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.
I posted this here under another context! In both cases, "incoming" was not far behind! '
The Eucharist is not an easy subject for some to accept. Funny, Christ heard the same thing, "This is a hard thing to accept."
Well of course! My patron saint, I'll have you know! :) I didn't quote him here because there is an old Protestant notion that the original Church had been perverted by the time the Golden Mouthed came on the scene. Your other cites are of course spot on.
St. Irenaeus succeeded St. Pothinus to become the second bishop of Lyons in 177 A.D. Earlier in his life he studied under St. Polycarp. Considered, one of the greatest theologians of the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus is best known for refuting the Gnostic heresies.
[Christ] has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own Body, from which he gives increase to our bodies."
Source: St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 180 A.D.:
"So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and build up the substance of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of receiving God's gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ's Blood and Body and is His member? As the blessed apostle says in his letter to the Ephesians, 'For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones' (Eph. 5:30). He is not talking about some kind of 'spiritual' and 'invisible' man, 'for a spirit does not have flesh an bones' (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the bread which is His Body. The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and 'the grain of wheat falls into the earth' (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two then receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ."
-"Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely
Golden Mouthed indeed! And always worth reading.
The Teachings of the Church Fathers, by John R. Willis, S.J., Ignatius Press, 2002. Fr. Willis took the time to cross-reference literally hundreds of issues and to cite in detail what the Fathers had to say. For example, if one looks up Apostolic Succession, he gives 5 or 10 very pertinent citations with dozens of others cross-referenced. It is an invaluable resource and a Herculean effort that took upwards of 20 years to accomplish.
"But, it is really hard for me to accept that view."
Living the Faith isn't easy; theosis very seldom comes to us overnight. Often believing is even harder.
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief! Mark
That sounds handy! I have and do read the Fathers, but when you are looking for that particular thing you remember in the back of your mind...it's nice to have a sourcebook.
Went to Ignatius, put it on a wishlist so I won't forget!
Better to worship the creator of the earth and procreation than to worship procreation and the earth...
Awesome! I'm speechless. Thank you for that post!
Try reading the Fathers, my friend.
"Let us contemplate with faith the mystery of the divine incarnation and in all simplicity let us simply praise Him who in His great generosity became man for us. For who, relying on the power of rational demonstration, can explain how the conception of the divine Logos took place? How was flesh generated without seed? How was there an engendering without loss of maidenhood? How did a mother after giving birth remain a virgin? How did He who was supremely perfect develop as He grew up [cf. Luke 2:52]? How was He who was pure baptized? How did He who was hungry give sustenance [cf. Matt. 4:2; 14:14-21]? How did He who was weary impart strength [cf. John 4:6]? How did He who suffered dispense healing? How did He who was dying bestow life? And, to put the most important last, how did God become man?...Faith alone can embrace these mysteries, for it is faith that makes real for us things beyond intellect and reason [cf. Heb. 11:1]." St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662 AD)
I'm glad someone finally "understood" it and "got it right". ;O)
Words have meaning :-) Especially these ..
"This is my body. This is my blood."
"When we speak of the reality of Christ's nature being in us, we would be speaking foolishly and impiously -- had we not learned it from Him. For He Himself says: "My Flesh is truly Food, and My Blood is truly Drink. He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will remain in Me and I in Him." As to the reality of His Flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord Himself and by our own faith, it is truly Flesh and it is truly Blood. And These Elements bring it about, when taken and consumed, that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Is this not true? Let those who deny that Jesus Christ is true God be free to find these things untrue. But He Himself is in us through the flesh and we are in Him, while that which we are with Him is in God." ST. HILARY OF POITIERS (c. 315 - 368 A.D.) (The Trinity 8:14)
St. Ignatius became the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, who was the immediate successor of St. Peter. He heard St. John preach when he was a boy and knew St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. Seven of his letters written to various Christian communities have been preserved. Eventually, he received the martyr's crown as he was thrown to wild beasts in the arena.
"Take care, then who belong to God and to Jesus Christ - they are with the bishop. And those who repent and come to the unity of the Church - they too shall be of God, and will be living according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If any man walk about with strange doctrine, he cannot lie down with the passion. Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons."
-Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3:2-4:1, 110 A.D.
Ancient Anxanum, the city of the Frentanese, has contained for over twelve centuries the first and greatest Eucharistic Miracle of the Catholic Church. This wondrous Event took place in the 8th century A.D. in the little Church of St. Legontian, as a divine response to a Basilian monk's doubt about Jesus' Real Presence in the Eucharist.
During Holy Mass, after the two-fold consecration, the host was changed into live Flesh and the wine was changed into live Blood, which coagulated into five globules, irregular and differing in shape and size.
The Host-Flesh, as can be very distinctly observed today, has the same dimensions as the large host used today in the Latin church; it is light brown and appears rose-colored when lighted from the back.
The Blood is coagulated and has an earthy color resembling the yellow of ochre.
Various ecclesiastical investigation ("Recognitions") were conducted since 1574.
In 1970-'71 and taken up again partly in 1981 there took place a scientific investigation by the most illustrious scientist Prof. Odoardo Linoli, eminent Professor in Anatomy and Pathological Histology and in Chemistry and Clinical Microscopy. He was assisted by Prof. Ruggero Bertelli of the University of Siena.
The analyses were conducted with absolute and unquestionable scientific precision and they were documented with a series of microscopic photographs.
These analyses sustained the following conclusions: