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Eucharist is my foundation, my grounding in the Catholic faith; Jesus truly present in the Eucharist is what keeps me sane, on the path and in the Way, no matter what I encounter in this world.
How can I so willingly accept the disdainful title of "bread worshiper" and openly state that I truly believe that that little wafer up there at the front of the church is God?
Well, Jesus said it. That's good enough for me.
Let's begin at John; open your bible to John 6:30 (or, go to Bible Browse (RSV) and browse down to John 6:30 in another window) and follow along. We will look at the actual words of Jesus on the subject. He repeatedly refers to Himself as come down from Heaven, as manna from Heaven, as food, as drink, as required for life, and as offering everlasting life to those who accept what He says.
Verse 30: The followers ask Jesus for a sign, indicating that Moses gave bread to the people in the desert, so what could Jesus do. Our Lord told them it was not Moses, but God who gave them the manna, and that the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
He then said to them "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst."
In verse 38 He said to them "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; . . . "
At this many murmured at Him because He said He was the bread which came down from heaven.
And at that He said to them "Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me."
And then He said "Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life."
And He said to them "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died."
And then He said, referring to Himself, "This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die."
Note how His words were getting stronger; He was not backing down from it, but teaching it more firmly.
And He said to them "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."
Then they disputed among themselves, saying how can this man give us his flesh to eat?
And then He actually tied the teaching to salvation, when He said "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;"
Then He said "he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
Note how His words were getting stronger and stronger, in the face of all that doubt and questioning.
Then He said "For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed."
Then He said "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him."
Then He said "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."
And then He said "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."
At this many of his followers said this was a hard teaching, and questioned who could follow it. He spoke again, as He did many times in Scripture, about choosing between the flesh (meaning the world and death) and the spirit (meaning the Kingdom and life) but many of His followers left Him and followed Him no more.
Note this well:
He didn't call them back. He turned to those remaining, including the Twelve, and issued them the stinging challenge: "Do you also wish to go away?"
And Simon Peter answered for them, saying "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."
Note well that Peter didn't say that he understood what was taught; how could anyone understand such a mysterious, other-worldly thing? But, what Peter did understand was exactly Who was doing the teaching. He accepted it because Jesus taught it, pure and simple.
And, it must be remarked, Jesus taught it in no uncertain terms. Thirteen times He referred to Himself as food, drink, demanding to be eaten, as coming down from Heaven, as being sent by the Father, in ever increasingly strong terms.
There is absolutely no way to misinterpret what He was saying here. Such sentences as my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink most certainly do not present the language of metaphor. Neither is the term "he who eats (Greek: trogon)" the language of metaphor; it is very crude and direct, and the only reasonable translation is literal.
If He were speaking figuratively, then, in accordance with Hebrew culture at the time, eating one's flesh and drinking one's blood was figuratively meant to say to injure someone's character by slander or libel or calumny; speaking figuratively here makes no sense.
He meant what He said. You can't get around it.
If you want to understand the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist, this is the Scriptural beginning point. Read and re-read the Eucharistic discourse in John 6 until you are fairly comfortable with the information it gives you. Then you will be ready for the next step.
Jesus said that He was "Bread from Heaven," that His flesh was food, that His blood was drink, and that, unless we eat of Him and drink of Him, we do not "have life." So, according to His teaching, we are called upon to actually eat His flesh and to drink His blood.
And the question naturally arises, how, exactly, are we going to do that little trick?
With that question firmly in mind, we are now ready to explore the other Eucharistic passages in the synoptic Gospels, and in the rest of the New Testament. Keep the question in mind; write it down on a note pad if necessary.
Some Protestant objections to the universal Catholic teaching on the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist stem from the "do this in remembrance of me" passages attached to the Eucharistic discourses in Luke and 1 Corinthians. Which, in their interpretation, makes the Eucharist merely some kind of memorial not involving in any way the flesh and blood of our Lord. What they totally ignore is the literal interpretation of the word "is" each time our Lord says "this is my body" and "this is my blood". Interestingly, many of them interpret so much of the Bible literally, but cannot accept the literal interpretations of the Eucharistic discourses.
Keep the question in mind. You've been instructed by Jesus to eat His flesh and drink His blood, if you want life in you, else you do not have life. Exactly how are you going to do as instructed by Jesus Himself? That's the question.
Turn to Matthew 26:26. Here it is:
Then, turn to Mark 14:22. Here it is:
Then, turn to Luke 22:19. Here it is:
Then, turn to 1 Corinthians 11:24. Here it is:
Now, the very next verses undo the Protestant claim that Eucharist does not contain the sacred body and blood of our Lord. From verse 27 on:
So, if we come to the altar not discerning the body of Christ, we eat our own judgment. Consider also Paul's admonition in 1 Corinthians 10:16:
Now, I'm no great Scripture scholar, I'm just a Catholic layman; but Protestants I've discussed this with seem to know a lot less Scripture than Protestants are publicly touted to know. If Christ meant that all the different Eucharistic discourses were meant to be taken as "this is symbolically my body" then why didn't he explicitly say that, at least once, somewhere? What He said, repeatedly, was, this is my body. If He didn't mean that, then, just exactly what did He mean?
The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is literally and wholly present — body and blood, soul and divinity — under the appearances of bread and wine. The biblical foundation for this doctrine is so solid as to be irrefutable. The early Church Fathers interpreted these passages quite literally.
Ignatius of Antioch, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Justin Martyr, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Irenaeus, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Clement of Alexandria, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Tertullian, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Hippolytus, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Origen, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Cyprian of Carthage, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Council of Nicaea I, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Aphraahat the Persian Sage, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Cyril of Jerusalem, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Ambrose of Milan, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Theodore of Mopsuestia, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Augustine, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
Council of Ephesus, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the true presence in the Eucharist:
If anyone out there has or can point out a longer, or more solidly documented, or more consistent historical teaching on the subject, show me. If the Roman Catholic teaching consistently goes back to and through the apostolic era and right on into Scripture, then it looks like it hasn't ever changed, in the Church Christ founded. Any other interpretations are coming out of denominations that didn't even exist until relatively modern times, long after the doctrine was solidly established and consistently practiced for many, many centuries.
By coming forward to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we make three important statements of profound significance:
One Protestant I remember arguing with (and, I learned later, many other Protestants in many other arguments have said virtually the same thing) said, Vic, if I really believed that was God up there, I would crawl on my belly down the aisle to receive Him. He had that part right.
Most of us take for granted the presence of the Lord, perhaps too much; it becomes a commonplace, a ritualized thing to do on Sundays and Holy Days.
But, sometimes, we need to take stock. That's God up there. We ought to be crawling on our bellies down the aisle to receive Him.
Coming forward in the Eucharist to experience Communion with the Lord is, all at once, the most daring, the most humbling, and the most glorious thing any Catholic man can ever do.
Where are you in your walk, and how well do you recognize the miracle we participate in, involving as it does, actual, physical Communion with Jesus Christ, the Lord thy God, in the Eucharist? Have you fully recognized that we become what we eat, which is, the Body of Christ, His Church, with which we openly profess complete unity by daring to come to the Communion Rail? Do you make certain to have reconciled with any you have sinned against and with the Lord before you come forward to receive?
When I was a boy, an old nun told me that Jesus Christ - body, blood, soul and divinity - remains wholly within and part of me, personally, until the last fragment of physical Host is dissolved and gone. Which makes me, during that time, an actual Tabernacle of the Lord. This is, for me, the holiest of times; a time of silent contemplation and thanksgiving. I cannot sing during that time, or further participate in any other activity. Communion is the reason that the Mass has become my deepest prayer. Meditate upon the significance of it. And come worthily to the Receive the Lord, and live forever, as He faithfully promised. And He will raise you up on the last day.
You will never die. He said it.
Blessed be God forever; and thank you, Lord Jesus.
Encyclical Letter: Ecclesia De Eucharistia, of his holiness John Paul the Great.
Apostolic Letter: Rosarium Virginis Mariae, of his holiness John Paul the Great.
(In this letter, John Paul the Great introduced five new mysteries of the rosary, the Mysteries of Light. They include 1) His baptism in the Jordan; 2) His self-manifestation at the wedding at cana; 3) His proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with His call to conversion; 4) His Transfiguration; and, finally, 5) His institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery.
All of these mysteries deserve attention in study, meditation and contemplation. His holiness gave us, in the fifth mystery, the sacrament of sacraments, ready to be plumbed to the depth of our souls, in recognition of the Truth of His Presence.)
God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart Of Life; Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, currently Pope Benedict XVI; Ignatius Press.
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Respond to This Article Below The Last Comment
Date: Thu Jan 13 13:27:26 2011
From: Little Big Thinker
This may be taken only as an intellectual comment, not spiritual, but I mean for it to be both, in actuality...on the contrary, and conversely, why does the church thusly interpret these particular Scriptures literally, when so many or all others are given a figurative view that is espoused as pure and true and right, even without the use of simile or metaphor? That is the question, rather than, if we interpret many literally, but not all by any means, why can we not interpret these passages figuratively? (Hermeneutics...)As in the example, Jesus says, "I am the door (emphasis on AM, as you cited IS in your previous statement), but yet he is certainly not a door literally, and there are many others--we know what it says, but what does it mean is the eternal question-there is simile and metaphor used and non-use in many places, which does not infer that they are lacking in those places where they don't appear, as in implied, nor literal, if included!...I am grateful l that I may disagree and continue to investigate as I study and ask questions, rather than blindly accepting anything without any further considerations...these views, if you study history, come from what only later became the Ana-Baptists (name only used for the sake of communication), but these were in point of fact, the first people in the church at the very beginning with Christ, including the apostles themselves-I am going all the way back to the first century, not to Protestantism at all, I am a Christian today, not a Protestant or a Catholic, believing in the universal church (not Church) as The Body and Christ...I also believe that as in hearing the words, "Your sins are absolved", this real presence in Communion are both unnecessary contingents, if you will, as in the idiomatic logic of a small child, but not the child that is "coming to Him as a child" necessarily...I rest my case. Very interesting site...I would appreciate your feedback...Respectfully Submitted
Date: Thu Jan 13 18:46:41 2011
From: Vic Biorseth
First, re interpretations: context, context, context. Get your high-lighter out and read all of John 6, slowly and carefully. Note what is emphasized and repeated, and what grows stronger against resistance. St. Thomas Aquinas said that
Holy Scripture differs from all other written language in that it so often describes a fact that involves a mystery. A mystery is something about which we may perhaps know part, but not all. At some point, we must bow before the mystery. Perhaps the first thing to consider is the author of the quotes we are reading, which is God Himself. The opening lines of John reveal that Jesus is God, personified. He “emptied Himself of Godliness” to live as man, just like us but without sin. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not.” I just point this out because sometimes when you know Who is talking you tend to pay more attention.
We know that our Lord was not a door or a gate; but we know His meaning in referring to Himself in such a manner. It doesn’t take any great intellectual effort to understand that He is the Way, and the ultimate judge.
Next, re the early history of the Ana-Baptists: you will have to enlighten me; I find no historical reference to them or anyone like them before the Reformation in 16th century Europe. Basically, if you hold to Sola Scriptura (sole authority of Scripture) and Sola Fide (salvation by faith alone) then you are a Protestant, almost by definition. These are some of the dogmas of Martin Luther and the Reformation, from when Protestantism was born. I know lots and lots of Protestants do not consider themselves to be Protestants, but, what can I say. It is what it is.
Date: Sun Jan 23 06:27:28 2011
From: Vic Biorseth
Last Sunday I heard a sermon on John’s pronouncement of who the Christ was as he walked by. I had a lot of other stuff to do and couldn’t get it in here before now, but I think you will see that the “Lamb Of God” reference opens up a whole other area of interpretation of Eucharist, and interpretation of our Lord’s use of the word “IS” as referenced by Little Big Thinker above.
In ancient Hebrew culture a lamb for sacrifice was both a sacrifice to God for removal of sins, and a holy meal to be partaken of by the people. The Lamb was offered up, and then it was eaten. This is language familiar to the culture of the day, and it was fully familiar to those who heard it. Hard to believe that a man would offer himself in such a way, but still, it was the language of sacrifice for sin.
First, our Lord said that we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Then, He said This is my body ... this is my blood.
For a far better explanation than I could ever give, see the link to the sermon at the new The Lamb Of God page.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Converted Page to SBI! Release 3.0 BB 2.0.
Date: Fri Nov 14 2014
From: Vic Biorseth
Changes pursuant to changing the website URL
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Pulled the trigger on the 301 MOVE IT option June 1, 2014. Working my way through all the webpages. .
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