I would suggest that the reader follow the link you have put up to Augustine's words. You may fashion an argument over how Real of a Presence he believed was present in the Eucharist here, but what you can't argue about is that he was talking about something else.Paul Hoffer here touches on one of those clearly heretical “developments” that Ron DiGiacomo was talking about, that we should not hesitate to bring up.
If God truly is in the Eucharist as Augustine writes, then it is entirely appropriate for us to bow down and worship Him there. As I hope to show in the near future, Augustine's views are entirely in line with those of Ambrose, his mentor and the Catholic Church at that time and what the Church teaches yet today. I do recognize that you are merely parroting the opinion of your particular denomination on this matter. I must wonder though how Protestants who do accept the doctrine of the Real Presence interpret the passage in question. How do you reconcile your denial of the Real Presence with those Protestants who do recognize to varying extents the truth of the doctrine?
Edward Kilmartin, S.J., “The Eucharist in the West” (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press) sheds some light here.
In our day, many Catholic theologians of the Latin tradition favor the notion of the objective sacramental representation of the historical redemptive work of Christ “on the altar.” In other words priority is awarded to the notion that the Eucharistic liturgy is the means by which the historical redemptive sacrifice of Christ is represented sacramentally so as to become available to be encountered by faith. The advocates of this average modern Catholic position have attempted to support their position especially by an appeal to Greek patristic theology.I will say it here. Rome completely fouled up its own understanding of the Lord’s Supper; now it looks to the Eastern churches for some clarification of the “ancientness” of its beliefs in this regard.
However, the ambiguity of the precise meaning of the Greek speculation on the link between the historical self-offering of Christ and the Eucharistic sacrifice provides a major obstacle to this argument from the authority of tradition.
Now, I don’t know all the angles on the eastern conception of the Eucharist. Paul Hoffer rightly cites Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397) both as Augustine’s mentor and as one who played a formative role in the western church’s (i.e., Rome’s) understanding of the Eucharist.
However, the view that Ambrose helped to formulate is not the New Testament teaching on the Lord’s Supper, and nor is it the same as what was taught by earlier church fathers, either in the east or the west.
Schaff provides some perspective:
The doctrine concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, not coming into special discussion, remained indefinite and obscure [during the period from 100-325 AD]. The ancient church made more account of the worthy participation of the ordinance than of the logical apprehension of it. She looked upon it as the holiest mystery of Christian worship, and accordingly, celebrated it with the deepest devotion, without inquiring into the mode of Christ’s presence, nor into the relation of the sensible signs to his flesh and blood. It is unhistorical to carry any of the later theories back into this age; although it has been done frequently in the apologetic and polemic discussion of this subject.Now, where have we seen this theme before?
Nevertheless, Roman Catholics will of course cite various passages from Ignatius and the Didache to the effect that the earliest church, emphasis was not on the mode of Christ’s presence (i.e., “real” or “spiritual”), but on the “worthy participation,” as Schaff notes. And that was Paul’s insistence, too (1 Corinthians 11:27).
Keith Mathison, in his work “Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper,” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, ©2002), notes that, in discussions of “real presence,” great care must be given to understand “to what extent were the early fathers influenced by Platonic thought?” Mathison cites Gary Macy on the history of the theology of the Lord’s Supper:
Nothing is more important in understanding Christian thought on the eucharist than the simple insight that for most of Christian history, people who wrote about the eucharist just assumed that Plato was right. The most “real” things were those grasped by the mind; the least “real” things were those things that were sensed. “Essences” (or “substances” or “forms”) were always more real than sense data (329).That is, when an ancient said “real presence,” there was the greatest likelihood that he was saying “real” in the Platonic sense. What was “real” was not that which one could “touch with one’s hands,” – that is, for Plato, “there was a whole world of perfect objects (which he called “forms”) that serve as criteria for the objects of our knowledge, and he argued that we must know the forms with greater certainty than anything else” (John Frame, “Doctrine of the Knowledge of God,” pg 111).
So if something was “real” (consider the term “real presence”), it was not the tangible, physical presence that someone was talking about; “real” was something “out there,” “floating in space,” – quite the opposite of what people understand today when they say “real presence”. Schaff points out that there were, “among the ante-Nicene fathers, three different views” [of the Lord’s Supper], and Kilmartin notes that “the Latin Fathers show less concern for the speculative aspects of Eucharistic theology than the Greek fathers. Their interest is geared more to the pastoral and practical side of the efficacy of the Eucharistic sacrifice and Holy Communion. Also, although acquainted with a Platonic way of thinking about reality, they were less consistent about its application to the Eucharist.” Augustine’s view could be said to be more Platonic:
On the subject of the reception of the sacraments of the body and blood, Augustine describes the gift that is bestowed on the communicant as a virtus, unitas, caritas, by which one is integrated more deeply into the “society of the predestined, called, justified, and glorified saints and faithful.” Augustine views the grace of the Eucharist as that which unites the believers to Christ and to one another. He describes this grace as grace of the Spirit of Christ, signified by the sacrament, and bestowed on believers on the occasion of their participation in the sacrament. The grace is not conceived as though contained, as it were, in the external sacrament. Much less does Augustine teach that the body and blood of Christ are “contained” under the forms of bread and wine. The theology the fourth-century Antiochene [Eastern] School concerning the somatic real presence of Christ under forms of bread and wine is definitely not that of Augustine.Kilmartin notes, This metabolic understanding of the change is a new concept which goes beyond what would develop from an image theology. Hence, at least in the early Middle Ages, Ambrose’s teaching also provided the basis for an alternative to the traditional fourth-century (realistic, metabolic-conversion) Antiochene explanation of the process of Eucharistic conversion (18).
On the other hand, the Eastern theology of the fourth-century Antiochene tradition, as exemplified in the writings of St. John Chrysostom, was clearly and strongly reflected in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan. Ambrose confessed the somatic real presence of Christ under forms of bread and wine, effected through conversion of elements into the body and blood of Christ (5-6).
On the question of the sacrificial character of the Eucharist, Ambrose provides an example of the difference of the orientation between the Eastern and Western traditions. The Greek Fathers of the fourth-century Antiochene tradition base the sacrificial character of the Eucharist on the concept of anamnesis: the commemorative actual presence of the one and unique sacrifice of Christ on the cross. … Ambrose teaches that it is precisely the liturgical assembly that is the subject of the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice … The idea that each individual Mass has a value in itself as a kind of new act of Christ performed in and through the sacrificial offering of the Church [derives from Ambrose].Thus we have come full circle: here we have papal affirmation (and it’s Pope Gregory The Great!) of the very opposite of what the Scripture teaches, in which Christ died “once for all,” and “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Ambrose’s doctrine of the somatic presence of Christ under forms of bread and wine was borrowed from the fourth-century Antiochene tradition. But … it was not “received” within the Platonic horizon of the Greek theologians. However, his teaching on this subject, thus separated from its natural Platonic horizon, became the viable – and eventually triumphant – option in the Latin Church of the early Middle Ages over against the “spiritualized” interpretation of the content of the sacraments of the body and blood linked to the Augustinian tradition. Likewise Ambrose’s teaching about the Christological aspect of the Eucharistic sacrifice shows no signs of the influence of the Greek notion of commemorative sacrifice. This fact, which proves that Ambrose’s “reception” of Greek Eucharistic theology was only partial, is indicative of the difficulty which the Western theological mindset has traditionally experienced in its attempts to grasp the Greek notion of commemorative sacrifice.
By the end of the sixth century this Greek concept, which could have served the interests of a more balanced theology of the Eucharistic sacrifice, was no longer present to the Western tradition. At the same time the tendency of the Western theology of Eucharistic sacrifice toward postulating a complete disjunction between the historical sacrifice of the cross and the Eucharistic sacrifice received additional support from Pope Gregory the Great’s saying that “(Christ) in the mystery of the holy sacrifice is offered for us again (iterum)” [from Dialogorum libri iv 4.58 (PL 77.425CD). This text is one of the earliest that refers to Christ being “newly” offered. Supported by the authority of Gregory it became an important proof text for the notion that the sacrifice of Christ is repeated in each Mass in an “unbloody way” (19-22).
Modern Roman Catholicism has tried to play down that embarrassing “repeated in an unbloody way” language, and have made the effort to re-adopt the “re-presentation of the one sacrifice” imagery; but modern Roman Catholics should know that is a Greek concept that Rome once rejected.
For those Roman Catholics who think that Rome’s doctrine of the Eucharist is somehow the Eucharistic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper that was held by the earliest church, you are just simply deceived. You are putting more faith in the vascillating “traditions” of the Roman church, than you are in either the genuine early traditions of the church, or the clear teachings of Scripture on this matter.