Wycliffe: On the Eucharist

“Since, therefore, we cannot deny that the sacrament is broken, as the custom of the Church teaches (the senses will otherwise be led astray, through false reasonings based upon the truth), and the body of Christ is not broken, it is clear that the sacrament which is broken is not the body of Christ, because otherwise to the inquirer what is broken would be less truly spoken of as the body of Christ: what indeed he seeks is the substance of the thing.

The third objection they make is this, that unless the consecrated host is the body of Christ, we would not see nor eat the body of Christ, that is, we do not bite it with the teeth, and thus we would not receive it. Such a conclusion would be embarrassing for Christians.

But here we reply by distinguishing two kinds of seeing, of eating, and of digesting: namely, corporeal and spiritual. Thus we agree that we do not see the body of Christ in that sacrament with the bodily eye,but rather with the eye of the mind, that is, in faith through a mirror darkly. And just as the image is perfect in every part of the mirror, so that it can be seen either in part or completely by any bodily eye placed anywhere, so also should one believe in part concerning the body of Christ in the consecrated host as in a mirror. And in the same manner it is said that we do not physically touch or seize the body of Christ, just as we do not eat it corporeally. And this is the meaning of the hymn of the Church which sings,

What thou canst not take nor see
Faith yet affirms courageously,
Beyond the things of sense.

Nor do we crush the body of Christ with the teeth, but rather we receive it in a spiritual manner, perfect and undivided. And so we understand the same hymn in which we sing,

The thing within sustains no tear;
The sign alone is broken there;.
No loss the state nor size doth bear
Of this, the Signified.

But at this point certain folk object concerning our views that these ideas should not be mentioned to laymen who cannot under- stand or observe them, since from such ideas they might lose their former faith. But nothing is more absurd than such an objection; for entirely too many laymen as well as clergy are so unfaithful in this matter that they believe, worse than pagans, that the consecrated host is their God. Then, of course, they arrive at the aforesaid pagan arguments. Therefore, he who does not understand these matters ill understands the belief in the Trinity or the incarnation. Nor is the
above mentioned lay belief pleasing to the Lord of Truth, but the vilest disbelief because it is a form of idolatry whereby a creature, cast down rather than lifted up, is worshiped as God.”

-John Wycliffe

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