A Protestant friend (of the R.C. Sproul variety) posed this question as an objection to our conversion to Catholicism. His argument is that Jesus can’t divide himself or his two natures to be truly, physically and spiritually present in the Eucharist. This friend denies that feeding the 5,000 as any evidence because Jesus performed the miracle on something outside of Himself. Further, the friend asserts that the undividable union of Christ’s divinity and his humanity makes it impossible for Him to be present in the Eucharist since Jesus, in total, resides in Heaven.
Frankly, I do not know or understand enough about any of these to give him a good response. For me, faith in it is enough but my friend believes the specific dogma of transubstantiation contradicts Jesus, Scripture, and the Council of Chalcedon. Is there a good explanation from the Catholic Church or its theologians/apologists to explain or clarify this for my friend?
Jesus does not divide himself. Nor does he multiply himself. Jesus is one. And he is fully present in the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine.
Note that appearances includes everything that is perceptible to the senses. Location, both temporal and physical, is also an appearance. Everyone receiving communion receives the one entire Jesus, yet Jesus is not multiplied or divided. The appearances are multiplied, Jesus is not.
Here’s the thing - Jesus doesn’t divide Himself when transubstantiation occurs. When we consume the Eucharist, we consume all of Jesus - body, blood, soul, and divinity. In other words, we consume both of Jesus’s natures - His human nature and His Divine Nature. Through the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus showed the Jewish people that He would feed everyone with Himself. But the multiplication of the loaves was just a prefiguration of the Eucharist. And we see this in the discussion that Jesus has with the Jewish people in the Gospel of John after the multiplication of the loaves. Jesus pretty much told them: “You’re impressed by this? This is nothing. I am going to feed all generations who believe in Me with Myself.” It wasn’t until the Last Supper that the Eucharist was instituted and Jesus freely gave Himself in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. One might wonder how Jesus was able to give His disciples Himself to eat before the crucifixion. Quite simply, because Jesus knew that the Sacrifice of the Cross was going to transcend space and time. If the Sacrifice of the Cross was able to sanctify Mary at her conception, keeping her free from all sin (which is what the Church teaches), then Jesus would also be able institute the Eucharist with His full Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity before His Sacrifice was completed in the temporal realm.
Council of Trent:
“And this faith has ever 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, are 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 the species of wine, and the blood under the species of bread, and the soul under both, by the force of that natural connection and concomitancy whereby the parts of Christ our Lord, who has now risen from the dead to die no more, are united together; and the Divinity, furthermore, on account of the admirable hypostatic union with His body and soul.”
So the hypostatic union is the reason that His Divinity is present with His humanity in the Eucharist.
Your friend is thinking in terms of a “mortal” body like ours. She/we do not fully comprehend what capabilities our “immortal, glorified” bodies will have.
In heaven, our bodies will be fully subject to our soul/spirit. Thus, if Jesus desires & wills in His human soul (which is always in accord with His divinity) to be present **body, blood, soul **& divinity in many places simultaneously here on earth, then He will be. His body will be present wherever His human soul/spirit wills to be and is.
A quote by St Leo the Great, pope: …their bodies will be transformed by a joyous resurrection and clothed in the glory of immortality. No longer opposed in any way to their spirits, their bodies will remain in perfect harmony and unity with the will of the soul. …
The person, Jesus Christ is the Hypostatic Union of the Divine 2nd Person of the Blessed Trinity, united to the fully human nature; viz: Body and Soul. This Union is a mystery. No one can say “Jesus can’t do such and such.” That would be to deny his Divine Nature, where anything is possible.
In the Eucharist, we receive under the species of bread and wine, the Whole Jesus, not just the divine part, but his flesh and blood and soul as well. This is another sublime mystery of Faith.
Sproul is reducing the Sacred mystery to a scientific equation which can’t be verified, and is therefore false. He lacks Faith. He relies on human understanding to explain Divine and Transcendent Truths of the Faith, for which there are theological words, but it is a symbolic language of Faith, not a scientific one.
I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s that we cannot perceive God with our own senses. When I tried using my own limited vocabulary to explain this concept/mystery to my friend, his words were “You’re being too mysterious about all this because you KNOW that the Real Presence contradicts the Hypostatic Union because Jesus cannot be in two places at once.”
However, now that I’ve meditated on this, read more, and asked God for wisdom and insight, I realize that the key to the misunderstanding is that Heaven is not located in “space”. It is wherever God is and being able to truly SEE him. I think in Protestantism the concepts of heaven, God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and their unique roles and characteristics as part of the Godhead are significantly misunderstood.
Protestantism, especially my friend’s version of it, seems to put God in a box. One of the biggest eye-openers for me in the process of learning to “think like a Catholic” is that God is not limited and cannot be limited by man and man’s ability to perceive. It’s like Jesus told them in John 6, “the flesh is of no avail.” Our flesh cannot perceive this beautiful mystery of the Eucharist. It takes eyes of faith that are given to us by the Holy Spirit.
I think my friend’s reasoning and understanding of the Catholic explanation of transubstantiation was more along the lines of “the humanity tags along with the Divinity because of hypostatic union” instead of vice versa. He was trying to say that Jesus’ humanity was limited in time and space because if He couldn’t be divided, how could He (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) be in two places at once, in heaven and in the Eucharists all around the world?
Honestly, at the point he asked the question, I didn’t know enough to be able to sufficiently answer it (and I’ll probably never be able to do so since it is a mystery in large part).
What a great quote! Yes, I believe you are correct, he is thinking of Jesus in terms of a mortal body limited in time and space. I don’t think he is seeing past that point to fully realize that our immortal, glorified bodies will be capable of doing. I also think this misunderstanding causes many Protestants to question the practice of praying through the saints.
Hence my friend saying that my explanation was “being too mysterious.”
Yes, I agree, especially with the underlined part (not so incidentally, however, my friend kept asserting that my husband and I were the ones who lacked faith :shrug:). R.C. Sproul is a dangerous person. His misrepresentation of the Catholic faith in many aspects seeths with bitterness and anger and sadly, my friend thinks he’s brilliant. Sproul lost all credibility with me when I saw a video of him encouraging people to “gleen” and “mine the ore” of the riches of the early church fathers, who he described as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards. He did also mention Augustine, but nothing about St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Clement of Rome, St. Polycarp, St. Justin Martyr, etc. :rolleyes:
Thanks, everyone! These have helped me greatly! I am going to compose a reply to my friend using many of your quotes and resources.
As the other posters have pointed out, Jesus doesn’t need to divide Himself in order to be present in the Eucharist. The Holy Spirit can unite heaven to earth in every place where the eucharistic bread is consecrated and make the complete Jesus present in each tabernacle.
But I also want to point out something neat: your friend apparently mentioned the Council of Chalcedon as one that he believes. Now, that was the FOURTH Ecumenical Council. So by any logical standard, he should also accept the THIRD Ecumenical Council, and THAT one affirmed the Catholic belief about the Eucharist:
431 A.D. - Council of Ephesus Session 1 - “We will necessarily add this also. Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the Only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the Unbloody Sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his Holy Flesh and the Precious Blood of Christ the Saviour of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the Life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the Life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his Flesh, he made it also to be Life-giving, as also he said to us: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood. For we must not think that it is flesh of a man like us (for how can the flesh of man be life-giving by its own nature?) but as having become truly the very own of him who for us both became and was called Son of Man. Besides, what the Gospels say our Saviour said of himself, we do not divide between two hypostases or persons. For neither is he, the one and only Christ, to be thought of as double, although of two and they diverse, yet he has joined them in an indivisible union, just as everyone knows a man is not double although made up of soul and body, but is one of both. Wherefore when thinking rightly, we transfer the human and the divine to the same person.” source
Right. Pretty much the answer is pretty much the same as St. Peter’s, when the Twelve were asked by Jesus if they would also leave Him after the Bread of Life discourse - “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.” In other words, we take it by faith that God can do things that we will never understand this side of Heaven. Even though Jesus is both God and man, we need to stop making God in our image - and remember that we are the created, not the Creator. If the Creator can create something out of nothing (which is how He created the universe - even the Big Bang theory posits that the universe came from nothingness), then certainly He can make Himself fully human, and if He can make Himself fully human, then He can replace bread and wine with His full Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in every place where His words are proclaimed by a presbyter ordained by the successors of His own apostles.
[quote=slh3016]I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s that we cannot perceive God with our own senses. When I tried using my own limited vocabulary to explain this concept/mystery to my friend, his words were “You’re being too mysterious about all this because you KNOW that the Real Presence contradicts the Hypostatic Union because Jesus cannot be in two places at once.”
This is a classic Protestant objection to Transubstantiation. What is NEW, is that they are trying to say that this contradicts the Hypostatic Union. They really have no idea what they are talking about, because if they did, they would realize that it is the Hypostatic Union which makes everything Jesus does possible. That is why Jesus could hold Himself and give Himself to each of the Apostles at the Last Supper. They didn’t dare question this doctrine, or his saying. That is because they KNEW He was the Son of God. Too many Protestants are semi-Arian or even Arian in their Christology. The more fundamental they are, the more Arian.
Good point about Arianism. I need to bring that up. This biggest contradiction, IMO, are the doctrines they believe that came from Church councils from a Church they don’t believe had any authority. :shrug:
Perhaps you could read on the life of St. Padre Pio of Pietralcina.
The reason I bring this up as relevant to the discussion with your friend is that there are documented instances of the Saint experiencing a miracle called “bilocation”.
That is, that he was able somehow to be physically present at 2 distinct locations at the same time. Of course we are talking of a living Saint, that is at the time this happened he was still living with us.
Of course the Church declares that any such miracles are the direct intervention of GOD allowing the Saint to exert powers that our glorified bodies probably have after our resurrection.
Also, this miracle of bilocation of a human person have occurred with many other Saints too. Padre Pio is perhaps more relevant because as he lived close to our time there are actual photos of the event.
Of course the reason this is relevant is that he/she has asserted that nothing can be at 2 places at the same time, and GOD has shown us that we are never to say something is impossible to HIM. If it is HIS will it will happen.