Archive for the ‘Eucharist’ Category

Evangelii Gaudium – the BBC Has Overstated the Pope’s Liberal Leanings

November 26, 2013

BBC News has the headline: “Pope Francis calls for power to move away from Vatican” and the opening line: “Pope Francis has called for power in the Catholic Church to be devolved away from the Vatican, in the first major work he has written in the role.”

The document in question, Evangelii Gaudium (“Gospel’s Joy”) purports to be an apostolic exhortation. The document does state, at section 32, “Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.” I cannot find anywhere in the document the idea of actually removing power from the Vatican. There are several favorably mentions of the Second Vatican Council, but nothing opposing ultramontanism even to the extent that the Second Vatican Council attempted.

There are some other interesting aspects to the document. For example, it was interesting to see Garry Wills’ point about the power of the ministerial priesthood arising from the Eucharist. Section 104 states: “Its [the ministerial priesthood’s] key and axis is not power understood as domination, but the power to administer the sacrament of the Eucharist; this is the origin of its authority, which is always a service to God’s people.” Wills would, I think, respond that the power to administer the Eucharist naturally progresses into a power of domination, particularly when the power is discretionary.

Sections 147 and 148 are also interesting in terms of their relationship to exegesis:

147. First of all, we need to be sure that we understand the meaning of the words we read. I want to insist here on something which may seem obvious, but which is not always taken into account: the biblical text which we study is two or three thousand years old; its language is very different from that which we speak today. Even if we think we understand the words translated into our own language, this does not mean that we correctly understand what the sacred author wished to say. The different tools provided by literary analysis are well known: attention to words which are repeated or emphasized, recognition of the structure and specific movement of a text, consideration of the role played by the different characters, and so forth. But our own aim is not to understand every little detail of a text; our most important goal is to discover its principal message, the message which gives structure and unity to the text. If the preacher does not make this effort, his preaching will quite likely have neither unity nor order; what he has to say will be a mere accumulation of various disjointed ideas incapable of inspiring others. The central message is what the author primarily wanted to communicate; this calls for recognizing not only the author’s ideas but the effect which he wanted to produce. If a text was written to console, it should not be used to correct errors; if it was written as an exhortation, it should not be employed to teach doctrine; if it was written to teach something about God, it should not be used to expound various theological opinions; if it was written as a summons to praise or missionary outreach, let us not use it to talk about the latest news.

148. Certainly, to understand properly the meaning of the central message of a text we need to relate it to the teaching of the entire Bible as handed on by the Church. This is an important principle of biblical interpretation which recognizes that the Holy Spirit has inspired not just a part of the Bible, but the Bible as a whole, and that in some areas people have grown in their understanding of God’s will on the basis of their personal experience. It also prevents erroneous or partial interpretations which would contradict other teachings of the same Scriptures. But it does not mean that we can weaken the distinct and specific emphasis of a text which we are called to preach. One of the defects of a tedious and ineffectual preaching is precisely its inability to transmit the intrinsic power of the text which has been proclaimed.

It is interesting to hear Francis’ comments. He seems to be acknowledging that literary analysis is legitimate for figuring out the meaning of the text in section 147. In section 148, Francis is careful to add the qualifier “as handed on by the Church” (presumably modifying “teaching” not “Bible”). Still, fundamentally Francis seems to be recognizing that while people can misunderstand the text, they can use literary analysis to figure out what it means. This means that even if a “church” is helpful in analyzing the text, it is not necessary — the text has intrinsic power and self-demonstrating meaning.

Section 22 similarly acknowledges the superior power of the word to the church:

22. God’s word is unpredictable in its power. The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29). The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking.

It’s great for Francis to make these concessions, and it helps to undermine the traditional error of Roman Catholicism in treating “the Church” as a necessary gatekeeper and mouthpiece for the Word.

The RC pope may not be as liberal as the BBC portrays him, but he expresses a position a lot closer to “Protestantism” than some of his predecessors.


Paradigm Puzzle for Jason Stellman

April 25, 2013

Jason Stellman has claimed that one of his attractions to the Roman religion was that allegedly the Biblical authors said things that someone with a Reformed paradigm would not say. Actually, he’s being anachronistic. There are certain things Reformed pastors wouldn’t say, because of heresies that have arisen since the time of the apostles (such as papalism) and because of misinterpretations of Biblical passages, such as those related to perseverance.

I’m persuaded that Stellman will perceive particular passages to be puzzling for his present paradigm.  For example, I’m sure Stellman realizes that in Roman Catholicism the Eucharist is central. For example:

Eucharist and Priests: The Eucharist is central to the ministry of priests and it is by means of the Eucharist that “they are in communion with Christ the head, and leading others into this communion” (Ad Gentes, 39). The missionary activity of the Church is about the extension of communion through the building up, day by day of the body of Christ.


This should be obvious as well from the title of the blog of Stellman’s pals, “Called to Communion.” But what is the central aspect of the ministry of Christian elders? Check out the description in Acts:

Acts 6:2-4
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

The word and prayer are the central aspects.

And again, in 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

Here the emphasis is on word and doctrine, as well as on administrative ability.

And again, in Titus 1:

Titus 1:1-9
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; to Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Notice again the emphasis on the word and doctrine, as well as the emphasis on moral rectitude.

And again in 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:1-7
This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Again, teaching aptitude and administrative ability (together with exemplary moral status) are the focus.

In fact, while the Lord’s supper (and Baptism) are important, they are not closely linked with the roles of bishops/elders in Scripture. While typically these sacraments are administered by elders in Reformed churches, this is not because the Scriptures require it. It is a matter of order in the church, rather than a matter of absolute necessity. For example, Philip (one of the proto-deacons) baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.

In Roman Catholicism, the priests/bishops must administer the Eucharist, because they are priests. That is not the paradigm of the New Testament. The elders/bishops are never referred to as priests. Indeed, in the New Testament properly the only priest is the Lord Jesus Christ. In a sense, we are all priests, but properly it is only the Lord. He is the only mediator between God and man, which necessarily excludes a priestly class.

But Stellman claims that the Roman Catholic paradigm better explains the New Testament. I’m not persuaded.


Response to Roman Apologetic Comment …

August 18, 2011

This comes from the comment box of Mark Shea’s post regarding Augustine, Scripture, and Nicaea. It’s not him commenting (as far as I know), but another member of his religion. Here’s the quotation:

The Catholic (i.e. Universal) Church has Taught, and never wavered from [its] teaching on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist for over two thousand years. That’s four hundred years before the canon of scripture, fifteen hundred years before Luther. Two thousand years before us.

Mary and I have never met, I live in [America], and she lives in Kenya. Don’t you think it’s odd that we could be saying the EXACT same thing.

Jesus Christ the God-man who walked the streets of Nazareth is on earth!

Last things first:

Mark 13:20-22

And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: for false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

You may reply, “But that passage is talking about people pretending to be Jesus, people like Vissarion, José Luis de Jesús Miranda, or Sun Myung Moon – human beings pretending to be Christ.” Yet notice that (a) this passage speaks primarily about people announcing Christ, not about people calling themselves Christ; and (b) are there not many alleged eucharistic miracles that are brought forward in an attempt to show that Christ is present (Santarem, Sienna, Erding, and Cascia, for example). What signs and wonders are foolish blasphemers like Vissarion doing that compare with the bold claims of miracles amongst those of the Roman communion? The elect will reject all these false Christs.

Going back to the beginning of the comment, his mathematics skills reflect poorly on America. The last supper was less than 2000 years ago. Moreover, the doctrine of the real presence (in the transubstantial sense it is given by Rome today) was not the ancient teaching of the churches – even if a real spiritual presence was taught by some of the fathers.

Rome didn’t formally define the canon of Scripture until after Luther died and the Reformation was already well under way. On the other hand, the apostles clearly recognized the Old Testament books as canon, and recognized the New Testament books as canon, as they were being written. For example, Paul refers to Luke’s gospel (or perhaps Matthew’s gospel) as Scripture:

1 Timothy 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

Luke 10:7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.

Matthew 10:10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Moreover, Peter refers to Paul’s epistles as Scripture:

2 Peter 3:15-16

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Likewise, Luther wasn’t the first to oppose Rome’s dogma of transubstantiation. Wycliffe opposed the dogma of transubstantiation in the 1300’s – and considering that the term “transubstantiation” was first used by an “ecumenical” council in the 1200’s, the idea that this dogma was some long-standing or apostolic tradition that Luther was the first to question (something only implied, not stated, by our Roman friend here) – is not credible.

I’m sure that the two folks in the Roman communion have the same views. My Reformed brethren around the globe have the same views I do, if geographical dispersion is important. But ultimately, the question is not geographical distribution but Scriptural authenticity. And to be blunt: one cannot legitimately derive transubstantiation from Scripture.


Pseudo-Greek Propaganda Regarding the Eucharist

June 10, 2011

I ran across this gem in the Called to Communion comment box (from Nathan B.):

The Greek in “Do this in remembrance of me” is anamnesis. It does not mean to “intellectually recall a memory”. It means to “again make present a past event or action or state which those now present enter into”, to be a bit long winded about it.

Doesn’t that sound great? The Greek meaning of the term turns out to be so handy for Rome! But what do actual lexicons of Greek say:


ἀνάμνη-σις , εως, , (ἀναμιμνῄσκω)

1. calling to mind, reminiscence, Pl. Phd.72e, 92d, Phlb.34c (pl.), Arist.Mem.451a21; . τινος λαβεῖν recall it to memory, IG2.628.20; ἀναμνήσεις θυσιῶν reminders to the gods of sacrifices offered, Lys.2.39.
2. memorial sacrifice, LXX Nu.10.10, cf. Ev.Luc.22.19.
3. παλίνδρομος ., of the moon, Secund.Sent.6.

And, of course, other lexicons say much the same thing:

“means of remembering, remembrance, reminder” (Friberg)
“reminder, remembrance” (Barclay-Newman)
“reminder” (Louw-Nida)
“a remembering, recollection” (Thayer)
“calling to mind, reminiscence, remembrance” (Lust-Eynikel-Hauspie)
“reminder; remembrance, memory” (Gingrich)

If you think this is just a conspiracy of modern Greek scholars, consider that the Vulgate translates the term “commemorationem,” from which we get “commemoration.”

Of course, more sophisticated defenses of Rome’s error attempt to have it both ways:

The Church constantly draws her life from the redeeming sacrifice; she approaches it not only through faith-filled remembrance, but also through a real contact, since this sacrifice is made present ever anew, sacramentally perpetuated, in every community which offers it at the hands of the consecrated minister.

Ecclesia de Eucharistia, John Paul II, 17 April 2003, at section 12 (bold emphasis added, italics in original).

But, of course, Scripture only teaches us remembrance, not “real contact.” There’s nothing about sacramental perpetuation in Scripture and the Scriptures describe the sacrifice of Christ as being a completed and finished activity, not one that is present, on-going, or continued.


If You Look Only at the Similarities, They’re Exactly the Same!

December 16, 2009

One area where Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox part ways is over describing what goes on in the consecration of the elements in the Eucharist. For Eastern Orthodox, the transformation that occurs is mysterious and indescribable. For Roman Catholics, the transformation is sacramental and describable – in fact it is described quite specifically by the doctrine of transubstantiation which claims that the whole substance of the bread and wine are miraculously converted in each case (not respectively) to the body, blood, and divinity of Jesus Christ.

This real difference between the two views is something that Roman Catholic Matthew Bellisario would like to pretend doesn’t exist. An example of MB’s wishful analysis of Eastern Orthodoxy is seen in the following excerpt:

The Eastern Churches simply never adopted that type of Latin, scholastic investigation. They simply accept the fact that it is fully Jesus Christ on the altar after the consecration. Archimandrite Alexander (Mileant) of the Russian Orthodox Church OUtside America writes, While in other sacraments objects such as water or oil are only sanctified, in Holy Communion the objects of the Sacrament, bread and wine, are not only sanctified but actually transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, when a Christian receives Holy Communion, he receives Jesus Himself and joins with Him. So great is this mystery that no possible explanation can be found of how this happens, and one can only say with gratitude: “Thank You, my Lord!” There is no real point of disunity on this subject among most Orthodox theologians or churches concerning the Catholic teaching. It is a fact that the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic liturgies are largely the same liturgies (St. Chrysostom, St. James, St. Basil, etc) which profess this Eucharistic doctrine. The Greek Orthodox Church of America writes, “The Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine become for us His Body and His Blood.” I personally believe that there is no point of contention on this doctrine, and the Catholic Church itself does not view it be one either.

(source – errors and emphasis in original)

Notice the way that Bellisario hopefully emphasizes what he sees as overlap between the Roman Catholic position and the Eastern Orthodox position. In doing so, however, he misses the point of significant departure, “no possible explanation can be found … .” The Eastern Orthodox didn’t just fail to adopt a scholastic analysis, they apophatically assert that explanation is impossible.

Why is that? One reason is that transubstantiation is not a doctrine that was innovated before the Eastern apostolic sees separated from the Western apostolic see. Thus, transubstantiation is not part of the tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy, despite Roman Catholic attempts to portray it as such. More significantly, the history of Eastern Orthodoxy helps to demonstrate that transubstantiation is not an Apostolic tradition. It’s not something that the apostles knew or taught, nor something that they handed down either orally or in written form.

Yes, if you only consider the similarities between any two positions, those two positions are exactly the same. But when you look at the differences, you realize that there is fundamental difference between those who teach the explanation of transubstantiation as a dogma and those who teach that any explanation is impossible.


Thanksgiving Verses – Part 1

November 1, 2009

In the New Testament, our peace offering is Christ. We no longer offer burnt offerings, but instead we remember the offering of Christ in the Eucharist, which means “Thanksgiving,” which we usually call the “Lord’s Supper” or “Communion” in the Reformed churches. In the Old Testament, however, there was an option to offering a peace offering as a thanksgiving to God. The following passage provides the mechanism for a person to offer thanks to God then:

Leviticus 7:11-15
And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the LORD. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried. Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings. And of it he shall offer one out of the whole oblation for an heave offering unto the LORD, and it shall be the priest’s that sprinkleth the blood of the peace offerings. And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day that it is offered; he shall not leave any of it until the morning.

It is interesting to note that the peace offering was accompanied by both unleavened cakes and leavened bread. This suggests that both leavened and unleavened bread may be suitable for our thanksgiving in the Lord’s Supper, despite the long-standing disagreement between the Greeks and the Romans.


John XXIII on the Sacraments, the Mass, and the Priesthood

September 11, 2009

The following are a pair of consecutive items (quoted in full) from the papal encyclical Ad Petri Cathedram, by pope John XXIII, on 29 June 1959. J23 writes:

74. As for unity of worship, the Catholic Church has had seven sacraments, neither more nor less, from her beginning right down to the present day. Jesus Christ left her these sacraments as a sacred legacy, and she had never ceased to administer them throughout the Catholic world and thus to feed and foster the supernatural life of the faithful.

75. All this is common knowledge, and it is also common knowledge that only one sacrifice is offered in the Church. In this Eucharistic sacrifice Christ Himself, our Salvation and our Redeemer, immolates Himself each day for all of us and mercifully pours out on us the countless riches of His grace. No blood is shed, but the sacrifice is real, just as real as when Christ hung from a cross of Calvary.

(source – official Vatican website)

I. Exactly Seven Sacraments – 12th Century not 1st Century

As for J23’s claim “As for unity of worship, the Catholic Church has had seven sacraments, neither more nor less, from her beginning right down to the present day,” the claim is so historically untenable as to be naive at best. The “exactly seven sacraments” idea is the product of the 12th century, with Peter Lombard receiving the credit or blame for that doctrinal innovation (with Otto of Bamberg sometimes being given some secondary credit).

II. One Sacrifice – Many Sacrifices – Repetition – Perpetuation

J23’s claim that “only one sacrifice is offered in the Church” has become popular these days among Roman Catholic apologists. Indeed, it is so emphasized that one can scarcely find a Roman Catholic these days who will acknowledge the concept of the “sacrifices of the mass” (plural).

What does J23 mean by what he says?

What he says in that sentence has to be harmonized with his other statement in the same section: “Christ Himself … immolates Himself each day for all of us.” That’s where we encounter the repetition of the sacrifice. Most people don’t have the word “immolate” in their daily vocabulary. Here’s a standard definition:

IM’MOLATE, v.t. [L. immolo, to sacrifice; in and mola,meal sprinkled with salt, which was thrown on the head of the victim.]

1. To sacrifice; to kill, as a victim offered in sacrifice.

2. To offer in sacrifice.

(Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)

To immolate means to slay – to kill – as a sacrificial victim. The idea that Christ is sacrificing himself daily is basis for viewing each mass as a sacrifice. The result is that Christ is immolated not once on Calvary but innumerable times.

In what sense then is there one sacrifice in Catholicism? You will be hard-pressed for a detailed explanation from the Roman pontiff. One way of looking it at is as there being only one category of sacrifice: there is no sacrifice of sheep, goats, or oxen, only of Christ.

Another way of looking at it is as a repetition of Christ’s sacrifice. While this terminology is currently disfavored in Roman Catholic theology, we find it expressed plainly even in the fairly recent writings:

28 Just as Moses with the blood of calves had sanctified the Old Testament, (Cf. Ex 24,8) so also Christ Our Lord, through the institution of the Mystery of the Eucharist, with His own Blood sanctified the New Testament, whose Mediator He is. For, as the Evangelists narrate, at the Last Supper “He took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This is My Body, given for you; do this for a commemoration of Me. And so with the cup, when supper was ended. This cup, he said, is the New Testament, in My Blood which is to be shed for you.'” (Lc 22,19-20; cf. Mt 26,26-28 Mc 14,22-24) And by bidding the Apostles to do this in memory of Him, He made clear His will that the same sacrifice be forever repeated.

(Mysterium Fidei, Paul VI, 3 September 1965)

However, in “ecumenical” materials we find explicit disclaimer of this sort of claim:

In other words, we are sacramentally united with Christ, as his body, in the great single act of his sacrifice, by which he entered into glory.[108] There can never be any repetition of that act; it happened once and for all (Hebrews 10:10).

The Grace Given You in Christ, (connected to dialog with World Methodist Council), Section 131, 2006

And previously in the same dialog:

Roman Catholics can happily accept all these senses of the term, but they are also accustomed to speak of the sacrifice of the Mass as something which the church offers in all ages of her history. They see the eucharist not as another sacrifice adding something to Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice, nor as a repetition of it, but as making present in a sacramental way the same sacrifice.

The Dublin Report (connected to dialog with World Methodist Council), Section 66, 1976


We agree that the Eucharist is the memorial (anamnesis) of the crucified and risen Christ, of the entire work of reconciliation God has accomplished in him.[84] By memorial, Anglicans and Catholics both intend not merely a calling to mind of what God has done in the past but an effectual sacramental proclamation, which through the action of the Holy Spirit makes present what has been accomplished and promised once-and-for-all. In this sense, then, there is only one historical, unrepeatable sacrifice, offered once for all by Christ and accepted once for all by the Father, which cannot be repeated or added to.[85] The eucharistic memorial, however, makes present this once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ. It is therefore possible to say that “the Eucharist is a sacrifice in the sacramental sense, provided that it is clear that this is not a repetition of the historical sacrifice.”[86] “In the Eucharistic Prayer, the Church continues to make a perpetual memorial of Christ’s death, and his members, united with God and one another, give thanks for all his mercies, entreat the benefits of his passion on behalf of the whole Church, participate in these benefits, and enter into the movement of his self-offering.”[87] The action of the Church in the eucharistic celebration “adds nothing to the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross” but is rather a fruit of that sacrifice. In the eucharistic celebration Christ’s one sacrifice is made present for us.[88]

Growing Together in Unity and Mission (connected with dialog with Anglicans), Chapter 5, Section 40

Yet we see much the same thought even after the dialog, although the word choice has changed so that we see it expressed as a “renewal”:

He also instituted the priesthood as a sacrament of the New Covenant, so that the one sacrifice he offered to the Father in a bloody manner might be continually renewed in the Church in an unbloody manner, under the appearances of bread and wine.

– John Paul II, Homily of 1 April 1999, Section 2

and as a “perpetuation”:

This union of the Mother and the Son in the work of redemption(57) reaches its climax on Calvary, where Christ “offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God” (Heb. 9:14) and where Mary stood by the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), “suffering grievously with her only-begotten Son. There she united herself with a maternal heart to His sacrifice, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which she herself had brought forth”(58) and also was offering to the eternal Father.”(59) To perpetuate down the centuries the Sacrifice of the Cross, the divine Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice, the memorial of His death and resurrection, and entrusted it to His spouse the Church,(60) which, especially on Sundays, calls the faithful together to celebrate the Passover of the Lord until He comes again.(61) This the Church does in union with the saints in heaven and in particular with the Blessed Virgin,(62) whose burning charity and unshakable faith she imitates.

Marialis Cultis, Paul VI, 1974


The Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory.

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Question 271

The preferred method of expression currently is that the Eucharist “makes present” the one sacrifice:

The Eucharist is a memorial in the sense that it makes present and actual the sacrifice which Christ offered to the Father on the cross, once and for all on behalf of mankind. The sacrificial character of the Holy Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution, “This is my Body which is given for you” and “This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood that will be shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20). The sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one and the same sacrifice. The priest and the victim are the same; only the manner of offering is different: in a bloody manner on the cross, in an unbloody manner in the Eucharist.

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Question 280


The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it. What is repeated is its memorial celebration, its “commemorative representation” (memorialis demonstratio), which makes Christ’s one, definitive redemptive sacrifice always present in time. The sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic mystery cannot therefore be understood as something separate, independent of the Cross or only indirectly referring to the sacrifice of Calvary.

– John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Chapter 1, Section 12 (17 April 2003)

But I have digressed. Consider the absurdity of the matter. Why would you need a memorial for something that is there? No one visits the memorial of a battle during the battle, and everyone recognizes that recreations or memorial representations of battles are not the real thing but a symbol or sign of the thing.

The reason for this bizarre claim that the sacrament is both the reality and a memorial is caused by Roman unwillingness to acknowledge her mistake in viewing each mass as a literal sacrifice of Christ. That view is wrong and inconsistent with there being only one sacrifice. The Scriptures plainly teach the “one sacrifice” view and Rome ought simply to submit to that, instead of trying to hold onto both views at the same time.


Augustine – Metaphor – Bodily Presence

May 20, 2009

In this clip, we respond to Mr. William Albrecht’s continued (but unsupported) insistence that apparently terms like “the bread becomes the body of Christ” or “the bread is the body of Christ” must be understood neither literally (as actual flesh with skin, veins, DNA, etc.) nor analogically but transubstantially. We note that Mr. Albrecht doesn’t like the comparison between Latin and modern English, and so we provide commentary from Augustine himself on the use of metaphor in Scripture.


The Weakest Argument Against the Spiritual Presence

April 30, 2009

I recently received the pleasure of a comment from someone who has been following this blog for a long time, a reader who uses the handle “Orthodox” (“O” for short). O doesn’t necessarily represent Eastern Orthodoxy, but he does provide comments against the Reformed position.

O writes: “In too many places to list, Augustine says that the Eucharist IS Christ’s body and becomes Christ’s body. He doesn’t say it becomes Christ’s spirit.”

Agreed, both as to Augustine saying that (though certainly not in too many places to list) and as to that being what happens. The Eucharist IS Christ’s body and blood, and the bread, by being consecrated for the particular purpose, becomes Christ’s body, while the cup (or more specifically its contents) become the blood of Christ.

They are not and do not become Christ’s spirit and Augustine does not say so (which poses interesting problems for transubstantiation, but since Eastern Orthodoxy doesn’t teach transubstantiation, that’s not necessarily a problem for O).

Nevertheless, Christ is spiritually (or mystically, if you prefer) present in the sacrament. We don’t derive this from the words of institution (this is my body etc.) but from other parts of Scripture. This spiritual presence does not imply any physical change in the elements, nor does it imply that Christ’s spirit is somehow contained within the elements. When we feed on Christ (and we do) in the sacrament, it is not through the act of grinding our teeth and digesting the physical substances, but by faith.

O continued: “What would Augustine have to say to convince you, that is the question I have to ask. Anything that could be said in favor of our position, he did say.”

As noted previously, there is no particular reason that the Eastern Orthodox view of the mystical presence needs to be set against the Reformed view (and Augustine’s view) of the spiritual presence. What Augustine would NOT say if he held to transubstantiation were things like: “Christ deprived them of his bodily presence.”

Positively, there are any number of ways that Augustine could have indicated that he meant that Christ was present in more than just a spiritual (or mystical) sense. He did not express himself in those terms, but instead made fairly clear comments to the contrary.

O concluded: “You say the argument is about bodily presence versus spiritual presence. Fine, Augustine says it is Christ’s body, so you lose, end of discussion.”

This is what I call the “weakest argument against the spiritual presence.” As I have noted over and over again, even someone who views the sacrament is merely symbolic could use those expressions.

Even those who hold to a bare symbolic view of the Eucharist affirm that the bread is the body of Christ and the cup is his blood: they simply understand those terms analogically. Perhaps an illustration would help:

Imagine boys playing capture the flag in the woods: there are two teams, the red team and the blue team. The boys from the red team huddle around in a small circle, while their leader draws a map in the dust. “This rock,” says the leader, “is Blue’s camp. “And this stick,” he continued, carefully placing a slender branch next to the rock, “is the creek.”

Now, who in their right mind would think that the leader meant that the rock was transubstantiated into the Blue team’s base, and who would think that the leader transmogrified the stick into a creek? No one would think that. Everyone would correctly understand that a symbolic sense is intended by the expression “This rock is Blue’s camp” and “this stick is the creek.” But for some reason (tradition!) people have trouble recognizing the obvious fact that “this is my body” and “this is my blood” were similar statements that shouldn’t be understood transubstantially but according to their most obvious sense: representatively and analogically.


Augustine vs. Albrecht on the Bodily Presence – Round 2

April 23, 2009

This is video response to William Albrecht’s two videos ( video 1 and video 2 ) responding to previous videos of mine, responding to a still previous video of his.

I continue to point out Mr. Albrecht’s errors. I have 11 points:

1) The issue is bodily presence vs. spiritual presence (not real presence vs. bare symbolism).

2) The issue of the “authority of the Catholic Chruch” is a misleading red herring, because Augustine meant the universal church, not the Roman Catholic Church.

3) When Augustine speaks of “divine presence” that does not mean or imply (quite the contrary) a bodily presence, because a body is not part of the divine nature but the human nature of Christ.

4) Mr. Albrecht (not myself) is the one who seems to need to try to turn Augustine into a Roman Catholic. I just take Augustine as I find him.

5) Mr. Albrecht refuses to let the Westminster Confession speak for itself, even when it clearly and explicitly states that the position is a real, yet spiritual, presence.

6) Mr. Albrecht confuses the real Francis Turretin’s rejection of consubstantiation with a rejection of the spiritual presence (although Turretin actually affirms this, even in the snippets he quotes, if you listen carefully).

7) Mr. Albrecht errs in suggesting that the Latin word for Spiritual ever means or implies, in Augustine, “corporeal presence” – quite the opposite.

8) Mr. Albrecht still does not seem to “get” that statements like “after the consecreation the bread is [or becomes] the Body of Christ” is something that is consistent with not only the view of transubstantiation, but also with the Reformed view (real spiritual presence) and even the bare symbolic view (which is why I would never try to base my argument on such passages of Augustine if I were disputing this matter with a person who holds to the odd and incorrect position that Augustine held to a bare symbolic view).

9) Albrecht had said: “The great Augustine can no longer be twisted into a pretzel because TurretinFan has run out of ways to rip him apart. Perhaps he’ll resort to taking quotes away from him or mutilating what Augustine says, such as his boss Mr. [sic] White has done to advance his theological views in the past.” I note that although this is untrue and analogically inconsistent (the metaphors of “twist[ing] into a pretzel” and “rip[ping] apart” are incompatible physically), nevetheless the quotation provides an illustration of the fact that somewhere deep inside Albrecht recognizes that people can use figurative language, although he does not seem to want to let Christ and/or Augustine do so, when it is necessary to press them into service for his church.

10) Mr. Albrecht claims that there are “hundreds of thousands of denominations” – a number so wildly inflated it makes the usual, grossly inflated claim of 33,000 denominations seem almost truthful (for more on the 33,000 denominations myth, see the following website (link)).

11) Mr. Albrecht, in wrapping up, seems still to be a bit sore about his friend Mr. Steve Ray and himself getting busted for citing Pseudo-Athanasius as though it were Athanasius.


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