I wrote one post on the Eucharist and I thought it was really explained  and written well, but I have been getting several questions and comments and some people say that it is not so easy to grasp.  Here below is the second attempt to explain and help all understand the truth about this very important matter, the Eucharist.

Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the literal body and blood of Christ.  Virtually all on the more than 36,000 different Protestant denominations believe Christ is only present symbolically in the Eucharist.

Because the Eucharist is such an important doctrine, and because it divides us from nearly all Protestants, Catholics must insist on discussing this issue in any dialogue to bring the truth of this matter to all those that will listen.

In order to understand the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, please read and study:

All of John 6

Mt 26:26-28               

Mk 14:22-24              

Lk 22:17-20              

Lk 24:30-35                  

1 Cor 11:23-29            

1 Cor 10:14-17

In Jn 4:31-34 and Mt 16:5-12, describe Jesus speaking about food in a symbolic or figurative way.  The disciples interpret Him to mean real food.  Note how Jesus shows them in plain, unmistakable language that He is only speaking figuratively.

Compare this with Jn 6:51.  Jesus says we must eat His flesh in order to have life.  In Jn 6:52, the Jews interpret Him literally.  Jesus then repeats again and again (verses 53-56) –in the clearest possible language–He does not clarify but emphasizes his words, not once but 5 times that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life.  Take special not of verse 55:  “my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” —this is NOT language of symbolism.

Protestants often cite John 6:35:  “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger; whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  They claim that when Jesus calls Himself the “bread of life” He is simply saying that if we believe in Him, He will nourish us spiritually, just as bread nourishes us physically.  Protestants claim that we “eat” and “drink” Jesus, our spiritual food, by coming to and believing in Him.

Let’s take a close look at this claim.  We must read the rest of this Eucharist discourse, especially verses 48-58, where Jesus tells us exactly what He means by calling Himself “bread.”  The bread Jesus is speaking of is not merely a symbol for spiritual nourishment.  Jesus tells us plainly that the bread is His own flesh (verse 51), which we must eat in order to have eternal life.  When Jesus explains that the bread of life is literally His flesh, we must accept His clear words.

Many Protestants claim that , in John 6:60-70, Jesus explains that He was only speaking symbolically in the previous verses.  They focus on verse 63, “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

A closer look into this claim we find that it doesn’t hold water either.  First of all Jesus’ Eucharistic talk ends with verse 58.  The dialogue of verses 60-70 occurs later and deals with faith, not the Eucharist.  Read verse 59, you will see how Jesus has moved on past the subject of the Eucharist.  Second of all, the word “spirit” is nowhere used in the Bible to mean “symbolic.”  The spiritual is just as real as the material.  Thirdly, in verse 63, Jesus is contrasting the natural or carnal man (“the flesh“) with the spiritual or faith-filled man.  Read 1 Cor 2:14-3:4 for a really good explanation of what Jesus means by “the flesh.”  Note that Jesus says “my flesh” when discussing  the Eucharist.  He says “the flesh” when referring to the carnal man who will not believe anything beyond his senses and reason.  No Christian believes that Jesus’ flesh is “of no avail,” for His flesh was the means of our redemption.  Finally, the last point here, note that the unbelieving disciples leave Jesus after verse 63–they would not have left at this point if Jesus had assured them that He was only  speaking symbolically.  This is the only time recorded in the New Testament that any of Jesus’ disciples left Him because they found a doctrine of His too hard to accept.  Of the twelve Apostles, apparently only Judas rejected the Eucharist (Jn 6:70-71).

Now read the other Eucharistic Bible passages.  Again and again the biblical language indicates the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  Note the strong language of St. Paul in 1 Cor 11:27, “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord.

In the Aramaic language that Our Lord spoke, to symbolically “eat the flesh” or “drink the blood” of someone meant to persecute and assault him.  See Ps 27:2; Isaiah 9:18-20; Isaiah 49:26; Micah 3:3; 2 Sam 23:15-17; and Rev 17:6, 16.  Thus, if Jesus were only speaking symbolically about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, as the Protestants say, then what He really meant was “whoever persecutes and assaults me will have eternal life.”  This of course, makes nonsense of the passage!

Consider Christ’s use of bread and wine at the Last Supper.  Bread and wine are not normal or natural symbols of flesh and blood.  Yet in all four Last Supper accounts Jesus tells us plainly that “this IS my body” and “this IS my blood.”  Never is there a hint that He is speaking symbolically.  Either the symbols would have been clearly explained if He were speaking symbolically (which is not the case) or Jesus spoke literally (which is the case!).

Sometimes a non-Catholic will insist that we Catholics, because of our belief about the Eucharist, engage in cannibalism and violate the biblical prohibition on the drinking of blood.  It was exactly his misunderstanding that led the unbelieving Jews and disciples in John 6 to reject Jesus when he spoke about the need to eat His body and drink His blood.  The believing disciples were rewarded for their faith at the Last Supper.  Jesus revealed to them that they would receive His body and blood in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, not in the bloody, cannibalistic way the unbelievers had imagined.

 

I hope this helps for all to understand that Jesus was speaking about His true Body and Blood in the Eucharist in a literal way.

What are your thoughts?

 

4 thoughts on “The Eucharist explained again

  1. Hi Bob. I had read you previous post on the Eucharist, but I wanted to read this one also. I know from experience in talking to lots of people about religious beliefs, that we can easily get into a much wider discussion than is profitable for anyone. I like to take one step at a time, so that I know where I have common ground with someone else, who might have differing beliefs than I do.

    So, with that in mind, I want to ask you to clarify what exactly you mean when you refer to the Eucharist. First, do you use that word in more than one way? Are you using the word as a noun, to refer to both the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, as a whole? Or are you using the word as a verb to designate the partaking of the bread and wine? I assume that the Eucharist is considered a sacrament. If so, is the literal bread and wine the sacrament, or is the action of partaking of it, what the sacrament is?

    1. Perhaps I have failed to explain what the Eucharist is and what it means to the Church.

      There are several instances in Scripture where Christ was leading his disciples to an understanding of a Church united in him through the Eucharist. In John 6:55, Jesus says, “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” This was shocking to those who heard it, so much so that many left. Jesus asked the twelve if they too would go away. Peter, speaking for the twelve, said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In other words, those who understood, while shocked by the reality of the words just spoken, refused to abandon Christ’s teaching because they would be abandoning Christ himself.

      St. Cyril of Alexandria understood the Eucharist’s ability to unite us with Christ. He said, “As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives Holy Communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ.”

      The Eucharist is, therefore, the sign and cause of unity because the Eucharist is Christ. It was instituted by Christ as a means of drawing us to himself. The Eucharist expresses our unity and also brings it about when we receive him worthily. The fact that we share the same body and blood makes us sisters and brothers in Christ. Even at the natural level we realize that sharing the same blood forms a family bond. Those who are too ill to participate in the Eucharistic celebration are often brought the Eucharist both as a sign of unity and to provide them with spiritual food. Blessed Theophane Venard wrote of the Eucharist: “When the body is deprived of food it languishes and dies; and it is the same with the soul, without the Bread that sustains life.”

      By receiving this spiritual nourishment we, Christ’s body, are equipped to give of ourselves to each other and to him in a more perfect way. The visible structure of the Church maintains the succession of priests who can offer the sacrifice of the Mass and consecrate bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood. “Just as the Church ‘makes the Eucharist’ so the Eucharist builds up the Church” (Dominicae Cenae 4).

      The Eucharist also unites heaven and earth. Many who have lost a loved one may experience closeness to that person after receiving Communion or while in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. These feelings may be a result of a deep theological awareness that those who died in grace are alive in Christ; thus our nearness to Christ in the Eucharist brings us nearer to them as well.

      Another way of seeing this fusion of heaven and earth is to realize that when Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, its sacrificial dimension was revealed. Throughout history, Christ offers himself for the salvation of all mankind—but why? So we can live with him eternally. As one family we, who share the same divine body and blood, will share in the heavenly banquet together—perfected in love and united in that love.

      Jim, I am not sure how to answer your question. The Eucharist is Jesus and we recieve him through Holy Communion.
      Thanks again Jim for the comment.

  2. Thanks Bob. So then you are using the word “Eucharist” as noun. It is referring to both Jesus Himself, and to the bread and wine itself. I was just curious about that, because the bible doesn’t use the word “eucharist”, but rather it uses the word “eucharistesas”, (a form of eucharisteo) which is a verb, and it means “to give thanks”. That’s the word used in 1 Corinthians 11:24, which says; “And having given thanks, He broke it, and said..” In the original, it says; “And eucharistesas, He broke it, and said..” Different forms of that word are used 38 times in the new testament, and every time, it remains a verb, and always denotes “thanksgiving”. You see, the bible never refers to Jesus, as “Eucharist”. Nor does it refer to the bread and wine as “Eucharist”. That’s why I wasn’t sure how you were using the word. Thanks again for clarifying that.

    1. Thanks Jim for the comment.
      Here is what the Catholic Church says about the definition of the Eucharist.

      Eucharist (Gr. eucharistia, thanksgiving), the name given to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar under its twofold aspect of sacrament and Sacrifice of the Mass, and in which, whether as sacrament or sacrifice, Jesus Christ is truly present under the appearances of bread and wine. Other titles are used, such as the “Lord’s Supper” (Coena Domini), “Table of the Lord” (Mensa Domini), the “Lord’s Body” (Corpus Domini), and the “Holy of Holies” (Sanctissimum), to which may be added the following expressions, now obsolete and somewhat altered from their primitive meaning: “Agape” (Love-Feast), “Eulogia” (Blessing), “Breaking of Bread”, “Synaxis” (Assembly), etc.; but the ancient title “Eucharistia”, appearing in writers as early as Ignatius, Justin, and Irenaeus, has taken precedence in the technical terminology of the Church and her theologians. The expression “Blessed Sacrament of the Altar”, introduced by Augustine, is at the present day almost entirely restricted to catechetical and popular treatises. This extensive nomenclature, describing the great mystery from such different points of view, is in itself sufficient proof of the central position the Eucharist has occupied from the earliest ages, both in the Divine worship and services of the Church and in the life of faith and devotion which animates her members.
      So, Jim, in a sense, the Eucharist is the name given to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar under its twofold aspect of sacrament and Sacrifice of the Mass.
      Thanks again Jim, for the comment.
      God Bless,
      Bob

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