RCIA Class on the Eucharist

February 9, 2010

I’ve been looking forward to the RCIA class on the Eucharist for some time, and was not disappointed. It was good stuff all around and I found my faith being built up. It’s easy to let your eyes shape your idea of things, like the Eucharist, rather than your faith, and I confess I fall into that.

We had an excellent speaker, who walked us through John chapter 6 in a humorous (yes, it’s possible) story-telling way and went through the Eucharistic prayers, emphasizing all the right points and bunny-trailing on essentials only. Like when he segued to explain that the only time Peter got anything right, Christ responded by saying it was from the Father (Matt 16:15-17). This showed that when Christ then gave the keys of heaven to Peter, it was based on the fact that God is able to reveal wisdom and work through Peter, who was by himself powerless. Which of course is an essential point when people ask, “How do you know for sure that the words written by the Apostles in the gospels were the ones Christ actually said and so base your idea that it’s literal on what he said?” The answer of course is that the Church, headed by the Pope in the seat of Peter, gave us the gospels and ensures that they were inspired, written to convey a truth they were already preaching and describing the Eucharist they were already celebrating. Christ’s authority in the Church is our guaranteer through the Holy Spirit which preserves her from error.

My favorite part was about the mystical aspect of the Eucharist. Two RCIA speakers have quoted Saint Augustine when he said “Be what you see; receive what you are.” (I think this is from sermon 272, but can’t verify it.) This saying is the disputed origin of the phrase “you are what you eat.” How fantastic is that? We are the Body of Christ. Be what you see. We consume the Body of Christ. Receive what you are. It’s beautiful and so strange. It is Christ abiding in us, and we in Him.

The Protestant world I came from had the bare bones of this when we used the phrase “the body of Christ” to refer to the church. I was taught we were supposed to imitate Christ. Although admittedly it was a great epiphany for me in college when I realized my goal in life was to be like Christ. How sad that it came so late. I was also taught that we were to be adopted sons and daughters of God. But this was all so vague and disconnected. Christ’s sacrifice was applied to forgive us our sins, we were “saved”, and that was it — straight to heaven, do not pass go. Being like Christ didn’t mean much except that it was a nice goal. Once we died, God would zap us and make us good like Him. I know there may be Protestants who have a much better understanding of unity with Christ than I did, but this is the non-descript non-denominational vagueness I lived with.

Oh boy, the Catholics take it deeper. When we are baptized, we are brought into the Body of Christ. It is then no longer us that lives, but Christ that lives in us. Then the good work we do is Christ working in us. The people we love and serve are Christ to us. The pain we suffer in perfect surrender to God’s will is the same redeemed pain that Christ suffered in His passion to save the world. Our daily death is Christ’s death on the cross. And our hope is His Resurrection and Life. Since “catholic” means “universal”, I really shouldn’t be so surprised when the Catholic Faith keeps making all these connections so that everything makes sense and fits together, but it still gets me.

Gosh, I never even used to understand why it was so important that Christ was raised from the dead, because I thought we only needed the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins! Now, I see it. Without the Firstborn, there would be no other children. We live because we live in Christ and He lives! It’s beautiful. It’s poetic. It’s the work of the master, and I am in awe of it.

Christ offers us a deeper dimension to this unity with Him in the Eucharist. He has chosen to give me His life in the most intimate manner physically possible. He has given me His very Body and Blood to consume, to nourish me, to be spread throughout my own body giving me life. Be what you see. Receive what you are. This is the mystery of the Eucharist and I’m so very looking forward to it!

The class even brought to my attention a facet of the mass I never really thought about before — the mass as a sacrifice. In answer to the Protestant objection that Christ’s one sacrifice is enough, Catholics will agree, and explain that at mass we do not sacrifice Christ again and again, we make His sacrifice present again outside of time. But the Protestant in me was still demanding justification for this belief. “Well, where did that come from anyway?” Why do we believe the mass was a sacrifice? Why do we offer the mass up to the Lord instead of just eating and drinking in remembrance, even if it is the real Body and Blood? Why do we see the Body of Christ on the cross and not just the Body of Christ? I found some rather interesting links on the subject and one good one from Catholic Answers.

Why is the mass a sacrifice? First of all, it always has been. This isn’t some strange doctrinal development coming from philosophical obscurities. The Catholic Answers post gives a good rundown of the earliest testimonies that it was indeed always a sacrifice. This would almost be good enough for me, but I still had to press the question of why. The words of Christ, “Do this is remembrance of me”, do not seem to imply a sacrifice to me. But, it seems these exact words did imply that rather strongly to the Apostles and the Early Fathers as the post explains. It says the phrase is better translated as “Offer this as my memorial offering”, because that’s how the early Christians understood it. When Christ said “This is my Body”, he followed up with “which will be offered up for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins”. He was talking about a sacrifice. Furthermore, the Eucharist was seen as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Malachi 1:10-11, that the Gentiles will everywhere would make a pure offering to the Lord. That satisfied me a little more than just knowing that the mass is fitting as a sacrifice.

I’ll leave you with a sermon from the Rev. Abernethy-Deppe with quotes from Saint Augustine about the beloved sign and reality, the Blessed Sacrament.

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Yes, Athanasius Had the Right

August 12, 2009

James Swan was good enough to give a different perspective on whether the Reformers had the right to reform the Catholic Church (it was reposted on free republic with some interesting comments). He compares the right of Athanasius, who fought against the majority holding Arian opinion (that Christ was not fully God), with the right of the Reformers who also fought against a majority. He asks, “Did Athanasius Have the Right?” and supposes that if you answer in the affirmative then must also do so for the Reformers, assuming that their situations were the same because they both argued from Scripture against a majority. However, their situations were not the same. My answer is yes, Athanasius had the right. No, the Reformers did not.

The major differences between the case of Athanasius against the Arians and the case of the Reformers against the Catholic Church are as follows: Athanasius was an archbishop, an authority holding position in the Catholic Church, whereas the Reformers were not. His beliefs were orthodox and he was faithful to the teachings of the fathers, and the Reformers were not. He argued with an orthodox interpretation of the Scriptures, whereas the Reformers argued with new interpretations of the Scriptures, forsaking previous teachings and understanding.

Some people may object to my first reason, that Athanasius was an archbishop and so possessed “ordinary authority” to oppose the Arians, on the grounds that his opposition were also bishops, and there was also an Arian anti-pope installed in an attempt to force the Church into Arianism. However, the position of bishop is still that of authority, though some obtained it illegitimately and abused it. So how is a lay-person on the ground to know who to follow and who is right when leaders disagree? The next point is a good place to start:

Athanasius was orthodox in his beliefs and understanding, conforming to established doctrine. He believed that Christ was begotten not made, in one being with the Father, as had been professed and taught by the Apostles and their successors, and codified in the Nicene Creed. James Swan quotes James White’s article in which he states Athanasius went against the “established church”, but this is backwards. Athanasius conformed to the established church, and the Arians presented new doctrines to overturn established doctrine, though they at times may have outnumbered orthodox believers. The established church is not the same as the majority of the church. The orthodoxy of Athanasius’s beliefs were openly acknowledged by his opponents. In his History of the Arians, he writes about the Arians:

“[T]hey were not ashamed to say in their letters, ‘since Athanasius suffered, all jealousy has ceased, and let us henceforward receive Arius and his fellows;’ adding, in order to frighten their hearers, ‘because the Emperor has commanded it.’ Moreover, they were not ashamed to add, ‘for these men profess orthodox opinions;'”

In his Four Discourses Against the Arians, Athanasius disparages the Arian unorthodoxy as grounds in itself to dismiss their beliefs as heresy:

“But if they themselves own that they have heard it now for the first time, how can they deny that this heresy is foreign, and not from our fathers? But what is not from our fathers, but has come to light in this day, how can it be but that of which the blessed Paul has foretold, that ‘in the latter times some shall depart from the sound faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, in the hypocrisy of liars; cauterized in their own conscience, and turning from the truth?'”

“Or how are they of the Catholic Church, who have shaken off the Apostolical faith, and become authors of fresh evils?”

It’s similar to what Tertullian says of heresies in relation to orthodoxy:

“[H]ow comes it to pass that the things of God were on their course before it was known to what God they belonged? That there were Christians before Christ was found? That there were heresies before true doctrine? Not so; for in all cases truth precedes its copy, the likeness succeeds the reality.”

The Reformers, unlike Athanasius, presented a gospel different than that taught by the Catholic Church, one that was news to the people of the day. They went against the established doctrine and so against orthodoxy. This demands much greater proof that they speak the truth. They must prove that God has sent them to change the gospel and reform His Church, a Church that He promised would not perish and paid for in His precious blood, sustained and guided by the Holy Spirit. How is such an extraordinary mission to be proved? Through miracles alone. It is not enough that they twist the bare letters of the Bible to fit their own meanings.

James Swan seems to think Scriptural support of their argument was sufficient for people to accept the authenticity of Athanasius (although I have already shown he has more to recommend him), and is also sufficient for us to accept the truth of the Reformed gospel. The Holy Scriptures are authoritative, yet sometimes both sides claim to derive their solution from Scriptures. Such was the case of Arianism. Athanasius bemoans the twisting of Scriptures that heretics use to “prove” Arianism, and in his discourses he painstakingly sets straight the orthodox interpretation of passages that had been misinterpreted by Arians. In other words, he is relying on the interpretation of Scriptures taught by the fathers of the Church since the Apostles. This is the much misunderstood importance of Tradition. It ultimately questions whether the gospel presented is the one preached from the beginning (1 John 2:24), despite supporting evidence that heretics and schismatics invariably give from the blessed and authoritative Scriptures.

Here are a few examples of Athanasius propounding the orthodox interpretation of Scriptures, and lamenting the twisting of Scriptures common to heretics:

“If then the use of certain phrases of divine Scripture changes, in their opinion, the blasphemy of the Thalia into reverent language, of course they ought also to deny Christ with the present Jews, when they see how they study the Law and the Prophets; perhaps too they will deny the Law and the Prophets like Manichees , because the latter read some portions of the Gospels. If such bewilderment and empty speaking be from ignorance, Scripture will teach them, that the devil, the author of heresies, because of the ill savour which attaches to evil, borrows Scripture language, as a cloak wherewith to sow the ground with his own poison also, and to seduce the simple.”

“And yet, needless though it be to refine upon these passages, considering their so clear and religious sense, and our own orthodox belief, yet that their irreligion may be shown here also, come let us shortly, as we have received from the fathers, expose their heterodoxy from the passage.”

“But since they allege the divine oracles and force on them a misinterpretation, according to their private sense , it becomes necessary to meet them just so far as to vindicate these passages, and to show that they bear an orthodox sense, and that our opponents are in error.”

In their works against heresies, Tertullian and Irenaeus also speak of the twisting of Scripture, showing by their testimony that it’s a trait common to heretics. Like Athanasius, they advise individuals to discern the true understanding of Scripture using the Catholic understanding of it, because that is consistent with the Apostolic Faith.

In Tertullian’s Perscription Against Heretics, he shows that orthodox Apostolic doctrine is the only true doctrine, and with it the only true understanding of Scripture, since heretics will always insist their interpretations are right:

“Truth is just as much opposed by an adulteration of [Scripture’s] meaning as it is by a corruption of its text… They rely on those [passages] which they have falsely put together, and which they have selected, because of their ambiguity…

It is indeed a necessary consequence that they should go so far as to say that adulterations of the Scriptures, and false expositions thereof, are rather introduced by ourselves, inasmuch as they, no less than we maintain that truth is on their side…

Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures;… (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians? For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions

From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for no man knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. Matthew 11:27 Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles… If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches— those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth.”

Irenaeus, in his Against Heresies, like Tertullian and Athanasius, describes the adaptation of Scriptures to the heretic’s own ends, and the importance of adhering to the the truth of Apostolic churches and their correct understanding of Scripture to resist such falsehoods:

“[T]hey maintain that these are great, and wonderful, and hitherto unspeakable mysteries which it is their special function to develop; and so they proceed when they find anything in the multitude of things contained in the Scriptures which they can adopt and accommodate to their baseless speculations.” [Book 1, Chapter 1]

“And others of them, with great craftiness, adapted such parts of Scripture to their own figments, lead away captive from the truth those who do not retain a steadfast faith in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” [Book 1, Chapter 3]

“When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures… For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce: wherefore also Paul declared, But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world. 1 Corinthians 2:6 And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth…

But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth… It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.” [Book 3, Chapter 2]

“Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. And the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of God— namely, strange doctrines— shall be burned up by the fire from heaven, as were Nadab and Abiud. Leviticus 10:1-2 But such as rise up in opposition to the truth, and exhort others against the Church of God, [shall] remain among those in hell (apud inferos), being swallowed up by an earthquake, even as those who were with Chore, Dathan, and Abiron. Numbers 16:33 But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, [shall] receive from God the same punishment as Jeroboam did. 1 Kings 14:10

Such presbyters does the Church nourish… Of whom also did the Lord declare, Who then shall be a faithful steward (actor), good and wise, whom the Lord sets over His household, to give them their meat in due season?… Matthew 24:45-46 Paul then, teaching us where one may find such, says, God has placed in the Church, first, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers. 1 Corinthians 12:28 Where, therefore, the gifts of the Lord have been placed, there it behooves us to learn the truth, [namely,] from those who possess that succession of the Church which is from the apostles… For these also preserve this faith of ours in one God who created all things;… and they expound the Scriptures to us without danger, neither blaspheming God, nor dishonouring the patriarchs, nor despising the prophets.” [Book 4, Chapter 26]

“He shall also judge those who give rise to schisms… For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism. He shall also judge all those who are beyond the pale of the truth, that is, who are outside the Church;…

True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy…” [Book 4, Chapter 33]

The idea that Athanasius was some kind of proto-Protestant, much like the idea that other Church Fathers are proto-Protestants, probably comes from his extensive use of the Scriptures. Yet we also see he is concerned with the teachings of the fathers and with orthodoxy. Sometimes these men often failed to use traditions and orthodoxy in their arguments against heretics and outsiders because heretics and outsiders do not value them. Which is why they were heretics. The Fathers could still use Scripture in their arguments, because many heretics still hold the Scriptures as authoritative. The Fathers often lamented their inability to use tradition, as seen by James White’s quote of Augustine “I must not press the authority of Nicea against you, nor you that of Ariminum against me; I do not acknowledge the one, as you do not the other; but let us come to ground that is common to both- the testimony of the Holy Scriptures.”. It does not mean they held no regard for traditions, just that they were often unable to use them against people with wonky ideas and those who despise authority (2 Peter 2:10). In this particular quote, the council of Ariminum was set up to overthrow Nicea, the established doctrine, and Ariminum was not approved by any valid pope and the decrees were annulled by Pope Liberius after he returned to his see, so of course Augustine wouldn’t recognize it’s authority. The fact the Arians felt the need to hold a council in order to impose their beliefs shows that councils were indeed important and the bishops held authority in determining doctrine.

There is one difference between Athanasius’s time and the Reformers time that some people might think justifies a reform against orthodoxy. At the Reformation, those on the side of orthodoxy had become corrupt and irreligious men, abusing their position, which led to a widespread devaluation of the Church heirarchy. In my initial post, I have already answered that this is not a sufficient excuse for Christians not to follow those God has placed in authority over them. We are called to discern truth using the foremost three rules of Faith – the Holy Scriptures, teachings of the fathers (Tradition), and the authorities of the Church (Magesterium) – but not to overturn all three rules in favor of our own perceived truth.

Is it too hard a thing to ask that we trust in God, though all men be false (Rom 3:3-4), and by trusting in Him believe He will guide His Church in all truth (John 16:13), that it is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim 3:15), that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt 16:18)? But who thinks that God has abandoned His visible Church so that His flock scatter dangerously without seeing or knowing their Earthly shepherd, when God is most able to gather and lead them? If you say He is unwilling, you say He is not Love or Truth. He has preserved His Church, a much lesser thing than when He created it by the power of the cross. Who says He has let it fall denies the power of the cross. Who says a mere sinful man can destroy what God preserves doesn’t know the power of God.

Athanasius had the right to oppose Arianism, because he held ordinary authority in the Church as an archbishop, he retained the Faith given him by the fathers, and he used the orthodox understanding of the Holy Scriptures to show Christ revealed as both fully God and fully man. He had the three highest rules of Faith on his side: the Scriptures, Tradition, and the Magesterium. The Reformers fail on all three points. They did not hold an office worthy of their impertinence, they did not retain the faith given to them and instead overturned it, and they used new interpretations of the Holy Scriptures to form their arguments and beliefs. Their faith was a new invention, like Athanasius says, it was not given by the fathers, so is it not obviously a foreign heresy?


The Mystery of the Resurrection

May 21, 2009

Alright, maybe I can’t get babies and a puppy under control enough to blog more often right now! But that’s okay… right? So, the mystery of the Resurrection:

Right now, I’m not really talking about Christ’s resurrection, but the resurrection of the saints. It’s a strange thing. I remember in my Protestant days there wasn’t a heck of a lot of talk about our physical resurrection. We more heard about heaven and worshiping in the presence of God, clouds and music, that sort of thing. I don’t know if I remember it this way because of my muddled and childish view of things or if Protestants really ignore the physical resurrection as some kind of side-note in the Bible. In my adult days, I can’t remember any “hope of the resurrection” sermons. But I remember being afraid of heaven when I was little. Weird reaction to people’s attempted description of paradise, I know. But I thought everyone’s formless spirits all lined up singing, which was my child-like view of worship, sounded boring. Now I realize there is a lot more to worship than just singing. To love our God, in His perfection, is to worship Him. That relationship with God, to perfectly know and be known, will fulfill the godly nature of our Earthly desires. Nothing bad about that.

Heaven is one thing I can accept now, but what about our physical bodies, raised from the dead, like Lazarus, glorified like Christ’s? Now that’s something else entirely. I feel like there’s some deep truth hidden behind the resurrection, and the Eucharist, and Christ’s words “It is the Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing.” It’s out of my grasp, but I can feel it, a mystery in the hope of Christians. Why is that our hope? Why isn’t heaven our final goal?

And why don’t Protestants talk about it that much, and instead focus on going to heaven? After reading the wiki-page on the resurrection of the dead, and the section on the modern “de-emphasis”, I’ve decided I’m not crazy! Since the 17th century, Protestants have focused more on souls going to heaven instead of the hope of the resurrection. The author of the wiki-page offers some suggestions as to the cause:

  • Interviewed by Time in 2008 senior Anglican bishop and theologian N.T. Wright spoke of “the idea of bodily resurrection that people deny when they talk about their ‘souls going to Heaven,'” adding: “I’ve often heard people say, ‘I’m going to heaven soon, and I won’t need this stupid body there, thank goodness.’ That’s a very damaging distortion, all the more so for being unintentional.”
  • Early church fathers defended the resurrection of the dead against the pagan belief that the immortal soul went to heaven immediately after death.
  • Dartigues has observed that especially “from the 17th to the 19th century, the language of popular piety no longer evoked the resurrection of the soul but everlasting life.

Some time ago, I read Augustine’s homily on John 6, where Christ says “It is the Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing.” He compares these words to the words in 1 Corinthians 8:1 “Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies.” Augustine points out that this doesn’t mean knowledge is useless, but that without love it is useless. Likewise, he says, when Christ says “It is the Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing.” He doesn’t mean that flesh never profits, but that without the spirit, flesh profits nothing. Augustine explains this is how we must understand Christ to understand Him consistently after He has just commanded us to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, and that we have no life in us unless we do. Seems rather obvious when he puts it like that, now, doesn’t it?

There’s a connection between the physical world and the spiritual world, in which physical things are moved by the spirit. Yet we can’t abandon the physical for that which moves it. Our ultimate goal is to exist as we were first created, body and spirit together. After the resurrection, we’ll be as we were intended, our glorified bodies in unity with our Father. All we can conclude is that Augustine is right, and flesh profits. We see it in the Eucharist, as Christ’s Body and Blood give us life. And now we see it in the resurrection, our goal. Personally, I’m glad. I can’t fathom God’s understanding of these things, but I love the works of His hands. I love the stars, the ocean, the fields, and a breeze on my skin after it’s been warmed by the sun. I love eating a good food prepared by a good cook, and waking up from a good nights sleep (though that’s a distant memory). Almost with some level of absurdity, I love Chris’s touch. It is the spirit that gives life, but I know at some level the physical moves the spiritual as well.

On Called to Communion, Brian Cross writes: “The interior is more important than the exterior. But, (and here is what so many people miss, and what gnostic Christianity misses entirely) the bodily and the external is what incites our affections to submit to God. The exterior moves the interior. Why? Precisely because we are humans, and not angels trapped in bodies. This is why it is connatural to us, says Aquinas, to proceed from the sensible (i.e. the physical, external, material) to the intelligible (i.e. the internal, the spiritual).”

This is exactly the train of thought that I’ve been on. The resurrection is pointless unless the physical matters, and gnostic Christianity, popular Protestantism, the evangelical traditions that have been thoughtlessly handed down to us, miss it entirely! They miss it in the sacraments, too, not realizing that God uses material things to move the spiritual. The spirit gives the flesh life, so the flesh profits! They miss it in worship, in reverence, in anything sacred itself. I posted before that I believe the Reformation destroyed the sacred, and this must be why. It’s a confusing turn in theology in which Protestants look solely to the spiritual realm, to the interior, for benefits. This must be why Protestants have all but abandoned the resurrection as well sacraments, sacrifice, and all things sacred. Basically any words beginning with “sacr”.

The dual nature of humanity is new to me. At least the importance and inextricable qualities of it are new to me. And as always, light is shed on issues I never expected with this new understanding. All these thoughts tumbling around my insufficient brain, and I keep hearing these words ringing in my ears: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”

Interesting links:

Google book on the creed

Catholic view of the resurrection


John Calvin, in accord with the Church Fathers?

April 2, 2009

A couple weeks ago, I picked up Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Volume I and began to read it again. I only read through the introduction and was stopped by an account of John Calvin claiming that his beliefs are in accord with the Church Fathers more than Catholic dogma during the discourses on the Lausanne Articles. Since reading Volume III of the Holy Scripture trilogy, I’ve been looking up references to the Church Fathers and making my way through their works on New Advent and CCEL. Naturally, I began to investigate these claims by Calvin. If there is any substance to claiming the Church Fathers as “non-Catholic”, then Calvin surely knew it then and pointed it out.

Yet, in this discourse, Calvin claims more than the non-Catholic nature of the Fathers, he claims that they believed as he did, particularly with regards to the Eucharist. He gave nine references, eight put forward to show the Fathers believed the presence of Christ in the Eucharist to be merely symbolic. Of these references that he claimed were “reached readily without using great subtlety in citing them”, I have been able to find one. I have ordered a book containing another, but received a different book of the same name, Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, and have ordered the book again. I will share more on that when it arrives and I have time to look it over. I don’t suggest that Calvin was intentionally using obscure references and calling them easy to reach, but that for some reason over the past 500 years these references have not been translated from the Latin, transferred to an electronic format, or copies sent to the local libraries. It’s frustrating, and I’m about to learn Latin and camp out in the Vatican archives to get to the bottom of this.

For some reason, I feel compelled to hunt down these references and explain them to my satisfaction. Or, if I happen to find astonishing evidence of the Church Father’s belief that Christ is not present, then abandon my Catholic journey altogether. I can’t expect to find the latter since for every Father quoted by Calvin, I have easy references at my fingertips that clearly show their position on the Eucharist. Either these great men changed their minds readily, or they have been misunderstood by those who did not want to understand them, or they held some position I can’t fathom that incorporates their quotes on the Real Presence.

I have listed the references that Calvin made below and will deal with each in separate posts as I investigate them further. If anyone has information with regards to these references, please share! Several use familiar language and ideas that can be easily found in other places, but the quotes themselves are out of my reach.

I) Calvin begins by referencing Cyprian, who “does not wish us to have any regard to what is said or what is done by those before us.” Calvin cites this as from letter 3 of book 2 of Cyprian’s letters. Unfortunately, the 82 epistles of Cyprian are no longer arranged into books and will take some time to go through. I have heard Cyprian quoted this way to prove him and the other Church Fathers to be “proto-Protestants”, but hadn’t looked up the context or found with regards to what he would have us ignore those who came before us. I know he was rather ferociously loyal to the Catholic Church to the extent of believing only Catholic baptisms are valid, and is credited with the first version of extra ecclesiam nulla salus. The hunt for this reference continues in searching his letters.

II) Calvin emphasizes Tertullian’s use of the word “figure” with respect to the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. I found this reference, which is in Tertullian’s Against Marcion, Book 4. I believe this quote is taken out of context. Even in the same paragraph, Tertullian speaks of the Body and Blood in a very real way. I also found a website with exhaustive explanation of this quote, including analysis from Protestant patristic scholars who agree Tertullian believes in some form of the Real Presence. I will put a separate post up to address this reference in depth.

III) Next, Calvin mentions the unfinished commentaries on Matthew, attributed to John Chrysostom. He marks the location in about the middle of the 11th homily. I read through the eleventh homily of John Chrysostom’s on the gospel of Matthew, and found nothing discussing the “greater offense in us to contaminate and pollute ourselves than to profane the vessels in which are administered the elements of the Last Supper.” Calvin says he word for word quotes the homily by saying, “while we are the true vessels which God inhabits, those contain not the true body of Jesus Christ, but only the mystery of his body.” I’ve googled as best I know how, and I have no idea where else to look for this reference.

IV) The rest of Calvin’s references are from Augustine, because of his opponents use of him. I find this interesting, because in many places Augustine is very explicit in explaining the Eucharist. His words can easily be misunderstood, since he draws fine lines and represents two sides of an issue, logically working through to determine the truth. I intend to devote a good deal of time discussing Augustine and his view of the Eucharist.

Moving on to Calvin’s reference: He cites Augustine’s 23rd letter. This letter deals with the sin of re-baptism, not the faith of children in baptism that Calvin mentions. He says Augustine calls faith in infants in baptism a kind of simile, like the Eucharist, and then says the bread and wine are called “in some sense” the body and blood of Christ. The Latin phrase used by Augustine is “quodammodo vocamus sacramenta”. I searched Augustine’s book on infant baptism and found nothing there as well, though I didn’t read the whole thing. Again, I’m at a loss as to where to go from here, maybe the letters have been renumbered.

V) Calvin’s next reference: In the middle of Augustine’s book, Against Adimantus the Manichee, he says the “blood is not substance but sign” in refuting Adimantus’s claim that Genesis Chapter 9 means the blood of an animal contains its soul. It seems this book has not been translated from the Latin.

VI) Calvin says under Psalm 98, Augustine interprets “adorate scabellum pedum eius quoniam sanctum est” to mean the Jews ate Christ’s body in the same manner the Christians do. Things get complicated when you’re trying to understand someone interpreting 500 years ago what someone else wrote 1700 years ago. Apparently the Psalms have been renumbered in such a way that our current Psalm 99 is the old Psalm 98. In Augustine’s Exposition on Psalm 99 at New Advent, he referred to all these verses as “98” instead. I believe “adorate scabellum pedum eius quoniam sanctum est” is “worship at His footstool; he is holy” from Psalm 99:5. Here Augustine does talk about the Echarist and expounds John 6 to show that to worship at God’s footstool is to worship His Earth, and by that he means to worship Christ’s flesh who became part of God’s creation. In both New Advent and CCEL, the section I think Calvin is referring to has been edited out. I have a book coming in the mail with excerpts from Augustine’s Expositions on the Psalms. We’ll see if it’s in there!

VII) Calvin next says that in a homily on the gospel of John, in the 8th or 9th section, Augustine talks about the resurrection in such a way to say Christ’s body cannot be on Earth. He says “while this age endures, it is necessary that the saviour be on high; but he has left his Word on earth by which he speaks to us. For it had to be that his body which ascended into heaven be in one place; but his truth is spread over all.” I’ve only read through thirteen of Augustine’s 124 tractates on the gospel of John. I haven’t found it yet. But this reference is unsurprising, and I have found other references that say close to the same thing. Augustine well explains himself on this subject in his homily on the Ascention. There is also a substantial amount worth reading through in his homily on John 6.

VIII) In Chapter 19 of the book De fide ad Petrum Diaconum, Calvin says Augustine speaks of the “representation of the body of Christ” in the Old Testament animal sacrifices and that the New Testament sacrifice of the Eucharist is an “act of thanksgiving and commemoration for the flesh of Christ.” I don’t know where to find this book and don’t know if it has been translated from Latin either.

IX) I have ordered a copy of Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings, which contain his Letter 187, On the Presence of God written to Dardanum. Calvin mentions Augustine’s epistle “ad Dardanum” in which “he testifies clearly what he thinks.” In this letter, Calvin says Augustine writes, “Jesus Christ according to his divinity fills all, and is spread through heaven and earth… according to his humanity he is in heaven, not on earth.” This idea is echoed many times not only by Augustine but by the other Fathers, and is similar to Calvin’s seventh reference. Without reading the reference, I think reading Augustine’s other works on the Eucharist and the ascention explain well what he thinks. I think Augustine’s explanations deserve a detailed post. It’s on my list.

Of course, I expect to find the Church Fathers in absolute accord with Catholic teaching. All that I have read of them so far suggests this. If so, what does this mean for John Calvin? I know little about the man, and intend to learn more. Based off of this alone, I’m led to believe he either intentionally deceived people and manipulated the words of the Father’s to further his cause, or he was some kind of delusional and honestly believed these men supported his view, or most likely he thought himself into a corner. Perhaps he really believed the Church Fathers agreed with him, not out of intellectual honesty or delusion, but because he had to believe that in order to make it fit with his a priori assumption that he already posessed the gospel truth.

Some may ask if I’m doing the same thing, but in the opposing manner. Am I just finding Catholic Church Fathers because I already think they’re Catholic or because I want to find them so? The only way to avoid reading your own ideas into the works of these great men is to try your best to understand the works taken as a whole, in context of the time in which they were written. As I have attempted to do so, I find the Catholic position on many issues more clearly understood, because they have already delved into the particulars of understanding them. If something has seemed non-Catholic, it has been because either the Father is being misread, or because the Catholic position was not understood. I expect that will be what I continue to find. I’ll keep you updated.


On Grace and Free Will

February 22, 2009

Throughout history, the Catholic Church has struggled to convey the balance necessary between grace and free will to her children. The Church Fathers repeatedly dealt with such issues against the Pelagians and the Manicheans. Again at the Reformation, Martin Luther accused the Church of preaching a gospel void of grace and teaching salvation earned by their own merit. He claimed that the good works and free will taught at the time debased the grace of God, even in our ability to turn to Him and seek salvation. Since Luther was a learned professor and monk, I must assume he knew the Church never actually taught in such a way despite what individual Catholics may have done or believed. I then must take all that he said to mean the practices alone of the Church encouraged the attitude he condemned. Yet in decrying these practices, he made the same mistake as heretics before him and affirmed grace to the point of denying free will. He lost the balance the Fathers so carefully struggled to maintain.

Below I will let the Church Fathers in their own beautiful words describe this fine line between grace and free will as maintained by the Catholic Church throughout history. I will also include excerpt from the Councils of Orange and Trent and the Catholic Catechism showing the official teachings on these issues.

The Church Fathers on Grace and Free Will

I have stolen the title of my compilation from Augustine’s book On Grace and Free Will. He says about his own book:

There are some persons who suppose that the freedom of the will is denied whenever God’s grace is maintained, and who on their side defend their liberty of will so peremptorily as to deny the grace of God. This grace, as they assert, is bestowed according to our own merits. It is in consequence of their opinions that I wrote the book entitled On Grace and Free Will.

Now if faith is simply of free will, and is not given by God, why do we pray for those who will not believe, that they may believe? This it would be absolutely useless to do, unless we believe, with perfect propriety, that Almighty God is able to turn to belief wills that are perverse and opposed to faith.
[Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, Ch. 29]

As far, then, as lay in our power, we have used our influence with them, as both your brethren and our own, with a view to their persevering in the soundness of the catholic faith, Which neither denies free will whether for an evil or a good life, nor attributes to it so much power that it can avail anything without God’s grace, whether that it may be changed from evil to good, or that it may persevere in the pursuit of good, or that it may attain to eternal good when there is no further fear of failure.
[Augustine, Letter to Valentinus, No. 215:4]

The freedom of the will is not destroyed by being helped, it is rather helped because it is not destroyed. He who says to God: ‘Be thou my helper,’ confesses that he wishes to carry out what is commanded, but asks help of Him who gave the command so that he may be able to do it.
[Augustine, Letter to Hilary, No. 157, 2:10]

Now for the commission of sin we get no help from God; but we are not able to do justly, and to fulfill the law of righteousness in every part thereof, except we are helped by God. For as the bodily eye is not helped by the light to turn away therefrom shut or averted, but is helped by it to see, and cannot see at all unless it help it; so God, who is the light of the inner man, helps our mental sight, in order that we may do some good, not according to our own, but according to His righteousness.
[Augustine, On the Merits and Remission of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Bk. 2, Ch. 5]

For if any of those who are present should think to tempt God’s grace, he deceives himself, and knows not its power. Keep your soul free from hypocrisy, O man, because of Him who searches hearts and reins. For as those who are going to make a levy for war examine the ages and the bodies of those who are taking service, so also the Lord in enlisting souls examines their purpose: and if any has a secret hypocrisy, He rejects the man as unfit for His true service; but if He finds one worthy, to him He readily gives His grace… For as a writing-reed or a dart has need of one to use it, so grace also has need of believing minds… As then it is His part to plant and to water , so it is thine to bear fruit: it is God’s to grant grace, but thine to receive and guard it. Despise not the grace because it is freely given, but receive and treasure it devoutly.
[Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechitical, Lecture 1:3]

“No man can come unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw Him.” (Jn. 6:44) The Manichæans spring upon these words, saying, “that nothing lies in our own power”; yet the expression shows that we are masters of our will. “For if a man comes to Him,” says some one, “what need is there of drawing?” But the words do not take away our free will, but show that we greatly need assistance. And He implies not an unwilling comer, but one enjoying much succor.
[John Chrysostom, Homilies on St. John, No. 46:1]

And if by grace, it will be said, how came we all not to be saved? Because ye would not. For grace, though it be grace, saves the willing, not those who will not have it, and turn away from it, who persist in fighting against it, and opposing themselves to it.
[John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, 18:5]

The skill of God, therefore, is not defective, for He has power of the stones to raise up children to Abraham; Matthew 3:9 but the man who does not obtain it is the cause to himself of his own imperfection. Nor, [in like manner], does the light fail because of those who have blinded themselves; but while it remains the same as ever, those who are [thus] blinded are involved in darkness through their own fault. The light does never enslave any one by necessity; nor, again, does God exercise compulsion upon any one unwilling to accept the exercise of His skill. Those persons, therefore, who have apostatized from the light given by the Father, and transgressed the law of liberty, have done so through their own fault, since they have been created free agents, and possessed of power over themselves.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk. 4, Ch. 39]

Church Documents and Official teachings on Grace and Free Will

The following are excerpts from the Council of Orange and the Council of Trent and the Catholic Catechism. They show that the Catholic Church does not teach nor has ever taught that humans can merit their own salvation or earn their way to heaven through works. At the same time these documents affirm with the Church Fathers that what we do matters, we have ability to reject God’s grace, and we can do His work through His grace therefore not all that we do is sin.

The Canons of the Council of Orange

CANON 6: If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

CANON 9: Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we may do so.

CANON 18: That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.

CANON 20: That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.

CANON 23: Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.

The Decrees of the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent

Chapter 5: The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.

Chapter 8: And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

Chapter 10: They, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written; He that is just, let him be justified still; and again, Be not afraid to be justified even to death; and also, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And this increase of justification holy Church begs, when she prays, “Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity.”

Chapter 16: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord; for God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name; and, do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward. And, for this cause, life eternal is to be proposed to those working well unto the end, and hoping in God, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Jesus Christ, and as a reward which is according to the promise of God Himself, to be faithfully rendered to their good works and merits… Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ.

Canons of the Council of Trent

CANON 3: If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

CANON 4: If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.

CANON 5: If any one saith, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.

CANON 9: If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

CANON 10: If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.

CANON 11: If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

CANON 24: If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

CANON 25: If any one saith, that, in every good work, the just sins venially at least, or-which is more intolerable still-mortally, and consequently deserves eternal punishments; and that for this cause only he is not damned, that God does not impute those works unto damnation; let him be anathema.

CANON 31: If any one saith, that the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal recompense; let him be anathema.

CANON 32: If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.

Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life.

Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent.

Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:”

God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of “eternal life” respond, beyond all hope, to this desire.

Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord’s words “Thus you will know them by their fruits” – reflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.” The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts.”

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.


The Church Fathers on Tradition

February 16, 2009

I have been asked to show the tradition of the Church Fathers as the infallible source of truth outside of the Scriptures. So I have compiled a lengthy list of quotes that demonstrate this tradition consisted of a living Church ruled by Apostolic successors, was to be believed and obeyed as if it was the voice of God itself, contained truth not found in Scripture but harmonious with it, and that Scriptures cannot be understood apart from this tradition. I would encourage everyone to read the complete works or at least chapters in the works pertaining to tradition, heretics, and Scriptures, especially Irenaeus’s Against Heresies and Tertullian’s The Prescription Against Heretics. Catholic teachings are not only consistent with the view of tradition as seen below, but are consistent with the view of Scripture as seen in Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Volume III. Although the sola scriptura may be consistent with the latter, it is decidedly not compatible with these views of tradition.

The following quotes define the tradition of which the Church Fathers speak as being the living Church, which transmitted Apostolic tradition through Apostolic succession. They assert this tradition as something to be obeyed as if you are obeying Christ himself.

Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: I say unto you, That you are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. Since this, then, is founded on the divine law, I marvel that some, with daring temerity, have chosen to write to me as if they wrote in the name of the Church; when the Church is established in the bishop and the clergy, and all who stand fast in the faith.
[Cyprian, Letters, No. 33]

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to the perfect apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. 3]

Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Ch. 26]

In the same way all should respect the deacons as they would Jesus Christ, just as they respect the bishop as representing the Father and the priests as the council of God and the college of the Apostles. Apart from these there is nothing that can be called a Church.
[Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Trallians, Ch. 2]

Let all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father, and the priests, as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Apart from the bishop, let no one perform any of the functions that pertain to the Church. Let that Eucharist be held valid which is offered by the bishop or by one to whom the bishop has committed this charge. Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.
[Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ch. 8]

The following shows that the Church Fathers indeed believed truth was transmitted through tradition, even truth beyond that found in Scripture and in every practice that was handed down through the succession of the apostles.

Therefore it is the Catholic Church alone which retains true worship. This is the fountain of truth, this is the abode of faith, this is the temple of God; into which if anyone shall not enter, or from which if any shall go out, he is estranged from the hope of life and eternal salvation.
[Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book 4, Ch. 30]

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. Revelation 22:17 For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. 4]

I desire you therefore, in the first place, to hold fast this as the fundamental principle in the present discussion, that our Lord Jesus Christ has appointed to us a light yoke and an easy burden, as He declares in the Gospel: Matthew 11:30 in accordance with which He has bound His people under the new dispensation together in fellowship by sacraments, which are in number very few, in observance most easy, and in significance most excellent, as baptism solemnized in the name of the Trinity, the communion of His body and blood, and such other things as are prescribed in the canonical Scriptures, with the exception of those enactments which were a yoke of bondage to God’s ancient people, suited to their state of heart and to the times of the prophets, and which are found in the five books of Moses. As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful.
[Augustine, Letters, No. 54]

Here is an amusing and sarcastic exasperated exposition of Tertullian against heretics believing that they found the truth after error had been believed for an interval. It shows that tradition was used to determine truth, since truth was more likely transmitted closer to the Apostles time rather than later.

In whatever manner error came, it reigned of course only as long as there was an absence of heresies? Truth had to wait for certain Marcionites and Valentinians to set it free. During the interval the gospel was wrongly preached; men wrongly believed;… Else, if not wrongly done, and to no purpose, how comes it to pass that the things of God were on their course before it was known to what God they belonged? that there were Christians before Christ was found? that there were heresies before true doctrine? Not so; for in all cases truth precedes its copy, the likeness succeeds the reality.
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 29]

These quotes find the Church Fathers believed this tradition to be consistently and trust worthily transmitted through the Church. They are expounding the certainty of truth in tradition, that it will not go astray, and that we as Christians should trust it. In effect, they describe what may be seen as infallible Apostolic tradition.

From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for no man knows the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. Matthew 11:27 Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles, whom He sent forth to preach— that, of course, which He revealed to them. Now, what that was which they preached— in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them— can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles founded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves, both vivâ voce, as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches— those moulds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savours of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth.
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 21]

Grant, then, that all have erred; that the apostle was mistaken in giving his testimony; that the Holy Ghost had no such respect to any one (church) as to lead it into truth, although sent with this view by Christ, John 14:26 and for this asked of the Father that He might be the teacher of truth; John 15:26 grant, also, that He, the Steward of God, the Vicar of Christ, neglected His office, permitting the churches for a time to understand differently, (and) to believe differently, what He Himself was preaching by the apostles,— is it likely that so many churches, and they so great, should have gone astray into one and the same faith? No casualty distributed among many men issues in one and the same result. Error of doctrine in the churches must necessarily have produced various issues. When, however, that which is deposited among many is found to be one and the same, it is not the result of error, but of tradition. Can any one, then, be reckless enough to say that they were in error who handed on the tradition?
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 28]

But [it has, on the other hand, been shown], that the preaching of the Church is everywhere consistent, and continues in an even course, and receives testimony from the prophets, the apostles, and all the disciples— as I have proved— through [those in] the beginning, the middle, and the end, and through the entire dispensation of God, and that well-grounded system which tends to man’s salvation, namely, our faith; which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth, as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Ch. 24]

Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the bishops to whom the apostles committed the Churches; which fact I have in the third book taken all pains to demonstrate. It follows, then, as a matter of course, that these heretics aforementioned, since they are blind to the truth, and deviate from the [right] way, will walk in various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine are scattered here and there without agreement or connection. But the path of those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as possessing the sure tradition from the apostles, and gives unto us to see that the faith of all is one and the same, since all receive one and the same God the Father, and believe in the same dispensation regarding the incarnation of the Son of God, and are cognizant of the same gift of the Spirit, and are conversant with the same commandments, and preserve the same form of ecclesiastical constitution, and expect the same advent of the Lord, and await the same salvation of the complete man, that is, of the soul and body. And undoubtedly the preaching of the Church is true and steadfast, in which one and the same way of salvation is shown throughout the whole world.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Ch. 20]

These quotes shows the relationship between Scripture and tradition as seen by Tertullian. It seems to be the same as the relationship described in the modern Catholic Church. Not only are they harmonious, transmitting the same truth of salvation, but also Scripture is lame without the true rule of faith to interpret it. It’s interesting that when there was dispute in tradition, many of the Church Fathers (like Irenaeus in Against Heresies) resorted to the Scriptures as a common accepted rule of faith, but Tertullian rejected this method on the grounds that people with different traditions would have different interpretations of Scripture.

Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures… “With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?” For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 19]

Since this is the case, in order that the truth may be adjudged to belong to us, as many as walk according to the rule, which the church has handed down from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, the reason of our position is clear, when it determines that heretics ought not to be allowed to challenge an appeal to the Scriptures, since we, without the Scriptures, prove that they have nothing to do with the Scriptures. For as they are heretics, they cannot be true Christians, because it is not from Christ that they get that which they pursue of their own mere choice, and from the pursuit incur and admit the name of heretics. Thus, not being Christians, they have acquired no right to the Christian Scriptures;
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 37]

Where diversity of doctrine is found, there, then, must the corruption both of the Scriptures and the expositions thereof be regarded as existing… What we are ourselves, that also the Scriptures are (and have been) from the beginning. Of them we have our being, before there was any other way, before they were interpolated by you… One man perverts the Scriptures with his hand, another their meaning by his exposition.
[Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Ch. 38]