The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:20-32 for Holy Thursday (Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 4, 2012

This post includes comments on verses 33 and 34 as well. Other resources for both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms for Holy Thursday (and the entire Holy Week, including the Paschal Triduum) can be found here.For those who don’t know what the Paschal (or Easter) Triduum is, see here.

20. When therefore you assemble together, now it is not to eat the Supper of the Lord.
21. For each one takes first his own supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry, and another is drunk.
22. Have you not houses for eating and drinking? Or do you despise the Church of God? And put to shame those who have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise not.

(vss 20-21) It would appear that in the days of the Apostles Christian people assembled in the Church early on the Sunday, or other festival days, to receive Holy Communion together; and Saint Paul himself, as is supposed, had instituted at Corinth the feast of charity, or Agape, principally on account of the poor, that they might all eat together, and the poor receive of the superfluities of the rich. Saint Chrysostom, who is followed by Baronius, thinks the Agape followed the communion; Saint Augustine that it preceded it (probably being held before midnight), and this opinion agrees best with the argument of the Apostle in the verses following. The custom quickly degenerated. The rich brought their own provisions, but consumed them without sharing them with their poorer neighbours; and often took more than was good for them; while the poor were not only put to shame, and suffered hunger, but had to look on while others feasted, and they starved.

The Agape was called the Supper of the Lord, in imitation of the Last Supper, at which Christ instituted the Eucharist. The term Supper of the Lord is never applied to the holy Eucharist, by any Christian writer whatever, until heretics in modern times used this phraseology.

(vs 22) Do you despise the Church of God? If you must eat and drink to excess, do so at home, where your doing it would at any rate not occasion scandal or pain to others. Or do you mean deliberately to show contempt to the Church of God? Under which term both the building and those who assembled in it are included. Or do you do it, on purpose to put the poor, qui non habent, to shame? In this I cannot praise you; on the contrary, you are worthy of the severest blame. Now, under these changed conditions, it is not a Supper of the Lord.

11:23.  For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night he was delivered up, took bread.
11:24.  And giving thanks he broke, and said: Take and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered up for you: do this in my commemoration.
11:25.  Likewise also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: do this as often as you shall drink, in my commemoration.
11:26.  For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you will announce the death of the Lord until he comes.

I praised you for observing the commands I gave to you by word of mouth; but sine in regard to this you have failed to remember them, it is necessary for  me to repeat them in writing.  I received (vs 23), by direct communication and revelation from Christ, not from any human teaching.  It is to be observed that it was only by accident that the Apostle wrote this down.  Had the Corinthians remembered what he said, he would in all probability not have written it.  Not only the written words, but the oral traditions, of the Apostles, are to be observed.

Saint Peter, as a fourth Evangelist, records the words of God the Father, This is my beloved son, rehearsed in three Gospels, 2 Pet. 1:17.  Here Saint Paul, as a fourth Evangelist, gives the words of Christ, which are also given by St Matthew, St Mark, and St Luke.

In the night he was delivered up to death, he took bread.  Wheat bread, and unleavened, for the seven days of unleavened bread had begun that evening.  By a misunderstanding of John 18:28, the Greeks consider that Christ suffered before the Pasch began, and they accordingly use leavened bread.

(vs 24) Giving thanks.  To God the Father.  From this action is derived the term Eucharist.  The canon of the Mass adds: and lifting up his eyes to heaven, which he frequently did on similar occasions, (Matt 19:19; John 11:41.   Further, he blessed as in St Matthew and St Mark.  Thanksgiving has regard to God, blessing to the creature on which his benediction is implored.

He broke, into twelve portions, and distributing said, by words instantly operative and effectual of what they expressed.  The operative word of Christ is of two kinds.  One is imperative: be cleansed, rise, look up, Lazarus, come forth.  The other affirmative, and present: Thy son liveth; woman, thou art loosed from thy infirmity.  Of this latter kind are the words here used, Hoc est corpus meum.

Take and eat.  Take in the hands.  It was the ancient custom to receive the holy Eucharist in the hands, not as now in the mouth from the hand of the priest.

This is my body.  The Greek has τουτο μου εστιν το σωμα, in a somewhat different order of the words.  The Syriac or Hebrew language (i.e., Aramaic), which Christ spoke, has no substantive verb, and there is no doubt the words he used were only this my body.  See Cornelius a Lapide.  Hoc is most probably the predicate: my body is this.  Similarly, my blood is this chalice, or what is contained in this chalice.

Which shall be delivered up for you.  The Greek and Syriac both read: Which is being broken for you.  Broken, in the species of bread.  The body of our Lord was not otherwise broken (John 19:36. See my note at the end of this paragraph).  by the words do this, Christ conferred upon the Apostles the power of consecrating, or else he would have been enjoining upon them that which was impossible.  for a memorial of me.  Recalling the affection with which I delivered myself up to death for you.

Note: On the basis of manuscript evidence the word “broken” is considered by modern scholars as a scribal insertion (see Raymond F. Collins, FIRST CORINTHIANS, page 432).  Even if original it need not necessarily be seen as a contradiction of John 19:36, for “broken” could be a metaphor for death, i.e., separated from life.  See the image of the olive tree in Romans 11:17-24.

(vs 25) Likewise also the chalice, after he had supped.  Our Lord had first of all, with the Apostles, eaten the paschal lamb, standing, girded, and with a staff in his hands, according to the ritual in Exodus 12:11.  (See my note at end of paragraph).  Then he sat down, or according to the custom of those times, lay down, on a couch, to the ordinary supper.  Then rising, he washed the feet of this disciples; and afterwards lay down again, for the institution and distribution of the most holy Eucharist.  After this he delivered the morsel he had dipped to Judas; so that the remains of the supper must have been at that time still on the table.  Lastly, after speaking a long time, he rose, saying, Rise, let us go.  The supper referred to in the text is the ordinary one.

Note: In light of Matthew 26:20, Mark 14:17, it seems unlikely that the Passover was celebrated according to the rubrics of Exodus 12:11.  First century Jews had adopted the custom of reclining at the Passover, for in their day this was the mark of a free man; slave ate meals standing, and the Passover was a feast of liberation (see Protestant scholar Robert Gundry, MARK: A COMMENTARY ON HIS APOLOGY FOR THE CROSS, page 827).

The new testament in my blood.  The authentic copy of the new covenant between God and man, sealed with my blood.  The reference to the document is figurative, but the blood is real; for he does not say signed with that which represents my blood, but in my bloodDo this, as often as you drink.  The command, here, as in the last verse, is addressed to the Apostles, and their successors in the priesthood, as explained by the Council of Trent, Session II, cahpter 1.  Do what I have done.

In commemoration of me.  this memory is in no way inconsistent with the real presence of Christ.  Christ is in this Sacrament his own memorial, as in heaven, bearing the stigma of his wounds, he is himself the memorial of his own passion.  The time, the circumstances of the speaker, the quality of the action, the nature of the action, the actor’s intention, power, the very words he used, all compel us to place a literal interpretation on those words, implying the real and true presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The time: the night before he died.  No one uses tropes and figures at such a moment.

The condition: a loving father, about to die, makes his last will.  clearness and simplicity are always needed in such a case, and no wise man would use figures of speech, speaking of a precious jewel, when he meant the picture of one.

The quality of the act: the Mediator between God and man, making an everlasting covenant to subsist while the world stands, would not use language of metaphor and poetry.

The action itself: ambiguity and equivocation would have been most perilous in the institution of a sacrament and sacrifice of such august dignity, destined to last to the end of the world.

the will and intention: loving his children most ardently, and desirous to give the greatest good in his power.  He loved them to the end.

The power: Knowing that he came out from God, and to God returns, that the Father had given all things into his hands, and he can do all he will.

the words used, are simple and clear, in accordance with these considerations.  Simple, as the words of a loving father, addressing his children before he died: of a faithful mediator, contracting an eternal covenant, of a Supreme Pontiff, a fountain of truth, detesting all false dogma: of a true, zealous, most powerful savior of the race of man, conferring upon them the highest and greatest of all possible or imaginable goods.

My body, which shall be delivered up to death for you.  the body was delivered up to death, not in figure, it was his body of which he spoke.

My blood, which shall be shed.  In reality, not in figure, on the cross.  The blood of the Old Testament was real: so that of the New.  but this is no figure: in a few hours it was terribly fulfilled.

What man could dare to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and say he did not believe a statement so clear as this?  What Christian, believing it, even if deceived, would not be able to say, if I am deceived, thou hast deceived me, who art truth itself?

(vs 26) You will announce the death of the Lord. The apostle has just called attention to Christ’s institution of the holy Eucharist on the might before his passion, and with direct reference to that event.  The Corinthian Christians had perhaps not sufficiently considered it in that light, as a commemoration, and proclamation of Christ’s death.  You will announce.  The word used in Greek might be either in the present indicative, you announce, or the imperative, announce ye.  The Eucharist represents the death of Christ by the mystical separation of his blood from his body, which is effected by the words of consecration; and which further takes place by the eating of the sacred body, as separated from the blood, and the drinking the precious blood as poured forth and separate from the body.  In either species there is the representation of the death of the Lord, but most perfectly in both together.  And this commemoration of the sacrifice and death of Christ is to continue till he come.

27. Therefore whoever shall eat this bread or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

He who communicates unworthily is equally guilty, as if he crucified Christ, and shed his blood. To receive conscious of mortal sin, or half drunk, or in strife, or without feeling for the poor, would render the offender guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord separately, that is, of their separation, and consequently of the death of Christ. He sins in proportion like Judas and the Jews, betrays like Judas, mocks like the Jews. Theodoret. The Apostle would certainly not have used this language of a piece of bread. Catholics reasonably infer 1. That the real body and real blood of Christ are in the Sacrament. 2. That they are really received, even by the wicked. 3. That both are received under each species, because Saint Paul says or drink, v. 27.

28. And let man prove himself: and so eat of that bread, and drink from the chalice.

Let man prove himself, with a view to sacramental confession, if he should be in mortal sin. However highly you may think of yourself, you are man, and all mortal men are liable to sin. Sancta Sanctis was the proclamation made in the ancient liturgies.

29. For he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself: not judging the body of the Lord.
30. Therefore among y0u many are infirm and weak, and many sleep.
31. But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32. And when we are judged, we are corrected by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with this world.

Eats and drinks judgment. That is, a temporal judgment. The Greek is κριμα. Damnation is κατακριμα. Judgment and condemnation are not the same thing. (vs 30) Saint Anselm says that even in his time many persons were visited with sickness after making their Easter communion, because they had received the body of the Lord unworthily. Many of the Corinthians were similarly visited, and some of them with death, like Ananias and Sapphira.  (vs 31-32) If we would confess and do penance, we should not incur God’s judgment. But the temporal judgment is not for damnation; on the contrary, it is sent that we may not be condemned with the world. 

33. Therefore, my brethren, when you meet to eat, wait for one another.
34. If any one is hungry, let him eat at home: that you assemble not for judgment. And the rest I will arrange when I come.

(vs 33) When you meet to eat. The Apostle here reverts to the Agape, or feast of charity, or Supper of the Lord, customary at Corinth. Let it be, what was intended, charity towards the poor. (vs 34) If any rich man is hungry, and cannot fast till evening, let him eat at home, and impart to the poor his contribution toward the Agape; and let not the observance be degraded by luxury and revelling, which, in view of the solemn act of religion in which you are about to engage, are likely to bring down upon you a judgment from God. The other matters which you have referred to me, I will determine when I come.

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One Response to “Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:20-32 for Holy Thursday (Extraordinary Form)”

  1. […] UPDATE: Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on 1 Cor 11:20-32. […]

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