Friday, December 31, 2010

Taking Jesus at His Word in the Eucharist

Honeycom raises four points s/he thinks disproves the Eucharist.  None do.  They are, in turn:
(1) Why would the Lord of the Universe turn Himself into a piece of bread so His followers believe they are consuming His body, blood, soul and divinity? 
Why would He become a Baby, and a poor Galilean at that, and claim to be both a King and God Himself? Surely, our faith would be easier had He come in glory at the First Advent.  As St. Ambrose pointed out in On the Mysteries, if you can accept the Virgin Birth on faith, you should be able to accept the Eucharist on faith as well, since we know from His very Birth that His Body was not ordinary:
Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.
54. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: "This is My Body." Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.
If your question is why He doesn't appear as Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist, it's for the same reason He chose humble form during His earthly ministry: so that we come to Him in faith, and not out of anything less.
(2) Jesus did not change the substance as at Cana, and He did not say "touto gignetai" meaning this is turned into or has become, but "touto esti" meaning this represents or stands for. 
A. Cana was a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.  The forerunner is never as great as what it signals. Compare the infinite difference between the first Passover lamb and Christ the Passover Lamb, or the first and last Adam.  Hebrews 10:1 establishes this principle that the shadow is never as full as the thing it foreshadows.  And the author of Hebrews just showed that Moses used real blood in Hebrews 9:19-20 to atone for sins:
 "When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”
And as Hebrews 9:22 tells us, this was done because, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." You'd have it so that Moses said "This is the blood of the covenant," and it was real, (temporarily) atoning blood.  But Jesus says "This is the Blood of My Covenant," and He's just swigging symbolic wine. Hebrews 9:23 disagrees with you, which says Jesus' version is "more perfect" than Moses (since the real Blood of the Covenant Jesus offers in the Eucharist is perfect atonement, rather than temporary), as does the entire model of prophetic foreshadowing in Scripture.

B. That's not what "touto esti" means.  It literally means "this is."  True, it can be used in an allegorical fashion (just as in English; as in the old rhyme, "this is the church, this is the steeple...").  But it's not true that Jesus' words signal a symbol, any more than "this is" signals a symbol in English. Christ said "This is My Body" (touto esti), not "This has Become My Body" (touto gignetai), but neither of those phrases are "This symbolizes My Body."

Martin Luther himself acknowledged this, mocking those who took the other view in Against the Heavenly Prophets, saying, "I would laugh at the monkey business if it did not concern matters of such great importance." The reason for his mockery:
For in Greek the sentence reads "Touto esti to soma mou." Originally and still today these Greek words mean in translation, "this is my body."  In Latin the words "Hoc est corpus meum," are a complete and correct rendering of the Greek, without missing the point by one whit, as all those would have to affirm, who know Greek.
He gives numerous points proving this, and provides examples from Scripture, from the Greek language, and from the German language.  If you want to read it in full, read from page 239 to about 257 or so of this book.

If you don't want to take Luther's word for it, you could always look at the Bible.  The word "esti" is used nearly 800 times, and never once is translated as "symbolizes" in the KJV.  It's translated "is" 744 times, "are" 54 times, "was" 29 times, "be" 25 times, "have" 11 times, etc., but never "symbolizes" or anything of the like.  For example, we also see "touto esti" in Matthew 19:26, when Christ says, "with men, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible" and in John 6:29, when He says, "This is the work of God," and a little later, in v. 39 and 40, "this is the Father's Will" and "this is the Will of Him who sent Me." In Acts 2:16, the phrase is used for the verse, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." And on and on it goes: each time we see it, it actually means "this is," not "this represents."

In fact, understanding it to mean "symbolizes" or "represents" perverts Scripture horribly.  So, for example, in Matthew 3:3, we hear of John the Baptist, "This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah..."  Should we understand that to mean that John the Baptist is the one spoken of by Isaiah, or that John the Baptist symbolizes someone else spoken of by Isaiah?  The rest of the passage makes it clear: the prophesy is about John himself.  Understanding it to mean "symbolizes" perverts the prophesy completely. Or Matthew 27:37, where on the Cross was written, "This is Jesus Christ, King of the Jews."  Should we understand that to mean that the Man on the Cross is Jesus, or symbolizes Jesus?
(3) In Matt.26:29 He said ,"I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine...until my Father's kingdom." 
A. I've addressed this recently, in fact.  It's a reference to the Jewish wedding custom: the Groom goes ahead of His Bride to prepare a place for Her, and then they share Communion Wine (this, as I noted then, prefigures the Eucharistic Banquet of Heaven).  Revelation 19:9 shows this fulfilled with the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Heaven, when the Bride (the Church) finally comes home to Her Groom, Jesus Christ.  The Feast is incredibly Eucharistic, and the Eucharist has always been understood to be a foretaste of this Banquet, although we receive Him now "under the veil of a Sacrament."

B. I don't see how it helps your point, at all.  In fact, it shows that this can't be wine, since Jesus drank wine after that, before His entry into the Kingdom (John 19:19-20).  The Vine is Christ (John 15:5), and the Fruit of the Vine is the Eucharist (Matthew 26:27-28). So your interpretation would mean Jesus' prophesy was false.
(4) Let's take Jesus at His word. He offered one perfect sacrifice for all time that does not need to be "re-presented" thousands of times every day on Catholic altars around the world.
A. Nowhere in the Word do we read that Jesus' once-for-all Sacrifice mean He's not re-presented.  Instead, we read that Christ presents Himself constantly - even in Heaven Itself - in this Sacrificial state, as Revelation 5:6 shows.

B. In the Lord's prayer, we ask "Give us this day our Daily Bread" (Luke 11:3), and the word used for "Daily" is epiousios, and it's a neologism -- that is, it's a word that Jesus makes up to describe what He's talking about.  If He meant the physical food we eat every day, he'd have said ephÄ“meros, just like James 2:15 does, when he's speaking about physical food.  But Christ is making a Eucharistic reference, since He's the Bread (John 6:51).  He's asking us to pray for daily Spiritual Bread - this is what the manna foreshadowed (John 6:58), and this interpretation is more in keeping with the rest of the prayer. After all, it's all about our spiritual needs, so this is a natural fit.

C. Related to that last point, we daily ask Christ for forgiveness, as we forgive those who trespass against us. This forgiveness is through the application of Christ's merits (Luke 11:4).  So if His merits mean once-for-all forgiveness for all sins past, present, and future, this prayer is futile, since we're already forgiven, and dishonest, since we're asking God to forgive us as we forgive others.  Now, Christ commands this prayer, and from it, we can know that He's right and you're wrong.

E. Acts 2:42 speaks of the "breaking of the Bread" as a constant celebration, and as I've shown elsewhere, that construction only refers to the Eucharist.

So Scripture speaks about the Eucharist as the eternal, and repeated, celebration of a one-time event.

F. More directly to your point, the application of Christ's merits to sins is ongoing, which is why 1 John 1:17 says that "the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (note "purifies," present tense), "if we walk in the light."  Not, "He's already purified us from all sin once-for-all, so no need to worry about walking in the Light or not."  That perfect purification is ongoing.

G. As the last point showed, if we reject Christ, which we can do at any time, we reject His merits.  Hebrews 10:26-29 says this incredibly explicitly:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
So even after the initial application of Christ's Sacrifice, and the merits thereby bestowed, we're free to continue to remain in Him, or reject His Blood.  If we reject Christ, the fact that we once accepted His Sacrifice is of no moment, since for us, there will be "no Sacrifice for sins left" if we turn away from the One who can save us.  Note this well: Christ's once-for-all Sacrifice isn't necessarily accepted once-for-all.  Hebrews specifically says that there will be an awful and severe punishment for those who trample the Blood of the Covenant which had sanctified them.  In other words, some are saved, and even sanctified, but then turn away by mortal sin. So we know from Hebrews 10 that we can (1) have Christ's merits applied to our lives, then (2) reject those merits and no longer be protected by His Sacrifice.  That leaves two options: either we're forever damned at this point, or we can have Christ's merits applied two times, or three, or seven times seventy-seven (Luke 17:4).

H. Finally, Malachi 1:11-12 specifically prophesies that under the New Covenant, there will be Sacrifice offered to God from the rising to the setting of the sun.  This is the Sacrifice of "the Lord's Table," which some will despise.  That sounds incredibly close to your complaint that the Eucharist is offered "thousands of times every day on Catholic altars around the world."

Update: I added 2 A, because I'd overlooked the point about Cana.

6 comments:

  1. "(1) Why would the Lord of the Universe turn Himself into a piece of bread"

    He didn't. He turned a piece of bread into himself.

    "so His followers believe they are consuming His body, blood, soul and divinity?"

    It seems that his followers believed it because it was true and for no other reason. The created flesh and blood of Christ partakes of properties not natural to them when they are joined to the uncreated divinity of Christ. It is not common flesh and blood.

    "(4) Let's take Jesus at His word."

    I think that was the point of Joe's post.

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  2. Thanks for your comments, Joe, I always look forward to our lively discussion. I do look at the Bible quite often, that is where I get my information. I regret that I misspoke in my previous reply, I did not mean to say that Jesus turned Himself into a piece of bread, but that the Catholic Church teaches that He turned a piece of bread into His body, blood, soul and divinity. We should always take Jesus as His word, unfortunately the Catholic Church doesn't always do that. Paul tells us, Heb.7:27, that Jesus "does not need daily...to offer up sacrifices...for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself." Also, Heb.9:12 "...with His own blood He entered the Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." The work of salvation is done!
    However, Vatican II teaches, "As long as the Sacrifice of the Cross in which 'Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed'(1Cor.5:7)is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on." (Dogmatic Const.on the Church).

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  3. (I ran out of space).
    Also in "Mysterium Fidei," Paul VI said, "...by means of the Mystery of the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Cross which was once carried out on Calvary is re-enacted...and its salvific power is applied to the forgiving of the sins we commit each day." The Mass is either a sacrifice or it isn't. It seems the Catholic Church wants it both ways.
    Thank you for your consideration.

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  4. Honeycom,

    With all due respect, you didn't interact with any of the points I made in the post at all. Specifically, I think that 2A, 3B, and 4H show that whatever else may be true, your view isn't sustainable Biblically

    If you will, permit me to take a different approach. I'll show the logic chain disproving your thesis, and you tell me where I go wrong, and we'll work from there:

    1. Christ died once for all, as we both agree, c. 32 A.D. But His Sacrifice is applied more than once.

    2. This Sacrifice was applied to each of us, two millennia later, when we were saved, for example. That application, by the power of the Holy Spirit, didn't cause Christ to be re-Sacrificed, right?

    3. Hebrews 10 says that through intentional sin, we can reject Christ's Sacrifice. Thus, if we are to repent and be saved, it must be re-applied.

    4. The Lords Prayer depicts God's forgiveness of our sins as an ongoing, even daily, process. So even for those who don't fall into the sort of mortal sin Heb 10 describes, the atoning Sacrifice is applied constantly, not just once (although certain particular applications, like Baptism, are indelible, and done only once). None of these applications of Christ's Sacrifice re-Sacrifice Him.

    5. To use the obvious analogy, the Passover Lamb is slain once, but serves endless portions. Go back for seconds doesn't re-Sacrifice the Lamb. In the OT, the killing and eating of the lamb were TWO separate rituals- interconnected, of course, but distinct.

    6. So, from 1-5, we know that we can re-offer the Lamb - repeatedly - without re-Sacrificing Him.

    In response, you say the Church wants it both ways: the Mass is a Sacrifice, but doesnt re-Sacrifice Christ. Nothing inconsistent here. Eating the Passover participates in the lamb's sacrifice, but the lamb isn't killed again. The confusion is that you're conflating Christ being killed once (true) with Christ's Sacrifice covering our sins once (false). Malachi 1:11-12 proves that in the New Covenant, the Perfect Sacrifice is repeatedly offered (although not repeatedly re-Sacrificed). That's the Mass.

    It's also a Sacrifice because we offer ourselves, humble and contrite as living sacrifices to God, and through our tithing (Romans 12:1; see also Philippians 2:17, 4:18; Heb. 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5).

    Finally, Christ instructs us “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24). Have you ever wondered why Christ speaks of us having altars? The purpose of an altar is clear: to offer Sacrifice. Yet Christ speaks of it as a thing which will exist amongst the Brethren, that is, the Church.

    Joe.

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  5. I think you missed a very important NT text that clearly supports the Catholic understanding of the Mass as a Sacrifice. I'm borrowing this from Trent's own decrees:

    Mal 1:6-8,
    If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, 'How have we despised your name?' By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, 'How have we polluted you?' By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?

    The term "Lord's Table" is synonymous with Sacrificial Altar. And this is right in context with the famous Mal 1:11.


    Now turn to 1 Corinthians 10:

    16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
    18Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

    The context here is explicitly that of a sacrifice (the Jewish sacrifices and eating, the Christian sacrifices and eating, and the pagan sacrifices to idols and eating). The parallelism would be destroyed if this didn't carry over to the Eucharistic celebration. Note how when Paul says "You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons" the "table" here is none other than the Altar. Such imagery would not have been missed by the early Christians.

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  6. Nick, good find. I've referenced both verse before, and yet never connected them.

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