"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death. By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste -or foretaste- of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man's heart desires.
THE LETTERS OF J.R.R TOLKIEN (the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), no. 43 (to his son Michael).
Second maybe only to the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the Eucharist can appear to be the most absurd of our Catholic beliefs. We actually believe that during the Mass when a validly ordained priest says the words of consecration, the bread and wine that are on the altar become the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. They still appear to be and taste like bread and wine, for those accidental qualities remain, but they are no longer bread and wine for they have transformed into Christ Himself through the process of Transubstantiation. Moreover, not only do we as Catholic believe this, but we also believe that the Eucharist is essential for your Salvation, it is to be adored as Christ Himself made present with us, and to take it in the state of Mortal Sin is take it in an unworthy manner that profanes the Body and Blood of Christ will bring the judgment of God upon you.
Yes, this doctrine would indeed be very absurd if it were not for the fact that we have good enough reason to believe it to be true. Moreover, if this were not true, then the Christians who reject this doctrine and accuse us of being blasphemers and idolaters for worshipping mere bread and wine would be justified in their condemnation of us for we would indeed be guilty of committing a great and horrible sin. These Christians see the Eucharist, or Communion, as being only a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ and is only an ordinance to observe and not a holy Sacrament that bestows God’s Grace upon the faithful. However, when we study Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Early Christians, we see clear evidence that the Eucharist cannot be a symbol but is instead the Passover feast of the New Covenant in which Christ our Passover Lamb becomes truly present with us. And not just present with us but also in us as we consume His real Body and drink His real blood.
WHAT IS THE EUCHARIST?
The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia (ε?χαριστ?α), which means “thanksgiving” and it was a term used very early on in the Church. It is also called Holy Communion, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord’s Supper, and was referred to in Scripture as the Breaking of the Bread (Luke 24:35; Acts 2:42, 2:46, 20:7). Baptism may be the most important of the Sacraments because without it you cannot have any of the others, but the Eucharist is the Sacrament which all of the others are directed toward. As paragraphs 1324-1327 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church state:
1324 The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."
1325 "The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.
1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."
However, none of this explains why the Eucharist is so important to us: it is important because it is the fullness of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. In all of the Sacraments Christ is supernaturally made present to us, but the Eucharist is extra special because it is the Sacrament in which Jesus is made physically present with us. In order to understand the reality of this, we have to turn to Sacred Scripture.
In Exodus 12, we read about God commanding Moses and the Hebrew people to cook a lamb; eat it; and brush its blood on the doorposts of their home so that when the Angel of Death was to pass-over Egypt that night to slay all of the first born in Egypt, those who did what God had commanded would be saved. The lamb was to be spotless without any defect, it had to be killed and prepared in a liturgical manner (prescribed ritual of worship), everyone had to eat it, and because of the blood of the lamb the Hebrews would be saved. Moreover, God commanded them to celebrate this as a feast every year to commemorate and reflect upon Him bringing them out of the bondage of Egypt. This was established as an ordinance and a feast to be celebrated by every generation FOREVER.
Jesus Himself celebrated the Passover and He also died on the Cross on the Passover. Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29, Revelation 5:6-13) because as the spotless Lamb He was offered to God the Father as the spotless lamb sacrificed for the atonement of our sins and our reconciliation with God.
JOHN 1:29: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
REVELATION 5:6, 11-13: And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain… Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, "To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!"
For this reason, St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8:
For Christ, our paschal [Passover] lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival (feast).
As Paul tells us, for Christians this is obligatory and we still have to celebrate the Passover, although we do not celebrate it in the same manner as the Jews still do. For just as the Hebrews were saved from the Angel of Death during the first Passover because of the blood of the lamb, we Christians are now saved from the power of death because of the Blood of the Lamb. And just as the Hebrews had to eat the flesh of the lamb in order to be saved, Christians now have to eat the flesh of the Lamb of God in order to receive Salvation. However, for the Jews, this feast is only celebrated once a year, whereas for Christians it is now celebrated every day. Fulfilled now is the prophecy God had spoken through the prophet Malachi in Malachi 1:11:
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.
However, since Christians do not celebrate the Passover in the same manner that the Jews do, how are we to celebrate it?
THE INSTITUTION OF THE EUCHARIST
During the Passover meal on the night before Jesus died on the Cross (Holy Thursday), Jesus Himself told us how we are to celebrate the Passover in a new manner in light of His Death and Resurrection from the Dead. The Sacrifice of Christ did not begin on Good Friday when Jesus was crucified on Calvary or when He was whipped at the pillar by the Romans. Rather, it began in the upper room when Jesus was still with His Disciples, for not only was Christ the sacrificial Lamb, He was and is the High Priest who offered the sacrifice of Himself to God the Father. This is found in four accounts of Sacred Scripture:
1 CORINTHIANS 11:23-26: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks [eucharistesas], he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
MATTHEW 26:26-29: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks [eucharistesas] he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
MARK 14:22-25: And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
LUKE 22:14-20: And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, and when he had given thanks [eucharistesas] he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
In the accounts of 1 Corinthians, Matthew, and. Luke, we see the term eucharistesas is used, which of course shows us that the word Eucharist has a Scriptural basis for its use in association with the Lord’s Supper. In addition, in the accounts of 1 Corinthians and. Luke, there is a command given by Jesus to us and to those who were present there, “Do this in remembrance of Me." This is not a suggestion, but a commandment to do exactly as Jesus did. For a Jew who celebrates the Passover today, it is not “God saved my ancestors from the land of Egypt,” but rather “God saved ME from the land of Egypt.” This has been the custom since the beginning that every Jew who celebrates the Passover in the years to come that they are all taking part in the first Passover and not just repeating a ceremony in honor of a past event. The same is even more true for Christians, for during the Mass, which is where we celebrate the Passover of Christ and do as He instructed us to do, we may be here in the present in any place around the world, but we are also supernaturally brought back in time to Calvary nearly 2,000 years ago when the great Passover Lamb was sacrificed and we have to eat the flesh of the Lamb.
“But it is just bread and wine!” Yes, Jesus used bread and wine, but He did more to them. Hebrews chapters 5, 6, and 7 teach us that Jesus is the eternal High Priest of the order of Melchizedek, which of course began in the upper room on Holy Thursday. Melchizedek was an enigmatic figure who only appeared briefly in the Old Testament in Genesis 14:17-20 and was referred to again in Psalm 110:4 in reference to a prophecy about the Messiah/Christ. According to Genesis 14:17-20:
After his [Abram/Abraham] return from the defeat of Ched-or-laomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!" And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Melchizedek, whose name means “king of righteousness” was the king and priest of the city of Salem, which would later become the city of Jerusalem. He was a priest of God who was not born from the lineage of Abraham and lived about 500 years before the priesthood of the Old Covenant was established by God through Moses’ brother Aaron at Mount Sinai. And yet the Hebrews and Jews revered Melchizedek and saw him as an archetype for the Messiah, which is in part evidenced by Psalm 110:4 when it says, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’," rather than saying that the Messiah would be a priest of the order of Aaron.
Why is this significant? For two reasons: First, the priesthood of Aaron and the Old Covenant was wiped out by the Romans when they conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. With no priesthood, there is no sacrifice. The Jews today still celebrate the Passover as a memorial, but since none of them are consecrated priests from the tribe of Levi and of the line of Aaron, they can kill a lamb for the Passover meal but it cannot be offered as a sacrifice to God. And yet God commanded not just the celebration of the Passover every year but also the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb FOREVER. Jesus as the Passover Lamb was sacrificed around 33 A.D. and that is when the new manner in which we are to celebrate the Passover had begun. As the High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, Christ continues to offer His Sacrifice to God the Father so that the celebration can continue. For this reason, Revelation 5:6 refers to Jesus as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.”
Second, the manner in which Melchizedek offered his sacrifice is identical to how Jesus instituted the Eucharist: through bread and wine. Since Christ is the Passover Lamb, and since the sacrifice has to be eaten, then the flesh of Christ has to be eaten. However, rather than requiring us to eat what tastes and appears to be flesh and drinking what tastes and appears to be blood, Jesus has used bread and wine and their appearance and taste for us to eat the Passover Sacrifice.
THE EUCHARIST IS NOT A SYMBOL
During the Sacrifice of the Mass when we are mystically brought back in time to Calvary, the Holy Spirit moves through a validly ordained bishop or priest to turn the bread and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ. This doctrine is held to be true by the Catholic Church and by the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches. A variation of the truth (although not the truth itself) is also held by some Protestant Christians, such as the Lutherans and the Anglicans. However, most Protestant Christians (including nondenominational) reject this doctrine. For them Communion (most of them do not use the term Eucharist or even know of it) is just a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ; like how they view Baptism, it is an ordinance and not a Sacrament that has any real power or grace. Of course, for them it really is only a symbol since they do not have validly ordained priests to celebrate Communion as an offering of sacrifice. However, what does Scripture say about this?
The Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 provides the strongest Scriptural evidence for the traditional Christian view of what the Eucharist is. During the time of the Passover (John 6:4), Jesus fed about five thousand people by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish to feed all of them. Afterwards, they follow Him so that He can feed them again. Beginning in verse 32, Jesus declared that He is the Bread of Life and declared that the manna that fed the Hebrews in the wilderness during the Exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land (Exodus 16) prefigured His body. In response, the Jews murmured amongst themselves about this and Jesus replies in verses 47-51:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread 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."
In response, verse 52 says that the Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Notice here that the Jews believe that Jesus is advocating cannibalism. The Romans would later make the same accusations against the Christians; in a document from the late 2nd/early 3rd Century Minucius Felix – Octavius described how the Romans believed that the Christians celebrated Communion:
Now the story about the initiation of young novices is as much to be detested as it is well known. An infant covered over with meal, that it may deceive the unwary, is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites: this infant is slain by the young pupil, who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal, with dark and secret wounds. Thirstily - O horror! they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. By this victim they are pledged together; with this consciousness of wickedness they are covenanted to mutual silence
Although these accusations are clearly false, why would Christians be accused of cannibalism if the Eucharist was only a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ? And did Jesus correct the “misunderstanding” of the Jews about what He is saying? No, in verses 53-58, He exacerbates it:
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; HE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD HAS ETERNAL LIFE, AND I WILL RAISE HIM UP AT THE LAST DAY. FOR MY FLESH IS FOOD INDEED, AND MY BLOOD IS DRINK INDEED. HE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD ABIDES IN ME, AND I IN HIM. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 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."
Then in verse 60 we see that when many of Jesus disciples heard this they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" Verses 61-65 then tell us:
But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
And in verse 66 we are told that they all left Him except for the Twelve. Thus, not only did the thousands who followed Jesus so that He would feed them again find this to be a difficult teaching and left, but also many of the other disciples of Jesus besides the Twelve did as well. Continuing on with verses 6:67-69:
Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
Thus the Twelve (except Judas, who stayed but still did not believe) took Jesus’ words on faith even though they did not understand Him (verses 70-71).
Protestants who oppose the doctrine of the Eucharist will say that Jesus was speaking in metaphor or parable in this passage. They may even cite John 6:63 to prove their point when Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” In their view, despite the fact that Jesus kept emphasizing that we need to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, verse 63 means that in reality it is His words and not His real Body and Blood that He was referring to. However, what Jesus meant in verse 63 is that it takes more than human wisdom to comprehend what He was teaching for we need the Holy Spirit to give life to our understanding of Christ’s teachings; 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 addresses this point:
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And WE IMPART THIS IN WORDS NOT TAUGHT BY HUMAN WISDOM BUT TAUGHT BY THE SPIRIT, INTERPRETING SPIRITUAL TRUTHS TO THOSE WHO POSSESS THE SPIRIT. THE UNSPIRITUAL MAN DOES NOT RECEIVE THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD, FOR THEY ARE FOLLY TO HIM, AND HE IS NOT ABLE TO UNDERSTAND THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED.
For the Disciples, this understanding of what Jesus had taught in John 6 would later come to them when the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). As Jesus later told them in John 14:26:
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Moreover, since Mark 4:33-34 tells us that when His Disciples did not understand or had misinterpreted what He said, Jesus would later explain to them what He really meant:
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
John 11:11-14 perfectly illustrates this point when Lazarus died:
Thus he [Jesus] spoke, and then he said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead.”
Therefore, we can see that Jesus was clearly not speaking in metaphor or parable in John 6 because He made no effort to clarify to the Twelve that He had meant otherwise and He would have been morally obligated to not let the other disciples who left Him go without clarifying if He meant something other than what He said. Because He made no such effort here, this demonstrates that He did mean what He had said. In addition, it is clear from the context of Scripture as a whole that whenever Jesus began to say something with “Truly, truly” (or “Verily, verily” or “Amen, Amen” depending on the translation of the Bible), He was emphasizing that what He was about to say was clearly what He was teaching for what follows is the literal point of His message. We clearly see this multiple times here in John 6.
In light of John 6, we can see that St. Paul also held this view. In the previously quoted passage of 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul said:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Paul then continued on in verses 27-32 to explain:
WHOEVER, THEREFORE, EATS THE BREAD OR DRINKS THE CUP OF THE LORD IN AN UNWORTHY MANNER WILL BE GUILTY OF PROFANING THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. FOR ANY ONE WHO EATS AND DRINKS WITHOUT DISCERNING THE BODY EATS AND DRINKS JUDGMENT UPON HIMSELF. THAT IS WHY MANY OF YOU ARE WEAK AND ILL, AND SOME HAVE DIED. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
If the Eucharist were but a symbol, why would Paul emphasize that taking Communion in an unworthy manner (i.e. in the state of Mortal Sin) is guilty of profaning not a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ, but the ACTUAL Body and Blood of the Lord? And if this were only a symbol, why would Paul declare that this was the reason why many Christians at the church in Corinth were sick and dying? Symbols can have a form of power, but in the end they are only symbols. The Ark of the Covenant was not powerful because it was symbolic of God being present with the Hebrews, but because He really was present with the Ark; if you were not consecrated to touch it, you could die if you did (2 Samuel 6, 1 Chronicles 13). St. Paul did not declare the Eucharist to be a symbol. In fact, earlier in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, Paul said of the Eucharist:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not A PARTICIPATION [or communion] IN THE BLOOD OF CHRIST? The bread which we break, is it not A PARTICIPATION [or communion] IN THE BODY OF CHRIST? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
In these verses, Paul used the Greek term Koinonia, which is the word from which we derive Communion from, and it means when we take part in the Eucharist we are participating and entering into communion with the actual Body and Blood of Christ sacrificed for us on Calvary. This is why Paul explained that the reason why the Christians who were taking the Eucharist in the state of Mortal Sin were bringing God’s judgment upon them. This is also why we still cannot receive Holy Communion in the state of Mortal Sin for we would be guilty of committing a horrible blasphemous act against Jesus Himself. Therefore, if we are in Mortal sin, we have to go to Confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) before we are to receive Holy Communion. (Refer to my essay REPENTANCE AND CONFESSION OF SIN for more on this.)
Therefore, from the Scriptural data we can see that the Bible makes it very clear that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus made it clear that “you must eat My Flesh and drink My Blood,” St. Paul spoke of the Eucharist being a participation in the actual Body and Blood of Christ, and Paul also said that if you take it in an unworthy manner (in the state of Mortal Sin) you bring the judgement of God upon you. The Bible is very clear in its language about this.
TESTIMONY OF THE CHURCH FATHERS
Now a critic may argue upon reading the Scriptural data in support of Jesus being truly present in the Eucharist and that this is just a false Catholic interpretation of the Bible. Some critics will even argue that this doctrine was a Medieval invention. However, history is a witness to truth and we have many other writings from the Early Christians besides those that became the New Testament of the Bible. There are many Christian writers from the Early Church that support this interpretation of the Bible and the only Christians who denied this doctrine were heretics who also denied other important doctrines, such as the Gnostics, those who denied the Divinity of Christ, and even those who denied His humanity. Because there are so many writings that support the doctrine of the Eucharist, here are but a few examples.
St. Ignatius of Antioch (early 2nd Century), who was a disciple of Saint John the Apostle, wrote in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, paragraph 6:
Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. THEY ABSTAIN FROM THE EUCHARIST and from prayer, BECAUSE THEY DO NOT ADMIT THAT THE EUCHARIST IS THE FLESH OF OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, THE FLESH WHICH SUFFERED FOR OUR SINS AND WHICH THE FATHER, IN HIS GRACIOUSNESS, RAISED FROM THE DEAD.
Ignatius also wrote in his Epistle to the Romans, paragraph 7:
I have no taste for the food that perishes nor for the pleasures of this life. I want the Bread of God WHICH IS THE FLESH OF CHRIST, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood which is love that cannot be destroyed.
St. Justin Martyr (2nd Century )wrote in his First Apology, Chapter 66:
And this food is called among us Eukaristia [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, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. 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.
Origen (3rd Century), a Church Father who is not regarded as a Saint due to falling into doctrinal error but still supported the doctrine of the Eucharist, wrote in Contra Celsus, Book 8, Chapter 33:
We give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving [Eucharist] and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and THIS BREAD BECOMES BY PRAYER A SACRED BODY, WHICH SANCTIFIES THOSE WHO SINCERELY PARTAKE OF IT.
Theodore of Mopsuestia (5th Century) made it very clear in his Catechetical Homilies, no. 5; 16, 118-119 that the Eucharist was not a symbol and that Christ never implied it to be:
It is with justice, therefore, that when He [Jesus] gave the bread HE DID NOT SAY: ‘THIS IS THE SYMBOL OF MY BODY’, BUT: ‘THIS IS MY BODY’: likewise with the cup HE DID NOT SAY: ‘THIS IS THE SYMBOL OF MY BLOOD’, BUT: ‘THIS IS MY BLOOD’, because He wished us to look upon the [elements] after their reception of grace and the coming of the Spirit, not according to their nature BUT TO RECEIVE THEM AS THEY ARE, THE BODY AND BLOOD OF OUR LORD. WE OUGHT... NOT TO REGARD THE ELEMENTS MERELY AS BREAD AND CUP, BUT AS THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST... At first it is laid upon the alter as mere bread and wine mixed with water; BUT BY THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IT IS TRANSFORMED INTO BODY AND BLOOD, and thus it is changed into the power of a spiritual and immortal nourishment.
Finally, Saint Augustine (5th Century), one of the greatest of the Church Fathers, taught in his Sermons, [227, 21] among other places:
You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. THAT BREAD which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, IS THE BODY OF CHRIST. The chalice, or rather, WHAT IS IN THAT CHALICE, having been sanctified by the word of God, IS THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.
Moreover, we have the testimony of this belief among the Early Christians not only in word but in deeds for many had died not just for Christ but because He is present in the Holy Eucharist. Among them was St. Tarcisius, a twelve-year-old boy during the Roman persecutions of the 3rd Century who died protecting the Eucharist. At that time, many Christians were imprisoned for their faith and Tarcisius would visit them to give them Holy Communion. He was stopped by some boys his age who wanted to take the Eucharist from him, but he would not let them. They beat him to death and still they did not get it. That boy had great faith not just in Jesus, but in that he held Jesus in his hands and would not let anyone take Him away.
Again, history is a witness to truth. Why would the Early Christians be so certain that this doctrine was true that they wrote about it often and even died for it if it was not a truth that was meant to be a core tenant of the Faith from the very beginning? The Christians who reject this doctrine have a greater burden than Catholics to prove and validate their interpretation of the Bible because every credible authority from the Early Church believed that the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of our Lord.
Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed, therefore let us celebrate this great feast! He died for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day to give us life everlasting! Moreover, His sacrifice is made present to us every day in the Blessed Sacrament.
Many Christians believe that the Eucharist is only a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ, and yet Sacred Scripture and history show us otherwise. It is truly Him and He commands us to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood so that we can abide in Him and He in us. Let those of us who are Catholics reflect upon this reality. The process of Transubstantiation, in which the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ and He becomes present with us, is an extension of the Incarnation itself in which Jesus became Emmanuel, God with us. How then ought we to approach Him during Mass? Should we not bow before the altar and genuflect before the tabernacle with reverence? If this is truly Him and He is our God, should we not kneel every time He is elevated? As St. John the Baptist had said, “I must decrease so that He may increase” (John 3:30). And as St. Paul said, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11, Romans 14:11). Moreover, since it is Him, should we not say with awe the words of St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)?
The Popes of our recent history have said that the Eucharist is to be the center of the New Evangelism in which all Catholics are to participate in greater vigor in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. It can also be argued that true ecumenism and reunion with other Christians can be made possible because of the Eucharist once they come to know and belief in this reality. As St. Paul had said, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Many of the Christians who celebrate Communion only as an ordinance and not as a Sacrament do so with great reverence, and yet for them it is only a symbol. Once they learn and understand that the reality of what the Eucharist really is, they will embrace this truth and will join us at the Lord’s Table in full communion with the Church that Christ established.
This doctrine may divide some of us for now, but with the common faith of our recent Popes I believe that this may be what will unite us once more. Many of the divisions between us and other Christians come from vehement hatred for what they perceive the teachings of the Catholic Church to be. However, most divisions are a result of misunderstanding and ignorance. The majority of other Christians do love Christ with sincerity and have great faith in Him in a manner that definitely puts many Catholics to shame. If they knew the Fullness of the Truth and not just a small portion of it, they would come home to Rome on their hands and knees with the faith that their God (OUR God) is truly physically present in our churches.
I know this to be true for I was once one of them.
Let us therefore embrace this truth and reality about the Holy Eucharist with sincerity so that with our love, our reverence, and what we know will draw others into the Fullness of Truth.
SCRIPTURES TO CONSULT:
EXODUS 12, 16, MALACHI 1:11
JOHN 1:29, REVELATION 5:6-13
1 CORINTHIANS 5:7-8, 10:16-17, 11:23-32
MATTHEW 26:26-29, MARK 14:22-25, LUKE 22:14-20
HEBREWS 5-7, GENESIS 14:17-20, PSALM 110:4
JOHN 6:26-69, MARK 4:33-34, JOHN 11:11-14, 1 CORINTHIANS 2:12-14
I am the Executive Director of a lay apostolate called the KNIGHTS OF THE MAGISTERIUM. Please take the time to check out the website where you can find links to my other essays and our work for the Catholic Church. http://www.knightsotm.org/
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