Yesterday I posted a piece on the subject of transubstantiation as it relates to the natural sciences or as I probably wrongly called, physical sciences. For any “wordsmith” type person, I was looking to refer to all sciences that study the physical world.
- Original Post: Can science help us to understand transubstantiation?
- Second Response: The Meat of the Eucharist: Defending the Real Presence (Part 2)
Anyway, a couple of comments were presented one from a self-proclaimed atheist and a person who appears to be a Protestant seeking to bring me to the Fullness of Truth. In doing so, this individual exposed the own truth behind the heretical basis of Protestantism, that is to say the sin of pride. Protestant reformers sought to conform the Church to what they conceived in their minds as truth. Yet each person is subject to the truth in relation to their lived experience and thus there is a potential to either negate the validity of the experiences of others or embrace the so-called validity of all (usually at the expense of one that unites the rest) – this is what I call relativism.
In any event, I will strive to give more of an explanation to address the first comment post from this person and, in light of my com-box reply, seek to address the issues pointed out in the second comment post.
Negation of the Real Presence
In commenting on my post, the Protestant “llondy,” attempted to clarify how Jesus’ own words were “only symbols and seals of what Christ has done for us.” This for me is tantamount to blasphemy as this Protestant’s position is to make the Lord a liar and a person who speaks against His very own nature. Allow me to expound:
The last comment is very true, the study of the physical world will agree with the study of the “Word” if our science and interpretations are correct. Of course we have to understand that we don’t know everything about the physical world since our study of it continues with new findings every day. Our study of the Word is not exhaustive either since who could know the mind of God?
I would agree with much of this statement except for what seems to be an implicit negation of the results of scientific study if said results do not conform exactly to the written Word. For example, are the theories of evolution and the “Big Bang” wrong because science cannot find God’s creation instructions as detailed in the book of Genesis? In this I argue in the negative. Both of these theories are valid and the science behind them appears to be solid. The deviation between the faithful and the non-faithful is just that – the origin or instigator of creation. For the faithful, all scientific explanation logically leads to God as the uncaused cause and His ability to create ex nihilo or “out of nothing.” This ability is unique only to God. So it is not that science and interpretation must be correct in order to match up with the written Word, it is that we must hold steadfast the facts that God has revealed to us – namely that He is the Creator. Science will never prove the non-existence of God and will always our origins will always remain incomplete without God.
That being said studying the bread and wine under a microscope (scientifically) will reveal that it is simply just that, bread and wine, since they are only symbols and seals of what Christ has done for us. The reference to John 6:35-58 is incorrect given the fact at that time the Lord’s supper had not taken place so referencing it would be lost on those present and the reader.
Furthermore, transubstantiation was defined by the Fourth Lateran council in 1215 so it is not quite as formerly historical as presented.
Any faithful Catholic will agree, that with the exception of extraordinary miracles like that at Lanciano, the study of consecrated bread and wine will remain visibly the same construction under the scrutiny of a microscope and scientific testing. The reason for this is that Jesus Christ is substantially present under the accidents of bread and wine. For example, one can discern the accidents of a pink hi-bounce rubber ball: it is spherical, pink in color, made of rubber and reacts to motion/impact (probably wong in how I am saying this) by “rebounding” but science cannot truly discern the substance of what this ball is. The reason is that to discern the substance of an object one must consider the philosophical implications behind what is “substance.”
The similar can be said about Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The accidents, or outward appearance remains the same, yet the substance of the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity or Our Lord Jesus Christ. Again proof this reality can be found in Scripture and Tradition, the lived experience of the Church as handed down by the Apostles and their successors (Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15). Scriptural references of concerning the Holy Eucharist include those in John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11. The objection placed by llondy on my referring to it in yesterday’s post is hollow as that would not be lost on the reader (I believe the reference was towards the atheist who first posted a comment) as any reference to Scripture would be irrelevant to one who does not believe.
Llondy’s reference to promulgation of the dogma of Transubstantiation at the Fourth Lateran Council is indeed correct but the implied argument that it was not believed by Christians prior to that date is false and short-sided of the historical and Traditional evidence, not to mention the Scriptural, as evidenced, again, by Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians. But for written extra-Sciptural references we can turn to Saint Ignatius of Antioch who wrote in AD 106, “I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” (Ignatius to the Romans – Chapter VII – Reason of Desiring to Die). Additionally, the Didache, written about AD 90, instructs the faithful in a fashion similar to that found in 1 Corinthians, “No
one is to eat or drink of your Eucharist but those who have been baptized in the Name of the Lord; for the Lord’s own saying applies here, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs” (Didache 9). There are plenty of other Patristic era references to the Eucharist and the long-held belief and understanding of the Real Presence of Jesus under the accidents of bread and wine but I will not go further at the moment.
Wikipedia’s article on Transubstantiation states the following, “The belief that the Eucharist conveyed to the believer the body and blood of Christ appears to have been widespread from an early date, and the elements were commonly referred to as the body and the blood by early Christian writers. The early Christians who use these terms also speak of it as the flesh and blood of Christ, the same flesh and blood which suffered and died on the cross.”
In addition, since Christ death on the cross was sufficient there is no need to continually bring the broken body and blood back to reality in this manner and I would argue was never meant to be treated in this fashion. In the other passages cited in Matthew Mark and Luke, Christ was present with the disciples so eating the body and drinking the blood literally would never have occurred to them, just as stated above the reference to John would never have occurred to them either since the time of the Lord’s supper had not come.
Finally it is proper to translate the words is – is given – in the passages referenced as figurative instead of literal given the context spoken of above. Translating it in the literal sense does not make sense contextually.
I am not in disagreement concerning the sufficiency of Christ’s bloody sacrifice on the Cross; however, it is a clear contradiction of God’s Word to say that there is no need to confect and consume the Eucharist and that the Words Jesus spoke concerning His Eucharistic Presence was never meant to be taken in this fashion. On our need to confect and commune with Christ in the Eucharist is given the uttermost importance by Jesus Himself 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; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (John 6:53-56). The Greek word recorded by Saint John the Evangelist is trogon, which literally means to gnaw or masticate. These quoted verses show Jesus escalating His point concerning His Eucharistic Presence and our need, as commanded by God Himself, to eat the body and blood in order to have eternal life.
Next there exists His command to us in the synoptic Gospels, as recorded at the Lord’s Supper, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). This passage in Luke is but one example. The flawed understanding of our Protestant friend, as evidenced by their desire to read into scripture an interpretation that is contrary to Scripture itself let alone Tradition, is an example of how those who adhere to the “traditions of men” attempt to twist Scripture to their own devices. On this I will say that the unfaithful Jews and disciples that heard Jesus say that they must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood also made the same mistake. For that matter, it can be said that Our Lord would not require us to do something that even represents or symbolizes an intrinsic evil or wrong, so why He would do the same with the Eucharist is simply bad form. He would not, thus like Peter and the other faithful, we must take the Lord at His Word and know that everything He commands of us is not wrong even if we cannot understand how. Yet for those present at the Lord’s Supper, with the exception of Judas who ceased to believe in the divinity of Jesus and only saw him in fleshly terms and not in the Spirit, they perfectly understood that they would not be cannibalizing Jesus but remained faithful to His Word by partaking of the Sacramental Presence of Jesus as His word’s that night would most certainly intersected with the two feeding miracles, the manna in the desert, the Passover and the Bread of Life discourse in John 6. God is omnipotent and performing this miracle is well within His ability.
My last point on this matter concerning the sacrificial nature of the Mass is this. In the book of Malachi, the LORD says to us, “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” (Malachi 1:11). The surrounding verses refer to polluted and flawed offerings to the Lord as there can only be ONE pure sacrifice, that is God Himself, Jesus Christ. As Jesus commanded, we must partake of the Eucharist in remembrance of Him. This must occur daily as the verse above points out and because the sacrifice is once-and-for-all it remains that, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The Mass is God allowing us to participate in the very moment of our salvation, which is a perpetual and transcends time because God is outside of time.
Also, let us consider another, even more poignant commandment, “They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:8). This command is of course, in reference to the Paschal or Passover Lamb, who is exclaimed as much by Saint John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!
So the answer to your question is an intelligent person does not take the Lord’s supper literally at all and the Catholic Church with all due respect is simply wrong on this issue. As the reformers correctly put it, Rome does not have authority to declare what the Bible does not teach.
Given this you can be free of this idea and come to a full conversion thanks to the blessed grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The “intelligent” person in this case is one who, due to their own flawed intelligence, is lacking in the Fullness of the Faith and fails to heed Jesus’ words in hearing Him through the Church, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). This is very same Church that was established on the Rock or Peter (Matthew 16:18) and “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). So to say that the Church is wrong is to call Christ a liar when He said that “the powers of death shall
not prevail against it” and rendering His own authority as God null when He continued, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18).