Teaching on the Eucharist

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The Eucharist: Real Body and Blood of Jesus or Symbolic? Part two
When we look at the different views and understandings concerning the Eucharist, we can identify three.

As Catholics we believe in transubstantiation. This means that the elements of bread and wine become fully, literally and definitely the Body and Blood of Jesus. In substance it is Jesus even though the appearance (or accidents) of bread and wine remains. As Jesus said: "For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (Jn 6:56-57) Mystery of faith!  

The term transubstantiation was a term arrived at much later in the life of the Church, even though the belief and practice of the Eucharist as the Real Presence began with Jesus and the Apostles. During the earlier centuries in attempting to understand the mystery, a variety of terms circulated to convey belief in the real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Various writers used words like "transelementation", "transformation","transposing" "mystery", "change","alteration"of the bread and wine into the body of Christ. But they all agreed that they were grappling with mystery.
The word "trans" signifies change and transubstantiation means that a change in the substance of bread and wine occurs through the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the words of Jesus Christ spoken at the consecration by the priest.

It seems the first theologian to use the term "transubstantiation" to describe the change of bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ was Hildebert de Lavardin, Archbishop of Tours in the 11th century.

However, it was The Fourth Council of Lateran on November 11, 1215 that formerly adopted the term of Transubstantiation to explain the mystery of the Eucharist. Canon 1 stated: "There is one Universal Church of the faithful, outside of which there is absolutely no salvation. In which there is the same priest and sacrifice, Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine; the bread being changed (transsubstantiatio) by divine power into the body, and the wine into the blood, so that to realize the mystery of unity we may receive of Him what He has received of us."

Later, the Council of Trent in 1551 decreed: "In the first place, the holy Synod teaches, and openly and simply professes, that, in the august sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things."

Some Protestants hold that the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist co-exist with the bread and wine. They use the term consubstantiation. By this they mean that the substance of bread and wine remain, while Jesus is somewhat spiritually present. This was the position that Martin Luther formulated as an different explanation than transubstantiation. The prefix "con" means "with" or "along side of." In other words, the bread and wine remain bread and wine without any change, while at the same time they are the spiritual body and blood of Jesus. In saying this, Luther also believed that the Eucharist was a mystery to be accepted in faith.

The majority of other Protestants prefer to celebrate the memorial of The Lord's Supper with bread and wine or grape juice as symbols reminding them of Jesus. They hold to transignification. The change is not in the bread and wine but in what the bread and wine now signify. For them the bread and wine are not changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus but represents his spiritual presence. Thus, Jesus' words at the Last Supper are to be understood symbolically rather than literally.
One author explains it thus: "The bread and the cup are not holy elements in and of themselves. But they do represent something that is very holy. So it is with great respect and reverence that we come to the Communion table, recognizing it is a symbol of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross." (Gregg Laurie)

I believe Jesus would say today to those who cannot accept transubstantiation what he said to the disciples who objected to his first presentation on the True Bread come from Heaven. "Therefore, many of his disciples, upon hearing this, said: 'This saying is difficult,'and, 'Who is able to listen to it? But Jesus, knowing within himself that his disciples were murmuring about this, said to them: 'Does this shake your faith?.... It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh does not offer anything of benefit. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life....After this, many of his disciples went back, and they no longer walked with him." (Jn: 6:61-62, 64, 67)
In the flesh Jesus' teaching is hard to accept. In the spirit we are able to embrace this mystery because of our faith in the person of Jesus.

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  1. Bishop Sam
    Question #1

    In your teaching "the Culture of Pentacost" you stated that Pope John Paul II had called us to several areas of commitments, one of those being "Ecumenical Commitments" . Would this mean a certain relationship or association with or ministry with or to non-catholics?


    Is there anything as training or teaching wise from the Churchs' standpoint which is directed toward the clergy (priests/deacons) to motivate, encourage, direct them to be more involved with, open to,and understanding of the Charismatic Renewal and not be "stand-offish or cautious of it? How can we as charismatics help in this regard?

    Thank you
    Dwight Pappion - Lake Charles

    Please direct any response to my email on file.