And that this is the sense of the canon, appears by those words after consecration, when they say, “We offer to thy Majesty a pure sacrifice of thy donations and gifts.” Which words plainly suppose, that they are in nature what they were, God’s creatures still, not the appearance and shadow of them only. But they call them now the “bread of eternal life, and the cup of salvation;” because, after they are blessed and made sacraments, they are not now to be looked upon as bodily food, but as the food of our souls, as representing that body of Christ, and his passion, which is the bread of eternal life.
If they had understood nothing to remain now after consecration, of Christ’s natural body, they would not have called this thy gifts, in the plural number, but expressed it in the singular, thy gift. Neither can they refer to the remaining accidents, because they are no real things, and rather tell us what God has taken away (the whole substance of them), than what he has given.
But then what follows, puts it out of all doubt: “upon which (still in the plural) look propitiously.” If it had been, “look upon us propitiously for the sake of Christ,” it had been well enough. Or, to desire of God to look “upon these things propitiously which they offer;” if they mean (as he that made the prayer did), that God would accept this oblation of bread and wine, as he did of Abel and Melchizedek (which latter was indeed bread and wine), this had been very proper. But to make that which we offer to be Christ himself (as they that believe transubstantiation must expound it), and to desire God to look propitiously and benignly upon him, when there can be no fear that he should ever be unacceptable to his Father, nor none can be so foolish as to think that Christ stands in need of our recommendation to God for acceptance, this sense can never be agreeable to the prayer. Therefore the most ancient of all the spurious Liturgies, I mean that attributed to Clemens in his Constitutions, has given us the true sense of it: “We offer to thee this bread and this cup — and we beseech thee to look favourably upon these gifts set before thee, O God, who standest in need of nothing; and be well pleased with them for the honour of thy Christ,” &c.
Would it not run finely, to pray that God would be well pleased with Christ, for the honour of his Christ?
But besides the petition, that God would look propitiously upon them, it follows in the canon, “that God would accept them, as he did the gifts of Abel, and Abraham, and Melchizedek.” How unagreeable is this (if Christ himself be understood here), to make the comparison for acceptance, betwixt a lamb and a calf, or bread and wine, and Christ the Son of God, with whom he was always highly pleased!
But then what follows still entangles matters more in the Church of Rome’s sense; the prayer, that God “would command these things to be carried by the hands of his holy angel to the high altar above.” For how can the body of Christ be carried by angels to heaven, which never left it since his ascension, but is always there? Besides the high altar above, in the sense of the ancients, is Christ himself. And Remigius of Auxerre tells us, that St. Gregory’s opinion of the sacrament was, that “it was snatched into heaven by angels, to be joined to the body of Christ there.” But then in the sense of transubstantiation, what absurd stuff is here to pray, that Christ’s body may be joined to his own body? So that there can be no sense in the prayer but ours, to understand it of the elements offered devoutly, first at this altar below, which by being blessed become Christ’s representative body, and obtain acceptance above through his intercession there. And thus it is fully explained by the author of the Constitutions: “Let us entreat God, through his Christ, for the gift offered to the Lord God, that the good God, by the mediation of his Christ, would receive it to his celestial altar, for a sweet-smelling savour.”