Friday, October 16, 2009

St. Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165 AD) on the Eucharist

Who was Justin Martyr? The Catholic Encyclopedia states that he was a "Christian apologist, born at Flavia Neapolis, about A.D. 100, converted to Christianity about A.D. 130, taught and defended the Christian religion in Asia Minor and at Rome, where he suffered martyrdom about the year 165. Two `Apologies' bearing his name and his `Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon' have come down to us. Leo XIII had a Mass and an Office composed in his honour and set his feast for 14 April." From his First Apology, here is St. Justin Martyr on the Eucharist:

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. 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. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.


Matthew Bellisario said...

What a treasure we have in his writings! They are a great testimony to the early liturgy of the Church! It is amazing how similar the structure of the liturgy that Justin writes about is to that of all liturgies of the Catholic Church that came after him.

RJ said...

I never knew Justyn lived so early and spoke "CATHOLIC" as if a Priest or a fellow Catholic I have known down the block knows about TODAY?! Wow... Doesn't even come close...

Why were we denied these informations, histories in Protestantism?? I have been betrayed!

Constantine said...

How was the structure of the liturgy “that Justin writes about” similar at all to later liturgies?

Justin’s liturgy was not in Latin; was not celebrated by a “celibate” priest; was not comprised of scripted prayers. The eucharist was presented under both species to all participants and the cup wasn’t withheld from some, as was later practice. The celebrant wasn’t detached from the congregation and didn’t require approval by a pope to perform his duties. In fact, none of the liturgy came from Rome, which is a stark dissimilarity indeed.

Justin’s view of the nature of the elements of the eucharist were also at odds with Eusebius of Caesarea, Jerome, Hilary, Augustine and others – all of which came after him. His view of Christ as a “second God” was different from others and would have precluded anything like the later Nicene proclamation used in succeeding Roman masses.

So while Justin’s eucharistic formulation may approximate Rome’s current doctrine, it doesn’t follow at all that his liturgy was anything like what came after it. In fact, both his eucharistic beliefs and liturgical practices were at considerable variance from other Christian practices of his time and later.


Matthew Bellisario said...

Constantine, have you sat down and looked at the composition of the liturgies and compared them? Everything you have talked about here are externals to the actual structure of the liturgy. Latin has nothing to do with it. Neither does celibacy or receiving both species. I think you are really confused here. Think more about the actual liturgical structure, then you might get it.

Constantine said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Matthew.

What caught my attention is your statement, “how similar the structure of the liturgy that Justin writes about is to that of all liturgies of the Catholic Church that came after him.”

Even if we forego the point about Latin, I don’t think its fair to say that all liturgies since Justin’s time have been similar. They are very different in many respects. In Justin’s time, believers worshipped in a common space; later officiant and congregant were physically separated. Justin’s liturgy was officiated by one of the “bretheren”, a layman of the local gathering; later liturgies (beginning about the 5th century) were conducted by a cleric. The liturgy Justin knew used free form prayers exclusively while later liturgies are almost entirely scripted. The readings of the day in Justin’s time were freely chosen; in later times there are specific readings for specific days assigned by somebody unknown, miles away. So the differences seem, to me at least, to be numerous and profound. Perhaps you disagree.

But the larger point, relating to Dr. Beckwith’s original post and your comment on the liturgy, is Justin’s unique understanding of the nature of Christ. Given that, the very foundation of the liturgy is different. If not worshipping a different god isn’t changing the liturgy I don’t know what is.

I hope you have a great day.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Constantine, the liturgy in Justin's time was not celebrated by a laymen. Where did you get this info from? As far as the basic structure of the liturgy goes it is very similar to those that came after like the liturgies of St. Chrysostom, St. Basil and St. James. Latin is not part of the liturgical structure, period. The readings have been changed many times over the centuries, this also does not refer the actual structure that the liturgy is composed of.

Matthew Bellisario said...

For example, Justin tells us that first they have readings from the Scriptures, then they there is a sermon given after. There are then prayers said for the entire Church. They exchange a kiss of peace, then the liturgy of the Eucharist follows. Water and wine are mixed and bread is brought to the presider, not a laymen. The presider gives thanks to the Father and calls upon the Holy Spirit for the gifts that will be given in the Eucharist. The faithful then receive the Eucharist and it is also taken to the sick. This is done every Sunday. Here we have a basic structure that will be kept by all Christians of the true faith. There is more that could be said about it, but here are some basics for you.