Ratramnus on the Eucharist

The blog has been long-quiet while I struggle to regain full use of my reasoning faculties blasted to rubble by the raising of my toddler son.  Rather than allow my writing to atrophy entirely, I set myself a hobby task: translate into English one of the famous texts on the Eucharist from Church history, that of Ratramnus of Corbie.

Ratramnus composed this work in the 9th century as a counterpoint to the position taken by his own abbot, Paschasius Radbertus.  The mind thrills to imagine the frosty relationship in the cloister after that became known!  While their “argument” does not seem to have created a major controversy in the 9th century, it signals the start of the generational haggling that culminates in the Fourth Lateran Council’s definition of transubstantiation in 1215.

As I have caveated many times before, when I do translation work it is without access to critical editions and with total disregard for any commentary tradition that may exist.  In this case, I suspect the former especially is a handicap: some of the grammar in Ratramnus is quite rough and I have questions about authorship of some passages late in the work.  But undeterred, I have hacked my way through 23 pages of Ratramnus as he exists in Migne’s Patrology (thanks, DCO!).  If I/Google am not mistaken, this will be the only English translation floating around free on the Internet.  Quality Caveat: you get what you pay for!  This is a Latin game for me, not a research project.

Rather than dump the text into one post, here I thought I’d provide an outline of the work and a list of the sources Ratramnus uses.  Hyperlinks are to my English and Latin.

I. Address to Charles the Bald and Statement of the Problem

II. First Question: Is the Eucharist the body of Christ in mysterio or in veritate?
A. Defining Terms: Figure, Truth, Mystery
B. Theory of Change
C. Comparison to Baptism and Old Testament Figures
D. Patristic Testimony (St. Augustine, St. Isidore)

III. Second Question: Is the Eucharist the ipsum corpus of Christ?
A. Authority of St. Ambrose
B. Difference and Identity (St. Augustine, Liturgy)
C. Eucharist as Two-Fold Figure (St. Augustine)

IV. Conclusion to Charles the Bald and Statement of Faith

Answer to First Question: “From all these things which have so far been said, it has been shown that the body and blood of Christ, which on the mouth of the faithful in the Church is received, are figures according to visible species; yet indeed according to invisible substance, that is the power of the divine Word, truly they are the body and blood of Christ.  Whence according to visible creature, they feed the body; but joined to a power of mightier substance, they both feed and sanctify the minds of the faithful.” (#49)

Answer to Second Question: “And so it is apparent that many differences separate among them, as much as between pledge and that thing for which pledge is given, as much as between image and the thing whose image it is, as much as between appearance and truth.  And so we see that by many differences are they separated, the mystery of the blood and body of Christ which now is consumed by the faithful in the Church, and that which was born of Mary the virgin, which suffered, which was buried, which rose, which ascended the heavens, which sits at the right hand of the Father.”  (#89)


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