Second Eucharistic Controversy – BERENGAR against LANFRANC


The tradition represented by Radbertus Paschiasius received some popularity. The idea of a physical miracle in the Mass gained increasing ground in popular piety. In fact, this was the reason why Berengar of Tours (998-1088) protested. In his De Sacra Cena he took the idea of Ratramnus, his thinking on the question about the relationship between the consecrated bread and the body of Christ, was founded on faith but was affected by certain elements of philosophical analysis. He assumed that the reality of a thing was known by its appearances, and therefore that thing must really be what is seemed to be in appearance. If what was on the altar seemed to be bread it must be bread. He believed in that bread what is received in the Eucharist that is the body of Christ. But following the Augustinian tradition he said that it was received and eaten spiritually i.e., body of Christ is not in the Eucharist in a bodily (physical) way, not materially, not as an object of sensation. The nature, or substance of bread and wine is not changed in the Eucharist, but they signify an invisible reality, heavenly reality, the body and blood of Christ.

Lanfranc of Le Bec (1005-1089), the later Archbishop of Canterbury in his De Corpore et Sanguine Domini, and Bernard of Constanz, Anselum, Peter Damiani and others argued that his theory denied that the bread really became the body of Christ at the consecration. There is no change in the substance. So, they said Berengar was not confessing the faith of the Church. As a result, Berengar was summoned to a series of councils (between 1047-1054) where he was forced to give his assent to statements concerning the Eucharistic presence of a strongly realistic manner. The most extreme was the confession of faith forced on him by the Synod of Lateran in 1059 which reads thus: “The bread and wine which are placed on the altar are after consecration not only a sacrament but also the real body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in a tangible way not just sacramentally but in truth they are held and broken by the hands of the priest and are crunched by the teeth of the faithful”.

Berengar rejected this statement when he returned, later on and in 1079 he had to sign a second formula ” I, Berengar, believe in my heart and confess with my lips, that the bread and wine which are placed on the altar are, by the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of the Saviour, substantially changed into the true and proper and life giving body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord: and that, after consecration, they are Christ’s true body, which was born of the virgin and hung on the cross, being offered for the salvation of the world, and which sits at the right hand of the Father, not only by way of sign and by the power of the sacrament but in their true nature and in the reality of their substance…” (Christian Faith 1501).

A year later Berengar died in peace with the Church. The last statement was the reflection of the idea and expression of Lanfranc. He made a difference between the outward appearances of bread and wine and the substance, the invisible nature or essence of bread and wine. In Christ he distinguishes between his essence and his properties. So he argues: “We believe that through the ministry of the priest, the earthly substances on the Lord’s table are sanctified by divine power in a manner that is unspeakable, incomprehensible, marvellous; and that these earthily substances are changed into essence of the Lord’s body, even though the appearances of earthily elements remain”. Here we have, in essence, the doctrine of transubstantiation (first used by Orlando Bandinelli, the later Pope Alexander III).

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