Settling the Issue on Christ’s Presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist
Questioning the Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist Jesus Christ shared the Last Supper with his disciples on the night before He was crucified. It was during this event that He introduced the sacrament of His blood and body. He instituted the sacrament to bring about the suffering on the cross through the generations and to let the church take over his Spouse attribute to his resurrection and death. As goes the Gospel of Matthew: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, Take and eat; this is my body.
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:17-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) (Fay 8). Coming from Jesus Christ the Catholic Church says that as the Eucharist is celebrated, the body and blood of Jesus will be symbolize with the bread and wine through the power of the Holy Spirit. The priest serves as the instrument in this celebration.
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Through out the Eucharist, a priest utters the words Jesus said during His Last Supper and it says: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world… For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:51-55) (Fay 8). Jesus Christ is present including all his divinity, soul, blood and body represented by the wine and bread during the Eucharist. Jesus Christ has truly been resurrected after dying for the sins of humanity.
When church members talk about the real presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, they talk about the other types of his presence like the wine and bread. His body and blood are the most important symbols of his presence during the sacrament of the Eucharist (Fay 8). Body: Bringing Back the Meaning of the Eucharist The first question then is how the bread and wine represent Jesus Christ’s presence. A lot of people may question how this happens. The truth of the matter is the church will never be able to fully explain the mystery behind the rising of the Christ during the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Until now, it still remains to be an inexhaustible puzzle that overwhelms the Catholic Church. It must be remembered that the Creator taking place at the identity of God can do so many things that the imagination of humans cannot even reach or comprehend. God made the world for Him to be able to share His life to those who are not God (Fay 7). He created the world for the human beings. This act alone is a manifestation of His plan of salvation. It can be clearly seen that with this kind of plan, the kind of wisdom used was that kind that does not reach any human beings understanding.
It is beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Despite all that, God did not leave His people in ignorance. Whatever His plans are He always shared it with his people. He revealed His majestic plans to the humanity by giving us the ability to understand the gift of faith. He also provided us with the grace of the Holy Spirit. With this, we are now able to understand God’s actions and God’s plans, all of which any human being would never understand in his whole lifetime. Because of the grace of the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith humans can now understand God’s mystery (Fay 9).
Today, the bishops of the Catholic Church serve as Jesus Christ’s apostles. The bishops provide the people with knowledge about Jesus Christ and God. In short, they function as the teachers of the church. Bishops have a better understanding of God’s mystery than any other human being on earth. Bishops comprehend the mystery better than anyone who has a better job, higher salary, higher intelligence quotient and even those who have higher understanding of the different languages in the world. It is only the bishop who can reveal to the people whatever God has revealed.
A bishop also encourages all church goers to make understanding of the mystery of God deeper than it already is. He also promotes a better understanding of the gift of the sacrament of the Eucharist (Fay 13). The question then is how else is the presence of God exists in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Not all people understand the mystery of God and especially not everyone is even willing to understand to begin with. The first question would be why, of all symbols, did it have to be food and drink that represent Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist?
The bread, for example, is not just a representation of the food Jesus and the disciples ate during the Last Supper. The food serves as spiritual nourishment simply because of the love of Jesus for humanity. It has been said earlier that God has plan for our salvation and with this plan, He is asking us to participate in the life of the Trinity. Because of the food shared during the sacrament of the Eucharist, the people are brought back to the sacrament of Baptism. The sharing of the bread means the sharing of life which starts with a person’s baptism.
During the baptism, a human being is joined to Jesus Christ, which, of course, is possible only with the power of the Holy Spirit. Here is where the communion of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit come in (Pannenberg 293). Because of Baptism, the humans become the adopted sons and daughters of God. This is strengthened through the sacrament of Confirmation. It is increased and nourished through the participation of the human being in the sacrament of the Eucharist. As a person drinks the blood of Christ and eats the Body, Jesus remains in the lives and spirits of the people who took him.
This way, the humans are united to Christ and of course to His divinity. Humans are known as with corrupt natures. They are mortal. But because of the sacrament of the Eucharist, the humans are joined to Christ and both share the same source of life (Pannenberg 293). According to John 6:57, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. ” As we are united to Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit in us, a relationship is been among the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and the humans.
This relationship is strengthened through Baptism and is deepened with the sacrament of Confirmation. Because of these sacraments, humans are able to share their life with the Holy Trinity. Through the Eucharist, humans give thanks and praise to the glory of God (Pannenberg 293). Another issue that needs to be addressed is that people are not aware of what the Eucharist is all about. Not all people know that aside from being just a meal, the Eucharist is also a sacred form of sacrifice. The truth is, our sins are the kind of sins that make it impossible for us to share God’s life.
Despite all of it, God has shown His love for us by sending His son Jesus Christ to earth to die for our sins. Jesus Christ died and was resurrected from the dead. Because He is an almighty one, He was able to conquer these events and was even able to unite humans to God (Johnson and Penner 305). What the church does now is to gather everyone and commemorate what Jesus Christ has done for us. The Eucharist serves as an instrument to unite everyone in oreder for them to receive the benefits of God (Johnson and Penner 305).
According to the book of Hebrews, Jesus Christ, was a priest spent his life creating intercessions for humans before God. Because of this, he is nowhere near the high priests who offered sacrifices in the temples of Jerusalem (Johnson and Penner 305). The powers of high priests are surpassed by Jesus Christ’s actions because the sacrifice he offered is perfect. The sacrifice he offered was himself (Johnson and Penner 305). In the Eucharist, the eternal sacrifices of Jesus Christ are always represented but the people are not just there for speculation. The church goers are not just spectators.
They are different levels of activeness in the Eucharistic sacrifice among the worshipping community and the priest (Johnson and Penner 305). Before the priest stands before the worshipping community, he first has to be ordained. After ordination, he then represents Christ as the head of the Catholic Church. Everyone in the Catholic Church is baptized as a member of the Body of Christ. The Eucharist as a sacrament serves as a sacrifice of the church (Johnson and Penner 307). In the Eucharist, whatever sacrifice Jesus Christ has given is also the sacrifice that the members of His body offer.
The sacrifice unites everyone. This sacrifice, during the sacrament of Eucharist, becomes sacramentally present. This way, the humans sacrifice themselves to God (Johnson and Penner 307). Then again, after this, people still question the existence of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist. Another question people ask is why, after considering bread and wine as Christ’s body and blood, still taste like bread and wine? People are expecting the bread and win during the sacrament of the Eucharist to taste like body and blood of Christ and not just another bread and wine (Johnson and Penner 308).
While celebrating the Eucharist, Jesus Christ’s presence comes in the form of bread and wine. The bread and wine are simply both appropriate for the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Looking back at the traditional language of theology, especially in the consecration act, the bread’s and wine’s substance is transformed by the Holy Spirit into Jesus’ Christ’s body and blood (Johnson and Penner 308). What changes then, is not the physical appearance and the physical taste of the bread and wine, but the “substance” and the “meaning” of each instrument.
It is then natural that the physical attributes of the bread and wine remain the same (Johnson and Penner 309). Here is where the question of faith comes in. St. Thomas Aquinas coined the terms “substance” and “accidents” to study faith. He used the terms to address what appears to be wine and bread (“accidents,” being the physical attribute of a matter) appears to be Jesus Christ’s blood and body (now being at its “substance” state, which represents the deepest possible reality) (Johnson and Penner 313).
There is indeed a change at the substance level, the bread being Christ’s body, and Christ’s blood coming from wine. Without this transubstantiation, no one would be able to even talk about and think of the presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (Johnson and Penner 313). The mystery of faith is indeed something that humans consider too great for their comprehension, which is why studies and researches are here to better equip the people with enough understanding of this concept (Johnson and Penner 313).
The mystery of this faith can only be acquired by reading it from the Bible and the Catholic Church because these medium is where God comes for us to remember. Changes come every now and then, and sometimes, the characteristics of these “accidents” change. In some occasions, even when the substance is already different, the accident still looks exactly the same (Johnson and Penner 315). A good example would be having a child reach the stage of adulthood. When he reaches this stage, it is natural that his characteristics change.
He grows taller, he develops an adam’s apple, he grows muscles and his voice becomes deeper and bigger. Then again, the fact remains that he is still the same old baby who his mother once delivered (Johnson and Penner 315). Another example would be a grape fruit which a person eats. When he eats the grape fruit, the fruit soon becomes digested and becomes part of the person’s body in form of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The person who ate the grape fruit remains as the same person who ate the fruit even before the act.
The fruit, on the other hand, has characteristics that are no longer the same. The grape fruit is no longer a grape fruit, but a part of the person’s body (Johnson and Penner 315). The same is true with the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Even if the wine and the bread in the Holy Eucharist are in the blood and body of Christ’s substances, these no longer have the characteristics of a person, but only the wine and the bread (Johnson and Penner 315). This is where the question about the limitation of bread and wine comes in.
People ask if the bread used during the Holy Eucharist stops being a bread, and if the wine does not remain to be wine for how long. Yes, the bread does not stay as bread forever, and the wine does the same. Jesus Christ can be present, all of His divinity, soul, blood and body, although the wine and the bread can no longer stay. The wine and the bread has to be given away because if not, there would be no transformation between the bread and the body, or the wine and the blood. The wine and the bread have to be given away in order for them to become Body and Blood (Johnson and Penner 315).
Not all people still believe everything they hear and say about the Eucharist. They still question the use of bread and wine. It is really appropriate? Why, of all foods and drinks, does it have to be a bread and a wine? The presence of Jesus Christ and Lord God Almighty are indeed appropriate for being represented by bread and wine since Jesus Christ gave himself to humanity and to the world as a whole in a manner that engages the symbolism existing in drinking wine and eating bread (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Catholic Church USCCB Publishing, USCCB Publishing and Catholic Church 66).
Aside from that, Jesus Christ offered himself to us in such a way that humans are kept alive, because humans sustain their means survival through drinking and eating, or through wine and bread. The use of wine and bread also tests the faith of a person because the presence of Jesus Christ’s body and blood can never be discerned whichever way a human tries except for having faith (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Catholic Church USCCB Publishing, USCCB Publishing and Catholic Church 66). St. Bonaventure once said that it is no difficult at all to say that Christ exists in the Holy Eucharist in manner of symbols, breads and wines.
The more difficult concept to understand is the whether or not Christ actually exists in the sacrament as He exists up in the heavens (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Catholic Church USCCB Publishing, USCCB Publishing and Catholic Church 67). With faith, humans believe that yes, Christ in indeed present in the sacrament as well as in heaven. However, given that the use of bread and wine is appropriate, it still is not clear for many because not all people who consume the bread and the wine actually believe in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
They may attend the Sunday mass on a regular basis, but it does not necessarily mean that they actually worship the Lord, or even understand the ceremony to begin with (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Catholic Church USCCB Publishing, USCCB Publishing and Catholic Church 67). If “receiving” is defined as “consuming,” then naturally, anyone who receives eats the bread and drinks the wine, eats and drinks the body and blood of Jesus Christ. If, on the other hand, receiving is defined as accepting willingly of the body and blood of Jesus, then, someone without faith does not “receive” the body and blood of Jesus.
A person “receives” the body and blood of Jesus if he is willing to accept the spiritual benefits of the act (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Catholic Church USCCB Publishing, USCCB Publishing and Catholic Church 68). He should also be aware of why he is eating the bread and drinking the wine. He should not be someone who went to the Church just to attend some mass. He should be there to worship the Lord, respect the rituals, listen to the Word of God and then receive Him through Jesus Christ’s blood and body (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Catholic Church USCCB Publishing, USCCB Publishing and Catholic Church 68).
If a person consumes the wine and bread without faith, he cannot change the fact that he is consuming the blood and body of Jesus Christ. However, the different between having faith and having none is receiving the spiritual benefit that goes together with having faith. The spiritual benefit obtained from receiving Christ’s body and blood with faith is the communion with Christ. Faith can be practiced by simply following the grace of God. The human’s love for God must be increased (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Catholic Church USCCB Publishing, USCCB Publishing and Catholic Church 68).
People question the symbolism of wine and bread. Are these foods just symbols that represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ? Symbol is used casually as something that represents another thing. The bread and wine used in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist are not merely symbols, because they do not represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ. They are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. According to St. John Damascene, having the bread and the wine foreshadow Jesus Christ is not underestimation. “The bread and the wine are actually Jesus Christ, because according to the Orthodox Faith, Jesus said, ‘This is my body’.
He did not say, This bread is my body. Therefore, the bread and wine during the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist are not symbols, but the real, actual self of the Lord” (O’Gorman, O’Gorman and Faulkner 136). It has to be understood that the body and blood of Jesus Christ arrived on Earth no longer as the Lord’s muscles and life, but as a sacramental form. Jesus Christ is not symbolized by the bread and the wine because he is under these things. His presence exists. There are countless ways on how the symbolism of wine and bread, or of drinking and eating, reveals the meaning of the Holy Eucharist.
An example would be with the way food provides and energy to the human body. If the food makes the body more nutritious, then it also follows that the Eucharistc food also nourishes the spiritual being of a person. Aside from that, it is already a fact that the sharing of food inside the Church is always communal, in which all members of the Catholic Church eat from the same plate of Jesus’ Christ’s body. This way, communion is established, and this communion exists not only between the Church members but also among the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit (O’Gorman, O’Gorman and Faulkner 136).
St. Paul says that a single bread, once shared by the whole community on a Eucharistic gathering, is a manifestation that the believers of the Holy Spirit are gathered to worship one Lord (O’Gorman, O’Gorman and Faulkner 136). The bread and the wine then become an instrument of union among the people of God. Conclusion Jesus Christ has long promised his people that He will always be with His people. In Matthew 28:20, he said that he will not leave us as he uttered the words “Always, until the end of the age” (Price and Weil 136).
With that, it is then confirmed that Jesus Christ has a “real presence” during the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “the relationship between Jesus Christ and the people is just like the relationship of friends who live together, in that there is an unwritten law that friends should never leave each other’s sides” (Price and Weil 136). Jesus Christ has fulfilled His promise by having with us His blood and body which people receive during the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.