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The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

–Scriptural and historical evidence

 

 

"This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
John 6:60 RSV

 

Scriptural evidence

"Do not work for food that goes bad, but work for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of man will give you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal." John 6:27

Jesus answered them, "In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." John 6:32-33

Jesus explained to them, "I myself am the bread of life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall ever thirst." John 6:35 NAB(1)

"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven for a man to eat and never die. I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world." At this the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can he give us his flesh to eat?" Thereupon Jesus said to them:

"Let me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood real drink. The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the Father who has life sent me and I have life because of the Father, so the man who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and died nonetheless, the man who feeds on this bread shall live forever." John 6:48-58 NAB

During the meal Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. "Take this and eat it," he said, "this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them. "All of you must drink from it," he said, "for this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:26-28

And as they were eating he took bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. 'Take it,' he said, 'this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he handed it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, 'This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for many. In truth I tell you, I shall never drink wine any more until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.' Mark 14:22-25

Then he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.' Luke 22:19-20

"Is not the cup of blessing we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" 1 Corinthians 10:16

"I received from the Lord what I handed on to you, namely, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' Every time, then, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes! This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first; only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgement on himself." 1 Corinthians 11:23-29

Consider the words of Jesus:

"For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." John 6:55 NJB(2)

Where else is the two-edged sword of God's Word sharper than at this penetrating point? And it is at its very sharpest when we see that Jesus meant these words literally.

Here are several ways that we can tell that Jesus spoke literally here of His physical body:

• The natural meaning of the words Jesus spoke is of the physical consumption of food:

fagw "fág-o" —to eat(3) John 6:5, 23, 26, 31, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 58

trógo "tró-go" —to gnaw, chew, eat John 6:54

alhqhV brvsiV —true, real food John 6:55

alhqhV posiV —true, real drink John 6:55

• A figurative interpretation leads to a perverse meaning. Within the Bible, references to figuratively eating a person carry the meaning of persecution and destruction.

"When the wicked advance against me to eat me up, they, my opponents, my enemies, are the ones who stumble and fall." Psalm 27:2 NJB

"Manasseh devours Ephraim, Ephraim Manasseh, together they turn against Judah." Isaiah 9:20 NJB

"I shall make your oppressors eat their own flesh, they will be drunk on their own blood as on new wine." Isaiah 49:26 NJB

"Surely you are the ones who ought to know what is right, and yet you hate what is good and love what is evil, skinning people alive, pulling the flesh off their bones, eating my people's flesh, stripping off their skin, breaking up their bones, chopping them up small like flesh for the pot, like meat in the stew-pan?" Micah 3:3 NJB

Jesus certainly did not teach His followers that they must persecute and oppress Him as enemies in order to follow Him.

Conversely, scriptural references to persons literally eating the flesh of other persons refer to situations in which not persecution but sustenance is the objective: see Leviticus 26:29, Deuteronomy 28:53-55, Jeremiah 19:9.

• The reaction of His listeners indicates that they understood Him to mean His physical body. Jesus was careful to correct His listeners when they misunderstood other teachings, as happened in the exchanges between Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3:3-5), and between Jesus and His disciples (John 4:31-34, Matthew 16:5-12). In this teaching about His body He does not correct their face-value understanding of his message; He does not indicate in any way that He is speaking in symbolic or metaphorical language. Rather, He emphasizes the literal meaning of His words —even at the risk of His followers deserting Him.

The Jews did not mistake his meaning. They understood rightly that He referred to his physical body and blood, and asked incredulously how He could give these as food. Emphasizing that He did not mean these words figuratively, Jesus said,

"Let me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" John 6:53 NAB

Many of the followers of Jesus rejected Him because they would not receive this message. They responded,

"This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" John 6:60 NIV(4), NJB

At this point many of His followers abandonded Him, and even then Jesus holds to His explicit language, refusing to soften it to avoid losing followers.

• Later, during the brief, precious time Jesus had with His disciples at the Last Supper, it was crucial that they should understand Him correctly. Clearly Jesus would not have used language here that would deceive them. Again, He spoke plainly of His Body and Blood in sacrificial terms.

• Paul equates the unworthy reception of the Eucharist with sinning against the body and blood of Christ:

This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first; only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgement on himself. 1 Corinthians 11:23 NAB

• A figurative interpretation of the body and blood would be inconsistent with other teachings that actually were given in a figurative sense. Such teachings are given in explicitly symbolic language:

"The farmer sowing good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, the good seed the citizens of the kingdom..." Matthew 13:37-38 NAB

"I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold..." John 10:16 NAB

"I am the true vine and my Father is the vinegrower." John 15:1 NAB

Jesus' teaching about His body and blood carries no indication that it is figurative.

• The early Church interpreted the Last Supper Discourse in literal terms, and the Catholic Church has always adhered to this literal interpretation.

Further thoughts:
Jesus promised His followers that He would remain with them always. How is this possible? In many ways He taught that His Spirit would dwell with those who believe in Him. But Jesus is not only Spirit. We know He is the Christ, the God-Man, and is one person with two natures: divine and human. Christ offered His entire Person to redeem mankind. His body and blood, humanity and divinity were nailed to the Cross in an act of limitless self-giving.

That sacrifice on Calvary was sufficient in itself to redeem mankind. But Jesus made clear at the Last Supper and beforehand that he wanted that one sacrifice perpetuated, or made manifest, until the end of time in the manner He revealed at the Last Supper. In no way does this perpetuation detract from the sacrifice of the Cross. Rather, the entire Victim and His sacrifice are memorialized by becoming immediately and truly present to all those who in faith receive Him in the Eucharist. In this way the Eucharistic celebration in a sense focuses the attention of the

"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me."
John 6:56-57 NJB

"The priests of the old covenant became priests without an oath, unlike Jesus to whom God said: 'The Lord has sworn, and he will not repent: 'You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.' '" Hebrews 7:20-21 NAB

"...but Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood which does not pass away."
Hebrews 7:24 NAB

His real, entire presence is not contradicted by the fact that He is hidden beneath the appearance of bread and wine. If His Body and Blood became to us sensibly visible in the Eucharist, would not the evidence of our senses destroy our opportunity to place unconditional trust in the words of Jesus? Believing something we can see does not require faith. Faith is believing something we can not see, based solely on the testimony of one who is trustworthy.

By His invisible presence Jesus helps us in our unbelief; He helps us to resist our natural tendency to judge by appearances and presents us with a profound mystery which is totally inaccessible to our senses. This mystery we can embrace only in faith, on the testimony of His word.

But the testimony of God carries greater authority than the testimony of our senses.

So, to embrace this truth is a miracle of God's grace, for to embrace this truth is to submit to an awesome mystery. And by the act of this embrace we open the door to our heart and permit entry to the King of Glory on His own humble terms: under the appearance of bread and wine. And His terms are the words of eternal life.

Jesus promises that life will flow from Him to those who believe in Him —those who in faith eat His flesh and drink His blood. This participation in the Lord's Supper brings real nourishment to the believer's body and spirit, and is an act of true worship in obedience to the command of Christ.

 

 

Historical evidence

 

The Real Presence —a recent invention?

 

When evaluating the truth of a Christian doctrine, it is important to discover the origins of the belief. Was the teaching nowhere to be found in the early Church, and only later arose without precedent? If so, then one must ask whether the teaching is not a genuine part of the faith delivered by the Lord to the Apostles.

Or, on the other hand, has the teaching been present in the Church's doctrine since the earliest years? Certainly, evidence of belief in a doctrine in the first century does not demonstrate the truth of the doctrine, since in every century orthodox beliefs have existed amidst the weeds of error. (The apostolic successors have always borne the responsibility of identifying and rejecting these 'weeds'.) But establishing the presence of a doctrine in the early days of the Church does refute any theory that the doctrine was introduced much later and is therefore spurious.

In addition to Scriptural evidence, there is abundant historical evidence that from apostolic times there was continuous, widespread, and deepening belief that the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the risen Jesus Christ are truly present in the Eucharistic meal.

Some historical evidence of the Church's belief in the Real Presence:

 

"...the eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father in His goodness raised." Epistula ad Smyrnaeos, 6,2 (5)

"They (the Docetae) keep away from the Eucharist and from the prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Redeemer Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sin..." ib. 7, 1 (6)

"Be ye resolved, to celebrate one Eucharist only; for there is only one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and only one chalice for unification with His blood." Letter to the Philadelphians, 4
St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (c. 35-107)

 

"We receive this not as ordinary bread and ordinary drink; but as our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, was incarnated by the Word of God, and assumed flesh and blood for the sake of our salvation, so, as we have been taught, the food over which thanksgiving has been made (or which has been eucharistised) by the prayer of the Word which came from Him (by which food our blood and flesh are nourished by transmutation) is both flesh and blood of that same incarnate Jesus." Apologia prima pro Christianis, 66, 2(7)

"...which the Apostles have handed down in those writings which are worthy of consideration, and which are called Gospels." ib. 65
St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165)

 

"The bread over which thanksgiving is pronounced, is the body of the Lord and the chalice of His blood." Adversus omnes haereses, IV 18, 4(8)

"How can they (the Gnostics) feel assured that bread over which thanksgiving has been made (i.e., the eucharistised bread) is the body of the Lord, and the chalice of His blood, if they do not declare Him the Son of the world's Creator?" ib. IV, 18, 5

Christ confessed "the chalice deriving from the creation to be His own blood with which he permeates our blood, and the bread deriving from the creation He declared to be His own body with which He strengthens our bodies." Our flesh is "nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and becomes His member" and is thus enabled "to accept the gift of God, in which consists eternal life." ib. V 2, 2-3
St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (c. 130- c. 200)

 

"He took bread, offered it to His disciples and made it into His body by saying: 'This is my body'" Adversus Marcionem, IV, 40(9)

"The flesh is refreshed with the body and blood of Christ so that the soul also may be nourished by God." De resurrectione carnis, 8(10)
Tertullian (c. 160- c. 222)

 

"The Body of Christ is meant to be eaten, not to be treated with irreverence." Tradit. Apost.(11)
St. Hippolytus (c. 170-236)

 

"But we, who render thanks to the Creator of the Universe, eat of the breads offered with thanksgiving and prayer over the gifts which, through prayer, have become a certain sacred body, which sanctifies him who partakes of it with an understanding mind."
Contra Celsum, VIII, 33
(12)

"I wish to admonish you with examples from your religion. You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence." In Exodum homiliae, 13, 3(13)

"The Lord hates those who think that only one day is a festival of the Lord. Christians partake of the Lamb every day, that is, they daily receive the flesh of the Word of God."
Quis Dives Salvetur, 23
(14)
Origen (c. 185-254)

 

"Christ is our bread, we who touch His body... those who touch His body and receive the Eucharist according to the law of the community", according to John 6:51, have eternal life.
De dominica orat. 18
(15)
St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (died c. 258)

 

"We are continually fed with the Saviour's body, we continually participate in the lamb's blood." De solemn pasch. 7(16)
Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (c. 260-340)

 

"You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine and placing them on a table. So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ." Sermo ad nuper baptizatos(17)
St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria (296-373)

 

"Do not, therefore, regard the Bread and Wine as simply that; for they are, according to the Master's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the Body and Blood of Christ."
Catacheses 22,6
(18)

"So that He might make the bread into the Body of Christ, and the wine into the blood of Christ..." Cat. Myst. 5, 7(19)

"Once at Cana in Galilee by a mere nod He changed water into wine, and is it now incredible that He changes wine into blood?" Cat. Myst. 4, 2(20)
St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (c. 315-386)

 

"It is commendable and most beneficial to communicate and partake of the body and blood of Christ every single day." Epistula, 93(21)
St. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea (c. 329-379)

 

"Through the mystery of the sacred prayer they are transformed into flesh and blood."
De fid. 4, 124
(22)

"You may perhaps say: 'My bread is ordinary.' But that bread is bread before the words of the sacraments; where the consecration has entered in, the bread becomes the flesh of Christ. And let us add this: How can what is bread be the Body of Christ? By the consecration. The consecration takes place by certain words, but whose words? Those of the Lord Jesus... Therefore it is the word of Christ that confects the sacrament." De sacramentis libri sex 4, 4, 14(23)

"Christ is in this Sacrament, because It is the body of Christ" De Myst. 9, 58(24)
St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (c. 340-397)

 

"It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered." prod. Jud. 1:6(25)

"Let us submit to God in all things and not contradict Him, even if what He says seems contrary to our reason and intellect; rather let His words prevail over our reason and intellect. Let us act in this way with regard to the (eucharistic) mysteries, looking not only at what falls under our senses but holding on to His words. For His word cannot lead us astray."
In Matth. Homil. 82, 4
(26)

"This body he gave us to keep and eat, as a mark of his intense love."
Commentary on Corinthians, 24, 4
(27)
St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople (c. 347-407)

 

"The Lord did not say: This is a symbol of My Body, and this is the symbol of My Blood but: This is My Body and My Blood. He teaches us not to look at the nature of those things which lie before us and are perceived by the senses, for by the prayer of thanksgiving and the words spoken over them, they have been changed in Flesh and Blood." In Matth. Comm., 26(28)

"...when the priest declares them [i.e. the bread and wine] to be Christ's body and blood, he clearly reveals that they have become such by the descent of the Holy Spirit."
Hom. cat. 16,12
(29)
Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia (c. 350-428)

 

"Christ bore Himself in His hands, when He offered His body saying, 'this is my body.'"
Sermo I, 10
(30)

"The bread which you see on the altar, sanctified by the Word of God, is Christ's body. That cup, or rather the contents of that cup, sanctified by the word of God, is Christ's blood. By these elements the Lord Christ willed to convey His body and His blood, which He shed for us." Sermo 227(31)

"You know what you are eating and what you are drinking, or rather, Whom you are eating and Whom you are drinking." Sermo 9, 14(32)

"It was in His flesh that Christ walked among us and it is His flesh that He has given us to eat for our salvation." In Ps. 98, 9(33)
St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430)

 

"...that which seems to be bread, is not bread, though it tastes like it, but the Body of Christ, and that which seems to be wine, is not wine, though it too tastes as such, but the Blood of Christ... draw inner strength by receiving this bread as spiritual food and your soul will rejoice." Catacheses 22,9, Myst. 4(34)

"Christ said indicating (the bread and wine): 'This is My Body,' and 'This is My Blood,' in order that you might not judge what you see to be a mere figure. The offerings, by the hidden power of God Almighty, are changed into Christ's Body and Blood, and by receiving these we come to share in the life-giving and sanctifying efficacy of Christ." In Matth., 26, 27(35)
St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (d. 444)

 

"To the divinity (of Christ) is united the body which took its origin from the holy virgin. Not that because this body which has been received into heaven, descends, but because the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of God. If you want to know how this is done let it suffice for you to hear that it is done by the Holy Spirit, just as the Lord took to Himself flesh from the Mother of God, which subsisted in Himself. We do not need to see or to go further than the fact that the word of God is true and efficacious and can do all things; the matter cannot be investigated further. But it is not beside the point to say that just as bread is naturally changed by eating and wine and water by drinking into the body and blood of the eater and drinker, without their becoming any other body than the body of him who existed previously, so the bread which was prepared at the offertory, the wine and water, too, by the invocation and coming of the Holy Spirit are supernaturally changed into the body and blood of Christ in such a way that they are not two things but one and the same... Nor are the bread and wine the symbol of the body and blood of Christ, far from it! —but the very body of the Lord endowed with divinity since the Lord himself said: This is —not the symbol of Christ— but my body, nor the symbol of blood but my blood." St. John of Damascus (c. 675-749)(36)

 

"This is precisely the same flesh that was born of Mary, suffered on the Cross, and rose from the tomb." De Corpore et Sanguine Domini
St. Paschasius Radbertus (c. 785- c. 860)

 

"I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine placed upon the altar are, by the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and life-giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration, there is present the true body of Christ which was born of the Virgin and, offered up for the salvation of the world, hung on the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and that there is present the true blood of Christ which flowed from his side. They are present not only by means of a sign and of the efficacy of the sacrament, but also in the very reality and truth of their nature and substance." The Most Holy Eucharist(37)
Fourth Roman Council (1079)

 

"...the body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the species of bread and wine; the bread being transubstantiated into the body and wine into the blood by the power of God..." Fourth Lateran Council (1215)(38)

 

"There is no difficulty about Christ's presence in the Eucharist as in a sign, but that He is truly present in the Eucharist as He is in heaven, this is most difficult. Therefore to believe this is especially meritorious." In IV Sent. Dist. X
St. Bonaventure (1221-1274)
(39)

 

"(That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that) cannot be apprehended by the senses, but only by faith, which relies on divine authority."
St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-1274)

 

"For the apostles had not yet received the Eucharist from the hand of the Lord [Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22] when He Himself truly said that what He was offering was His body; and this belief has always been in the Church of God, that immediately after the consecration the true body of our Lord and His true blood together with His soul and divinity exist under the species of bread and wine; but the body indeed under the species of bread, and the blood under the species of wine by the force of the words, but the body itself under both by force of that natural connection and concomitance by which the parts of Christ the Lord, 'who hath now risen from the dead to die no more' [Rom. 6:9], are mutually united, the divinity also because of that admirable hypostatic union with His body and soul.
Council of Trent, DS 1640 (1551)

 

"If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist there are truly, really, and substantially contained the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore the whole Christ, but shall say that He is in it as by a sign or figure, or force, let him be anathema. Council of Trent, DS 1651 (1551)

 

"Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."

"[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night when he was betrayed," [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit."

"...The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different."

"In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner." Council of Trent (c. 1560)

 

"On the last night of his life, realizing that the long-desired hour of his death for the love of man had come, our Redeemer did not have the heart to leave us alone in this valley of tears. He did not want to be separated from us even in death, and so he decided to leave us himself as food in the sacrament of the altar. He wanted us to understand by this that, having given us this infinite gift, there was nothing left he could give us to prove his love." The Passion of Jesus Christ,
St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop of Sant' Agata dei Goti (1696-1787)

 

"At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us." Sancrosanctum Concilium
Second Vatican Council (1963)

 

"...this presence is called real—by which it is not intended to exclude all other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense. It is a substantial presence by which Christ, the God-man is wholly and entirely present."

"The Council of Trent, basing itself on this faith of the Church, 'openly and sincerely professes that within the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, after the Consecration of the bread and wine, Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, is really, truly, and substantially contained under those outward appearances.' In this way, the Savior in His humanity is present not only at the right hand of the Father according to the natural manner of existence, but also in the Sacrament of the Eucharist 'by a mode of existence which we cannot express in words, but which, with a mind illumined by faith, we can conceive, and must most firmly believe, to be possible to God." Mystery of Faith, IV, 35-39, et. seq.,(40)
Pope Paul VI (1965)

 

"...For thus they will more abundantly draw from it those fruits which our Lord intended them to derive when he instituted the Eucharist as the sacrifice of his Body and Blood and entrusted it to his beloved spouse, the Church, as a memorial of his death and resurrection." Cenam paschalem (1970)(41)

 

"When celebrating the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord, the full magnitude of the divine mystery must be respected, as must the full meaning of this sacramental sign in which Christ is really present and is received, the soul is filled with grace and the pledge of future glory is given." The Redeemer of Man, 20(42)
Pope John Paul II (b. 1920)

 

"The Eucharist is 'the source and summit of the Christian life.'... For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1324 (1994)

 

"The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: 'This is a hard saying; who can accept it?' The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. 'Will you also go away?': the Lord's question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has 'the words of eternal life' and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself." Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1336 (1994)

 

 

Conclusion

Historical evidence shows that the Church, since its origin, has maintained belief that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are truly present in the Eucharist.

Scriptural evidence shows that this doctrine is based squarely on the teachings of Jesus, although it is also foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

In our own time, as in every century, there are many who doubt this truth received from Christ and proclaimed by the Apostles. Like many of those who personally heard Jesus speak of His Flesh as "real food" and His Blood as "real drink", they respond,

"This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" John 6:60 RSV

 

Who can accept it? All of us, by the grace of God, can embrace this truth in humble faith. Without grace, this teaching seems impossible to accept, and many of Jesus' disciples left him because they would not believe it. But with grace comes knowledge of God's love: a love so wonderful that Jesus determined to give Himself to man in a gift so complete and to such a profound degree that His believers can, knowing their hunger, approach Him as their daily Bread, the Bread of heaven, and receive Christ Himself: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

The unsearchable depths of this truth offer a great test and proof of our faith: that with devotion we hold fast to this sublime mystery, this very pinnacle of God's love surrendered to man.

The peak of this high summit of truth extends beyond the limits of our vision and reason. Yet drawn by the promise of Jesus and with the eyes of faith we ascend this holy mountain and enter upon the banquet of God's limitless love.

And there Jesus gives His very Self to us as our Bread of Life.

Inseparable with faith in Christ is belief in this central mystery of Christ. For when a person draws near enough to the Lord's table to discern what it contains, he must either partake in the meal or turn away, hungry. He must decide,

"Will I choose to believe in the fullest sense what Jesus said at the Last Supper, what the apostles have faithfully passed on to us, and what the Church has taught in every century and continues to proclaim?"

 

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1New American Bible

2New Jerusalem Bible

3Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, James Strong, et. al. Abingdon Press, Nashville.

4New International Version

5Kelly, J. N. D., Early Christian Doctrines. Revised edition, 1978, Harper Collins, San Francisco, CA. p. 197.

6Ott, Dr. Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. 1974, Tan Books and Publishers, Rockford, IL. p. 375.

7Ott, p. 376.

8Ott, p. 376.

9Ott, p. 381.

10Ott, p. 377.

11Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Mysterium Fidei. 1965, St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, MA.

12Ott, p. 376.

13Keating, Karl. Catholicism and Fundamentalism. 1988, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. p. 238

14Hardon, John A. The Catholic Catechism. 1981, Doubleday, New York, NY. p. 473.

15Ott, p. 377.

16Kelly, J. N. D., p. 441.

17Keating, p. 238.

18Keating, p. 238.

19Ott, p. 378.

20Ott, p. 382.

21Hardon, John A. The Catholic Catechism. 1981, Doubleday, New York, NY. p. 473.

22Kelly, J. N. D., p. 446.

23Keating, p. 239.

24Ott, p. 384.

25Ott, cf. p. 393.

26Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Mysterium Fidei. 1965, St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, MA.

27Hardon, John A. The Catholic Catechism. 1981, Doubleday, New York, NY.

28Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Mysterium Fidei. 1965, St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, MA.

29Kelly, J. N. D., p. 426.

30Ott, p. 377.

31Kelly, J. N. D., p. 447.

32Kelly, J. N. D., p. 447.

33Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Mysterium Fidei. 1965, St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, MA.

34Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Mysterium Fidei. 1965, St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, MA.

35Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Mysterium Fidei. 1965, St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, MA.

36Simmons, E. R., The Fathers and Doctors of the Church. c. 1959, The Bruce Publishing Co, Milwaukee. p. 95.

37Hardon, John A. The Catholic Catechism. 1981, Doubleday, New York, NY. p. 461.

38Bettenson, Henry, ed., Documents of the Christian Church. Second Edition, 1967, Oxford University Press, Oxford. p. 148.

39Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Mysterium Fidei. 1965, St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, MA.

40Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Mysterium Fidei. 1965, St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, MA.

41Flannery, Austin, O.P., ed., Vatican Council II —The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, New Revised Edition. 1992, Costello Publishing Company, Northoport, NY. p. 154.

42Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor Hominis. 1979, St. Paul Books and Media, Boston, MA.