'an ineffable commutation of substance into substance'. We believe, he explains, that 'under' those same accidents 'under' which the bread was before, now 'the body of Christ is'. That is not, he insists, to say that the body of Christ is made 'of the bread' (expane).24 Simon of Tournei, who was one of the first, perhaps the first, to use the word transubstantiatio, explains that the bread does not change into the blood or the wine into the body, and neither changes 'into Christ' (in Christum), and yet the whole Christ (totus Christus) is received in each.25 The most elaborate attempt to explain the change is in Alan of Lille's Regulae Theologicae. Rule 101 seeks to distinguish between alteratio, alteritas and transubstantiatio. 'Alteration' of substance takes place according to 'accidental' properties, as when black becomes white. So one might say 'black becomes white', but not 'white is made from black'. Alteritas involves a change of substance in substantial respects (secundum substantialia). That is what happened at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, where water became wine. Here we say 'Wine is made from water.' In transubstantiation, neither the matter (materia) nor the 'substantial form' (substantialis forma) remains, but only the accidentalia. Thus we can say 'the bread becomes the body of Christ' (fiet); it is mutabiliter, by change, converted (convertetur) into the body of Christ. We may not say that the bread 'will be the body of Christ', or that it 'begins to be' (incipiet esse), or that it is made from the bread (depane fiet). We can say that it becomes (fiet) his body.26
Guitmund of Aversa tells us that even at the date when he was writing not all those who might be called 'Berengarians' think the same. Some say that the body of Christ is present in a hidden way in the bread, 'so to speak, impanated' ('ut ita dixerim, impanari').21 They say that this is the more subtle meaning (subtilior sensus) of Berengar's teaching. Contained in it in a hidden way (patenter contineri), the true body does not replace the substance of the bread. This view was upheld in different words by Rupert of Deutz between 1112 and 1117. Just as the human nature was not destroyed when Christ became incarnate, but joined with the divine in unity of person, so the substance of bread and wine is not changed or destroyed, but conjoined in unity with the body which hung on the Cross and the blood which flowed from Christ's side,28 he argues. The neologism impanari is clearly intended to echo incarnari. Rupert's contemporaries, like Guitmund, were uneasy about using it. Alger of Liège, who was quick to attack Rupert, weakens it by adding 'as if ('quasi impanatum');29 William of St Thierry, who questioned Rupert's position soon afterwards, qualifies it too. 'If it could be said, it would be said that the Word was not only incarnate, but impanated.'30
The key objection to this position according to William of St Thierry is that the idea that the bread remains has always been abhorrent to Christians and was recently condemned in Berengar's teaching.31 In fact, the objection proved to lie elsewhere, both for Alger and for William. Alger baulks at the notion that, just as the Word became flesh, so bread becomes that same flesh.32 There is a confusion of comparisons (confusio similitudinum) here, he says, for the 'becoming' is quite different in each case (longe diverso modo); he points out some of the differences. The bread is not born. In the womb Christ took the species or form of man with the substance, but on the altar he takes the species or form of the bread without the substance. When Scripture calls the Lord's body 'bread' ('I am the bread of life'), it speaks figuratively, not 'substantially' (non substantialiter).33 How can Christ be said to be 'impanated' when he is not turned into bread and in no way becomes bread?34 The elements do not become one person with Christ.35 He puts the confusion down not merely to a mistake about the analogy to be drawn between two 'becomings', but to the reading of a grammatical similarity, that is, a similarity in the form of words, for a similarity of understanding or sense.36 A better comparison would be between a man and a picture of a man (an example from Aristotle). We say of both 'that is the man'. He concedes that the figure of the bread (figura panis) has a closer generic likeness to the body of Christ (familior) than a picture has to a man.37 There seems here to be an underlying sense of the indignity and inappropriateness of Christ's becoming personally impanated in bread (personaliter in pane impanatum), as he was personally incarnate in human flesh.38 Alger does not examine the anomalies which would arise from the whole incarnate Christ becoming impanated, but treats the question at issue as though it were a
PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES matter of the Son's becoming 'bread' as he became 'man'; he does not take in here the principles already referred to which are outlined by William of Champeaux.39
William of St Thierry takes us beyond the simple 'contained in a hidden way' (latenter contineri) of Guitmund, and Alger's elaborate refutation of Rupert's parallel between Incarnation and 'imputation', to the idea of 'inherence in'. He sees it as orthodox and acceptable to say that the accidents which inhere in (pani inhaerens) the original bread migrate to the substance of the body of Christ and inhere there.40 This assumes that the substance of the bread is thus left out of account. But 'inherence' is in itself a concept which takes us beyond a crude 'hiding inside'.
It is reasonably asked what the accidents of the bread can be said to be 'in' when the substance of the bread is gone. They are not in the bread. Nor are they in the body of Christ. The Ysagoge in Theologiam of the school of Abelard suggests that God can cause them to continue in being without any substance.41 Master Simon replies to those who think they are 'in' the air that that would mean that they would appear to shift about with the movement of the air. It is wiser (sanius), he thinks, to believe that they are 'in' no substance at all, but subsist on their own (per se subsistunt) to aid the faithful.42
Thus from a doctrine of change in the substance of the elements was seen to arise a variety of anomalies and difficulties. These were raised not necessarily by 'Berengarians', but, as is clear from the texts of the 'school' of Anselm of Laon, in the course of honest enquiry by students and scholars. The intention was not to overthrow the teaching of the Church but to understand how it could be right and at the same time incomprehensible. The result of such questioning - coupled with that of those who were indeed of Berengar's opinion or something like it - was to clarify many details and make the official doctrine altogether more hard-edged over the decades at the end of the eleventh and the beginning of the twelfth century when it was the subject of active controversy.
A major question was which 'body of Christ' the bread and wine became. As William of St Thierry was to point out, 'the body of Christ' had at least three senses. It could refer to the body which hung on the Cross, the historical body of Christ, which in his view is also the body which is sacrificed on the altar. It could refer to the body which, when the believer eats it, brings eternal life. It could mean the Church.43 But these three, he explains, are really one, the same body considered with respect to its essence (secundum essentiam), with respect to its unity (secundum unitatem) and with respect to its effect (secundum effectum).4 The continuing concern of Berengar's opponents almost from the beginning was to insist that the body of Christ into which the bread was transformed in the Eucharist was the self-same, historical body, in which he had lived and died. That meant it was no mere figurative change, or figurative body. Gilbert Crispin's way of putting it is to say that it is one and the same numerically (unum et idem numerum), a Boethian phrase.45 Gilbert and Durandus both refer to the idea that at the Last Supper Christ carried himself in his hands, and at the same time was carried in his own hands.46 This is, says Gilbert, no more remarkable than the soul's being in different parts of the body at the same time. But even if, as Anselm of Laon says, 'No sane person is in doubt about the truth of the substance', there remains a difficulty about the doctrine that the Eucharistic 'body' is Christ's historical body, which he is less confident is to be easily resolved. Did Christ give himself to his disciples at the Last Supper as he then was, mortal and corruptible (corruptibile) or as he was to be, incorruptible (incorruptible)? Here there is some dispute even among the orthodox.47 He judges it better to think that Jesus gave himself to his disciples as he then was.48 Did the disciples, then, receive his mortal body? Yes, thinks Anselm of Laon, but we receive it as it is now, the same historical body, but immortal.49
Whether mortal and corruptible, or immortal and incorruptible, the historical body of Christ would seem to be, by definition, of a sort of substance which is quantitative and subject to location. So at least it seemed to those engaged in the debate and anxious to reconcile this assumption with a doctrine of a literal and physical substantial change. At the Last Supper the whole Christ bore himself in his hands, and it was the whole Christ he carried.50 When some object that an unimaginably huge 'body' would be needed to make all the hosts for so many Eucharists, Guitmund replies that those hosts are not 'parts' of the body of Christ, but themselves that whole body.51 There are no little portions (portiunculae) of the sort described mockingly by Berengar.52 Alger too emphasises that when the body of Christ is broken and received by the faithful in the Eucharist, it remains whole and undiminished.53 Durandus makes the same point.54 To this paradox our authors added another. When Christ sat at the table at the Last Supper, he was wholly there, says Gilbert, but he was also wholly in the mouths of those who were eating the bread which was his body.55 There is no difference, he maintains, between that bilocation and Christ's now being in heaven and at the same time in the host.56 Alger stresses that the body of Christ is locally in heaven and also locally on earth.57 Lanfranc, making the same point, says that this is a mystery to which we must bow, much as it affronts reason.58 Both the laws which normally govern physical quantity
PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES and those which govern physical location are broken. Both are involved in the miracle that Christ is attacked by the teeth of the faithful and yet remains whole and undamaged. All this 'goes beyond the nature of substance in a body',59 comments Gilbert. Every corporeal substance (corporea substantia) is circumscripta, finite, and it cannot be completely in several places. The method by which the defenders of the Church's position tackle these fearsome anomalies is, then, to acknowledge them freely, but to hold them up to the faithful as wonders, whose miraculous character should increase their faith, not cause them to doubt that there is a real substantial change.
The miraculous character of the change is freely discussed. It is compared with the power by which God created the world out of nothing. To change one thing into another seems less of a wonder than that. It is also (though less generally) compared with the miracle of the Incarnation.60 Moreover, the food we eat turns into our bodies every day.61 But if the argument rests in the end on the contention that the very anomalies are themselves wonderful, and meant to awaken us to faith, some put forward the difficulties about 'indignity', which seem to point the other way. 'Perish the thought that it should be right for Christ to be torn by teeth!' exclaims Guitmund's interlocutor Roger, in his debate with Guitmund.62 If our opponents the Berengarians want to say that that is undignified, answers Guitmund, what will they say of the humiliation which Christ willingly underwent when, for our salvation, he was beaten, wore a crown of thorns, and was torn by the Cross, the nails, the spear?63 Certainly it seems unacceptable to think of the 'substances of the divine oblation' as capable of being digested, indeed of causing indigestion and drunkenness if taken to excess, just like any other bread and wine, as the Berengarians would have it.64 (One compromise suggestion came from William of Champeaux. He suggests that it is the species of the bread and wine which remain which are chewed, but the substance itself, the body of Christ, remains whole.)65 In such ways the objection that it would be undignified to become Christ's body is turned on its head.
One of the strongest arguments in favour of the view that there is, metaphysically speaking, a real change, is that that makes it easier to understand the effect of the Eucharist. Guitmund describes it as a 'saving effect' (nostraesalutis effectivum).66 Durandus is more explicit. Those who ate manna in the desert died. Our miraculous food is the living Bread who came down from heaven, the body of Christ, and it gives us the substance of eternal life (vitae aeternae substantiam subministrat).67 We remain naturally (naturaliter) in Christ through participation (per commercium) in his holy flesh (sanctae suae carnis), and he in us through his assumption of our weakness.
He has incorporated us powerfully into himself (nos sibipotenter corporavit) and makes us naturally (naturaliter) one with him by communication in his body and blood with him.68 This same theme of union with Christ is emphasised by Alger69 and Anselm of Laon.70
But against any doctrine of 'automatic' incorporation resulting from the physical reality of the body of Christ which the believer receives were raised questions about the need for worthiness in the minister,71 and for worthiness in the person receiving.72
The power of the words of consecration (vis verborum) was of central importance for our authors. Lanfranc points out that if there is such vis in sermone in Jesus that things could come into being which did not exist before, how much more easily could he cause what was already there to change into something else.73 Durandus puts it in terms of 'before' and 'after'. Before the words of Christ, the cup is full of wine and water. When those words have done their work, there is the blood which redeems his people.74 Alger of Liège speaks in similar terms of the power of the words of consecration.75 'Through' (per) the words, says Anselm of Laon, the bread is changed (commutari) into the body of Christ 76
This sort of thinking about the effect of words is in line with contemporary understanding of what at a later date it would be appropriate to call the theory of signification. Guitmund describes Berengar's position as being that the bread and wine are not truly and substantially (vere substantialiterque) the body and the blood but 'merely so-called by name' (sola voce sic appellari), the shadow and figure being themselves significative (significativa) of the body and blood, that is, acting as signs in their own right.77 There is some play with the vocabulary of 'naming' in Durandus. 'It is said to be flesh (dicitur) and it is called bread (vocatur); bread, because it is food, or because of its outward appearance; flesh, because it is life, and because of the truth lying hidden in it (latentum) by an inward dispensation (intrinsecus dispensatione).78 Again: before the blessing of the heavenly words, it is named as a species (alia species nominatur); after the consecration the body of Christ is signified' (significatur). Before the consecration the wine is said to be one thing (aliud dicitur); after the consecration it is called blood (sanguis nuncupatur).79 There are no exact technical distinctions here. The variation of terms seems to be designed to avoid repetition; this is stylistic. But underlying all the words for naming is the key recognition that 'After Christ had blessed the bread he did not call it bread but body.'80
This tempted comparison with other occasions when Christ had called himself the 'vine' or the 'way'. If 'I am the vine', ego sum vitis, is said in the same way as 'this is my body', should they be taken in the same sense (eodem
PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES sensu)? asks Gilbert. If so, either the bread is only figuratively or significatively the body of Christ; or he is substantially (substantialiter) the vine, and that is not what catholic faith believes.81 It cannot necessarily be the case that things said in the same form of words82 have to be taken in the same sense. Sheer shortage of words may cause us to use equivocation. We say that the Jews crucified the Lord, but in fact it was the gentiles.83 If we examine the different ways in which Christ 'is' man, or a lion, we see that he is a man in nature, a lion in action. So 'is' may tell us to take the sense significative or substantive, depending on the context. Jesus himself explained in the case of his figurative 'is' exactly what he meant, after he had made the statement 'I am the vine', etc. It was a very different matter in the case of the bread and the wine. There, there is no explanation of a figure, and we must take it that he meant what he said literally.84
Further questions arising from contemporary grammatical and logical studies also arose. Should the bread be said to be called the body of Christ 'properly' or in a simile (similitudinarie)?85 Alger thinks that in this unique case, it is something between the two. It is acceptable to say that it is a proper usage, but it is said, nevertheless, somewhat improperly (aliquantulum improprie), because the form and qualities of the bread remain.86 The substance is transferred (translata est), and some transference (translatio) of usage must go with it.87 The use of tranferre for the change in substance is of some interest, because translatio was a standard term for a transference of signification from literal to metaphorical or vice versa. We find a borrowing the opposite way in talk of the category of relation (ad aliquid) in the context of usage. 'These words are relative', says Lanfranc.88 He is trying to explain away the difficulty to which Berengar points, that in Scripture there is reference to species, similitudo, figura, signum, mysterium, sacramentum in speaking of the bread.89
Over all broods the consciousness of the enormous and complex problems raised by Scriptural usage.90 Lanfranc comments that when 'bread' is referred to, that is the custom of the Scripture's way of speaking.91 In the Bible it is common for things to be called by the names of those things from which they come or are made, or by the names of what they are merely thought to be.92 'What is the definition of a figurative saying?' (definitio figuratae locutionis) asks Rupert. He explains that when the word sounds as though it means one thing and something else is to be understood, that is a figurative saying. In the case of 'This is my body' the figuratio disappears, and the sensus verbi consonus, the sense of the word as it sounds, remains, that is, that the bread is converted into the true substance of his body by divine power.93 It is, in other words, the reverse of a figurative saying, for in this supremely special usage of Scripture, the words mean exactly what they say. Gilbert Crispin does not think it so straightforward. He sees a paradox. 'We do not utterly exclude the figure from this sacrament, nor admit it to be only a figure. It is true because it is the body of Christ. It is a figure, because what is incorruptible is sacrificed.' If the hoc was not substantive, he says, the words 'given for you' would only be figurative.94
All Berengar's accusers struggle with paradox. If we are to say he is wrong in speaking of the bread and wine as 'only a sacrament', we do not want to deny that they are a sacrament. Guitmund asks 'if it is a figure, how is it true?'95 Durandus tries to explain how Christ in the Eucharist is verus homo, even though he is said to be in the 'likeness of man' in Scripture. Figura does not rule out substantia, he insists. It is not substantiae abnegativa.96 Alger says that a body which is spiritual and invisible may also be substantial and 'true'.97 It is the body Christ had from the virgin which we receive, and yet it is not (et tamen non ipsum), says Lanfranc.98
It was evidently asked why God should choose so extraordinary a device as transubstantiation. Lanfranc says that it is an act of kindness on the Lord's part, for if the faithful saw the flesh and blood, they would be filled with horror. It is also a test of faith, for those who believe without seeing deserve the greater reward.99 The same point is made by Alger. If the bread vanished altogether it would be so apparent that a miracle had taken place that there would be no work left for faith to do.100 There is the further possibility that it is a teaching aid. Berengar had pointed out that if the host were kept long enough it would grow mouldy. Guitmund answers that if that were to happen it would either be an indication that there had been some negligentia on the part of the ministers, or a sign to test the faith of the people, or perhaps to prove that it had been insufficient.101 The further reason usually added by the mid-twelfth century was so that unbelievers might not laugh to see Christians drinking blood.102 But we may look at the question in a rather different way in the light of the influence of the assumptions and methods of ancient philosophy which we have seen running so strongly through the controversy. To some degree that heritage presented the difficulty and shaped the reply it was possible to make to it.
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