Costanza, Jose Roberto daSilva. “Os Sacramentos na Igreja Antiga” Fides Reformata XVIII #1 (2013): 25-39.
Costanza observes that in western Christianity there is a divide between the Catholic and Protestant views of sacraments. To evaluate understanding, he provides an historical survey of the two which Catholic and Protestant churches agree upon, baptism and communion. The survey particularly includes apostolic fathers and church fathers (Costanza 2013, 25). In particular, Costanza is interested in the development of a sacramental theology prior to 590, with the eleation of Gregory I and the start of the Medieval period (Costanza 2013, 26).
The term “sacrament,” which does not appear in the biblical record, had three different connotations in the early first century. It could have to do with money set aside for return, such as in banking. In the military, it indicated a pledge to an authority. In a spiritual sense, it would speak to some sort of special and mysterious identity. Costanza observes that Augustine referred to it as “an external sign of an internal and spiritual grace” (my translation) (Costanza 2013, 26).
Costanza, speaking of baptism, observes that there is no clear evidence of it in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament it is explicitly present in the Gospels. In the Epistles, Paul emphasizes it as the initiation of the Christian life (Costanza 2013, 26). It bears a relationship to the death and resurrection of Christ. The ritual is not described in detail in the New Testament, but it is in the Didache. Costanza draws a line of continuous practice from the Didache through Justin Martyr and Tertullian, where the trinitarian formula and a preference for running or at least fresh and cool water are the accepted norm (Costanza 2013, 27). There was little debate about baptism of infants, but most instruction pertained to the baptism of adult converts. Tertullian identified three specific benefits of baptism: “remission of sins, regeneration, and indwelling by the Holy Spirit” (my translation) (Costanza 2013, 28). These effects of baptism, according to Jaroslav Pelika, have not required revision since they were articulated in the second century. Costanza notes that the view of baptism remained the same in Irenaeus and in Cyril of Jerusalem, who had little to add in his catechesis for baptism. He did, however, recommend baptism by immersion (Costanza 2013, 29). Throughout the patristic period it was regularly agreed that rebaptism was inappropriate (Costanza 2013, 30). By the time of Augustine, the concept that baptism not only forgave original sin but also personal sin was accepted. This understanding continued. With this Costanza ends his review of baptism and moves to the Eucharist (Costanza 2013, 31).
Costanza notes that the Eucharist, which term he uses interchangeably with “holy communion” or “the Lord’s supper” is rooted in the meal recorded in Matthew 26 and Luke 22 (Costanza 2013, 32). There is a clear tie to the Paschal celebration, but with Jesus’ statement that the bread and wine are his body and blood it is clear that Jesus is to be the substitute for the lamb. Fathers from Clement of Alexandria to Origen saw this as a recollection of the Old Testament sacrifices, which led to a view of the Eucharist as a sacrifice. Costanza observes that Chrysostom was clear about the Eucharist as offering a sacrifice. In early Christianity Costanza finds the Eucharist as a fixed ritual (Costanza 2013, 33). Those who were not baptized were not admitted. The words of Jesus were used to consecrate bread and wine, which was distributed. Costanza specifically cites the Didache as a source of description, as well as Justin and Hippolytus. Ignatius is clear that in the Eucharist we receive Christ’s body. Justin Martyr further states that the bread and wine are transmuted, which Costanza says leads directly to the doctrine of transubstantiation (Costanza 2013, 34). The idea can also be found in Cyprian and in Jerome. The Council of Trent, much later, codified this understanding formally (Costanza 2013, 35). InIrenaeus, Costanza tells us, the idea of communion as nourishment for eternal life emerges, particularly in Against Heresies book 4 chapter xviii. Gregory of Nyssa describes communion as divine medicine, in his large catechism, chapter 37. Costanza finds very early evidence that the eucharist was celebrated every Lord’s Day (Costanza 2013, 36). By the third century there were moves to accept less frequent reception as well as more frequent celebration. There were, at least by the time of Cyprian, some locations where infants would be communed. Costanza points out that some Protestants consider the Eucharist as not necessary, but as a public confession of faith, in contrast to the Roman Catholic view as a sacrament (Costanza 2013, 37).
Costanza concludes that both baptism and the Eucharist have roots in the earliest time of the Church. Both rites are historically associated with spiritual gifts, with baptism imparting faith and communion nourishing it (Costanza 2013, 38). It may be pertinent for my overall research to observe that Costanza considers the Didache to describe rites which are perfectly consistent with the historic Christian understanding of both rites.