What receiving the whole Christ under the sign of wine can mean (Part I)

Every year I get to lead students through general sacramental theology and the theology of the sacraments of initiation. Every year I reread an intriguing comment in The Christian Faith about Session XXI of the Council of Trent:

3) Communion under one kind only causes no substantial spiritual loss (cf. nn. [ND] 1539, [ND] 1548[; DS 1729, DS 1743]). The Council, however, deliberately left undecided the question whether or not communion under both kinds gives grace more abundantly; the reason is that different schools held different opinions on this point.

Thanks to Brian Duffy’s post on September 21, 2011 and his reference to William Kemp Lowther Clarke’s Liturgy and Worship: A Companion to the Prayer Books of the Anglican Communion, 1959, which references William Edward Scudamore’s Notitia Eucharistica: A Commentary, Explanatory, Doctrinal, and Historical, on the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion according to the Use of the Church of England, 1876, I have delved into the debates at the 21st session of the Council of Trent.

The pertinent passage in Scudamore is this one [LONG] paragraph [original italics are indicated by asterisks]:

It is, in truth, acknowledged by many eminent authorities, that the Sacrament, as thus administered to the laity [under the sign of bread], loses not only a part of its significance, but a part of its grace also. Thus, in the Commentary on the Sentences ascribed to Alexander of Hales, it is allowed that “reception under both kinds, which mode of reception the Lord delivered, is of greater efficacy and completeness.” He says also that it is of “greater merit by reason of the more complete reception,” as well as because it increases devotion and confirms faith. So Albertus Magnus teaches that “the benefit of the faithful and the unity of the mystical body are not perfectly effected and signified but by the double sign.” This results from the familiar principle that “the Sacraments effect that which they symbolize,” or, in other words, that they are the means whereby the particular grace which they signify is imparted. Eating and drinking are both necessary to the complete refreshment of the body; therefore the Cup as well as the Bread is necessary to that complete refreshment of the soul, of which eating and drinking are the ordained symbol. It was no answer to say that whole Christ is received under either species; for it is evident, as Innocent III expresses it, that “although the Blood is *taken* with the Body under the species of bread, and the Body *taken* with the Blood under the species of wine; yet neither is the blood *drunk* under the species of bread, nor the body *eaten* under the species of Wine.” The command is not that we should merely take the Body and Blood, but that we should eat the Body and drink the Blood. Again, we have shown in a former note that Peter Lombard and other eminent men distinguished between the effect of the Bread and of the Cup, connecting the latter in some especial manner with the grace conveyed to the soul, and the former with the preservation of the body: — “Why is Christ taken under two kinds, when whole Christ is under either? That He might be shown to have taken the whole of human nature, that He might redeem the whole. For bread is referred to the flesh, wine to the soul. . . . If He were taken in one kind only, the meaning would be that it (that which we receive) availed to the preservation of one only, i.e. of the soul, or of the body, not of both together.” The Council of Trent pronounced an anathema against those who should assert that the Church “had erred in communicating the laity, and even Clergymen not celebrating, under the species of bread only;” but in its defence of the practice it did not venture to go beyond the proposition, that “they who receive one kind only are defrauded of no grace *necessary to salvation.*” Probably no one maintained the contrary; but there were many at the Council who believed that they were deprived of *some* of the grace of this holy Sacrament. Francis Blanco, Archbishop of Compostella, who, when Bishop of Orenze, had been present himself, declares that this was “the *unanimous* opinion of the Fathers” there assembled, and that for that reason the Council “did not say absolutely ‘of no grace,’ but ‘of no grace *necessary to salvation.*’” The statements of Pallavicino and Sarpi do not establish the unanimity of the Council on this point, but they show that the opinion was well represented. One of the Divines present actually argued for the denial of the Cup to the Laity, on the ground that “as the Priest has a higher dignity, and a double share of authority, it is befitting that he should receive double grace.” Ruard Tapper, who was present, has left his sentiments in writing:— “The sacramental drinking of the Blood of Christ cannot be without benefit, if it be taken worthily and duly. And forasmuch as the species of wine is a sacrament, but all sacraments, according to the common rule, confer grace *ex opere operato,* the drinking of the Blood has its proper spiritual effect by allaying spiritual thirst or increasing or confirming the grace received in the Communion of the Body. . . . Although whole Christ be under either species, He nevertheless works according to their signification, and under one uses His Body as an instrument, under the other His Blood. . . . And since the Sacraments confer the grace which they signify, when the signification is more complete and perfect it must follow that the effect is fuller.” We will conclude this notice with an extract from Vasquez, who wrote after the Council of Trent:— “The opinion of those who say that greater fruit of grace is acquired from both species of this Sacrament than from one only, has always appeared to me the more probable. . . . We grant that, according to this our opinion, the Laity, to whom one species is denied, are defrauded of some grace indeed, yet not of any necessary to salvation; and that the Council did not mean to deny this.”

Because we are dealing with fine Anglican thinking on this matter, I checked all seventeen of Scudamore’s references; and they are as he cites them.

So, if I were amending the line cited above from The Christian Faith, “Communion under one kind only causes no substantial spiritual loss,” I would write “Communion under one kind only causes no loss of the grace necessary of salvation.”

And if I were spinning Scudamore’s first sentence in an RC direction, I would write, “It is, in truth, acknowledged by many eminent authorities, that the Sacrament, as thus administered to the laity, loses a part of its significance, and may lose a part of its grace also, not of the grace of salvation, but of the grace of sanctification.”

More soon.


  1. “The command is not that we should merely take the Body and Blood, but that we should eat the Body and drink the Blood.”

    I think this says it all. Jesus commanded it.

  2. This Anglican is getting at the “Catholic both/and.” Obviously Catholics have no exclusive monopoly on this. But really, what better reason do we need to partake of both the bread and the cup?

  3. The command is not that we should merely take the Body and Blood, but that we should eat the Body and drink the Blood.

    This understanding is pretty well excluded by the Council of Trent. “But neither is it rightly inferred from that sixth discourse in John that communion under both forms was commanded by the Lord…” (DS 30th ed., no. 930) The corresponding Canon is explicit and not limited to that discourse in John saying not just that “If anyone says that each and every one of the faithful of Christ ought by a precept of God … receive both species of the most holy Sacrament: let him be anathema.” (DS 934) The simple argument, “Christ commanded that we drink, therefore we ought to” seems pretty well ruled out.

    1. Where there is a conflict between a dominical saying from the Gospels and an edict from an ecumenical council I think it’s pretty clear which one defers to the other other.

    2. Even if it is not a precept, the category of “precepts” does not exhaust Christ’s teachings. I will admit that it is a bit artificial to apply the distinction between “precepts” and “counsels of perfection” in this case, but by doing so we might say that the command to drink is not a precept — heck, I’m not sure that the command to eat is one, since one can be saved without ever receiving the Eucharist — but it could still be a counsel of perfection. This would fit with Paul’s reformulation of Scudamore at the end of his article. Further, extending this “counsel of perfection” to the laity would fit with Vatican II’s teaching on the universal call to holiness.

      1. FB – you say ‘…one can be saved without ever receiving the Eucharist’. I hope, for the sake of good people who, for various reasons and circumstances never have and don’t, that you are right. But, what of John 6.53 ff.
        ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you…’ And the ‘life’ in question is eternal life, is it not?
        And, pertinent to this discussion, also note that our Lord’s express command is to ‘eat’ AND to ‘drink’.

      2. MJO

        Of course, that would be a just and weighty reason to follow the custom of the Eastern Churches and communicate infants at their baptism….

      3. MJO – As Karl alluded to, there are plenty of Catholics who died between Baptism and the time they receive their first Holy Communion, such as babies and toddlers.

        And, just to put this out there, Session 21 of Trent did a bit of point-counterpoint on the words of our Lord in John 6, to the effect that while Jesus spoke of eating and drinking, he also spoke (in the same breath) of eating without mentioning drinking:

        For He who said: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you”, also said: “He that eateth this bread shall live forever”;

        and He who said: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath life everlasting,” also said: “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”;

        and lastly, He who said: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me and I in him”, said, nevertheless: “He that eateth this bread shall live forever.”

      4. MJO: Thomas Aquinas (Summa theologiae III q. 80 a. 11) says that one can be saved without eating Christ “sacramentally” (i.e. receiving the Eucharistic elements), though one cannot be saved without eating Christ “spiritually” (being joined to him through charity). He thinks that if it is possible to receive Christ sacramentally one ought to do so, since Christ said “Do this in memory of me,” but one can surely be saved without doing so.

  4. It should be clearly said that the doctrine of concomitance grew out of a situation where the laity and other clergy present did not customarily receive from the chalice. it is an ‘ex post facto’ theological explanation, justifying a customary practice. There are all kinds of historical reasons for the understanding and the practice, but notwithstanding, it is basically a ‘justification’ of the practice. It seems odd that when ‘ressourcement’ is seen as a good in theology, this is not also seen as obvious — and the obvious practical conclusions are not drawn. Much the same ‘mutatis mutandis’ can be said for the understanding until recently of ‘limbo’ for unbaptized infants.

  5. I’m really confused. Christ did not ‘ordain’ women, so the church cannot ordain women. Christ said ‘take and eat, take and drink,’ but the church can withhold the cup? What?????

  6. Though not an academic theologian, I have oft noted that practice generally precedes theology. Case in point: after the practice of confirming teenagers had taken hold it began being referred to as a sacrament of Christian maturity with all the theological embellishments attendant thereto. How much clearer could it be to notice that the Tridentine fathers were reacting to the reformers in seeking to justify the practice of distributing communion solely under the form of bread. They were even willing to be perceived as more authoritative than their Master’s clear and direct command. Have we learned nothing since Trent? Why is it we can carefully and faithfully discern the true meaning of scripture through the approved tools of scholarship, but not church documents. Not even an ecumenical council can decree Tradition.

  7. FB – I stand with you and St Thomas on this matter because my conscience would not allow me to do otherwise. Still, this is not exactly what Jesus said, is it?

    In addition, I have always felt that there must be a good dispensation for those truly good people throughout history in the multitude of human situations who never heard of Christ and yet whose lives were full of Christ-like love, compassion and good works; who, to whom had Jesus appeared, would have ‘known’ him. Your thoughts?

    1. I think they would fall under what Aquinas calls “implicit faith” — i.e. they believe in God and in God’s providence, so they explicitly believe that God would provide the means of salvation, thus believing implicitly in Christ.

      1. FB – a satisfying answer indeed. Many years ago a good friend and then-Anglican-now-Catholic priest assuaged my concern with the observation that all men will meet Christ when they die and He will be their judge. This, too, is satisfying because I and we are relieved from judgement and holding people to the letter of the law (a rather nasty inclination which is the fruit of spiritual pride). Isn’t it perhaps rather like the parable of the wage earners who were paid the same wage though they came at the close of day. Christ will be (IS) a just judge of all.

    2. I’m not FB, but Lumen Gentium explicitly extended the “mystery” of the Church to all who seek truth and goodness according to the dictates of their conscience — in some way, they are participating in the mystery of Christ’s redemptive activity and God’s gracious will to save. See no. 16; it’s an extension of the idea of the “baptism of desire” — originally formulated to account for the salvation of catechumens who died before baptism, later used to offer consolation to people worried about friends or relatives who died without an explicit Christian faith.

  8. I’ll stick w/ what Christ commanded at the last supper.
    He will be my judge.
    Only Christ can save.
    Trent saves no one.

    1. So how do you know what Christ commanded? Because there are other books out there that claim to be Gospels, but teach a different message than what is in the canonical books?

      The books are not self-authenticating and you’ll find that to know what Christ commands, you’ll have to trust the witness of the Church and the determinations about what is authentic doctrine (including the doctrine of what is authentic Scripture) contained in the acts of the various Church councils.

  9. It is important to consider the second paragraph of Session 21, Canon 4, which is a more specific explanation of the Tridentine policy which concerns communication under both species.

    The following excerpt is taken from a very poor scan of the 1781 Reiger edition of the Concilium Tridentium, 230 — 231 (warning, 40 MB pdf). I have transcribed the paragraph into modern Latin orthography, typed the abbreviations in full, and corrected.

    […] quibus S[ancta] Cathol[ica] Ecclesia adducta fuit, ut communicaret laicos atque etiam non celebrantes [s]acerd[otes] sub una tantum panis specie, ita sint retinendae, ut nulla ratione calicis usus cuiquam sit permittendus, [et] an, si honestis [et] Christianae charitati consentaneis rationibus concedendus alicui vel nationi vel regno calicis usus videatur, sub aliquibus conditionibus [co]cedendus sit […] (My brackets and ellipses)

    […] [quibus] “[The] Catholic Church has concluded that the communication of the laity and also non-priest-celebrants up to now will remain solely under the species of bread. The use of the cup shall permitted for no reason whatsoever. If either Christians of sincere charity shall be seen using the cup, conceded through consistent reasons for any person, nation, or kingdom, it shall be condoned under certain conditions.” (my brackets, ellipsis, trans.)

    Ostensibly this clause is directed at the remaining Utraquists of Bohemia. I am almost certain that the Hapsburgs retained the cup for certain parts of their Austrian empire. What is relevant is the Tridentine reservation of the cup as a discipline, and not doctrine. I liken this to the clerical discipline of celibacy for secular priests. The current discipline of secular clerical celibacy could be lifted without doctrinal error. Similarly per Trent the administration of the cup is not per se doctrinally erroneous.

    1. Oops, mine was a very faulty translation. Moral: no translation at 2am for me.

      […] si honestis [et] Christianae charitati consentaneis rationibus concedendus alicui vel nationi vel regno calicis usus videatur […]

      Should be akin to

      […] “If a pardonable use of the chalice appears out of Christian charity, conceded for reputable and reasonable circumstances for a number in a nation or kingdom” […]

      And certainly not my previous and quite strange translation of my previous post:

      “If either Christians of sincere charity shall be seen using the cup, conceded through consistent reasons for any person, nation, or kingdom, it shall be condoned under certain conditions.”

      Compare my revised translation with Paul Ford’s translation in his thread What receiving the whole Christ under the sign of wine can mean (Part II):

      […] “in case it appears advisable and consonant with Christian charity that the use of the chalice be conceded to a person, nation or kingdom” […]

      The nominative concedendus belongs with the nominative usus, subject of videatur, and both honestis and consentaneis belong with rationibus. alicui could be rendered as a “person”, but also as “some” or “a small number”.

      My apologies to Prof. Ford for my rather accusatory post here. It was I who was giving a poor translation!

  10. What are you talking about Sam?
    Who is doubting the authenticity of the last supper passage? It is not I. Must be you. You totally avoided what I said and are setting up a strawman argument about Trent. Does Trent doubt the last supper passages? Do you think that Trent can save you?
    Rather than directly commenting on why I prefer to follow the commands of Christ you attempt to divert the conversation with a strawman argument that somehow possibly Trent is responsible for what is in the canon of scripture? Lol. Sorry, you are at the wrong site, this is Praytellblog not WDTPRS.

  11. What sense can it make to suggest that when Christ gave the power of the keys to Peter and the apostles it included the authority to make decisions contrary to his own commands. Take and drink is unambiguous, is it not? Do not lord it over those you serve is also unambiguous. Countless have been the prelates and clerics over the centuries who have shamed their master who came to serve and not be served. Our Church, our Mother stands ever in need of reform. May God have mercy on us.

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