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3. The Development of the Practice and Theory of the Mass (the Dogma of the Lord’s Supper) and of Penance.
Three factors co-operated to promote a development of the theory of the Lord’s Supper in the West in the Carlovingian 309age. Firstly, the influence of Byzantium, where the controversy about images had led their worshippers to disconnect the symbolical conception from the consecrated elements, in order to avoid the necessity of identifying the Sacrament with the images, and of thus robbing the great mystery of its unique character.711711On the development of the mysteries and Lord’s Supper in the Greek Church, see Vol. IV. p. 268. John of Damascus (De fide orth. IV. 13), declared expressly: οὔκ ἐστι τύπος ὁ ἄρτος τοῦ σώματος ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ κυρίου τεθεωμένον. After the Synod of 754 (Mansi, XIII., p. 261 sq.), had called the consecrated elements types and images, the second Nicene Synod of 787 (l.c. p. 265) expressly declared that they were not that, since neither the Apostles nor Fathers had so named them; by consecration they rather became αὐτὸ σῶμα καὶ αὐτὸ αἶμα. Yet Transubstantiation, taken strictly in the Western sense, was admittedly never taught by the Greeks. Secondly, the practice of the Western Church. The divine service of the Mass was the central point of all Christianity, to which everything referred, and from which every saving influence flowed for the baptized Christian. But if the ordinary life of the Christian was connected with miraculous powers and mysteries, if miracles were in the present, and still more in the accounts of the past, every-day events,712712See Reuter, I., pp. 24 ff. 41 ff. then the sacred act effected in the Lord’s Supper had to be developed into the wonder of wonders, lest its significance should be impaired by comparison with hundreds of miracles of a common stamp.713713In order to perceive that the Lord’s Supper needed a special prominence to be given to it, notice the view taken by Hinkmar of ordeals, on which Augustine, indeed, had already laid great stress (Schrörs, p. 190 ff.); he regarded them, namely, as sacraments instituted in Scripture, and placed them on a level with the baptismal ceremonies. Hinkmar was not alone in the value he attached to the oath of purgation and divine judgments (see Rozière, Recueil général des formules, Paris, 1859, n. DLXXXI.-DCXXV.; on p. 70, the ceremony is described as christianæ religionis officium), but Agobard, who opposed them, stood almost alone; see Reuter, I., p. 32 ff. Thirdly, theology and Christology come before us in this connection. The greater the prominence given in the notion of God to the idea that God, because omnipotent, was a mysterious arbitrary power, and the more vague became the perception of God in Christ and the knowledge measured by moral holiness, the more firmly did men cling to the institutions of the Church as the alone manifest, and seek in them, i.e., in mystery and miracle, to apprehend the hidden God. Further, 310the more the historical Christ was lost in light which no man can approach, and the more resolutely religious speculation, in order to be truly pious, only saw in him the God, who had added human nature to his fulness (see the Adoptian controversy), the more clearly did men feel themselves constrained to seek Christ not in the historical picture or the Word, but where the mystery of his Incarnation and death was present and palpable.714714The controversies de partu virginis (Bach, I., p. 152 ff.; see Ratramnus, Liber de eo, quod Christus ex virgine natus est; Radbertus, Opusculum de partu virginis, d’Achery, Spicil. I. p. 52, 44), show still better than the Adoptian controversy, the kind of Christology that was honoured by the religion of the community and monks. Ratramnus described as the poison of the old serpent the fact that some Germans denied that Christ had issued from Mary’s womb in the natural way, for thus the reality of Christ’s birth was destroyed, although he also acknowledged Mary’s perpetual virginity and taught the partus clauso utero: “clausa patuit dominanti.” Radbert on the other hand, without answering Ratramnus, consoled some nuns, who had been unsettled by the alleged denial of Mary’s virginity, by saying that the Church held firmly to the “clauso utero”; for if Christ had come to the light in the natural way, he would have been like an ordinary man; everything connected with the incarnation, however, was miraculous. He who did not admit Christ to have been born clauso utero, set him under the common law of nature, i.e. sinful nature, and in that case Christ was not free of sin. The difference between the two scholars thus consisted solely in the fact that while Ratramnus maintained the natural process of birth to have taken place miraculously clauso utero, Radbert taught that the birth was a supernatural process, and that Christ had left his mother in a different way from other children. Radbert here also is the more consistent; Ratramnus seeks to unite natural and supernatural. Radbert, at least, in imparting his curious instruction to the virgins of the cloister, does not display the pruriency of Jerome, who is the father of these gynæcological fancies, and the nuns may have taken this question very seriously, as seriously as Marcion and Augustine, because they recognised all that was sexual to be the hearth of sin. To later scholasticism is clue the credit of having explained the partus clause utero scientifically from the ubiquity of Christ’s body. Such miraculous conceptions having been diffused as to the body of the historical Christ, it being held, in a word, to be already pneumatic in itself, it was by that very reason sacramental (mysterious). But, in that case, it was impossible not to take the next step, and finally and completely identify the real with that sacramental (mysterious) body that was offered in the Lord’s Supper. The lines drawn from the incarnation dogma and the Lord’s Supper necessarily converged in the end. That this did not happen earlier was due, apart from the material hindrance presented by Augustine with his sober conceptions of the historical Christ as a real homo, to formal difficulties caused by the traditional idiom (the sacramental body is figura corporis Christi). These had to be removed. Bach remarks very justly (I. p. 156): “The cause of present day misunderstandings of the ancient controversies regarding the Lord’s Supper, consists in mistaking the law that governs the formation of language, and that also applies to theological idiom. We refer here to the gradual change of meaning of theological words, even when they have become, as regards their outward verbal form, fixed categories, i.e. termini technici.” The admission here frankly made by the Catholic historian of dogma is, we know, not always granted by Lutheran theologians. We have indeed had to listen, in the controversy of our own days, to the wonderful cry that we ought to restore to words their original meaning. As if any one still possessed the old die!311
The active influence of these combined factors undoubtedly received an extremely significant check in the case of Bede, and in the first decades of the Carlovingian age, from the rise of the study of Augustine, whose teaching on the Lord’s Supper had been predominantly spiritual. Charles’s theologians, or Charles himself, frequently used quite Augustinian language, in speaking of the Lord’s Supper. But even in their case variations occur,715715Bede’s teaching was thoroughly Augustinian. (“In redemptionis memoriam,” “corporis sanguinisque sacramentum,” “ad corpus Christi mystice refertur,” “spiritualiter intellegite,” “non hoc corpus, quod videtis—Christus inquit—manducaturi estis, sacramentum aliquod vobis commendavi, spiritualiter intellectum vivificabit vos,” “lavat nos a peccatis nostris quotidie in sanguine suo, cum beatæ passionis ad altare memoria replicatur, cum panis et vini creatura in sacramentum carnis et sanguinis ejus ineffabili spiritus sanctificatione transfertur”); passages in Münter (D.-Gesch. II., 1  p. 223 f.). But we then see how the conception changed step by step until the middle of the ninth century. Alcuin repeats his teacher’s principles; but both his opposition to the Council of A.D. 754 (De impio imag. cultu IV. 14: “non sanguinis et corporis dominici mysterium imago jam nunc dicendum est, sed veritas, non umbra, sed corpus”), and in part his study of Greek Christology and adoption of sentiments expressed in the Church practice led him to make statements like the following (Ep. 36): “profer nomen amici tui eo tempore opportuno, quo panem et vinum in substantiam corporis et sanguinis Christi consecraveris.” Münter justly remarks (l.c.) that this is not yet synonymous with “in substantiam corporis convertere;” but it approaches it. The general notion of the Sacrament is completely identical in the cases of Isidore, Rabanus Maurus, Ratramnus, and Paschasius Radbertus, and so entirely follows Augustine in its construction that we are not prepared by it for the strictly realistic version in the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. and towards the end of the period of Louis the Pious, Paschasius Radbertus was able to assert as doctrine, what had long been felt by the majority, that the real (historical) body of Christ was sacrificed in the Mass, and partaken of in the Lord’s Supper.716716See Radberti Lib. de corp. et sang. domini (831), new edition, with an Ep. ad Carolum, thirteen years later (Migne, CXX., p. 1267). Steitz in the R.-Encykl. XII., p. 474. Rückert in Hilgenfeld’s Ztschr. 1858. Bach. I., p. 156 ff. Reuter, I., p. 41 ff. Choisy, Paschase Radbert, Genève, 1888. Hausher, Der hl. Paschasius, 1862. Ernst, Die Lehre d. h. P. Radbert v. d. Eucharistie, 1896. Geschichte der Abendmahlsfeier by Dieckhoff, p. 13 ff., Ebrard, Kahnis, etc. Ebert, Gesch. d. Lit. des Mittelalters, II. Mabillon, in the second and third parts of the Benedictine Annals. Ratramnus’ work (De corpore et sanguine domini ad Carolum) in Migne CXXI., p. 125. Köhler, Rabanus’ Streit mit Paschasius, in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr. 1879, p. 116 ff. A detailed account of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper from Paschasius to Berengar is given by Schnitzer, Berengar von Tours (1890), pp. 127-245.312
Paschasius Radbertus was perhaps the most learned and able theologian, after Alcuin, as well versed in Greek theology as he was familiar with Augustinianism, a coinprehensive genius, who felt the liveliest desire to harmonise theory and practice, and at the same time to give due weight to everything that had been taught till then by Church tradition regarding the Lord’s Supper.717717Radbert’s work, De fide, spe et caritate is also important, because it shows greater power to grasp religious doctrine as a whole than we expect at this date. His great work on the Lord’s Supper was the first Church monograph on the subject.718718So far as I know, no inquiry has yet been undertaken as to the homily, De corpore et sanguine Christi, which is found in Jerome’s works (Migne, T. XXX., Col. 271 ff.), being ascribed by tradition to Eusebius of Emesa, and of which a copy is also given among the works of Faustus of Riez. In it occurs the sentence: “Visibilis sacerdos visibiles creaturas in substantiam corporis et sanguinis sui verbo suo secreta potestate convertit.” The homily belongs to a whole group, on which consult Caspari, Briefe, Abhandlungen and Predigten (1890), p. 418 ff. (see above, p. 254). It is a one-sided description of its contents to sum them up in the phrase: “Paschasius taught transubstantiation.”719719Choisy seeks to show that Paschasius was the father of the Catholic dogma even to the manducatio infidelium, and that the spiritual form of the dogma of the Lord’s Supper is in his case only apparent, since ultimately everything is dominated by crass realism. The importance of the book lies rather in the fact that the Lord’s Supper is exhaustively discussed from all possible points of view, and that a certain unity is nevertheless attained. Paschasius did for this dogma what Origen did for the whole of dogmatics; he is the Origen of the Catholic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, which was placed by him as a theory in the central position that it had long held in practice. We can only appreciate Paschasius’ teaching if we keep it in mind that Greek Christological mysticism, Augustinian spiritualism, and—unconsciously to the author himself—the practice of the Frankish Church, had an equal share in it. But we must also remember that the notion of God as inscrutable omnipotence, i.e., arbitrary power, was dominant. Without this conception of deity the doctrine of transubstantiation would never have been reached.720720Compare Radbert’s extremely characteristic introduction to his treatise: he discusses the almighty will of God as ground of all natural events. God’s arbitrary power is the ultimate cause; therefore his actions can be described as contrary to nature as well as natural (the latter, because even the regular course of things is subject to divine absolutism). The new dogma is explicitly based on this conception of God. Notoriously everything can be deduced from it, predestination, accommodation, transubstantiation, etc. Radbert holds the Lord’s Supper to be the miracle of miracles, towards which all others point; see 1, 5.313
To begin with, Paschasius has given most vigorous expression to Augustinian doctrine not as something foreign to him, but as if he had thoroughly assimilated it.721721Radbert expressly attacks the Capernaite coarse conception of participation in the Lord’s Supper; he declines to adopt the crudely sensuous ideas diffused in the widest circles (Bach, I. 167 ff.); see De corp. et sang. 8, 2. Expos. in Mat. 1. XII., 26. Reality in its common sense is “natura” in Radbert’s view; but he never says that the elements are naturaliter transformed. Therefore also Christ’s body is not digested. The sacrament is a spiritual food for faith; to eat Christ’s flesh means to be and remain in Christ. The rite is given to faith, and faith is to be roused by it. Faith, however, is always related to the invisible; and thus the sacrament in its deepest sense can only be received by the faith that has withdrawn into the invisible world. Christ, the soul, faith, heaven, and the sacrament are most intimately connected—the bodily eye must always look beyond the sensuous to the heavenly behind it. Therefore the meal is a meal for the holy, the elect. Only he who belongs to Christ and is a member in his body enjoys the food worthily, nay, he alone enjoys the food of faith actually. Unbelievers receive the sacrament, but not its virtue (virtus sacramenti). But even Augustine had so distinguished between these two notions that virtus sacramenti sometimes describes its saving efficacy alone, sometimes the miraculous nature of the holy food itself, so that in the former case the sacrament itself signifies the totality of the rite without its corresponding effect, and in the latter merely something objective incapable of further definition. Radbert, like Augustine, prefers the latter version. The believer alone receives the virtus sacramenti as food of faith and incorporation into Christ’s body—there was no eating on the part of unbelievers (manducatio infidelium); Christ’s flesh as contained in the sacrament did not exist apart from faith. The unbeliever, indeed, receives the sacrament—what that is is indefinable—but he does 314so to his condemnation; for without the virtus sacramenti the sacrament exists ad judicium damnationis.722722See esp. ch. VIII., but also 5-7, 14, 21. This spiritual conception, on which Steitz (1.c.) has rightly laid great stress, runs through the whole book. But when Radbert positively calls the body present in the Lord’s Supper a corpus spiritale, he does not mean this in contrast with the natural, but the lower bodily nature (caro humana) confined to space. C. 21, 5: “Non nisi electorum cibus est.” 6, 2: “Quid est, quod manducant homines? Ecce omnes indifferenter quam sæpe sacramenta altaris percipiunt. Percipiunt plane, sed alius carnem Christi spiritaliter manducat et sanguinem bibit, alius vero non, quamvis buccellam de manu sacerdotis videatur percipere. Et quid accipit, cum una sit consecratio, si corpus et sang. Chr. non accipit? Vere, quia reus indigne accipit, judicium sibi manducat.”
In addition to this Augustinianism, a Greek element is very strongly marked in the description of the effects of the holy food; for besides incorporation in Christ and forgiveness of venial sins, the chief emphasis is laid on our soul and body being nourished by this food for immortality. The combination contained in the statement that this is effected by baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Holy Scripture (c. 1, 4), is Western; but the intention to which prominence is given in connection with the Lord’s Supper alone, viz. “that even our flesh may be renewed by it to immortality and incorruption,”723723“Ut etiam caro nostra per hoc ad immortalitatem et incorruptionem reparetur.” is Greek. Indeed Radbert even says conversely: “the flesh of Christ spiritually digested is transformed into our flesh.”724724“Carni nostræ caro Christi spiritaliter conviscerata transformatur.” See c. 11 and 19, 1: “Non sicut quidam volunt anima sola hoc mysterio pascitur, quia non sola redimitur morte Christi et salvatur, verum etiam et caro nostra, etc. etc.; “nos per hoc in incorruptionem transformamur” (therefore as in Justin); the same thought already in I. 4, 6. But he now went still further with the Greeks—Cyril and John of Damascus. He had learned from them that although the rite existed for faith only, yet the reality of Christ’s body was present.725725“Spiritale” and “verum” are thus not mutually exclusive. This assumption was rendered easy, nay imperative, to the Greeks by their view that Christ’s historical body was itself pneumatic from the moment of the Incarnation. Although they then (John of Damascus) completed the identification, and assumed a real presence of Christ’s body in the Sacrament, they still hesitated secretly, because they did not get over the difficulty caused by the fact that the body once received into heaven did not return. 315Therefore they assigned the form of the miracle (sacramental transformation and assumption) to the “mystery.” Radbert took up the matter here, at the same time influenced by the popular conception and his certainty that the practice of the Church was justified. For the first time in the Church he declares without hesitancy that the sacramental body is that which had been born of Mary, and that this is due to a transformation which only leaves the sensuous appearance unchanged. This is a miracle against nature (or quasi contra naturam: for nature always depends on the will of God); but it is to be believed for that very reason, for we only think worthily of God, who can do anything, when we acknowledge him to be the power that works miracles. What he does here is a miraculous creative act, effected, as always, through the word, in this case the word of institution, and this is spoken not by the priest, but on each occasion by God through the eternal Word (Christ), so that the priest only issues the appeal to God. This constantly repeated creation by God is exactly parallel to the Incarnation—Christ’s word corresponds to the Holy Spirit, the elements to the virgin’s womb; the effect is the same. The sacramental is the historical body, of course also historically transfigured; for from Cyril’s standpoint the transfiguration of the body in the Resurrection is only the manifestation of the properties which it always possessed.726726C. 1, 2: “Nullus moveatur de hoc corpore Christi et sanguine, quod in mysterio vera sit caro et verus sit sanguis, dum sic voluit ille qui creavit: omnia enim quæcumque voluit fecit in cælo et in terra, et quia voluit, licet in figura panis et vini, hæc sic esse, omnino nihil aliud quam caro Christi et sanguis post consecrationem credenda sunt. Unde ipsa veritas ad discipulos: Hæc, inquit, caro mea est pro mundi vita, et ut mirabilius loquar, non alia plane quam quæ nata est de Maria et passa in cruce et resurrexit de sepulcro.” Further 7, 2: “corpus quod natum est de Maria virgine . . . resurrexit a mortuis, penetravit cœlos et nunc pontifex factus in æternum quotidie interpellat pro nobis.” 12, I: “ubi catholica fide hoc mysterium celebratur, nihil a bono majus nihilque a malo minus percipi sacerdote, nihilque aliud quam caro Christi et sanguis dum catholice consecratur, quia non in merito consecrantis sed in verbo efficitur creatoris et virtute spiritus s., ut caro Chr. et sanguis, non alia quam quæ de spiritu s. creata est, vera fide credatur et spiritali intellegentia degustetur . . . Christi est qui per s. s. hanc suam efficit carnem.” Cf. 15, 1: “non æstimandum est, quod alterius verbis, quod ullius alterius meritis, quod potestate alicujus ista fiunt, sed verbo creatoris, quo cuncta creata sunt.” 8, 2: “substantia panis et vini in Christi carnem et sanguinem efficaciter interius commutatur.” 2, 2: “sensibilis res intellegibiliter virtute dei per verbum Christi in carnem ipsius divinitus transfertur.” In order to 316explain the startling fact that the results of the transformation were not capable of being perceived by the senses, Radbert had a number of reasons ready: it was unnecessary and repulsive,727727See c. 10 and 13, and esp. 4, 1: “quia Christum vorari fas dentibus non est, voluit in mysterio hunc panem et vinum vere carnem suam et sanguinem consecratione spiritus s. potentialiter (i.e. efficaciter) creari, creando vero quotidie pro mundi vita mystice immolari.” and besides it would happen often.728728See c. 14; besides Bach I., p. 168 ff. A lamb, or real blood, or the Christ-child appeared. The most important of these was that—it was necessary the rite should remain a mystery given to faith alone. We are as far as possible from being prepared for this idea, and yet it was very important to Radbert. The Lord’s Supper always presupposes faith and is meant to rouse faith, where it exists, to advance to the undisguised Christ who is not daily sacrificed. Hence the sacrament cannot be a manifest, but is always a disguised, miracle. Hence, moreover, the elements, in so far as they are not perceptibly transformed (colour, taste, and smell remaining), must be regarded as symbols of Christ’s body, from which faith penetrates to the mysterious but really created source of salvation. The sensuous appearance of the consecrated elements is the symbol of Christ’s body, their essence is the true historical body itself.729729On this point Radbert speaks like Ratramnus; see 1, 5: “visu corporeo et gustu propterea non demutantur, quatenus fides exerceatur ad justitiam.” 13, 1, 2, “quod colorem aut saporem carnis minime præbet, virtus tamen fidei et intellegentiæ, quæ nihil de Christo dubitat, totum illud spiritaliter sapit et degustat . . . Sic debuit hoc mysterium temperari, ut et arcana secretorum celarentur infidis et meritum cresceret de virtute fidei et nihil deesset interius vere credentibus promissæ veritatis.” Nay the disguise incites to loftier aspiration (as with the Greeks): “insuper et quod majus est per hæc secretius præstita ad illam tenderent speciem satietatis ubi jam non pro peccatis nostris quotidie Christus immolabitur, sed satietate manifestationis ejus sine ulla corruptione omnes sine fine fruemur.” (One imagines that he is listening to Origen or Gregory of Nyssa.) On figura and veritas, see 4, 1: “. . . ut sicut de virgine per spiritum vera caro sine coitu creatur, ita per eundem ex substantia panis ac vini mystice idem Christi corpus et sanguis consecretur . . . figura videtur esse cum frangitur, dum in specie visibili aliud intelligitur quam quod visu carnis et gustu sentitur. Veritas appellatur, dum corpus Christi et sanguis virtute spiritus in verbo ipsius ex panis vinique substantia efficitur.”
We readily perceive that in this phase the bridge to the Augustinian conception has been recovered. Paschasius intended to unite and did unite two positions in his doctrine of 317the Lord’s Supper: the Augustinian, that the sacraments are given to faith and everything in them is spiritually handled, and the Greek, which also seemed to him commended by the letter of Scripture, the Fathers, and a few miracles, that we are confronted by a reality existent prior to all faith, since only the true body and the blood actually shed can redeem us, and since we need the corporeal indwelling of Christ. Both considerations seemed to be served by the view, that in the elements we are dealing with a miraculous creation of Christ’s body, which is, however, effected in such a way that faith alone can rise from the still existent semblance of the mere bodily figure (figura corporis) to the apprehension of the heavenly reality.
The voluminous books, afterwards written by Catholics and Lutherans on the Lord’s Supper, prove that Radbert’s theory opened up a perspective to hundreds of questions, which he did not solve, and, indeed, did not even put. His treatment of the part played by the priest at the sacrament seemed unsatisfactory. His brief expositions as to the creation of the body failed to make certain the identity of the heavenly and the sacramental Christ. There was still no definition of the relation of the unconverted to the converted object of sense-perception. When men began to attempt this definition, nothing short of the whole of philosophy necessarily passed before the mind of the cultured theologian. The claim of the symbolical view had to be determined, and thereby the sacrament, symbol, virtue, reality (res) and, again, the graded and yet identical bodies of Christ (the historical on earth, the transfigured in heaven, the sacramental on earth, the body as Church in heaven and on earth) had to be defined, as it were geologically, as intersecting boulders. “One deep called to the others”; and the fact that in after times the most intelligent men leant an ear to this clamour, and yet remained sane in other respects, proved that the most absurd speculations in the sphere of religion do not necessarily make the whole reason sick.730730The doctrine of the real conversion of the elements in the West is to be regarded as an importation from the East, and is closely connected with the anti-Adoptian version of Cliristology. But it was first in the West that the legal mind and dialectics cast themselves on this subject, and produced a complicated and never to be completed doctrine of endless extent.318
But the most remarkable feature in Radbert’s fundamental theory is that he did not refer primarily to the Mass, or indeed to Christ’s death on the Cross; in other words, he did not draw all the consequences which resulted from it. Radbert is not the theologian of the Catholic Mass. The Incarnation and Lord’s Supper were for him more intimately connected, as it seems, than Christ’s sacrificial death and the dogma of the Lord’s Supper. From this we see that Radbert was a disciple of the Greeks, that he was really a theologian, and his interest did not centre primarily on the Church institution of penance, and the divine service of the Mass connected with it.731731Not primarily; for undoubtedly he more than once in his work thinks of the Mass, and draws the inference of the daily sacrifice of Christ’s body pro peccatis; see 13, 2; 4, 1, etc.
Rabanus732732Ep. ad Eigil. Migne, CXII., p. 1510. and Ratramnus alone opposed him. The opposition is as obscure, logically, as in the controversy about the virgin birth. As Ratramnus had then taught that the natural had come to pass by a miracle, while Radbert held that the event was contrary to nature; so here again Rabanus and, above all, Ratramnus taught that, while the external miracle (contra naturam)—the communication in the Lord’s Supper of the body that was born, that died and rose again—did not take place, the true body was potentialiter (effectively) created, yet in mysterio, by the consecration of the Holy Spirit.733733Ratramnus and Rabanus are nearer each other than is currently supposed; but Bach (I. p. 191 ff.) is wrong, when, after the precedent of other Catholics, he tries by an interpretation of Ratramnus’ use of language to make him a genuine Catholic. Ratramnus also holds that a miracle takes place, but not the miracle that magically produces the body worn by Christ as a person. Ratramnus examines elaborately the problem that the king had set him, whether that which is received into his mouth by the believer, is in mystery or reality Christ’s body. From the king’s question he himself formulates other two: whether participation, in the cultus, in the body of Christ was an act in mysterio or in veritate, and whether the sacramental body was identical with the historical which now sits at the right hand of the Father.734734See the opening of the work. To the second question he replies that that which lies consecrated 319on the altar is by no means the historical body, but only the mystery of the body, as also the mystery of the Church. As regards the historical body the consecrated elements are thus only a figure (figura), means of reminiscence for our present earthly life, since we cannot yet see what we believe.735735Following on a reference to Ambrose, he writes (c. 75 sq.): “De carne Christi quæ crucifixa et sepulta est, ait, ‘Vera utique caro Christi est.’ At de illo quod sumitur in sacramento dicit, ‘Veræ carnis illius sacramentum est,’ distinguens sacramentum carnis a veritate carnis. Veritas carnis quam sumpsit de virgine; quod vero nunc agitur in ecclesia mysterium, veræ illius carnis . . . sacramentum . . . non est specie caro, sed sacramentum, siquidem in specie panis est, in sacramento vero verum Christi corpus . . . (elementa) secundum quod spiritualiter vitæ substantiam subministrant corpus et sanguis Christi sunt. Illud vero corpus, in quo semel passus est Christus, non aliam speciem præferebat quam in qua consistebat; hoc enim erat vere quod esse videbatur; . . . at nunc sanguis Christi quem credentes ebibunt et corpus quod comedunt, aliud sunt in specie et aliud in significatione, aliud quod pascunt corpus esca corporea et aliud quod saginant mentes æternæ vita substantia . . . aliud igitur est, quod exterius geritur, aliud item quod per fidem capitur; ad sensum corporis quod pertinet, corruptibile (Radbert also said this) est, quod fides vero capit incorruptible. Exterius igitur quod apparet non est res sed imago rei, mente vero quod sentitur et intelligitur, veritas rei.” Even to the last sentence a Radbertian meaning can be given; but this ceases to be possible where Ratramnus—as often happens—designates the whole rite (and it is the rite with which he is generally concerned) as “figura,” in “figuram sive memoriam dominicæ mortis,” “repræsentatio memoriæ dominicæ passionis,” and, further, as “pignus” (see c. 10, 11, 16: “figurate facta”; c. 88: “corpus et sanguis quod in ecclesia geritur, differt ab illo corpore et sanguine quod in Christi corpore jam glorificatum cognoscitur; et hoc corpus pignus est et species, illud vero ipsa veritas. Hoc enim geretur, donec ad illud perveniatur; ubi vero ad illud perventum fuerit hoc removebitur.” Reconciliation with Radbert is absolutely impossible where Ratramnus strictly disowns the “permutatio corporalis,” and reduces everything to a memorial meal; c. 12: “et quomodo jam Christi corpus dicitur, in quo nulla permutatio facta cognoscitur?” c. 15: “dicant, secundum quod permutata sunt; corporaliter namque nihil in eis cernitur esse permutatum.” Catholics excuse him here by saying that he meant to deny “conversion” into a crassly realistic body, “Fatebuntur igitur necesse est aut mutata esse secundum aliud quam secundum corpus, ac per hoc non esse hoc quod in veritate videntur, sed aliud quod non esse secundum propriam essentiam cernuntur. Aut si hoc profiteri noluerint, negare corpus esse sanguinem Christi, quod nefas est non solum dicere verum etiam cogitare.” c. 100: “iste panis et sanguis qui super altare ponuntur, in figuram sive memoriam dominicæ mortis ponuntur, et quod gestum est in præterito, præsenti revocet (dominus) memoriæ, ut illius passionis memores effecti, per eam efficiamur divini muneris consortes.” But nevertheless believers receive Christ’s body and blood in this rite; for faith does not receive what it sees, but what it believes, Accordingly in the Lord’s Supper Christ’s body exists in an invisbile 320reality for faith as real food of the soul.736736C. 101: “Fides non quod oculus videt sed quod credit accipit, quoniam spiritualis est esca et spiritualis potus, spiritualiter animam pascens et æternæ satietatis vitam tribuens, sicut ipse salvator mysterium hoc commendans loquitur: spiritus est qui vivificat.” C. 49: “Christ’s true body is distributed in the Lord’s Supper according to its invisibilis substantia, and that because the invisibilis substantia is like the potentia divini verbi. Many similar passages elsewhere.” The extremely obscure and at least seemingly contradictory statements of Ratramnus make it hard to hit on his meaning correctly. In any case he taught no mere figurative conception. We shall perhaps be most certain to do him justice if we observe what above all he did, and what he did not, intend. He meant above all to emphasise and verify the absolute necessity of faith throughout the rite; the sacrament belonged to faith, existed for it alone, etc.737737C. 11: “Nam si secundum quosdam figurate hic nihil accipitur, sed totum in veritate conspicitur, nihil hic fides operatur, quoniam nihil spiritale geritur . . . nec jam mysterium erit, in quo nihil secreti, nihil abditi continebitur.” In this he coincides entirely with Radbert, who shared the same interest equally strongly. But in what he would not allow he is distinguished to his advantage from Radbert; since everything is given to faith he would not recognise the common reality, because in view of the latter faith and disbelief are indifferent. To Ratramnus reality (veritas) is concrete being as it presents itself to the senses; for this very reason “sub figura” and “in veritate” he looks on as mutually exclusive opposites. Faith has its own realities, which are real, but only disclose themselves to faith; Ratramnus designates them—mistakenly—as “sub figura,” because they are copied by sensuous realities, or, better, rest behind the latter. Radbert, on the other hand, believed himself compelled, precisely as an Augustinian, to conceive veritas as reality in general; hence to him “sub figura” and in veritate are not opposites, since heavenly realities when they appeared as earthly had in his view to manifest themselves sub figura. But Ratramnus was superior to Radbert as a Christian, in that he did not conceive the presence of the heavenly in the earthly to be a miracle against nature, i.e., he followed a different notion of God from the latter.738738Ratramnus always thinks of the God who excites and nourishes faith. The mysteries of faith are not brought to pass by a continual interruption of the 321natural order, but they rest as a world administered by the Holy Spirit behind the phenomenal world, and what takes place in the Lord’s Supper is not a departure, by means of a special miracle, from operations such as are carried out, e.g., in Baptism (c. 17, 25, 26.) In a word, Ratramnus would have the mystery of the Lord’s Supper recognised as in harmony with the method by which God bestows salvation through Baptism and the Word, because as an Augustinian and Christian he shrank from the brutal miracle (the idea of God is here involved), and because he was afraid that otherwise nothing would be left to faith.
It is in this that the importance of Ratramnus consists. But it is questionable whether the learned king for whom he wrote was any the wiser for his book; for not only is Ratramnus confused in his terminology, but also in his matter,739739The difference between Paschasius and Ratramnus is really very subtle if we confine our attention to the question of the reality of Christ’s body (and the transformation); but it is not quite so subtle as is represented by Schnitzer (l.c., 167-194). It was, besides, long before Ratramnus’ work was held to be heretical. because he would not give up the idea that the efficacy of the sacrament was objective, whence it always follows that the miraculous efficacy depends not on the recipients, but on the means. Hence we find numerous expositions in which he talks like Radbert: by the ministry of the priest the bread becomes Christ’s body, nay, it is transformed.740740C. 16, a commutatio is taught, “sed non corporaliter sed spiritualiter facta est . . . spiritualiter sub velamento corporei panis . . . corpus et sanguis Christi existunt.” He does not venture to pursue consistently the parallel he seeks to establish with baptismal water; for the words “body and blood of Christ” are too strong for him. It is sinful to deny that the consecrated elements are Christ’s body.741741See C. 15. Thus the difference between Radbert and Ratramnus can be reduced to the following formula. The former openly and deliberately transferred the spiritual teaching of Augustinianism into the realistic conception, and gave clear expression to the belief of the Church. The latter attempted to maintain complete spiritualism in the interests of a loftier notion of God and of faith, but he was not in a position to carry this out absolutely, because he himself was far too much under the influence of the formula. Therefore he only speaks clearly 322where he is disowning the miracle.742742Ratramnus has the elements of Zwingli and Calvin’s doctrines. Besides, in relation to the invisible substance, he assumes the identity of the eucharistic and historical body, or, at any rate, will not give it up. The future belonged to Radbert;743743In connection with Matt. XXVI. 26, he defended himself skilfully against Ratramnus, whom, for the rest, he does not name. nay, Ratramnus’ book, it would seem, did not even excite attention, but afterwards met with the most curious history down to the present day.744744Bach, I., p. 191 ff.
The doctrine expressed by Radbert, a Pandora’s casket of problems to future scholars, was extremely intelligible to the simple. Nothing can guarantee the success of a dogma more fully than the possession of these two qualities. It received its application, above all, in the Mass. The thought of the repeated sacrificial death of Christ, long since conceived, was now as firmly established as that of the repeated assumption of the flesh. What could now approach the Mass? There was no need to alter the ancient wording of missal prayers, which still, when they dealt with the sacrifice, emphasised the sacrifice of praise; for who attended to words? The Mass as a sacrificial rite, in which the holiest thing conceivable was presented to God, had, however, ceased long ago to end in participation, but found its climax in the act that expiated sin and removed evil. It was received into the great institution that conferred atonement. On this a few further remarks are necessary, although no dogmatic conflicts arose.
The frequent repetition of the Mass (in one and the same Church), and its simple celebration (without communion), show that this rite was not intended so much for the congregation as for God: God was to be appeased. The ancient element of commemoration on the part of the celebrants had, especially since the days of Gregory I., been made an independent service, and the communion had been, as it were, changed into a second celebration.745745Walafried Strabo was the first to justify expressly the celebration of the Lord’s Supper without communicants, and therefore Masses (Migne, T. 114, col. 943 ff). The practice, according to which the laity looked on while the priests partook, the laity taking merely a passive part—the rite being consummated on their behalf—while the priests performed 323the ceremony, corresponded to the prevailing view, especially among German peoples, that laymen were second-class Christians, and that partaking in the Lord’s Supper was for them associated with grave dangers. The holy rite belonged to the laity, so far as it represented a form of the Church’s intercession peculiarly effective for the mitigation of sin’s penalties.
The Mass was thereby included in the Church’s atoning institute; but for laymen the Church had long been essentially a baptismal institution, and an establishment for the reconciliation necessary after baptism. In order to understand this, and the immense extent and value acquired by the practice of Confession in the West, we have to observe the following points.
1. The prevailing notion of God was that of omnipotent absolutism, requital and remission. It was in these conceptions that God was a present and really living God, and they directed the thought and practice of trained theologians and laymen. The hidden God was manifest in the fact that he suffered no sin to be unatoned; but he was merciful because he granted remissions (through the mediation of heavenly persons and the Church) a fact which, indeed, did not contravene the general rule that everything must be expiated or punished. This notion of God was already complete when the Church entered into the national life of Germany. It is accordingly not to be regarded as a German modification, but as a conception in harmony with and rising from the unrefined religious consciousness, and especially the Latin spirit. Cyprian and Gregory I. attest this. But as this conception of God could easily combine with German ideas of justice, it was also well adapted to train uncivilised peoples. It had long been settled on purely Latin soil that no sin committed after Baptism could be simply forgiven, but that due penitence (pænitentia legitima), or fitting satisfaction (satisfactio congrua) formed the necessary condition of remission. In keeping with the strict regard for law and sense of duty, which distinguished the Latin Church more than the Greek, ecclesiastical methods paid more heed to the sins of Church members in general. And in accordance with the conviction that sins represented breaches of contract or outrages, of greater or less gravity, the Church had been working at the codification 324of pænitentia legitima, or the definition of the measure of satisfaction, since the second half of the third century. All this took place without German influence.
2. This system had originally been elaborated with a view to public penance, in presence of the congregation, for the sake of reconciliation, and thus referred to open and gross sins, for which as a rule only a single act of penance was possible. It therefore suffered a severe blow when all society became Christian, and magistrates, being themselves Christians, punished these gross offences of different kinds, even such as the State had not formerly dealt with. The whole ancient institution of penance collapsed in the East. It came almost entirely to an end in the West also in its old form, in so far as the list of public sins, punished by the Church alone, was always growing smaller.746746When the State punished, e.g., in cases of murder and theft, the ecclesiastical consequences followed without further trial. But in the German kingdoms, where the Church had not sunk to the level of an institution for worship in the State, and had not entirely abandoned higher religion to the monks, where, on the contrary, it long went hand in hand with the State as a Latin institution with its old Roman law, and trained the nations as a universal power, it did not renounce its penance regulations, which besides suited the German spirit. But a change was necessary in this case also, a change in which German dislike to public humiliations had perhaps as great a share as fear of purgatory and the tendency of the Church to establish throughout the regulations of its monkish castes, in other words, to monachise the secular clergy, and finally also the laity. From this there sprang a deepening of the notion of sin, since new sins, namely, the “roots of sin” themselves were put in the place of the old mortal sins,747747This was also effected in the Greek Church through the action of the monks. but there also resulted an externalising of the notion, as “satisfactions,” which are more tolerable in the case of great overt offences, were now also applied to these “roots” (intemperance, fornication, greed, anger, ill-temper, secret fear and dislike, presumption and pride).
But, above all, this was followed by the intrusion of the 325Church into all affairs of private life. What had been the rule in primitive times, namely, the subjection of the private life of the individual to the control of the Church, returned in an entirely new form. But then it was a congregation of brethren which lived together like a family, and in which each was the conscience of the other; now one institution and one class ruled the irresponsible community; and while the latter was restrained, indeed, from extremes, yet, since no one was really capable of properly controlling the life of the individual, consciences were sophisticated by incentives and sedatives, by a frequently over-refined morality (legislation as to fasting and marriage), and by extremely external directions as to satisfaction. The transition to the new practice resulted in the laity themselves demanding the intercession of the Church, the reading of the Mass, invocations of the saints, etc., to an increasing extent, since preachers had always been telling them that they were a sinful people, incapable of coming near God,748748See the view taken of the laity in the forged fragments of the pseudo-Isidorian decretals. that the priests held the keys, and that the Church’s intercession was the most effective. But the gradual settlement of monachist practice in the world-Church alone explains the facts that actual confession of all sins to the priest, and the imposition of all sorts of satisfactions,749749Among these, pilgrimages of a year’s duration played a great part, a fact that shows the monks’ contempt of family life and civic occupations; for these were severely affected by pilgrimages. for the hundred and one offences in life and conduct, in a word, that private penance in the presence of the priest, became the rule. This state of matters began in the Iro-Scottish Church, which was in an eminent degree monachist. There penitential regulations—meaning private penance—were, so far as we know, first drawn up for the laity, who were directed to confess their sins to the priest, as the monks had long been enjoined to do in their cloisters. From Ireland, books dealing with penance came to the Anglo-Saxons (Theodore of Canterbury), to the Franks and Rome; they did not establish this footing without opposition, and after they had become a settled institution, they very soon gave offence again, since their directions became more and more 326external and questionable. To the practice of private penance which thus arose is to be ascribed the new conception of sin, and the new attitude to it, which now became the ruling one in the West, namely, the facile and deadening readiness with which every one confessed himself to be a mortal sinner. What was more tolerable in the ranks of the monks, nay, was in many cases the expression of a really sensitive conscience—I mean the readiness at once to confess oneself a sinner, and to make a less and less distinction between sins and sins—threatened when transferred to the masses to become a worthless practice, because one that blunted the moral sense. Men sinned, and coolly confessed wholesale to a host of sins, lest they might miss the miraculous help of the Church, for some one or other actually committed. If the men of those days had not been so simple, this system would even then have made them thorough hypocrites. But as it was, it worked more like an external system of law—a police institution, which punished wantonness and barbarianism, outbreaks of wild energy and passion. This was not the intention, but it was its actual import, so far as a certain salutary effect cannot be denied it.
3. The institution was already certain in its operations, and made great strides especially in the later Carlovingian period, since the complete separation of the clergy and laity, which had been obliterated in the Merovingian age, was only then made once more complete, and measures began at the same time to be taken to make monks of the former. Nevertheless the dogmatic theory was still entirely awanting. It was not settled that the priest alone could forgive sins—it was still conceded that trifling sins could be expiated without the priest, by means of prayer and alms. Nor were the value and result of priestly forgiveness fixed: was it declaratory or deprecatory? Nor had it been stated to be absolutely necessary to confess all sins to the priest.750750I adhere to these statements, in spite of Karl Müller’s arguments in his treatise “Der Umschwung in der Lehre von der Busse während des 12 Jahrh.” (Abhandl. für Weizäcker, 1892, p. 287 ff.) If I am not mistaken, Müller has been misled by Morinus, and has looked at the state of penance and confession, at the close of ancient and the beginning of mediæval Church history, too much from the standpoint of the modern Roman conception; he has at least presupposed too great a uniformity of theoretical ideas—if one may speak of such. I cannot accept the blunt assertion on p. 292, that down to the twelfth century the priest’s absolution was always regarded as simply identical with divine forgiveness, and therefore as indispensable. There was no doctrine proper on this question for centuries, but almost only a practice. As soon as the doctrine is again introduced, doubts also arise, to be once more gradually allayed. And finally no fixed definitions had 327been deduced from the matter itself of mortal and venial sins, or of the treatment of public and private offences. It was only long afterwards that all these points were decided. We see clearly here that ecclesiastical practice does not wait for dogmatic, indeed, that it does not really need it, as long as it goes with the great stream. The Church possessed a sacrament of penance with all its subtleties for many centuries, during which dogmatic knew of no such thing, but span a finer thread.
4. This is not the place to give the interesting history of the growth of satisfactions. Let us, however, notice four points. (1) The old, more or less arbitrary, definitions dealing with the selection (prayers, alms, lamentations, temporary exclusion), and duration of compensatory punishments were supplemented to an increasing extent by new ones (pilgrimages), as well as by definitions taken from the Old Testament law and German legal ordinances. Charlemagne took a great stride in advance with reference to dependence on the Old Testament. But this led to the computation of compensatory penalties being itself looked at in the light of a divine dispensation, and definitions not taken from the Old Testament were also regarded from the same standpoint. (2) The performance of penance was a means of compensation, so far as—if no sin had preceded it—it would have established merit in the sight of God, or would have bestowed something upon him. (It was accordingly not merely a substitution for punishment, but also a positive property in the sight of God, and therefore a compensation for injury.) Accordingly the whole institution was included under the conception of merit, from of old connected with works and alms (operibus et eleemosynis). But if the performance of penance was after all the presentation of something valuable (sacrifice) to God, something which gave him pleasure, and that for its own sake, it became more effective if as many and as good 328persons as possible took part in it. If a saint helped by his intercession, then God could not really resist; for there was nothing to be made good by the saint, and therefore his offering was a pure present to God. This dreadful idea that the mighty Judge in Heaven could demand nothing more of the saints, while they were able to bestow much upon him, makes it evident that the system of intercessions necessarily played the most important rôle in the system of penance. The conception of Christ taken by faith, that he represents men in the Father’s presence, was perverted in the saddest way, and he was dragged into this system; and since nothing was too lofty or precious to be included as investments in this petty calculation, the repeated sacrificial death of Christ was itself the most important instalment. Masses were the surest protection against sins’ penalties in purgatory, because in them Christ himself was presented to the Father, and the infinite value751751In the fourth ch. of the Synod of Chiersey, 853, it is called “pretii copiositas mysterii passionis;” that is also an anticipation of Anselm’s theory of satisfaction. of his Passion was anew brought before him, in other words, the merit of that Passion was multiplied. Hence the accumulation of a treasury of masses was the best “palliative” against the fire, or the most reliable means of abridging it.
(3) Since performances of penance752752The peregrinationes also belong to them. That indulgences rest quite essentially on the custom of pilgrimages and their commutation is shown by Götz, Ztschr. f. K.-Gesch., vol. XV., p. 329 ff.—the penitent disposition was always presupposed in theory—had an objective value to God, and were at the same time in part equivalents, they could be bartered. Not only, however, could like be bartered for like, but a less valuable act could be taken as full payment, if circumstances rendered a complete discharge difficult, or if it was supplemented by the intercession of others, or if the slighter performance sufficiently displayed the penitent mood. It had been the custom in earlier times to shorten the duration and diminish the number of penances imposed by the Church after the penitent had proved his sincerity. This was appropriate enough, for the purpose was to effect reconciliation with the community; but it was now applied to the penitent’s relation to 329God. It was at the same time remembered that the strict Judge was also merciful, i.e., indulgent. Thus arose the system of remissions, i.e., of commutations and redemptions, or of substitutions. The latter originated in German conceptions, but they had a latent root even in ancient times. Commutations and redemptions are first met with in any number in the eighth and ninth centuries. “Weregeld” or blood-money is found sanctioned then; but they already follow from the ancient system, and had certainly been practised in the cloisters long before the Carlovingian age. Therewith, however, indulgences were created, as soon, namely, as the possibility of commutation was admitted and legally fixed, independently of the special circumstances of the individual case. These commutations, which were only established against opposition, completely externalised the whole system. Above all, they interested the Church financially, and made it, already the great landed proprietor, into a banking establishment. How poor was the Greek Church, with its scanty trade in relics, pictures, and lights, compared with her rich sister, who drew bills on every soul!
(4) The whole system of merits and satisfactions had really no reference to sins, but only to their punishment. But since everything ultimately served this system, men were trained to evade sins’ penalties as well, securely, and cheaply as possible. The element which seemingly mitigated the dangers of this whole view—namely, that sin itself was left out of sight, since it must be forgiven by God who excites penitence and faith—necessarily resulted in the case of the multitude in their paying little or no attention to sin, and in their thinking only of punishment. Even if they finally entered the cloister, or gave their goods to the poor, they did so, not because they loved God, but because they wished to escape his punishments. Punishment ruled the world and the consciences for whose possession good and evil angels contend.
It would not have been necessary to discuss this practice within
the limits of the history of dogma if it had not had a very active influence on
dogma in the succeeding period. It had wound itself round Augustinianism from the
beginning, and had prevented it from obtaining complete sway in the Church; it
330influenced Christology even in the time of Gregory I., and then
in the classic period of the Middle Ages it acted decisively upon and remodelled
all the dogmas that had come down from antiquity.753753 On the history of penance, see Steitz, Das römische Busssacrament,
1854; Wasserschleben, Bussordnungen d. Abendl. Kirche, 1851; v. Zerschwitz Beichte,
in Herzog’s R.-E. II., p. 220 ff., System der Katechetik I., p. 483 ff., II. 1,
p. 208. ff.; Göbl, Gesch. der Katachese in Abendland, 1880. Further, on the
history of the ordinances of penance, Wasserschleben, Die irische Kanonensammlung,
2 ed., 1855; and Schmitz, Die Bussbücher and die Bussdisciplin der Kirche, 1883.
On the latter’s attempt to refer the regulations of penance to Rome, see Theol.
Lit.-Ztg., 1883, col. 614 ff. On the development of the separation of clergy and
laity in the 9th century, and the beginning of the monachising of the clergy, see
Hatch, “Growth of Christian Institutions,” Chap. IX.
On divine service and discipline in the Carlovingian age, see Gieseler II., 1 (1846) pp. 152-170; on the constitution of German law-courts, feuds, and penance, outlawry and death of the victim, see Brunner, Deutsche Rechtsgesch. I., pp. 143 ff., 156 ff., 166 ff.; on the principle of personality and the amount of blood-money and penances, l.c., p. 261 ff.; on the personal rights of the clergy, p. 269 f.; and on the rise of written law, p. 282 ff. If we review the state of the development of German law in the age of the Merovingians, and compare it with the ecclesiastical discipline of penance, as it was independently evolved on Latin ground until Gregory I., we are astonished at the ease with which these systems could be and actually were dovetailed into each other. The Roman law received by the Church underwent great modifications within its pale caused by the conceptions of the Communio of the Church militant with the saints, of satisfactions, merits, and the claim of the Church to remit sins. Above all, the Church’s right to punish, which had originally accepted the Roman thought of the public character of crimes, and had treated them accordingly, became more and more a private right. That is, transgressions against God were regarded as injuries done to God—not the violation of public order and the holy, inviolable divine law; and accordingly the idea arose, and got more and more scope, that they were to be treated, as it were, like private complaints. In such cases the alternative, either punishment or satisfaction (compensation), was appropriate. But as regards satisfactions, all the liberties were necessarily introduced that are inherent in that conception, namely, that the injured party himself, or the Church as his representative, could indulgently lessen their amount, or could commute or transfer them, etc. It is obvious how easily this view could fuse with the German one. One or two examples are sufficient. German law held the principle: either outlawry or penance. This corresponds to the Church principle: either excommunication or the performance of satisfactory acts of penance. According to German law, vengeance did not require to be executed on the evil-doer himself, but might he on a member of his clan; nay, it was held in Norway to be a more severe vengeance to strike the best man of the clan instead of the murderer. The Church looked on Christians as forming a “clan” with the saints in heaven, and the performance of penance could to a certain extent, or entirely, be passed on to the latter; Christ had, above all, borne beforehand by his death God’s vengeance on the ill-doing race of his brethren. German law held, similarly, that the compensation, the payment of the fine, could be divided. According to the practice of the Church, the saints interceded if prayed to, and presented their merits to God, taking from the sinner a part of the penance imposed upon him. Afterwards the Church positively adopted the German institution, and let earthly friends, comrades, members of the family, and bondmen share in the performance of penance in order to lighten the task. In one respect, however, the action of the Church had a softening and beneficial effect. It restricted to an extraordinary extent the capital punishments closely connected with outlawry. They were objectionable in themselves, and doubly so where they were regarded, on the ground of a primitive priestly law of punishment, as a human sacrifice offered to the gods (Brunner, pp. 173-177). Even in the Roman period the Church in Gaul exerted itself to soften the Roman administration of justice where the latter admitted capital punishment. It continued its efforts with success in the Merovingian age, so that arrangements were more and more frequently made in substitution for the death penalty. The chief argument urged by the Church was doubtless that God did not will the death of the sinner, and that Christ died an atoning and sacrificial death for all. Thus Christ’s death obtained an extraordinary importance. It became the grand achievement, whose value even softened the earthly right of punishment.
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