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Chapter XVIII.—Concerning sacrifices and oblations, and those who truly offer them.
1. The oblation of the Church, therefore, which the Lord gave instructions to be offered throughout all the world, is accounted with God a pure sacrifice, and is acceptable to Him; not that He stands in need of a sacrifice from us, but that he who offers is himself glorified in what he does offer, if his gift be accepted. For by the gift both honour and affection are shown forth towards the King; and the Lord, wishing us to offer it in all simplicity and innocence, did express Himself thus: “Therefore, when thou offerest thy gift upon the altar, and shalt remember that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then return and offer thy gift.”40344034 Matt. v. 23, 24. We are bound, therefore, to offer to God the first-fruits of His creation, as Moses also says, “Thou shalt not appear in the presence of the Lord thy God empty;”40354035 Deut. xvi. 16. so that man, being accounted as grateful, by those things in which he has shown his gratitude, may receive that honour which flows from Him.40364036 The text of this passage is doubtful in some words.
2. And the class of oblations in general has not been set aside; for there were both oblations there [among the Jews], and there are oblations here [among the Christians]. Sacrifices there were among the people; sacrifices there are, too, in the Church: but the species alone has been changed, inasmuch as the offering is now made, not by slaves, but by freemen. For the Lord is [ever] one and the same; but the character of a servile oblation is peculiar [to itself], as is also that of freemen, in order that, by the very oblations, the indication of liberty may be set forth. For with Him there is nothing purposeless, nor without signification, nor without design. And for this reason they (the Jews) had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him, but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord’s purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things [hereafter]; as that poor widow acted who cast all her living into the treasury of God.40374037 Luke xxi. 4. [The law of tithes abrogated; the law of Acts ii. 44, 45, morally binding. This seems to be our author’s view.]
3. For at the beginning God had respect to the gifts of Abel, because he offered with single-mindedness and righteousness; but He had no respect unto the offering of Cain, because his heart was divided with envy and malice, which he cherished against his brother, as God says when reproving his hidden [thoughts], “Though thou offerest rightly, yet, if thou dost not divide rightly, hast thou not sinned? Be at rest;”40384038 Gen. iv. 7, LXX. since God is not appeased by sacrifice. For if any one shall endeavour to offer a sacrifice merely to outward appearance, unexceptionably, in due order, and according to appointment, while in his soul he does not assign to his neighbour that fellowship with him which is right and proper, nor is under the fear of God;— he who thus cherishes secret sin does not deceive God by that sacrifice which is offered correctly as to outward appearance; nor will such an oblation profit him anything, but [only] the giving up of that evil which has been conceived within him, so that sin may not the more, by means of the hypocritical action, render him the destroyer of himself.40394039 The Latin text is: “ne per assimulatam operationem, magis autem peccatum, ipsum sibi homicidam faciat hominem.” Wherefore did the Lord also declare: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye are like whited sepulchres. For the sepulchre appears beautiful outside, but within it is full of dead men’s bones, and all uncleanness; even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of wickedness and hypocrisy.”40404040 Matt. xxiii. 27, 28. For while they were thought to offer correctly so far as outward appearance went, they had in themselves jealousy like to Cain; therefore they slew the Just One, slighting the counsel of the Word, as did also Cain. For [God] said to him, “Be at rest;” but he did not assent. Now what else is it to “be at rest” than to forego purposed violence? And saying similar things to these men, He declares: “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse that which is within the cup, that the outside may be clean also.”40414041 Matt. xxiii. 26. And they did not listen to Him. For Jeremiah says, “Behold, neither thine eyes nor thy heart are good; but [they are turned] to thy covetousness, and to shed innocent blood, and for injustice, and for man-slaying, that thou mayest do it.”40424042 Jer. xxii. 17. And again Isaiah saith, “Ye have taken counsel, but not of Me; and made covenants, [but] not by My Spirit.”40434043 Isa. xxx. 1. In order, therefore, that their inner wish and thought, being brought to light, may show that God is without blame, and worketh no evil —that God who reveals what is hidden [in the heart], but who worketh not evil—when Cain was by no means at rest, He saith to him: “To thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”40444044 Gen. iv. 7. Thus did He in like manner speak to Pilate: “Thou shouldest have no power at all against Me, unless it were given thee from above;”40454045 John xix. 11. God always giving up the righteous one [in this life to suffering], that he, having been tested by what he suffered and endured, may [at last] be accepted; but that the evildœr, being judged by the actions he has performed, may be rejected. Sacrifices, therefore, do not sanctify a man, for God stands in no need of sacrifice; but it is the conscience of the offerer that sanctifies the sacrifice when it is pure, and thus moves God to accept [the offering] as from a friend. “But the sinner,” says He, “who kills a calf [in sacrifice] to Me, is as if he slew a dog.”40464046 Isa. lxvi. 3.
4. Inasmuch, then, as the Church offers with single-mindedness, her gift is justly reckoned a pure sacrifice with God. As Paul also says to the Philippians, “I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things that were sent from you, the odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, pleasing to God.”40474047 Phil. iv. 18. For it behoves us to make an oblation to God, and in all things to be found grateful to God our Maker, in a pure mind, and in faith without hypocrisy, in well-grounded hope, in fervent love, offering the first-fruits of His own created things. And the Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator, offering to Him, with giving of thanks, [the things taken] from His creation. But the Jews do not offer thus: for their hands are full of blood; for they have not received the Word, through whom it is offered to God.40484048 The text here fluctuates between quod offertur Deo, and per quod offertur Deo. Massuet adopts the former, and Harvey the latter. If the first reading be chosen, the translation will be, “the Word who is offered to God,” implying, according to Massuet, that the body of Christ is really offered as a sacrifice in the Eucharist; if the second reading be followed, the translation will be as above. [Massuet’s idea is no more to be found, even in his text, than Luther’s or Calvin’s. The crucial point is, how offered? One may answer “figuratively,” “corporally,” “mystically,” or otherwise. Irenæus gives no answer in this place. But see below.] Nor, again, do any of the conventicles (synagogæ) of the heretics [offer this]. For some, by maintaining that the Father is different from the Creator, do, when they offer to Him what belongs to this creation of ours, set Him forth as being covetous of another’s property, and desirous of what is not His own. Those, again, who maintain that the things around us originated from apostasy, ignorance, and passion, do, while offering unto Him the fruits of ignorance, passion, and apostasy, sin against their Father, rather subjecting Him to insult than giving Him thanks. But how can they be consistent with themselves, [when they say] that the bread over which thanks have been given is the body of their Lord,40494049 Comp. Massuet and Harvey respectively for the meaning to be attached to these words. and the cup His blood, if they do not call Himself the Son of the Creator of the world, that is, His Word, through whom the wood fructifies, and the fountains gush forth, and the earth gives “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.”40504050 Mark iv. 28.
5. Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned.40514051 “Either let them acknowledge that the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof, or let them cease to offer to God those elements that they deny to be vouchsafed by Him.” —Harvey. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit.40524052 That is, according to Harvey, “while we offer to Him His own creatures of bread and wine, we tell forth the fellowship of flesh with spirit; i.e., that the flesh of every child of man is receptive of the Spirit.” The words καὶ ὁμολογοῦντες … ἔγερσιν, which here occur in the Greek text, are rejected as an interpolation by Grabe and Harvey, but defended as genuine by Massuet. For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread,40534053 See Harvey’s long note on this passage, and what immediately follows. [But, note, we are only asking what Irenæus teaches. Could words be plainer,—“two realities,”—(i.) bread, (ii.) spiritual food? Bread— but not “common bread;” matter and grace, flesh and Spirit. In the Eucharist, an earthly and a heavenly part.] but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.
6. Now we make offering to Him, not as though He stood in need of it, but rendering thanks for His gift,40544054 The text fluctuates between dominationi and donationi. and thus sanctifying what has been created. For even as God does not need our possessions, so do we need to offer something to God; as Solomon says: “He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord.”40554055 Prov. xix. 17. For God, who stands in need of nothing, takes our good works to Himself for this purpose, that He may grant us a recompense of His own good things, as our Lord says: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you. For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me; sick, and ye visited Me; in prison, and ye came to Me.”40564056 Matt. xxv. 34, etc. As, therefore, He does not stand in need of these [services], yet does desire that we should render them for our own benefit, lest we be unfruitful; so did the Word give to the people that very precept as to the making of oblations, although He stood in no need of them, that they might learn to serve God: thus is it, therefore, also His will that we, too, should offer a gift at the altar, frequently and without intermission. The altar, then, is in heaven40574057 [The Sursum Corda seems here in mind. The object of Eucharistic adoration is the Creator, our “great High Priest, passed into the heavens,” and in bodily substance there enthroned, according to our author.] (for towards that place are our prayers and oblations directed); the temple likewise [is there], as John says in the Apocalypse, “And the temple of God was opened:”40584058 Rev. xi. 19. the tabernacle also: “For, behold,” He says, “the tabernacle of God, in which He will dwell with men.”
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