Skip to comments.The Body of Christ?
Posted on 05/30/2005 12:57:09 PM PDT by NYer
The Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharist, the wafer and the wine really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Have you ever met anyone who finds this a bit hard to take?
If so, you shouldnt be surprised. When Jesus spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood in John 6, the response was less than enthusiastic. How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (V 52). This is a hard saying who can listen to it? (V60). In fact so many of his disciples abandoned him that Jesus asked the twelve if they also planned to quit. Note that Jesus did not run after the deserters saying, Come back! - I was just speaking metaphorically!
Its intriguing that one charge the pagan Romans lodged against Christians was that of cannibalism. Why? They heard that this sect met weekly to eat flesh and drink human blood. Did the early Christians say: wait a minute, its only a symbol!? Not at all. When explaining the Eucharist to the Emperor around 155AD, St. Justin did not mince his words: "For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God's word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the word of prayer which comes from him . . . is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.
Not till the Middle Ages did theologians really try to explain how Christs body and blood became present in the Eucharist. After a few theologians got it wrong, St. Thomas Aquinas came along and offered an explanation that became classic. In all change that we normally observe, he teaches, appearances change, but deep down, the essence of a thing stays the same. Example: if, in a fit of mid-life crisis, I traded my mini-van for a Ferrari, abandoned my wife and kids to be a tanned beach bum, bleached and spiked my hair, buffed up at the gym, and took a trip to the plastic surgeon, Id look a lot different. But for all my trouble, deep down Id still substantially be the same confused, middle-aged dude as when I started.
St. Thomas said the Eucharist is the one change we encounter that is exactly the opposite. The appearances of bread and wine stay the same, but the very essence of these realities, which cant be viewed by a microscope, is totally transformed. What starts as bread and wine becomes Christs body and blood. A handy word was coined to describe this unique change. Transformation of the sub-stance, what stands-under the surface, came to be called transubstantiation.
What makes this happen? The Spirit and the Word. After praying for the Holy Spirit to come (epiklesis), the priest, who stands in the place of Christ, repeats the words of the God-man: This is my Body, This is my Blood. Sounds like Genesis 1 to me: the mighty wind (read Spirit) whips over the surface of the water and Gods Word resounds. Let there be light and there was light. It is no harder to believe in the Eucharist than to believe in Creation.
But why did Jesus arrange for this transformation of bread and wine? Because he intended another kind of transformation. The bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ which are, in turn, meant to transform us. Ever hear the phrase: you are what you eat? The Lord desires us to be transformed from a motley crew of imperfect individuals into the Body of Christ, come to full stature.
Our evangelical brethren speak often of an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus. But I ask you, how much more personal and intimate than the Eucharist can you get? We receive the Lords body into our physical body that we may become him whom we receive!
Such an awesome gift deserves its own feast. And thats why, back in the days of Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi, the Pope decided to institute the Feast of Corpus Christi.
"to use the words of William the Slick in a theological discussion is, well.....uh...blasphemy? LOL"
It gets worse. I first used that line in a witness talk at a welcoming ultrea IN A CHURCH! Since I wasn't struck down, I felt it was acceptable with Him.
"I guess we are fortunate our Lord and Savior didn't use salt and pepper shakers at the dinner table to explain the concept of the Trinity"
Well this makes no sense whatsoever.
"this do in remembrance of me."
I found the best understanding of the Eucharist is by reading His Word and gleaning how He presented it.
On the Eucharistic Lord at the Elevation
Lord, in your servant's hands,
you are lifted up,
high for all to see,
like so long ago, you were lifted up
upon the cross.
a spectacle meant to shame and kill,
but instead, brought life.
And in your priest's hands,
Glowing like a soft white beacon in the night,
you become our life,
the food for our famished souls,
the drink for our parched spirit
lost for too long in the desert.
O life-giving Master,
who feeds us again and again with his own self,
who waits day in and out
yet Lord of the universe,
to join us in joy
out of pure love.
Agreed. I can understand how one would look at it and say, ah ha, it is literal, but the way he presented it as a remembrance, it is difficult to see it as literal.
In the Eucharist, Christ is really present among us. His presence is not static. It is a dynamic presence, which makes us his, he assimilates us to himself. Augustine understood this very well. Coming from a Platonic formation, it was difficult for him to accept the "incarnate" dimension of Christianity. In particular, he reacted before the prospect of the "Eucharistic meal," which seemed to him unworthy of God. In ordinary meals man becomes stronger, as it is he who assimilates the food, making it an element of his own corporal reality. Only later did Augustine understand that in the Eucharist the exact opposite occurs: the center is Christ who attracts us to himself; he makes us come out of ourselves to make us one with him (cf. Confessions, VII, 10, 16). In this way, he introduces us into the community of brothers.
Here we are faced with a further dimension of the Eucharist, which I would like to touch upon before concluding. The Christ whom we encounter in the sacrament is the same here in Bari, as in Rome, as in Europe, America, Africa, Asia, Oceania. He is the one and same Christ who is present in the Eucharistic bread everywhere on earth. This means that we can only encounter him together with all others. We can only receive him in unity.
Is not this what the Apostle Paul said to us in the reading we just heard? Writing to the Corinthians, he affirmed: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17). The consequence is clear: We cannot commune with the Lord if we do not commune among ourselves. If we wish to present ourselves to him, we must go out to meet one another. To do so, the great lesson of forgiveness is necessary. We must not allow the destructive larva of resentment to take hold of our spirit, but open our heart to the magnanimity of listening to the other, of understanding, of the possible acceptance of his apologies, of the generous offering of our own.
Pope Benedict XVI
If one wants to believe that the bible means that the bread is literally the body of Christ and that the wine is literally his blood then it would seem that literally ONLY the bread Christ actually had at the time was his body and ONLY the wine that he had at the time was his blood. That's what the bible says.
Christ had specific bread and said THIS IS my body. He didn't say any other bread was his body, but that bread that he held and that bread alone.
Sing, my tongue,
The mystery of the glorious body,
And of the precious Blood,
Shed to save the world,
By the King of the nations,
The fruit of a noble womb.
Given to us, born for us,
From a stainless Virgin,
And having dwelt in the world,
Sowing the seed of the word,
He closed in a wonderful way,
The days of his habitation.
On the night of His last supper,
Reclining with His brothers,
The law having been fully observed
With legal foods,
He gives Himself as food with His
Own hands to the twelve.
The Word in Flesh makes true Bread
His Flesh with a word;
Wine becomes the Blood of Christ,
And if sense is deficient,
To confirm sincere hearts,
Faith alone suffices.
Then let us prostrate and
Venerate so great a Sacrament,
And let the old law yield
To the new rite;
Let faith stand forward to
Supply the defect of the senses.
To the Begetter and the Begotten,
Be praise and jubilation,
Health, honor, and strength,
And blessing too,
And let equal praise be to Him,
Who proceeds from Both.
Pange lingua gloriosi
Quem in mundi pretium
Fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit Gentium.
Nobis datus, nobis natus
Ex inacta Virgine,
Et in mundo conversatus,
Sparso verbi semine,
Sui moras incolatus
Miro clausit ordine.
In suprema nocte coenae
Recumbus cum fratribus
Observata lege plene
Cibis in legalibus,
Cibum turbae duodenae
Se dat suis manibus.
Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem efficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum,
Et si sensus deficit,
Ad firmandum cor sincerum
Sola fides sufficit.
Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio.
St. Thomas Aquinas
I knew without looking that you're not a lit major -- "mere" symbol indeed! And the Eucharist is the perfect symbol -- it is what it symbolizes.
If you think the difference is semantic, you don't really accept that X has become Y: if the physical properties are all there is, then it hasn't.
Guys, do you suppose that +Ignatius of Antioch, disciple of the Apostle John, appointed Bishop of Antioch by +Peter and reputed by pious tradition to have been the child who sat on Christ's lap could have gotten it wrong when, in about 100 AD he wrote:
"They [i.e. the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again." (Letter to Smyrneans 7:1)
As an Orthodox Christian I can't tell you the "how" of this, Aquinas notwithstanding, except to say that it happens by the power of the Holy Spirit. I can also tell you that The Church has always and everywhere believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
ST. CLEMENT OF ROME (c. 80 A.D.)
Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have OFFERED ITS SACRIFICES [or offered the gifts, referring to the Eucharist]. (Letter to Corinthians 44:4)
I will be honest, it is very hard to imagine that somebody that early would have erred.
But, it is really hard for me to accept that view.
ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (c. 344 - 407 A.D.)
When you see the Lord IMMOLATED and lying upon the ALTAR, and the priest bent over that SACRIFICE praying, and all the people empurpled by that PRECIOUS BLOOD, can you think that you are still among men and on earth? Or are you not lifted up to heaven? (Priesthood 3:4:177)
Reverence, therefore, reverence this table, of which we are all communicants! Christ, slain for us, the SACRIFICIAL VICTIM WHO IS PLACED THEREON! (Homilies on Romans 8:8)
Christ is present. The One [Christ] who prepared that [Holy Thursday] table is the very One who now prepares this [altar] table. For it is not a man who makes the SACRIFICIAL GIFTS BECOME the Body and Blood of Christ, but He that was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest stands there carrying out the action, but the power and the grace is of God, "THIS IS MY BODY," he says. This statement TRANSFORMS the gifts. (Homilies on Treachery of Judas 1:6)
Let us therefore in all respects put our faith in God and contradict Him in nothing, even if what is said seems to be contrary to our reasonings and to what we see. Let His WORD be of superior authority to reason and sight. This too be our practice in respect to the [Eucharistic] Mysteries, not looking only upon what is laid out before us, but taking heed also of His WORDS. For His WORD cannot deceive; but our senses are easily cheated. His WORD never failed; our senses err most of the time. When the WORD says, "THIS IS MY BODY," be convinced of it and believe it, and look at it with the eyes of the mind. For Christ did not give us something tangible, but even in His tangible things all is intellectual. So too with Baptism: the gift is bestowed through what is a tangible thing, water; but what is accomplished is intellectually perceived: the REBIRTH and the RENEWAL....How many now say, "I wish I could see his shape, His appearance, His garments, His sandals." ONLY LOOK! YOU SEE HIM! YOU TOUCH HIM! YOU EAT HIM! (Homilies on Matthew 82:4)
Take care, then, lest you too become guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ [1 Cor 11:27]. They slaughtered His most holy body; but you, after such great benefits, receive HIM into a filthy soul. For it was not enough for Him to be made Man, to be struck and to be slaughtered, but He even mingles Himself with us; and this NOT BY FAITH ONLY, but even in every DEED He makes us His BODY. How very pure, then, ought he not be, who enjoys the benefit of this SACRIFICE? (ibid 82:5)
...if everywhere grace required worthiness, there could neither then be Baptism nor Body of Christ nor the sacrifice priests offer.....now He has transferred the priestly action [of ancient times] to what is most awesome and magnificent. He has changed the sacrifice itself, and instead of the butchering of dumb beasts, He commands the offering up of Himself....What is that Bread? The Body of Christ! What do they become who are partakers therein? The Body of Christ! Not many bodies, but one Body....For you are not nourished by one Body while someone else is nourished by another Body; rather, all are nourished by the same Body....When you see [the Body of Christ] lying on the altar, say to yourself, "Because of this Body I am no longer earth and ash, no longer a prisoner, but free. Because of this Body I hope for heaven, and I hope to receive the good things that are in heaven, immortal life, the lot of the angels, familiar conversation with Christ. This Body, scourged and crucified, has not been fetched by death...This is that Body which was blood-stained, which was pierced by a lance, and from which gushed forth those saving fountains, one of blood and the other of water, for all the world"...This is the Body which He gave us, both to hold in reserve and to eat, which was appropriate to intense love; for those whom we kiss with abandon we often even bite with our teeth. (Homilies on Corinthians 8, 1; 24, 2; 24, 2; 24, 4)
"So also was Christ offered once." [Hebrews 7-10] By whom was He offered? Quite evidently, by Himself. Here [Paul] shows that Christ was not Priest only, but also Victim and Sacrifice. Therein do we find the reason for the words "was offered." "He was offered once," [Paul] says, "to take away the sins of many." Why does he say of many and not of all? Because not all have believed. He did indeed die for all, for the salvation of all, which was His part....But He did not take away the sins of all men, because they did not will it....What then? Do we not offer daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of His death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this Sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This Sacrifice is a type of that, and this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one Sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the Sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one Body. And just as He is one Body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one Sacrifice. (Homilies on Hebrews 17, 2; 17, 3)
Not in vain was it decreed BY THE APOSTLES that in the awesome Mysteries remembrance should be made of the DEPARTED. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. For when the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome SACRIFICIAL VICTIM is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have DEPARTED in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned as worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf. (Homilies on Philippians 3:4)
We BELIEVE because Christ has said so. We pray that we might understand. Mysteries are this way.
"I can understand how one would look at it and say, ah ha, it is literal, but the way he presented it as a remembrance, it is difficult to see it as literal."
Having a problem with believing the Lord's Word? "Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." John 6:52
How can someone say that Jesus is talking about His teachings, or that we are to remember Him symbolically? Why did the Jews question Jesus and walk away from Him? They knew darn well what He was talking about. Those who think they know better than the men standing right there 2000 years ago need to reconsider the arrogance of that proposition. Perhaps those who disbelieve Jesus' very clear words should ask themselves WHY they refuse to believe the interpretation held by the entire Church since the very beginnning.
Unless the consecrated host bleeds (which it has done in certain miracles) or taken on the form of real flesh upon the altar (which it has also done). In both cases, the blood present was type AB and the tissue was found to be cardiac tissue-heart muscle.
We report, you decide.
St. Clement of Alexandria studied under Pantaenus. He later succeeded him as the director of the school of catechumens in Alexandria, Egypt around the year 200 A.D.,
"The Blood of the Lord, indeed, is twofold. There is His corporeal Blood, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and His spiritual Blood, that with which we are anointed. That is to say, to drink the Blood of Jesus is to share in His immortality. The strength of the Word is the Spirit just as the blood is the strength of the body. Similarly, as wine is blended with water, so is the Spirit with man. The one, the Watered Wine, nourishes in faith, while the other, the Spirit, leads us on to immortality. The union of both, however, - of the drink and of the Word, - is called the Eucharist, a praiseworthy and excellent gift. Those who partake of it in faith are sanctified in body and in soul. By the will of the Father, the divine mixture, man, is mystically united to the Spirit and to the Word.",
-"The Instructor of the Children". [2,2,19,4] ante 202 A.D.,
"Christ had specific bread and said THIS IS my body. He didn't say any other bread was his body, but that bread that he held and that bread alone."
You answered your own question in Luke 22:19
"Do THIS in remembrance of ME."
He certainly wasn't talking about a simple passover meal. They were doing that already. What is significant about that? Jesus is obviously fulfilling the promise given in John 6.
You find the greatest things to post! Thank you.
My oldest son was confirmed on Thursday so all of the family was in town to go to the Corpus Christi Mass this weekend. What a cool day to spend with family.