One of the key points of dispute between Catholics and Protestants regards the nature of Holy Communion, the Eucharist. Is it a symbol, a mere representation, a mere memorial, is it truly the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual way or truly bread and wine transformed into the body and blood of Christ?
The Catholic teaching is called "Transubstantiation."
This term is not used in the early Church, and neither is the term "Trinity" so that fact tells you very little. The question is, does the teaching reflect the belief of the early Christians which they had received from the apostles?
Most Protestants are firmly convinced that Transubstantiation is NOT part of the early Christian belief and is NOT a true teaching. Share this article and see what your Protestant friends think after reading this...
First, to define what we are speaking of, let's check the definition from the Council of Trent in 1551:
THE REAL PRESENCE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST
First of all, the holy council teaches and openly and plainly professes that after the consecration of bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is truly, really and substantially contained in the august sacrament of the Holy Eucharist under the appearance of those sensible things.
But since Christ our Redeemer declared that to be truly His own body which He offered under the form of bread, it has, therefore, always been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy council now declares it anew, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a change is brought about of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the holy Catholic Church properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation.
We can also start with Holy Scripture, accepted by Catholics and Protestants alike:
51 I am the living bread[c] which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
So, if it was a symbol, would Jesus say eating a symbol would make you live forever? Or that a symbol IS MY FLESH?
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”
If that's not clear enough, let's look at the Greek. This explanation comes from Tim Staples:
Moreover, when we consider the language used by John, a literal interpretation—however disturbing—becomes even more obvious. In John 6:50-53 we encounter various forms of the Greek verb phago, “eating.” However, after the Jews begin to express incredulity at the idea of eating Christ’s flesh, the language begins to intensify. In verse 54, John begins to use trogo instead of phago. Trogo is a decidedly more graphic term, meaning “to chew on” or to “gnaw on”—as when an animal is ripping apart its prey.
It sure would be nice if John gave a commentary. We don't have that, but we do have a commentary from one of his personal disciples!
His name is St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in 107AD:
Epistle to Ephesus:
Especially [will I do this ] if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God, so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.
Would you call a symbol the "Medicine of Immortality?"
Epistle to Smyrna:
They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes.
If that's not clear enough, we have another testimony from the mid-second century.
The First Apology by St. Justin Martyr:
And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins (baptism), and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined (in a state of grace and not mortal sin). For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. (how much more clear could this be??) For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. (Luke 22:19, the command of the Lord, DO THIS in memory of me)
Shall we continue to the year 180AD with St. Irenaeus? He was personally taught by St. Polycarp, who was another disciple of the Apostle John.
His book is called Against Heresies:
2. But vain in every respect are they who despise the entire dispensation of God, and disallow the salvation of the flesh, and treat with contempt its regeneration, maintaining that it is not capable of incorruption. But if this indeed do not attain salvation, then neither did the Lord redeem us with His blood, nor is the cup of the Eucharist the communion of His blood, nor the bread which we break the communion of His body. 1 Corinthians 10:16 For blood can only come from veins and flesh, and whatsoever else makes up the substance of man, such as the Word of God was actually made. By His own blood he redeemed us, as also His apostle declares, In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the remission of sins. Colossians 1:14 And as we are His members, we are also nourished by means of the creation (and He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills Matthew 5:45). He has acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as His own blood, from which He bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of the creation) He has established as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.
3. When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which [flesh] is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?— even as the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. Ephesians 5:30 He does not speak these words of some spiritual and invisible man, for a spirit has not bones nor flesh; Luke 24:39 but [he refers to] that dispensation [by which the Lord became] an actual man, consisting of flesh, and nerves, and bones — that [flesh] which is nourished by the cup which is His blood, and receives increase from the bread which is His body. And just as a cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season, or as a grain of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ
Not a symbol of OR a representation OF or a spiritual reality....but rather WHICH IS THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST. Simple enough.
Sure sounds like a change of substance.
A few more excellent quotes from StayCatholic.com....
You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ…(Sermon to the Newly Baptized, from Eutyches [A.D. 295-373]).
Cyril of Jerusalem
The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]).
Gregory of Nyssa
The bread again is at first common bread, but when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called, and becomes, the Body of Christ (On the Baptism of Christ [A.D. 383]).
AND finally, St. Augustine (a favorite of Protestants) Easter Sermon to the Newly Baptized, on the Eucharist-
Now this is what happens in the sacred prayers you are about to hear. As soon as the word is spoken, the elements become the body and blood of Christ. For take away the word, and there is simply bread and wine. But add the word, and it is altogether something else.
The early Church taught there was indeed a change of substance in the Holy Eucharist at the words of consecration by the priest. There are zero saints from the early Church supporting Protestant views on whether there is a change of substance in the Holy Eucharist. The Catholic teaching of Transubstantiation is an accurate statement of the belief of the early Church, which was also called the "Catholic Church" as early as 107 AD.
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