Couple of questions on the Eucharist (responding to Protestant friend)

I got a letter today from a friend of mine who attends the Reformed Protestant church I used to attend. She was trying to show me the errors of the Catholic faith, and she brought up a couple of things about the Eucharist.

Firstly, she claimed that the Catholic Church had to resort to pagan beliefs (Aristotle’s teaching on substance and accidents) to explain why the Flesh and Blood of Christ doesn’t look, taste or feel like flesh and blood). How would it be best to respond to this? I know that the Eastern Orthodox also believe in the Real Presence but they don’t try to explain it like us Catholics.

Secondly, why do the words of consecration in the Mass use the future tense to describe Jesus’ Blood being poured out (effundetur means ‘will be poured out’) whereas the Gospel accounts use the present tense (is shed)?

Also, what is the best way to respond to the claim that the Eucharist is a violation of the Incarnation in that Christ’s human Body can only be in one place at a time? Is it to do with the nature of the resurrected Body versus the old body?

Two thoughts:

First, it’s ‘philosophy’, not ‘pagan beliefs’. In antiquity, Aristotle and other philosophers observed, reasoned, and debated on a number of notions in the physical world. Aristotle’s thought led him to a way to describe what a thing ‘is’. He developed ‘categories’ to explain and describe things. His notions were picked up by Aquinas, who used the notions of ‘substance’ and ‘accidents’ to help describe what happens in the Eucharist. If a non-Christian scientist came up with an explanation of why something happens in the world, would she reject the explanation just because it came from a non-Christian? If so, she better stop using algebra – it came from Muslims. :wink:

Second, you might gently remind her that even St Paul, in the Bible, “resorts to pagan beliefs to explain” who God is (see Acts 17:22 and following). So, the use of things that are non-Christian, in order to explain Christian concepts, is neither unique nor scandalous - in fact, it’s a Scriptural technique!

(I’ll come back to your other questions in a bit…)

Please feel free to print out a copy of this and let her chew on it since it shows that anything but pagan The Eucharist IS Scriptural

As has already been stated, Aristotle’s philosophy isn’t pagan belief any more than algebra or other sciences are. His philosophy is a “science” not a matter of belief. Also as you point out the Eastern Othodox believe in the true presence but don’t explain it in terms of substance and accident. We didn’t even use that terminology until the medieval period after we rediscovered Aristotle. Our first attempts at philosophically explaining was to use Platonic terminology. Further, we don’t actually have to explain that, scripture tells us that it is Christ’s body and blood, we in our curiosity strive to better understand and get questions like that. But, scripture is fairly clear on the reality even if we can’t explain it.

For Christ, at the last supper we has in the present pouring out His blood. The Mass make present the sacrifice of Calvary again. It could be that we are saying the blood that Christ poured out in the present then, continues to be poured out in the future. What was poured once will be poured continually for many. The single act in the past, is made present and continues into the future by the Mass.

The resurrected body is a good place to start, after all walking through door breaks all sorts of laws of physic. Also, the Eucharist doesn’t multiple the body of Christ in the same way breaking a loaf of bread multiplies the pieces of bread, He only has one body. Instead it’s made present though us by bring us to Him. Ultimately it’s a mystery of how this all “works”.

As a final thought, when we really meditate upon the mystery of God descending to take on the flesh of man, we come to realize how incredibly radical that it. To say that Christ is present in the Eucharist is no more difficult to understand or accept than God became man and dwelt among us.

I think I would argue that it is in future tense, in all contexts.

In Matthew 26:26-28, in the NAB, we have:

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.

You mention the Latin. If I’m not mistaken, the same ending is used for 3rd person singular passive present and future, isn’t it? Therefore, on the face of the text, we would be able to conclude ‘future’.

But, since the Latin comes from the Greek, what’s the Greek text say?

*τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν **ἐκχυννόμενον *εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν

Uh-oh. It’s a participle. As it appears in the sentence, ἐκχυννόμενον (“is being poured out”) is in the present tense. But, if we want to understand what a Koine Greek participle means, we have to look at the verb it’s modifying. After all, in Matthew 23, we have the exact same participle, in the exact same grammatical form:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, … behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

In the Greek: *ὅπως ἔλθῃ ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς πᾶν αἷμα δίκαιον **ἐκχυννόμενον *ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς.

It’s the same participle in the Greek, and it’s in the present tense, but here the meaning is clearly that the blood had already been shed (after all, it’s Abel’s blood, and Zechariah’s blood, etc).

So, what’s up with that?

In the Greek, we have to interpret participles in light of the main verb. In the Institution Narrative, the verb is “is”. (“This is my blood…”) So, inasmuch as it truly is His blood, then the participle follows that tense. However, I think it’s reasonable to recognize the shades of meaning here. Jesus’ blood is literally shed on Calvary, but if we take Him at His word, it’s also present in the Eucharist. (Sacramentally present, mind you, not present in the mode in which our blood is present in our bodies, but truly present nevertheless!)

In English, can we use a present tense form to refer to a future event? Actually, the answer is ‘yes’. Take this example: “the train leaves at 6pm tomorrow.” In this sentence, we clearly have a present tense form, but it’s being used to refer to a future event.

I might make the case that “blood… which is poured out” is being used in the same way. In the English, we have a present tense form, referring to an event which is in the future to the speaker.

So: I’d go with “future” meaning all around. (And, of course, sacramental mystery as well, inasmuch as He’s pointing to the chalice that’s right there in front of them as He says it!)

I think I’d assert that it’s not due to the ‘resurrected body’ so much as it’s due to the ‘sacramental presence’ of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

Aquinas talks about it in the Summa… but Aquinas can be a bit of a dense, thorny read. Still, it’s because of the mode of the presence (i.e., ‘sacramental’) that it can be both fully present and simultaneously present in many places.

Well, firstly, transubstantiation is only an explanation, not a doctrine. We really don’t know precisely how the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ , nor why the elements remain the same in appearance, taste, etc. nor does the Church claim to know. We hold it to be a mystery that we leave to God to understand.

Secondly, any truth is still truth whether or not a “pagan” believed/taught it or not. We believe much that the ancient philosophers believed with no qualms at all. This argument is ridiculous and frivolous.

And thirdly, it was Jesus who declared “this is my body,” “this is my blood,” not just the Church. We take him at his word. We can try to explain the miracle of the Eucharist, but like the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Redemption, etc. there is no explanation that will suffice for those who refuse to believe.

Secondly, why do the words of consecration in the Mass use the future tense to describe Jesus’ Blood being poured out (effundetur means ‘will be poured out’) whereas the Gospel accounts use the present tense (is shed)?

It is a past/present/future action not a static one. Christ’s sacrifice is an eternal sacrifice re-offered/re-presented on every altar in every Catholic/Orthodox church (at the least, there may be more that are valid) in the world.

Also, what is the best way to respond to the claim that the Eucharist is a violation of the Incarnation in that Christ’s human Body can only be in one place at a time? Is it to do with the nature of the resurrected Body versus the old body?

Rather, it is a proof of the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ in that it is the Risen Christ that is offered on the altar in the form of bread and wine. No Resurrection, no meaning to the Eucharist as effective in imparting God’s grace, per the teaching of St. Paul regarding the Resurrection of Christ.

The dogma of transubstantiation doesn’t actually use the Aristotlean distinction between substance and accidents. The dogma uses the terms “substance” and “species”. It is certainly open to an Aristotlean explanation, but Aristotlean metaphysics are not dogmatically a part of it. In fact, the dogmatic use of the word transubstantiation predates and favorability the Church wouod later show towards Aristotle. All we have to dogmatically accept is that, despite whatever it empirically seems to be, the consecrated elements have become Christ, and are no longer bread and wine.

Secondly, why do the words of consecration in the Mass use the future tense to describe Jesus’ Blood being poured out (effundetur means ‘will be poured out’) whereas the Gospel accounts use the present tense (is shed)?

This doesn’t need much explanation. The priest is recounting what Christ said at the Last Supper. In fact, the priest specifically says:

…he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: "Take this all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.

In context, quoting Jesus, it makes perfect sense, because Jesus himself said it.

Also, what is the best way to respond to the claim that the Eucharist is a violation of the Incarnation in that Christ’s human Body can only be in one place at a time? Is it to do with the nature of the resurrected Body versus the old body?

Bilocation is certainly possible in a glorified body. So that’s not an issue.

Ask her what does supernatural spirit taste like ? If you want to go further you can ask her to explain the Lanciano Eucharistic Miracle.

therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/lanciano.html

Here are Jesus words at the institution of the Eucharist

Links are operational
Lk 22:
17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this ποιεῖτε ] in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.c

ποιεῖτε, ] = do this

Definition: do, make

[LIST]
*](a) I make, manufacture, construct,
*](b) I do, act, cause, to appoint or ordain one
[/LIST]

Jesus is ordaining (the apostles) to be able to do exactly what Jesus is doing here. Make the Eucharist happen. Transform / change bread and wine into Our Lord’s body and blood. Not a symbol, but the actual body and blood of Jesus.

I think it is best explained as a miracle where the ordinary laws of physics don’t apply.

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