Catholic Apologetics

All Christians know what "the Eucharist" is - virtually all celebrate it in some form.  Yet the teachings regarding it, and consequently the emphasis put upon it, by the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox, who share the same theology and same apostolic priesthood), is probably the single most important differentiation between Catholicism and Protestantism.

 

In this document I will demonstrate that the early Christian Church believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, centered their faith lives on this (the Mass), that Scripture completely and fully supports the Catholic teachings, and that virtually every Church Father of whom we have record confirmed this in his writings.  Some of these Fathers were direct disciples of Apostles in the 1st century of Christendom.

 

Protestants have many arguments against the Eucharist and the Mass.  They understand, correctly, that these things are the very heart of Catholicism (“Destroy the Mass, destroy the Church” – Luther).  To touch upon perhaps the greatest error (or most twisted teaching): Christ is not “re-crucified” at the Mass (a ridiculous and purposefully ignorant teaching): rather, Christ’s single, timeless Sacrifice on Calvary is “made present” and presented to the Father.  (Such a concept was readily to familiar to the early Christians, most of them Jews who considered their Passover sacrifice to be the “re-living” of the Exodus, not just its remembrance.)  God, of course, lies outside the bounds of time; all time is stretched out before Him to see.  Because humans offend Him with sin constantly, and in the present, it is fitting that His just anger be appeased continually by Christ’s propitiatory Sacrifice.

 

And this is exactly what we see in Hebrews and Revelations, understood by the first Christians as describing the Heavenly liturgy: the Lamb of God is presented continually to the Father, a propitiatory and eternal Sacrifice.

 

Christ ordered us to eat His Body and drink His Blood, in those words, and He meant just what He said, as we will see.

 

I can only scratch the surface of the deep and amazing theology of the Eucharist in this short essay.  I can present the core teachings of Scripture and of the early Church Fathers but I cannot, in the interests of reasonable length, speak to every “objection” or cover all the evidence completely.  Such is not my goal – and in any case I am not a scholar.  My goal is to whet the appetite of the sincere Christian to explore this topic at greater length.  What I will say is that the evidence for the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist on the Mass is overwhelming; the Catholic teaching and interpretation is the only reasonable one based on Scripture and the only one that is in harmony with the teachings and practice of the only early Christian Church we know of.  This is why it was not ever seriously challenged or even questioned until more than 1,500 years after Christ.  (If you think I am posturing here, the objective reader will see that is not the case.)

 

(Some Protestant denominations – such as the Anglicans - teach something somewhat similar to the Catholic ("Universal") teaching, but there is missing from all of them the heart of the Catholic teaching, that the Eucharist is both a thanksgiving and a re-presentation of Christ’s Sacrifice in propitiation for sin and that the species of bread and wine are really, substantially, and permanently changed by the act of consecration performed by the priest, who stands in persona Christi in Christ's stead.)

 

[Note: the Douay-Rheims translation of Scripture is used throughout.  In the words of John Salza, “It does not suffer from the defects of many modern Bibles (non-literal, dynamic translations; inclusive language.”  And “It is a word-for-word translation of the Latin Vulgate (compiled by St. Jerome from the original Hebrew and Greek under Pope St. Damasus), which is the official translation of the Catholic Church (the Vulgate has been universally used in the Latin Rite for over 1,600 years).”  If I occasionally find a passage in this translation obtuse –and I do – I merely examine the passage in a more modern translation as well and then the meanings of the archaic English idioms are made clear.

 

I declare that there is no argument presented herein that is in anyway dependent upon this particular translation of Scripture, and that if anyone wishes to challenge me on that with respect to a particular favored version (such as the KJV) I will respond.]

 

 

Scripture

 

John Chapter 6

 

The Lord's words establishing the basis for the doctrine are spoken in the Last Supper accounts, but possibly most importantly in John Ch 6.  Here are verses 46-65:

 

[46]  Not that any man hath seen the Father; but he who is of God, he hath seen the Father. [47]  Amen, amen I say unto you: He that believeth in me, hath everlasting life. [48]  I am the bread of life. [49]  Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead. [50]  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die.

 

[51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven. [52] If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. [53] The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? [54] Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. [55] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.

 

[56] For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. [57] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. [58] As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. [59] This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever. [60] These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum.

 

[61] Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it? [62] But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you? [63] If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? [64] It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life. [65] But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that did not believe, and who he was, that would betray him.

 

[66] And he said: Therefore did I say to you, that no man can come to me, unless it be given him by my Father. [67]  After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.

 

There are a few important things to note about this passage:

 

  • Christ’s followers here – the non-believing ones – could not accept that He meant His words literally.  So, He repeated himself four times – four times He stated directly that one must “eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood” to “have live” (eternal live, that is). 
  • When these disciples responded with incredulity or doubt, asking for clarification, He only repeated His words, more strongly (adding “drink his blood”).
  • Some of His disciples “walked no more with Him” as a result of this teaching.  He did not attempt to keep them from going, as He surely would have if they had merely misunderstood the words.  No, it is even more obvious that His words meant exactly what He said, literally, for if not the teaching was not “hard” and would not have resulted in disciples who could not accept it.  In fact, this is the only instance recorded in the Gospels of Christ losing followers over a doctrinal matter – because they could not accept a teaching as given.
  • The literal meaning of the Greek word used for "eats" (trogon) actually means "chewing" or "gnawing” – a very graphic word that would not be used in metaphor.

 

The Protestant counter to the clear meaning of this text – the Catholic interpretation – relies on rather tortured logic and forced (not just non-literal) exegesis.  Christ, responding to those who found His words too “hard” to hear, said “It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing”; Protestants assert that Christ is now saying that, actually, flesh – His flesh – is of no real import.  But clearly this just doesn’t make sense – if that is what He meant then just went out of His way to make the point that His flesh is most critical only to contradict Himself – but allow those who evidently “misunderstood” Him to walk away anyway!

 

In fact, what Christ was doing in that verse was condemning human reason which prevented the scoffers from accepting and believing what He was telling them.  This is evident when He condemns judging “according to the flesh” later in chapter 8.  Christ is telling these disciples to open their intellect to divine guidance to understand the divine truth He was giving them.

 

[As a brief aside, a tendency in modern Protestant spirituality seems to be to downplay the physical world in favor of the “spiritual” – however, the physical world is intrinsically good because God made it and, furthermore, the Incarnation – God taking flesh – is indeed the pivotal Event of the universe.  Christ’s flesh gives us eternal life, which the elect will one day share with him in our glorified bodies.]

 

[We can see that some of the fatal flaws in the Protestant cornerstone of sola scriptura are evident here.  This doctrine says essentially that Scripture is plain enough for anyone to easily understand, yet when it clearly teaches something that is not to the liking of some readers, rather forced attempts to bend the plain meaning are introduced.  What is taught here is very simple and direct, and in any case, if it is not, this only goes to show that personal interpretation of Scripture apart from any Authority (that is, the Authority given by Christ to the Church's first head, Peter, and from he to his successors) is not possible or intended.]

 

This short document that expands upon the points I’ve made here:

 

http://www.catholic.com/library/Christ_in_the_Eucharist.asp

 

The Last Supper

 

Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper; on that basic point, sans definitions, all or almost all Christians are in agreement.  The differences lie in these questions: 

 

  • When Christ said "This is My Body" did he mean what He said? 
  • When Christ said "Do this in remembrance of Me" what, exactly, was He commanding, and what do those "remembrances" constitute? 

 

The Catholic teachings are that Christ meant exactly what He said when He consecrated the bread and wine and that these became, instantly, mystically His true Body and Blood, and that the "remembrance" of the Eucharist is actually its reliving - it's making-present of that event, which was a sacrifice (because Christ's actual Body and Blood were present), the Calvary Sacrifice itself.  These things are all made plain by both the Greek text of Scripture, other Scriptural passages, and the practice and teachings of the early Church and all the Church Fathers.  In fact, the actual meaning of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was accepted so uncritically by the Church the details of it were not debated until about ten centuries in and the teaching was not seriously questioned, much less rejected, until the "Reformation" - more than 1,500 years after Christ.  This is made clear by the statements of the Church Fathers later in this document. 

 

Before we look at an analysis of the Greek text, consider this basic point about Christ's own words at the Last Supper: If He had intended to mean that the bread and wine were merely symbols of His Body and Blood, He would have said so.  He was speaking to uneducated men who hung on His every word and who would build His Church.  Since it is an undebatable fact that the Church believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist universally for 1,500 years it would have been utterly scandalous and preposterous for Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, to speak the words that caused this belief if they were not actually true.

 

And now, the Greek, courtesy of John Salza, which refutes the (contrived) Protestant objection that the bread remained bread because Christ's "this" refers to the bread: "The Greek transliteration of "This is my Body which is given for you" in Lk 22:19 is Touto esti to soma mou to uper hymon didomenon.  Like many languages, Greek adjectives have genders (masculine, feminine, or neuter) which agree with their object nouns.  The word 'this' (touto) is a neuter adjective.  The word 'bread' (artos) is a masculine noun.  This means that the neuter adjective 'this' is not referring to the masculine noun 'bread', because their genders do not correspond" (emphasis mine).  "Instead, 'this' refers to 'body' (soma), which is a neuter noun.  In light of the grammatical structure, Jesus does not say 'This bread is my body,' as the Protestant argument contends.  Instead, Jesus says 'This [new substance] is my body,' or more literally, 'This [new substance] s the body of me.' 

 

Paul emphasizes the connection between 'this' and Jesus' 'body' even more conspicuously.  In 1 Cor 11:24, Paul records Jesus' words as Touto mou esti to soma.  As we can see, mou (of me) comes immediately after toutu (this).  Literally, this phrase is translated as 'This of me is the body.'  That is, Paul connects 'this' to the Person of Jesus more closely by adding 'of me' right after 'this' and right before 'body'.  Again, the Greek does not allow 'this' to refer to the bread, but to the new substance, which is Jesus' body." 

 

The passages concerning the wine/Blood in Mt 26:28 uses completely analogous Greek grammar. 

 

Salza also notes that the phrase "touto esti" (this is) is used six other times in the Gospels and in every single case its object is literal - not once is it used in a metaphor or any sort of symbolism. 

 

Another common Protestant objection is that Christ was referring to his future death in mentioning His Body & Blood.  But the tense of Christ's language in the Greek is what's know as double-present; it is absolutely in the present tense and cannot possibly refer to any future event.  (Christ's saying "This is My Body" is mystical and reveals the (instantaneous) action of the Divine in the same way His healings did: "Pick up your mat and walk."  The Word speaks and it is.) 

 

It is very interesting to note that Christ's phrase "blood of the covenant [or testament]" is identical to Moses' as he sprinkles the Israelites with animal blood.  As Salza notes, "The Jewish apostles would have understood immediately that Jesus was instituting, at that very moment a New Covenant sacrifice that would replace the Old Covenant sacrifices." 

 

The Memorial Sacrifice

 

After Christ consecrated and distributed His Body and Blood, He commanded the apostles to "Do this in remembrance of Me."  That word - remembrance - is very important, because the Greek word it is translated from refers to a deep and complex concept that has no proper word or even short phrase in modern languages.  That word is anamnesis, and, according to the best evidence, means a type of memorial sacrifice.  What is a memorial sacrifice?  Note that it's not the memorial of a sacrifice but rather a sacrifice that is itself a memorial - a critical distinction. 

 

Because there is some contention regarding the meaning of anamnesis, we will look at how it is used elsewhere in the New Testament and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament).   

 

In the Old Testament, anamnesis is used to refer to either a bread sacrifice or a blood sacrifice - a memorial sacrifice, that is.  Lev 24, full of the same terminology of priests, eating, memorial sacrifice, incense and bread that surrounds the Eucharist, speaks of the anamnesis of Aaron's priesthood.  And Numbers 10 speaks of the burnt offerings of anamnesis offered to God to atone for sin.  The parallels with the New Covenant Sacrifice are plentiful. 

 

Anamnesis is used only once in the New Testament outside of the Last Supper narratives, in Heb 10, where Paul speaks of the Levitical sacrifices. 

 

So, the concept of anamnesis existed in the Hebrew culture (religion): as mentioned in the Introduction the Passover itself has always been regarded by Jews as not just a remembrance of the Exodus, but as a re-living or "making present" of those events.  And so it is with the Eucharist: It is the making-present, in a mystical way, of Christ's sacrificial death.  When Christ said "Do this anamnesis" He literally said "Celebrate this memorial sacrifice".  And so the Church has always done: 

 

1 Corinthians

 

But we needn’t guess as to whether or not the first Christians understood Christ’s directive about eating His flesh as He said it or not, for this is made apparent with further clarity elsewhere in Scripture (and in the record of the early Church).  In 1 Corinthians, Paul discusses the nature and importance of the Eucharist.  Here is Ch 11:23-30:

 

[23] For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. [24]  And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. [25]  In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me.

 

[26] For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. [27] Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. [28] But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. [29] For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. [30] Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep.

 

This passage makes it extremely clear that Paul – who received his understanding of it directly from Jesus Christ, as he declares – regards the Eucharist as truly the Body and Blood of Christ.

 

First, Paul adds a critical interpretation to the words of the Last Supper: “For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.”  Thus, the Eucharist is primarily about Christ’s death – that is, His Cacrifice.  Paul does not even mention the Lord’s resurrection in describing the essential quality of the Eucharist.  (This demonstrates that the primary nature of the Eucharist (Mass) is solemn, because it is primarily about the Lord’s Sacrifice.  The Eucharist (Mass) is primarily a sacrifice and secondarily a meal – because in all of God’s sacrificial covenants the sacrificial victim is consumed.  We will return to this sub-topic later.) 

 

Next, Paul is chastising the Corinthians for not having proper respect for the Eucharist – for receiving it unworthily.  He points out that because of this many of them are sick and dying.  “Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord... For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep” (have died).  

 

Probably the biggest take-away from this passage is that the Eucharist cannot be simply a symbol.  It is impossible that anyone be “guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord” if the Eucharist were not indeed actually “the Body and Blood of the Lord”, and not merely a symbol of such!  Furthermore, the “guilt” (krima) that Paul says is called down upon those who partake of the Eucharist unworthily is nothing less than eternal damnation – it is used to mean such by Paul in both Romans and 1 Tim.  As John Salza says, “Either God inspired Paul to impose and unjust penalty on us (which is impossible) or the Eucharist is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.”  There are no other possibilities.

 

[Protestant apologists, aware of this passage’s relevance to the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist, frequently attack Paul’s use of the terms “bread and cup”, asserting that this demonstrates that Paul actually did regard the Eucharistic species as mere bread and wine.  But, like many Protestant challenges to Catholic doctrines, this argument seems either ignorant or contrived when the facts are considered (and like them all it is incorrect).  Paul uses the terms somewhat interchangeably as to the senses the Body & Blood do appear as bread and wine – he is emphasizing the fact that while the sacred species may appear to be mere bread and wine, it is necessary to “discern” the Body and Blood of the Lord in them – or suffer the punishment he warns of.  Again, Paul’s dire warning, and indeed the entire passage, simply make no sense if it is simple bread and wine that are being discussed.]

 

Chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians also contains some Eucharistic theology we will consider.  In this chapter Paul reminds the Corinthians of the experience of the Israelites under Moses: the miracles of the parting of the sea and of the manna, their spiritual food:

 

[1]  For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. [2]  And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea: [3]  And did all eat the same spiritual food, [4]  And all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.) [5]  But with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the desert.

 

He then warns them against idolatry (as the Israelites also fell into) and temptation.  And then, he instantly shifts to speaking of the Eucharist:

 

[16]  The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? [17]  For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread. [18]  Behold Israel according to the flesh: are not they, that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar?

 

Clearly he is drawing a parallel between the Israelites spiritual food – the manna – and the spiritual food of the New Covenant.  That is, like so many things in the New Covenant that were prefigured in the Old, the manna prefigured the Eucharist.  Now, consider this:

 

  • The manna was truly miraculous: food created miraculously out of nothing in the desert. 
  • Every element of the New Covenant that is prefigured in the Old is greater than that which is prefigured.
  • Thus, the Eucharist is indeed a greater miracle than the manna.

 

If the Eucharist were nothing but a symbolic representation of Christ in what possible way would it be greater than the miraculous creation of food out of nothing for thousands of people?  In no way would it be.  However, since the Eucharist is actually God Himself becoming our food and drink, it is indeed a far greater miracle than the manna in the desert.

 

[John Salza’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 10 & 11 in The Biblical Basis for the Eucharist is the best I’ve ever seen, and includes in-depth analysis of significances of the original Greek text that are largely lost in translation.  Here is one example: “Paul’s use of the word ‘participation’ (or ‘partake’ in the Bible version I’m using) (Greek, koinonia) also demonstrates that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ.  Koinonia means an actual, intimate communion, or sharing, in something else.  T does not refer to a symbolic or metaphorical participation.  The Corinthians would have certainly understood Paul’s usage of the term.”]

 

Hebrews & Revelations

 

The books of Hebrews and Revelations contain vivid imagery of Jesus Christ in heaven, interceding for us before the Father with His shed Blood as a propitiatory sacrifice.  The theology of the Eucharist is bound up in this imagery, as taught and believed by the early Church.  It is a stunningly deep and beautiful theology, woven together with the teachings and prophecies of the Old Testament, but eclipsing the Old Covenant as the perfection of God eclipses fallen man.

 

Melchisedech and Jesus Christ

 

In the Letter to the Hebrews, Paul makes the case that Christ is a priest "in the order of Melchisedech"  (or "Melchizedek").  "Thou art a priest forever, in the order of Melchisedech" (5:6); "Called by God a high priest according to the order of Melchisedech" (5:10); "Where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, made a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech." (6:20).  John Salza points out the most pertinent details of Melchisedech priesthood:

 

- Melchisedech is described as the "king of Salem" - this also means "king of peace", a prototype of one of Christ's titles.

 

- Melchisedech was made a priest by God directly, not via bloodline (as with the Levitical priesthood); and his priesthood was eternal as well.  This foreshadowed Christ and His New Testament priests, who acquire their priesthood via an oath (sacramentum).

 

- Melchisedech offered an unbloody sacrifice of bread and wine, a thanksgiving (eucharistein) for God's deliverance of Abram from his enemies.  "As Melchisedech offered his sacrifice of behalf of Abram, Jesus would offer His sacrifice on Abram/Abraham's [spiritual] offspring those who are members of His Church" (Salza).

 

- Melchisedech is greater than Abram, one of the holiest men in all of Scripture.  This is made evident by the fact that Melchisedech blesses Abram.

 

- Since Melchisedech was called a priest but made no bloody offering, his bread and wine offering must have been a sacrifice (this is sometimes contested by Protestant apologists trying to wiggle out of the plain interpretation of the text).  This also makes clear (as do many other things), that Christ's Last Supper offering was a sacrifice since Christ's priesthood is "in the order of Melchisedech".  "Further, because Scripture says Jesus made a 'single sacrifice' and 'single offering', this means that the Last Supper sacrifice and the sacrifice of the Cross are the same sacrifice" (Salza, and the emphasis is his).

 

Salza goes on to describe the many parallels between the Mass and Melchisedech's offering.

 

Christ in Heaven Today & Forever

 

After introducing Melchisedech as a prototype of Christ, Paul, mainly in chapters 8-10, discusses the priesthood of Christ in detail - the eternal priesthood He exercises before the Father in heaven.  That it is Christ's perpetual priesthood in heaven that is being discussed by Paul is made completely clear.  Furthermore, he states directly, "If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest: seeing that there would be others to offer gifts according to the law" (8:4).  (Meaning He would not be a priest since He was not a Levite.)

 

- "Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of majesty in the heavens, A minister of the holies, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man" (8:1-2).

 

- "But Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hand, that is, not of this creation: Neither by the blood of goats, or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption (9:11-12).

 

We come now to the meat of the matter: What Christ the Eternal High Priest is doing in heaven, as "minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle".  Salza: "Scripture teaches us that the principle duty of a priest is to offer sacrifice.  Paul in the epistle to the Hebrews says, 'for every high priest... is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin' (5:1)... Paul then says about Jesus, in the very same verse, 'hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer'.

 

Note that Paul says it is “necessary” for Jesus to “have something to offer” in Heaven!  Where do Protestants get the notion (that they tend to express so confidently along with several other of their core theological tenets that actually contradict Scripture) that Christ’s work was completely and entirely finished on the Cross?  In a sense, it was, as Christ’s Sacrifice is singular, the same Sacrifice continually presented to the Father for the appeasement of our (constant) sins, yet according to Paul Christ is indeed doing something in Heaven on our behalf.

 

To summarize this important passage:

 

  • All priests, according to Paul, offer "gifts and sacrifices"
  • Christ, then, the Eternal High Priest, also must have something to offer
  • The only thing the Father could possibly accept as a propitiatory sacrifice from Christ would be the Cross, because anything else would be less than this, and since the Father has decreed from all time that Christ's Sacrifice was what was necessary, He could not at some other time be satisfied by any other gift or sacrifice.
  • The reason perpetual appeasement is necessary, until the end of the world, is that mankind persists in sin until the end of the world.
  • Thus, Christ perpetually presents to the Father His one-time Sacrifice, His shed Blood, and the Father is appeased.

 

Protestants are rightly disturbed by the notion of Christ being "re-crucified", either in heaven or the Mass.  But this is not what Scripture teaches and not what occurs.  Salza notes that whenever Scripture speaks of Christ's suffering it is always in the past tense.  But when it speaks of His Sacrifice, it is in the present tense and connected "with His appearance in heaven to empathize that both the sacrifice and the appearance are ongoing".  See Hebrews 7:27 and 9:12 for example: in both verses Paul uses the phrase "once for all" to describe Christ's Sacrifice and his entering of the holy place in heaven.  In other words, these are ongoing, perpetual actions.  (And, interestingly, Greek has verb tenses that make this ongoing action explicit, but English does not.)

 

In the descriptions of the heavenly liturgy in Revelations (which never fail to put a lump in my throat), John calls Jesus the Lamb that "was slain from the beginning of the world" (13:8).  (In fact, Christ is referred to as the "Lamb" twenty-eight times in this book, emphasizing his propitiatory sacrifice.)  He also describes Him as a Lamb "standing, as though it had been slain".  But slain Lambs do not stand.  These verses are describing the Atonement as both eternal and timeless, always present before the Father.  Salza comments again about the original text: "The Greek is translated as 'having been standing' (histemi) and 'having been slain' (sphazo).  John's use of perfect participles to describe both Christ's standing and slain conditions indicate that Christ began to exhibit those conditions at a specific moment in the past, and that both conditions are ongoing."

 

The use of "altar" in both Hebrews and Revelations further underscores the sacrificial purpose of Christ's presence before the Father, for there would be no altar without a sacrifice.  Christ's bloodstained clothing is likewise that of a priest, for Christ is both High Priest and Victim of the Sacrifice.  And the vision of the Apocalypse is connected to the Eucharist by the reference to "hidden manna" - Christ likened His Body and Blood to the manna, it's Old Testament prefigurement, in the Gospel.  Salza: "The manna is 'hidden' by our senses but revealed by faith, which God desires from His New Covenant people."

 

Christ "entered once" into the holies (the Holy Place) with his "own blood" (Heb 9:12).  In these verses Paul sets up comparisons between the imperfect animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant and the single, perfect Sacrifice of the new.  The OT Levites took animals' blood into the earthly sanctuary while Christ does the same in the heavenly fulfillment of its purpose.  And, again, we must note that Paul speaks of the ongoing application of Christ's sacrifice, speaking in the present tense.

 

And then there is something extremely interesting, something that will take us ultimately where we are going: Paul reveals to us (in one of those details that it always popping out of the richness of Scripture, and so easily missed) that Christ's single Sacrifice does have a plural component.  Here is Heb 9:22-24:

 

And almost all things, according to the law, are cleansed with blood: and without shedding of blood there is no remission.  It is necessary therefore that the patterns of heavenly things should be cleansed with these: but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.  For Jesus is not entered into the holies made with hands, the patterns  of the true: but into heaven itself, that he may appear now in the presence of God for us.

 

"Better sacrifices"!  There is absolutely no doubt that Paul is speaking of the Sacrifice of the New Testament here, but there is only one.  How does the Sacrifice of Calvary have a plural dimension?  Paul's readers, the first Christians, who were instructed primarily by oral tradition as the Gospels and most of the epistles had not yet been written, much less copied and distributed, would know immediately that he was referring to the Sacrifice of the Mass, where Christ's Sacrifice is made really and truly present.  But Paul does explain the connection in his letter here as well.

 

Paul tells us that Jesus is the “mediator of a new covenant”.  Jesus used these words “New Covenant” only one time, when He instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper.  So, these terms (New Covenant, blood, and forgiveness of sin) appear in Scripture only in the Last Supper account as well as here: there can be no doubt of the direct connection.

 

As we have seen, Paul has also told us that Christ’s priesthood is modeled after Melchizedek’s, who offered bread and wine

 


 

And one final example that Scripture teaches that the blood of the Eucharist is really and truly Christ's Blood.  The phrase "the blood of the covenant [testament]" appears only twice in the New Testament: used once by Christ when He instituted the Eucharist and then again by Paul (who, again, received his instruction about the Eucharist from Jesus Christ directly) in Hebrews (13:20-21):

 

"And may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great pastor of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the blood of the everlasting testament [covenant], fit you in all goodness, that you may do his will; doing in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom is glory for ever and ever. Amen."

 

In the quote above Paul wishes that Christ's blood will "fit" [equip] us in goodness and cause us to do His will.  Only Christ's actual blood could be said to have such a power - not a symbol of it!  Thus, if "the blood of the Covenant" is not Christ's Blood, Paul has seriously misused Christ's words from the Last Supper.

 

"It Is Finished"

 

As I have alluded to above, there is another objection Protestant apologists raise to deny that Christ is perpetually offering sacrifice in heaven (as the Scriptures we've looked at clearly teach): they point to Christ's announcement from the Cross, before His death, that "It is finished".  Does this mean that at that point, of His death, that His work for eternity was completed?  Surely, His death on the Cross, and thus the fulfillment of certain prophecies, were "finished", but not necessarily His actions in eternity.

 

In John 17:4, Jesus says He has "finished" the work the Father sent him to do - before the Crucifixion.  It is never possible in the exegesis of Scripture to make assumptions about the meaning of a single word; the entire passage must be examined carefully using all available tools.  

 

Here is John 19:28-30, where "finished" is used twice - although Douay-Rheims actually uses accomplished and consummated, apparently a more faithful translation:

 

Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst.  Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth.  Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost. 

 

I am once again going to quote John Salza for an analysis of the Greek text (which I am far from capable of):<quote snipped; stay tuned>.

 

And he continues with something fascinating: "What did Jesus really mean when He said 'I thirst'?  He was thirsting to satisfy the Father's wrath against our sins.  The wine Jesus receives is an allusion to the cup of God's wrath.  Jesus presents the cup at the Last Supper, acknowledges it is the Garden of Gethsemane, refuses to drink it while He carries His cross, until He finally completes His propitiatory sacrifice.  This continuity of the 'cup' from the Last Supper to the Cross underscores that they are one and the same sacrifice.

 

 

The Church Fathers And The Early Church

 

Here's a really great synopsis of what the major Fathers had to say about the Eucharist:

 

http://therealpresence.org/eucharst/father/a5.html

 

This demonstrates that essentially every Father of the Faith that we have on record spoke of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, usually as a given but occasionally in defense.  (Please do keep in mind that there was no Church but the Catholic Church at this time - outside of a few minor, heretical sects.)

 

The above document is very long; here are a couple other tidbits.  In AD 107, St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, wrote a great deal about the Eucharist as he "traveled westward to his martyrdom".  Ignatius' words should probably be given more weight than even the average Church Father - in his youth he was a disciple of the Apostle John himself.  If anyone would know Christ's true teachings on the Eucharist in the 1st century, it would be someone like Ignatius, who was taught by one who walked with the Lord.  Here's one quote:  "Take care, then, to have but one Eucharist.  For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to show forth the unity of His blood; one altar, as there is one bishop, along with the priests and deacons, my fellow servants."

 

Here is how he combated the early heresy denying the presence of Christ in the Eucharist (which surfaced again at the Reformation, this time to stay): "From the Eucharist and prayer they hold aloof, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ."  Who today among baptized Christians does not confess that the consecrated Eucharist is the flesh of the Savior?

 

Next, I'm going to quote passages from the Didache; this is a document written in Antioch between 50-100 AD that is attributed to the Apostles (its historocity is completely established).  It too shows that the Eucharist was the center of Christian worship, and that the structure of the Mass is extraordinarily similar to what we have today.  The quotes come from The Lamb's Supper; Hahn cites his references therein.  The following passage is the Eucharistic Prayer from the Didache, again, dating no later than 100 AD:

 

“As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and, gathered together, became one, so may Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the Earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever and ever.  But let no one east or drink of this Eucharistic thanksgiving, except those who have been baptized into the name of the Lord… Almighty Master, You created all things for Your name’s sake, and gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You; but You bestowed upon us spiritual food and drink and eternal life through Your Son…Remember, Lord, Your Church.  Deliver it from all evil and perfect it in Your love; gather it together from the four winds – the Church that has been sanctified – into Your kingdom which You have prepared for it."

 

And, concerning another sacrament, the ordination of priests (Holy Orders): "Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist which is administered either by the bishop of by one to whom he has entrusted it."

 

Here is another very old passage describing an early Mass - this is attributed to the 2nd century - AD 155.  A man known as Justin who was the first Christian to make public many details of the faith wrote it.  This except is from a letter he wrote to the Roman emperor.  Again, its description of the Mass is uncannily similar to how we celebrate today:

 

"On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.  The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.  When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.  Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves... and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.  When the prayers are concluded we exchanges the kiss. Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.  He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name o the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.  When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying "Amen".  When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the eucharisted bread, wine, and water and take them to those who are absent."

 

(Note his use of the term "eucharisted", showing that he realized that a transformation (transubstantiation) of the bread takes place.)

 

Aquilina has this to say: "In both the Old and New Testaments, the faithful found intimations of the Eucharist.  The narrative of the Last Supper often appears in this context [early Mass], as do Jesus' Bread of Life discourse and the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians.  But these 'literal' references, while foundational, were only the beginning.  Like Jesus and Paul, the early Christians also discerned a 'spiritual' sense of the Scriptures, a mystical meaning behind the literal sense of a story or precept.  Thus, while they [rightly] believe Jesus' multiplication of loaves was a true event, they also believed that he performed it as a sign prefiguring His Eucharist.  Indeed, that connection was so commonplace in the early Church that Origin, uncharacteristically, did not bother to explain it in his commentary on Mathew (10:25), but merely mentioned it in passing.

 

The early Christians used the same interpretive key on the wedding feast at Cana, where Jesus changed water into wine.  Likewise, when Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and St. Cyril understood the "daily bread" to be the Eucharist.

 

Such Eucharistic interpretations extended also to the Old Testament, where the Fathers found many "Types" that would be fulfilled in the antitype of the Mass.  A type is the foreshadowing of something greater; Adam, for example, is a type of Christ (Romans 5:14).  An antitype is the fulfillment of the thing foreshadowed: Christ is the antitype of Adam.  Read in the context of the Eucharist Psalm 23, with its "table" and anointing was, for Cyril of Jerusalem, a foreshadowing of the sacraments.  For Origen and many others, the story of the Passover and Exodus was rich in Eucharistic typology, as was the account of Melchizedek in Genesis 14.  The offering of fine flour by those cured of leprosy (Lev 14:10) was, according to Justin, a sign of the bread that would be offered for the forgiveness of sins.

 

The prophecy most often applied to the Eucharist was from Malachi.  "For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts, but you profane it" (Mal 1:10-12).  For the Fathers, the Eucharist was the Church's participation in the one sacrifice of Christ, the everlasting hope and extension of his love!  In the accounts of the Didache, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Cyril, and many others, the Mass is "the Sacrifice" offered by the Church - the Church that was itself the Body of Christ.  Christ, then, is the offering - the Passover Lamb - and Christ was the priest who made the offering.  The offering was perfect and the Priest was sinless, thus fulfilling in glory all the sacrifices of ancient Israel."

 

Such heady stuff, indeed!  The Catholic Church, from the time of the Apostles, is so alive, so real, so physical, that we've no doubt at all that Christ is with us, as He promised, until the end of the age.

 

"In every place incense is offered to my name" - how right the Fathers were, guided by the Spirit - in their time, the Mass was not yet said "in every place", but it was not long before the Church could indeed be found in every place in the world - every single nation.

 

 

Miraculous Evidence for Christ's Real Presence In The Eucharist

 

Take a look here:

 

http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/lanciano.html

 

and perhaps here:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbg_dhI4XCs

 

 

Is this just too incredible to be true?  God couldn't work in our world like this?  And why could He not?  My future wife and I saw the Miraculous Host and Blood in Lanciano in May 2006 on our European pilgrimage.  I really can't describe what it was like to see in person. 

 

[Please do note that this would be rather impossible to fake.  It is well documented that it has existed throughout the centuries, unchanged.  This alone is a miracle - it is open to air and should have decayed to dust if it were any sort of natural material.  It is also certain that, even in modern times, science lacks the ability to create organic material such as this, genetically human and yet in the form of a Host.  Of course, there are always those that claim such inherently Catholic miracles are fraudulent.  These folks fall into two major categories, in my experience: religion-hating atheists and fundamentalist Christians.]

 

This site contains documentation on many other Eucharistic Miracles as well – there are dozens affirmed by the Church.  The Church realizes the miracles are not "proof" of anything, really - they are gifts from God to strengthen our faith in a world of doubt.  They are wonderful and beautiful and demonstrate the incredible truth and beauty of our faith.  But our faith does not come from them - it is the other way around; it is faith that allows one to believe in miracles.  This does not mean one can’t rationalize one's way around them if such is the goal, but to do so does require the abandonment of reason as well as faith.  These miracles are not only supported by reason; sound reason demands their acceptance as miraculous.

 

 

Conclusion

 

This essay has touched upon the richness of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the Catholic faith.  The Eucharist, more than any other Sacrament, belies the persistent and pervasive "bias against the physical" that Catholic converts from Protestantism often comment on as being present in Protestantism (especially modern American Protestantism).  The notion that God can and does impart grace through the physical is antithetical to this mindset.  A word used by several of my favorite Catholic apologists (most of them former Protestants) to denote the opposite of this mindset is Incarnational.  For, says David Currie, when one learns to fully appreciate what our God becoming a human being with a human body really means, the notion that He would provide us his grace through physical things is not at all strange.

 

It is important to point out that the Catholic Church (along with the Orthodox) is the only place where a true Eucharist - the Real Presence of Christ - can be found.  Only the Catholic Church actually teaches the doctrine, as it has unchanged and unceasingly for nearly 2,000 years.  And the Church (again, along with the Orthodox bodies, who are in formal schism with the hierarchical Church Christ founded) is the only body where the chain of apostolic succession remains valid: it takes a validly ordained priest to perform consecration.  In fact, due to the lack a valid priesthood, savvy Protestants are aware that a valid Eucharist is not possible within their worship structure, even if they would believe in the Real Presence, and it could be said that this may be another reason why their most committed apologists spend so much time attacking the Catholic teaching. 

 

He promised us he would be with us, and He is, in a real, direct, and physical way, "until the end of the age".

 

 

References:

 

Salza, John, The Biblical Basis for the Eucharist, Our Sunday Visitor, 2008.

Aquilina, Mike, The Mass of the Early Christians, Our Sunday Visitor, 2001.

Hahn, Scott, The Lamb's Supper, Doubleday, 1999.

Jurgens, William A, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Liturgical Press, 1980.