Do you really believe Jesus is in that wafer?

Yep, it’s called transubstantiation. But that’s not the craziest part! I, along with the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestant denominations, also believe there is a being called God who has existed for all eternity. He knows everything, and by “He” I mean one God but three persons. One of those persons is Jesus, who’s dad is God yet he was never created. Jesus came from a place called heaven to a place called earth and became a fetus through a non sexual act in a young girl’s belly. He was fully God and fully man—he laughed, cried, and said he didn’t know the future, yet also healed the sick, forgave sins, and knew when power went out of him. His death had implications for every soul in the world, and after 3 days he walked out of his grave. This was a great blow to a being called the Devil, who used to be an angel on God’s team but apparently had a reversible jersey. After 40 days Jesus literally floated to heaven. I could keep going…

Why did you single out the Eucharist again?

(As an evangelical I would have answered, “Because it’s not Biblical,” while also tap dancing faster than Shirley Temple to get around John 6 and avoiding examination of any Church history. See earlier post on Martin Luther siding with the “papists.”)

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20 thoughts on “Do you really believe Jesus is in that wafer?

  1. The crazy part is after everything else you said, so many people find the simple leap of faith of the Eucharist as the hard part to accept. I don’t get it. #cradlecatholicproblems

  2. The common practice among many Protestant churches is to affirm the “real presence” of Christ in the elements, but they deny that any amount saving grace becomes conferred by means of the elements. While the teaching of the changing of the spiritual substance of the elements remains an early teaching, the purpose and salvific nature of the Eucharist remains something which will continue to divide Protestants and Roman/Eastern Orthodox believers.

    The John 6 passage points toward the Jewish people’s misunderstanding of Christ’s purpose: Jesus’ substitutionary atonement as the Passover lamb. Thus, the person and message of Christ Jesus is really the “bread of life.” To read this as literal actually mixes the Johannine and Synoptic traditions; John’s mention of the celebration of the Last Supper is inconspicuously absent for a reason. In fact, the idea that Jesus was stating in John 6 that those who follow him need to feast on bread consecrated by those with the appropriate Apostolic Succession (and which line?) is eisegetical gymnastics.

    On the other hand, the emphasis of John 6 is on following and feasting on the message (Word, or teaching) and person (Sacrament, or application of that teaching) of Christ Jesus while in a community of believers (cf. Acts 2:42-27). The early Christ followers did this in full meals with one another instead of the symbolic “meal” served in most churches today; this provided community, fellowship, shared life together, and it also fed those without the means for food. That’s how the local corpus Christi can provide the food and shared life of the corpus Christi in order to bring about the growth and maturation of the universal corpus Christi.

    • Hi John,

      I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I’m not educated enough to respond to most of your post, but I do know it’s really difficult to talk about “common practice” among many Protestant churches. In the United States evangelical/non-denominational/Baptist have a huge following, and in my experience Christ was not present in the bread at all. It was simply a symbol (like baptism) and we threw the leftover bread in the trash afterwards because why wouldn’t we? I’ve found in writing this blog how tricky it is to respond to people with different backgrounds because of all the diversity that has resulted from the Reformation.

      • I hear that, and thank you for your reply! 🙂 From my experience, the practice and theology of many non-liturgical churches is more functional than liturgical; perhaps it is a pendulum swing away from the dictates of Canon Law to the point that the entire point of their services is to celebrate Christ Jesus himself, and the sacraments become means to the celebration and sanctification rather than the means to salvific grace.

        In my dialogue with people of other faiths within orthodox Christianity, it always helps me to follow the example of Christ Jesus in John 4, where the Samaritan woman kept trying to steer the conversation hither and thither, but Jesus kept on pointing it back to the fact that he, himself, is the means to true Yahweh worship. That’s always an incredible place to begin, regardless if they are Eastern, Russian, Greek, English, or Roman Orthodox or if they are Protestant (and its various forms).

  3. Awesome post! I’m a guy converting to the Catholic Faith as well, from Evangelical Lutheranism (which really de-emphasizes the Eucharist – so that was something I had to go through learning on my journey as well). You make a great point, something that both G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis touched on at times regarding orthodox Christianity as well: It is exactly what you couldn’t have predicted, “it has just that queerness about it that all real things have,” all of it takes Faith to believe, yet once you believe you fall in love with the majesty, depth, beauty, and love of this magnificent story of a Lover and a Beloved stretching over thousands of years and having implication on you and I. In the same way, granted, the Eucharist is a strange truth and one you couldn’t have seen coming. But once you realize that it does just have that queerness that real things have, and once you accept it as true on the authority of Scripture and orthodoxy combined, you fall in love with the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist. Matthew 22 really hit home with it’s Eucharistic and Marital overtones: all are invited to the Wedding of the Son, all are invited to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, all are invited to the Paschal Mystery, the Banquet of Love; God longs for nothing more than to wed Himself to you in the only way that He established for such a magnificent marriage to be consummated.

    May the Triune God continue to bless you, and may Mary our mother watch over you and pray for you, as you journey toward the ancient Faith.

    • Yeah it’s interesting 🙂 Many Lutheran churches at least in my area (the northern United States) are being influenced by either classic Evangelical or Charismatic elements lately, which more often than not tones down the “Word and Sacrament” emphasis into more of a Faith & Worship, or Faith, Worship, and Holy Spirit emphasis. Anything that calls itself Lutheran will often be somewhat Sacramental, but often I’ve noticed that it’s taken lightly and not emphasized in catechesis.

  4. I have a question. A question that popped into my head a while ago, and I’ve been itching to ask a Catholic. I ask this not to argue or cause division, but for genuine curiosity and a desire to probe into this belief.

    If the Catholic Church is so positive that these wafers are transformed into literal biological flesh, wouldn’t it be simple enough to run a couple scientific tests, thus ending the argument from here on out?

    • Hi Jordan,

      Fantastic question! It can be confusing, and I’m still learning the ropes (especially come from such a different background). The short answer is Catholics do not believe it’s the same as eating a chunk of skin. There’s volumes written on this subject, but here’s the shortest answer I can find (lots more if you go to Catholic Answers at catholic.com)

      Your question unnecessarily posits a conflict between a supernatural presence and a substantial one. Jesus is both substantially present (bread and wine really become his body and blood) and supernaturally present (transubstantiation occurs by the supernatural action of God; the accidents of bread and wine remain without the substances of bread and wine).

      In consuming the eucharistic elements, the physical mechanisms of eating injure only the accidents of bread and wine. The process of consuming the host doesn’t involve ripping and tearing Christ’s body, despite its substantial presence. This is why the charge of cannibalism won’t work.

      We can still say Christ’s flesh and blood are consumed sacramentally in Holy Communion because what is eaten is literally his body and blood, even if the physical action of eating affects only the accidents of bread and wine.

      http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/can-the-cannibalism-charge-be-true

      • Thanks for the reply. 🙂

        Maybe I’m just thick-skulled… but that doesn’t make any sense to me. How can the bread and wine be two substances simultaneously? Either it’s literally flesh and blood, or it’s literally bread and wine, right? Apart from the realm of quantum mechanics, a physical object can only exist in a single state at a single time. Is it just a representation of the flesh and blood, or is it physically certifiable flesh and blood?

      • Ha-ha you’re not thick-skulled any more than someone who scratches their head at the Trinity. It’s complicated 🙂 That’s why each Mass the priest says, “The mystery of faith” and we respond “We proclaim your death O Lord and profess your resurrection until you come again.” All I know is, as an evangelical/Baptist, I had 1600 years of thoughtful commentary written by people much smarter than me to go against (and certainly not a unified front in evangelical/Baptist land). Here’s a series of quotes by the early Church fathers. http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-real-presence . After reading early Church fathers prooftexted to support Protestant positions, I support anyone who’s suspicious of short quotes, but this is a start in the right direction.

        To change the subject slightly, I read a post by a former pastor in an article called, “How not to become Catholic.” He said one of the best ways is to “assume all Catholics are stupid.” That is, if you hear about purgatory/indulgences/papal infallibility/transubstantiation/perpetual virginity of Mary just shake your head and say, “How could anyone believe that?” That’s what I did as an evangelical. Unfortunately it is a predictable but unnecessary reaction. Unlike evangelicalism, there are official positions of the Catholic Church that are very accessible in the Catechism. It’s not difficult to find what Catholics actually believe about these issues, and the more I read the more reasonable their positions became. It won’t convince you they’re right, but it will at least show different ways of exegesis/church history that led to the positions. Here’s the searchable, online version of the Catechism. http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm

    • Hi Jordan,

      Fantastic question! It can be confusing, and I’m still learning the ropes (especially come from such a different background). The short answer is Catholics do not believe it’s the same as eating a chunk of skin. There’s volumes written on this subject, but here’s the shortest answer I can find (lots more if you go to Catholic Answers at catholic.com)

      Your question unnecessarily posits a conflict between a supernatural presence and a substantial one. Jesus is both substantially present (bread and wine really become his body and blood) and supernaturally present (transubstantiation occurs by the supernatural action of God; the accidents of bread and wine remain without the substances of bread and wine).

      In consuming the eucharistic elements, the physical mechanisms of eating injure only the accidents of bread and wine. The process of consuming the host doesn’t involve ripping and tearing Christ’s body, despite its substantial presence. This is why the charge of cannibalism won’t work.

      We can still say Christ’s flesh and blood are consumed sacramentally in Holy Communion because what is eaten is literally his body and blood, even if the physical action of eating affects only the accidents of bread and wine.

      http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/can-the-cannibalism-charge-be-true

      (one quick addition–if you Google eucharistic miracles there are plenty of astounding events throughout history where the eucharist literally has turned into flesh or the wine into literal blood. fascinating, sometimes disgusting stories. our priest talked about a case in rome where they’ve run the tests, identified the flesh, and identified the blood as the same blood type as the shroud of turin. these are obviously the exception!)

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