Question: Why do Roman Catholics believe the Eucharist actually becomes the body and blood of Christ, and what should be our attitude towards the bread and grape juice used in Communion?
Answer: There are several basic views or beliefs about the Holy Communion and what it stands for, here they are, but I fall into the Evangelical teaching side:
“The Roman Catholic Teaching. The Roman Catholic Church interprets the words of Christ literally, when he says: ‘This is my body,’ ‘He does not say, This is the figure of my body–but This is my body (2 Council of Nice., Art. 6). Neither does He say in this, or with this is my body; but absolutely, This is my body; which plainly implies transubstantiation. [The doctrine that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed into the true presence of Christ, although their appearance remains the same. (The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition)] Douay Version Bible (Baltimore: John Murphy & Co., 1914) (Lectures in Systematic Theology by Thiessen)
“Transubstantiation reflects Roman Catholic faith in the literalness of the words of the Bible. [I only wish they all held to this belief in the literal six days of creation. Comment by G.T. Panell] Jesus (omnipotent God) said: ‘This is my body; this is my blood.’ And again Jesus said: ‘I am the bread of life;’ ‘My flesh is true food; my blood is true drink;’ ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood.;’ etc.
“Roman Catholics take Jesus at His word: the bread is his body; the wine is his blood.
From the Apostles at the Last Supper until today, the bread and wine of Eucharist looks and feels and tastes like bread and wine in the eating and drinking. Similar to all of God’s Word, faith is essential. Faith in what? In the words of Jesus even though the bread does not look, feel, taste like flesh; even though the wine does not look, feel, taste like blood.
“Transubstantiation means the substance part of the bread and wine elements changes; but the accidental parts–sight, taste, smell, touch–do not. Catholics believe that since Jesus said it and He is God, He can do it. They believe! ‘Transubstantiation’ merely labels it. In everyday life, it is not at all uncommon to believe in things man cannot perceive by the senses: wind, electricity, love, peace, etc. All the more when Jesus says it.
“.Following the word of God, Catholics also know that Christ is not and cannot be resacrificed. This has never been the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Hebrews 10:12 ‘But this one (Jesus) offered one sacrifice for sins.’
Hebrews 7:27 ‘He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.’
Hebrews 9:25-28 ‘Not that he might offer himself repeatedly .But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many.
“The constant faith of the Church from the Apostolic Fathers attests to the fact that the Mass was the one Sacrifice of Calvary made present to the faithful.
“Catechism Section 1104 ‘Christian liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us but actualizes them, makes them present. The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated, not repeated. It is the celebrations that are repeated, and in each celebration there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes the unique mystery present.” (http://www.catholicapologetics.org)
The Lutheran and High Church Teaching. The Lutheran and High Church views are much the same. According to them the communicant partakes of the true body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine [consubstantiation]. The elements themselves remain unchanged, but the mere partaking of them after the prayer of consecration communicates Christ to the participant along with emblems. This is known as the doctrine of consubstantiation [The Lutheran doctrine that the body and blood of Christ coexist with the elements of bread and wine during the Eucharist.]
Presbyterian Church Teaching. “Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporeally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporeally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance as the elements themselves to their outward senses.” (Westminster Confession, XXIX, vii.)
Orthodox Church Teaching. “Holy Communion is the ‘sacrament of sacraments’ in that it is the banquet of the Kingdom of God, the fulfillment of every other sacrament. In Holy Communion we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eternal Passover lamb, Who makes us alive and holy with Himself. Through Holy Communion we become sons of God the Father, together with Jesus, filled with the ‘communion of the Holy Spirit.'” (Meeting the Orthodox Questions and Answers on the Orthodox Faith by Father Thomas Hopko)
Evangelical Teaching. “The Biblical view seems to represent the Lord’s Supper as a memorial to the death of Christ and as our participating in the benefits of that death… We would not rob this holy ordinance of any of its meaning, but seek to uphold its scriptural significance to the full. Yet there is danger on this theory that the mere observance of the Supper may be regarded as conferring grace. The believer partakes of the benefits of Christ’s death all the time; so there is danger of making the Lord’s Supper an aid to faith, somewhat in the same way as a Roman Catholic insists that images help to make Christ real to his soul.
“The conditions of participating in the Lord’s Supper are regeneration and a life of obedience to Christ. That regeneration is a condition is evident from the fact that the Lord gave the ordinance to His disciples (Matthew 26:27), that the disciples observed it among themselves (Acts 2:46, 47, 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:18,20,22), and that each participant is asked to examine himself as to whether or not he [she] is qualified to partake of the Supper (1 Corinthians 11:27,29). That a life of obedience is a condition, is evident from the fact that persons who fall into sin are to be excluded from the Church (1 Cor. 5:11-13; 2 Thess. 3:6, 11, 15), as also those who teach false doctrine (2 John 10,11; Tit. 3:10) and promote divisions and dissensions (Rom. 16:17).
“Baptism should precede the Lord’s Supper, but it is not a condition to participation in it. There is no precept to that effect, and there is no proof that believers were excluded from the Lord’s Supper until they were baptized (Acts 2:47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1,7; 9:31, 35, 42; 11:24).
“Nor is church membership a condition. This is the ‘table of the Lord’ (1 Cor. 10:21) and not the church’s table. This is evident from the fact that the individual is asked to examine himself as to his fitness to come to the Supper; the church is not authorized to sit in judgment upon believers, except in case of disorderly conduct, false teaching, or participation in unscriptural practices (1 Cor. 11:27-32).” (Lectures in Systematic Theology by Thiessen)
I would just like to say this in closing, the one thing that should be used to unite us, has been made by Satan an issue of division. I would not be allowed to take the ‘Communion’ in most of the above denominations, even though I would love to. This is never what Christ intended! The Holy Communion is just that, it was meant for all believers, one day in heaven we will all take it together and there will be no division. We have become like little children in the Church, saying Christ meant this, no, someone else says Christ meant that. STOP! Maybe there is truth in all the above views. Why can’t we agree to love each other in this area, and stop fighting about something so Holy as the Holy ‘Communion!’
I also would say to Evangelicals we like to take things literally like when Paul says, ‘your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit'(1 Corinthians 6:19). Also when Jesus says, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.’ (Matthew 18:20) You as an Evangelical could and would say amen to this, so why can’t we even try and understand what much of the Church is saying when they take literally the words of Christ. Maybe instead of always being critical, maybe we should try to understand from where people are coming from.
Do you think that when we get to heaven Jesus is going to say to everyone who took Christ’s words literally concerning the Communion, I am upset with you because you took my words too literally? No, they have a lot of Scripture, and a lot of Church history on their side, so just because you or I am not in a hundred percent agreement with them on this subject, their hearts, I believe are in the right place here. God is our judge, and I will not judge them in this area as many ‘Protestants’ have.
In Church history, there needs to be some forgiveness from the Roman Catholic Church for burning at the stake those ‘Protestants’ who disagreed with their doctrine of transubstantiation (maybe forgiveness has been asked for, I just don’t know), one example in point would be Thomas Cranmer.
“Cranmer, as you may remember, was one of the architects of the Reformation of the English church in the 16th century, the principle author of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and finally, one of the martyrs of the Reformation under Mary Tudor, the infamous ‘Bloody Mary.’ When Mary came to power after the death of the protestant King, Edward VI, Cranmer, still the Archbishop of Canterbury, was arrested, along with Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, who would also be burned in due time.” (http://www.faithtacoma.org)
So you see this issue of the ‘Lord’s Supper’ has become very ‘heated’ in the past. I just don’t think our Lord’s words on the subject of the Communion should divide Christians any longer. We need to listen to each other, and realize maybe we don’t have a corner on the truth. We need to come together around the precious blood and body of Christ, and realize it is through Him and His death on the cross we have salvation! This is what is important here.
So when we come together in our local church to partake together let’s remember that part of the breaking of the bread is that we are in ONE UNIVERSIAL, HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
The very thing that God created to bring us together, Satan has used to divide us. I pray to God, that one day on this earth before we go to heaven, that we could sit down at the ‘Lords Table’ together in love and unity as true born again believers! “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.’
“In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) [For more on this look at our 1 Corinthians Study]
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
Your brother in Christ,
Gary T. Panell
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