RATRAMNUS, rā"trām'nus (RATHRAMNUS): Life. Monk of Corbie and one of the most important theological authors of the ninth century; d. after 868. Of his life almost nothing is known, even his writings containing no biographical material; and the date of his birth, like that of his profession, can not be ascertained. He was deeply versed in Biblical and patristic learning, and theologically was a disciple of Augustine. He took part in all the theological controversies of his period, and his opinion was frequently sought by Charles the Bald, while his bishop delegated him to refute the attacks of the Patriarch Photius on the Roman Catholic Church. It is also evident that he was warmly admired by Gottschalk (MPL, cxxi. 367-368).
Doctrine of the Eucharist. The chief work of Ratramnus was the De corpore et sanguine Domini liber, written at the request of Charles the Bald, probably after Paschasius Radbertus (see RADBERTUS, PASCHASIUS) had sent him his treatise on the same theme. In this work Ratramnus maintained that the eucharistic elements are not the actual body and blood of the Christ of history, but are mystic symbols of remembrance. He might, therefore, be regarded as a symbolist, seeing in the Eucharist a sacrificial meal, the efficacy of which depends on the intensity with which the recipient realizes the redeeming passion of Christ. This does not, however, completely express his position, for he maintained at the same time that "according to the invisible substance, i.e., the power of the divine Word, the body and blood of Christ are truly present" (cap. xlix.). This shows that Ratramnus was more than a symbolist, and that he believed in a real presence which was received by the faithful through the spirit of God. His eucharistic doctrine is elucidated by his teaching on baptism. Baptismal regeneration is not due to the water in itself, but to the Holy Ghost who enters it at the priestly consecration. Both in baptism and in the Eucharist, then, a mutable and transitory element perceptible to the senses coexists with an immutable and eternal element which faith alone can grasp. This distinction between external and internal runs, with slight inconsistencies, through the entire presentation of Ratramnus, the concomitance of the two constituting the divine mystery. The change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ for those who receive in faith is defined by Ratramnus as due to the sanctification of the Holy Ghost invisibly contained in the sacraments, or as the spiritual power of the Word immanent in the material substances (" Word" here seeming to mean the words of institution as spoken by the priest at the consecration of the elements rather than the Scriptures in general or the Logos). It would furthermore appear that he held that the Eucharist is the visible vehicle of invisible grace, and that in the sacrament the power of God, under its material veil, secretly works the salvation to which the Eucharist testifies. The eucharistic teaching of Ratramnus thus approximated one side of the doctrine of Radbertus (q.v.), the difference being merely in their concept of "truly" in the transformation of the sacramental elements, Radbertus making this include both symbol and substance, while Ratramnus understood by the term a presence cognoscible to the senses, and so combated it. While, therefore, he taught a real change of the elements, in virtue of priestly consecration, not only in signification, but also in efficacy, this change was perceptible only to faith, not to the senses.
The De corpore et sanguine Domini of Ratramnus has had a strange history. The synod of Vercelli, in 1050, condemned and burned it as a work composed by Johannes Scotus Erigena (see SCOTUS ERIGENA, JOHANNES) at the instance of Charles the Bald; and during the Middle Ages its very existence was well-nigh forgotten. In 1526, however, John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, appealed to it in his controversy with colampadius. Attention was thus again drawn to it, and in 1532 it was edited at Cologne by Johannes Prael under the title of Bertrami presbyteri ad Carolum Magnum imperatorem. It was then repeatedly edited and translated, especially in French and English (e.g., London, 1548, 1581, 1624, 1686, 1838, 1880). The appeals of Protestants, especially of the Reformed wing, to it rendered it an object of suspicion to the Roman Catholic Church, and as a Protestant forgery it was placed on the Index by the censors of the Council of Trent in 1559. This unfavorable view was shared by the leading Roman Catholic scholars of the period, and though others maintained its authenticity and orthodoxy, it was not removed from the Index until 1900.
Other Writings. The other writings of Ratramnus may be dismissed more briefly. The earliest of his works seems to have been the De eo quod Christus ex Virgine natus est, on the contents and relation of which to Radbertus' De partu Virginis see RADBERTUS, PASCHASIUS. He was active in the Gottschalk controversy, was indeed a personal friend of the monk of Fulda (see GOTTSCHALK, 1). In 850, at the request of Charles the Bald, he wrote his two books, De prdestinatione Dei, in which he defended the doctrine of twofold predestination to salvation and damnation, but rejected the theory of a predestination to sin. Between 853 and 855 he wrote an apology of the Trina Deitas (now lost), assailing Hincmar's proposed change of te, trina Deitas unaque in the hymn "Sanctorum meritis inclyta gaudia" into te, summa Deitas, his reasons being suspected Sabellianism. Ratramnus gained his chief fame by his four books Contra Grcorum opposita, written about 868 in reply to the attacks of Photius (q.v.) on the Filioque and other differences between East and West. The first book is devoted to the demonstration from the Bible of the doctrine of the double procession, and the second and third to proofs from the councils and the Greek and Latin Fathers. Particular interest attaches to the first chapter of the fourth book, in which Ratramnus touches upon one of the chief points of difference between the Greek and Latin Churches. The Eastern Church traces not only its dogma, but also its ecclesiastical rites and customs, back to the apostolic age, and forbids the slightest deviation; while the Church of the West, especially after the time of Augustine, permits variations in forms of observance according to the necessities of place and time, though maintaining the same inflexibility of dogma as the East. The remainder of the concluding book is occupied with the justification of distinctively Roman usages, such as celibacy and the tonsure.
Ratramnus also wrote a curious Epistola de cynocephalis ad Rimbertum presbyterum, this Rimbert probably being the biographer and successor of Ansgar (q.v.). Here Ratramnus decides that, though most theologians are inclined to consider the cynocephali as animals rather than men, the human traits in their mode of life imply the possession of reason, so that there is no good reason to object to the view that they are descendants of Adam. In this same work he also denies complete authority to the "Book of St. Clement" (probably the "Recognitions"), on the ground that it is not in entire harmony with the doctrines of the Church. In his De anima Ratramnus polemized against the theory of a certain Macarius Scotus (who had misunderstood a passage in Augustine's De quantitate anim) that all mankind have a single soul in common. The work, which has never been edited, is described, from a manuscript apparently now lost, by Jean Mabillon (ASM, iii. 140; ASB, IV., ii. 76). In another work, likewise unedited, Ratramnus refutes the theory that the soul is circumscribed, or restricted by limits of space (cf. L. Traube, in MGH, Poet. Lat. med. vi, iii. 2 , 715). All the works of Ratramnus thus far edited are collected in the reprint in MPL, cxxi. 1-346, 1153-56, while his letters are given in MGH, Epist., vi. 1 (1902), 149 sqq.
Like Radbertus and most other theologians of the Carolingian and succeeding centuries, Ratramnus was a traditionalist, drawing on and systematizing patristic literature primarily for polemic purposes and for establishing his intense Augustinianism. Through his controversial writings runs a noble strain, personal attack is avoided, and demonstration of the truth is the one and only end. He is likewise noteworthy because of the attention given his writings in the Reformed Church and during the period of the Enlightenment, even though he had been unrecognized by the "Magdeburg Centuries" and by early Lutheranism.