E-mail sent to Pastoral Bible Foundation

Hi everyone! Below is an e-mail I sent to Pastoral Bible Foundation, a group that distributes the Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition. I sent them an e-mail over a doctrinal concern. Please comment! I want to know if I was theologically sound or unsound. Was I charitable enough? Comments, suggestions, and corrections are more than welcome! :slight_smile:

Anyway, here is the e-mail I sent:

"Dear Pastoral Bible Foundation,

Peace be with you! :slight_smile:

The purpose of my e-mail is two-fold: to thank you for having come up
with a very good Catholic edition of Sacred Scripture, and to raise a
concern about a doctrinal commentary seen in one of the edition’s
pages.

So first, thank you very much for the elegantly translated Christian
Community Bible! This piece of Sacred Scripture has been very helpful
for me in living my life as a practicing and theologically-sound
Filipino Catholic. I find it especially useful when meditating upon
God’s Word, most especially the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary. The
commentaries are also rich and enlightening, and I praise the
concerted effort to bring to the average lay person God’s Word in a
simple, easy-to-understand, timely, and meaningful way. So, once
again, thank you and congratulations!

My second concern however is about a piece of commentary I encountered
while reading the bible. It is the one about the Lord’s Supper, in
Luke 22:14-23. It affirms that indeed, the consecrated bread and wine
are both symbolically and truly the body and blood of the Lord.
However, in the spirit of fraternal correction, I would like to
indicate that the tone of the text seems to downplay the reality of
the Real Presence in the Eucharist, which is the heart and core of the
Catholic faith. The text in the beginning admits that there has been
much controversy between Catholics and Protestants about the
infallible and undeniable truth about the Real Presence.

In this sense, the correction I would like to indicate is about the
MATERIAL PRESENCE of Jesus Christ in the consecrated bread and wine,
where the commentary states: “The presence of the body of Christ is
not symbolic but real, though not a material presence, as if we could
say: ‘Jesus is here on the table.’… it is another reason to think it
is not a material presence, but rather another type, no less real, but
different…” The fallacy here is that Jesus is not present materially
in the Eucharist, but in another way (perhaps you are implying a
spiritual presence, yes?) I hope I misunderstood the interpretation,
but the truth is that Jesus IS INDEED MATERIALLY PRESENT in what looks
to be bread and wine, that these are the actual body and blood of the
Lord. Recall St. Thomas Aquinas’ explanation for transubstantiation,
that after the consecration, all the accidents of bread and wine
(physical properties) remain. Hence, they look, small, feel, taste,
like bread and wine. But in reality, they change in substance (hence,
transubstantiation), that our senses are too defective to detect that
this matter becomes the actual body and blood of Christ. You see, the
material presence is of utmost importance to fulfill the Lord’s
command to “Eat my flesh and drink my blood.” If they weren’t
materially flesh and blood, I don’t suppose we can “trogon” (Greek:
chew, gnaw) spiritual flesh and blood.

I think the intent of the commentary was to find common ground between
Catholic and Protestant readers. Of course, that is only my opinion,
since your intentions might have been entirely different and I believe
that it is just an honest mistake. But what I have just said is
Catholic doctrine, and does not deserve to be downplayed. I cannot
emphasize enough that in the Eucharist that Christ is present BOTH
materially and spiritually. After all, we say that in the mass is the
“body, blood, soul, and divinity” of Jesus Christ. Therefore I stand
by it, for I know it is correct and sound doctrine. Therefore while
attending mass, I can confidently say “Jesus is here on the table” as
we always do say “Jesus is in the tabernacle,” isn’t that right?

Thank you for hearing me out. I am praying for your vocation to
evangelize and spread the Word of God through the Catholic faith! May
God bless your ministry always! :)"

There you go :smiley: (I sent this as a theologically-conservative Catholic, mind you)

Try to not put capitals as emphasis, instead use bold text or italics. Try to also avoid smiley faces. Good job!

Your theology was, indeed, sound. And just to affirm what you stated, I will point out that the Eucharist is the glorified Christ and all that he is: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. When Jesus took on flesh and dwelt among us, he was materially and spiritually present to humankind. He instituted the Eucharist to (among other things) continue his material and spiritual presence on earth. Basically, the Eucharist is the greatest gift of love imaginable because it is the gift of Christ himself, and in it he is holding nothing back; he gives us his all. If the Eucharist was a spiritual presence but not also a material presence, Christ would, indeed, be holding something back, and the Eucharist could not be the greatest gift of love imaginable.

Moreover, if this company wants to publish a Catholic pastoral edition of their Bible, it would be better if they actually quoted authentic Catholic teaching, such as what the Catechism teaches about the Real Presence in the Eucharist. This would be a better approach than them presenting Catholic teaching based upon their interpretations of it.

As Pious Templar pointed out, it is best to avoid capitalizing entire words. In cyberspace such a thing represents shouting. Some email services will let you highlight words by italicizing them (and this is not considered shouting).

May I also suggest that you avoid using the word “fallacy” and instead use phrases such as “what you presented here is not actually an authentic representation of official Catholic teaching.” The reason I state this is because when we say that someone has committed a fallacy, this implies that we are accusing him of intellectual dishonesty (and that may or may not be the case; in the case you presented I think you would agree that the Pastoral Biblical Foundation should initially be given the benefit of the doubt). But by stating that they did not properly present official Catholic teaching, the implication is that a mistake was made and that there was no intentional dishonesty involved.

Other than that, I think you did a good job, and despite my suggestions I think they will still perceive that you submitted this in the spirit of sincere fraternal charity. So keep up the good work!

Hi guys! Thanks for the replies :slight_smile: Here’s the response they sent me, and I’m not sure what to make of it…

Dear ------,

Thanks for your email.

Here is a short answer to your question:

The Council of Trent never speaks of material presence. The Decreed on
the Eucharist, 1551, Article 1, Real Presence (against Zwinglio who
affirmed that Christ is present only “as a sign” o “only in potency” =
in virtute), Trent affirms that “in the blessed sacrament of the
Eucharist is “the whole Christ," “truly,” “really,” and
“substantially” contained (vere, realiter et substantialiter), the
body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with the soul and divinity and
therefore the complete Christ (DS 1651; 1636). According to Canon 8 it
is not enough to say that in the Eucharist one eats the Body of Christ
only spiritually, but also “sacramentaliter et realiter” D 1658.
Therefore not material presence; that would more or less would mean
that the consecrated bread becomes a physical constitutive part of the
natural body, historical and transfigured of Christ. The problem is to
identify “real” with “material”. In the Eucharist the presence is
sacramentally real. The Eucharist is the only case of a “real
sacramental-anamnestic- presence”. Only God’s omnipotence can make
possible a presence that is sacramentally real. According to
theologians it is something intrinsically rational since it is in line
of the incarnational and historical-salvific coming of God to the
world; and because it corresponds to the corporeal and social nature
of the person, object of revelation.

Shalom,

Alberto

Fr. Alberto Rossa, cmf
Pastoral Bible Foundation and
Claretian Publications Macau
P.O.Box 1608
Macau, China
TE +853 - 2893-9174


Well? What are your thoughts on this? Because the reply he made was based on a source acceptable (authoritative, actually) to Catholics, I am inclined to accept it. That, and the guy is a priest after all :smiley: However, I still have my doubts as to how to understand Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist (I couldn’t quite figure out how he differentiated “material” presence from all the others; perhaps we’re not on the same page when we meant “material”?) In light of his answer, I would like more comments on this. Affirmations, objections, or syntheses are more than welcome. Despite however my lack of understanding on this theological subject (my mind is human after all and the Real Presence is indeed a mystery no one can fully grasp), I wish that whatever comes from this discussion will bring us to a deeper and more meaningful appreciation of Christ in the Eucharist.

Thank you again :slight_smile:

I think you are probably correct in that you and your correspondent are using the word with slightly different meanings, and that this is, in part, a direct result of the essential impossibility of using human, finite language to explain the ineffable, infinite mystery of the Real Presence.

I expect that by “material” the writer meant the “accidents” of the elements, as distinct from the “substance,” which is what you are thinking about.

There is a reason our Eastern brethren refuse to try and explain the Real Presence . . .

Sacramentally and Substantially real. As far as materially real, that is certainly made true with Eucharistic Miracles. I agree that is sounds like slightly different word definitions are being used.

Excellent letter! May God bless you in your efforts.

I’m still seeing a disconnect with this rationalization. He says that Trent “never speaks of material presence” and yet quotes Trent affirming that the Eucharist is the “whole Christ” and the “complete Christ” and the “body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.” The glorified Christ exists at this moment as both body and soul, physical and spiritual. The former certainly indicates a material presence. Moreover, this glorified, substantial presence of Christ only exists in two places at this time: heaven and in the Eucharist.

As others have suggested, it may be that the author is trying to explain this within the framework of certain philosophical nuances, and therefore using the word “material” in a different way than what is commonly understood. If this is the case, it is both unnecessarily confusing and is in danger of leading the reader into misunderstanding what the Catholic Church actually teaches. After all, based on the text presented in the Catholic Pastoral edition of this Bible, would the average reader, having read that Christ is not materially present in the Eucharist, conclude that the Eucharist is the whole Christ, the complete Christ?

Here is the CCC summary of what was said at Trent:

The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.” (CCC #1374)

So why couldn’t the Bible in question simply use this quote rather than trying to explain it all in the confusing manner with which they did?

According to Canon 8 it is not enough to say that in the Eucharist
one eats the Body of Christ only spiritually, but also “sacramentaliter et realiter” D 1658.
Therefore not material presence; that would more or less would mean
that the consecrated bread becomes a physical constitutive part of the
natural body, historical and transfigured of Christ.

It does not necessarily follow that saying the Eucharist includes the material presence of Christ means that the Eucharist is the historical (i.e., pre-resurrection) body of Christ, assuming that this is the criticism Fr. Rossa is making (he is not very clear). The “natural”, “historical” body of Christ did not go away at the resurrection, but was glorified. A glorified body is still a physical body, so I still do not understand how a physical body is not also a material body.

A philosophical argument can probably be made for this, so I am not saying that Fr. Rossa is wrong. But I will once again stress that in trying to explain Catholic teaching the Catholic Pastoral Edition of this Bible, in my opinion, did not do a good job. I have two master’s degrees in theology (which included studying philosophy at a graduate level for two years) and nevertheless I am unclear as to exactly what the text of the Catholic Pastoral edition of this Bible and Fr. Rossa’s “clarification” are saying. If that is the case with me, what would be the case for the average reader (meaning one who did not have the benefit of my graduate studies)?

Again, thanks guys :smiley: I really do want to resolve this discrepancy right away. Anyway, here’s my response to what Fr. Rossa sent me:

"Dear Fr. Rossa,

Thank you very much for your reply.

As a faithful Catholic abiding by the Church’s timeless and infallible teachings, I am inclined to accept your explanation because it came from an ecumenical council authoritative on all the faithful, and that they were interpreted for me by no less than an ordained priest of God.

However, I still do have some points I wish for you to clarify for me, if you don’t mind.

In your reply, you stated: “Trent affirms that 'in the blessed sacrament of the Eucharist is ‘the whole Christ,’ ‘truly,’ ‘really,’ and ‘substantially’ contained (vere, realiter et substantialiter), the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with the soul and divinity and therefore the complete Christ (DS 1651; 1636).According to Canon 8 it is not enough to say that in the Eucharist one eats the Body of Christ only spiritually, but also ‘sacramentaliter et realiter’ D 1658. Therefore not material presence; that would more or less would mean that the consecrated bread becomes a physical constitutive part of the natural body, historical and transfigured of Christ. The problem is to identify ‘real’ with ‘material’.” (emphasis added)

I find some statements here quite contradictory to each other. I got lost in the part of “therefore not material presence” because I could not catch on the logic here. Just the previous statement said that the complete Christ was present in the Eucharist and the succeeding statement denied any sort of material presence (but still in fact, “real”). What exactly would be the problem if “that more or less would mean that the consecrated bread becomes a physical constitutive part of the natural body, historical and transfigured of Christ.” If during the holy sacrifice of the mass,* the one, same, perfect sacrifice of Calvary* was re-presented to us, then how would the consecrated host not be the physical, material, natural, historical, and transfigured body of Christ if it were the same sacrifice? Would it be the same sacrifice but a different Christ in a sense He wasn’t material? In other words, if the mass was the same sacrifice of the cross, why wouldn’t the Eucharist be the same Christ, material and spiritual, in the first place? I know that there is a difference between “material” and “real”, but I fail to see how the absence of the word “material” in the Council of Trent’s reaffirmation of the Real Presence exclude the material presence, where in fact they state it is the complete Christ in the Eucharistic presence. Of course it is sacramentally real, but how could it not be materially real as well? It goes against the spirit of the sacrament where Jesus gives us His all. I suppose He wouldn’t leave out the material part if it were indeed “the whole Christ” in this wonderful sacrament. Besides, it is His body, blood, soul, and divinity after all, His body and blood being physical, thus being material (unless you can explain how something physical can’t be something material as well). In essence I really do believe that it is Jesus Himself in what looks like bread and wine.

I hope we’re on the same page when we say “material” or else all this could have just been a big misunderstanding. Can you please clarify this for me?

Again, thank you. God bless you and your ministry. "


Well? What do you guys think? I’ll be sure to post his next reply :slight_smile:

Obviously I cannot speak for Fr. Rossa, but I am pretty sure what you (and he) are dealing with is whether, if you were to subject the Consecrated Host to a chemical analysis, you would get “flesh” or “bread” constituents. The accidents are material, ergo the material refers to the accidents. Transubstantiation means the substance is changed, not the accidents.

More readily comprehended analogy - when two people marry, their exchange of vows and reception of the sacrament changes them from “single person” to “married person.” No blood or tissue test would reveal this change, but it is absolutely real. The two are one, in the view of God. In the material world, this unity can be divided. In the real world, the change cannot be undone.

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