The Eucharist is the Paschal Sacrifice. In ancient Judaism for the passover feast, each family was required to sacrifice an unblemished lamb to God. That lamb was then to be eaten by the family making the sacrifice (by prescription of the OT in order to gain the benefit of making the sacrifice)… So we must understand that the celebration of the Eucharist comes from tradition which predates the gospels. That is important in understanding the Sacrament of Communion.
Jesus comes and is the “Lamb of God.” He is the PERFECT Passover Sacrifice. As such, we humans, who crucified Him, in order to gain access to the graces promulgated by His sacrifice, must partake of the Lamb (via consumption). This is the argument for the real presense… we MUST eat of the Sacraficial Lamb in order to have life.
Carry this further: the celebration of the Eucharist is not a new sacrifice of Christ, it is not a re-sacrifice of Christ, it isn’t even a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Christ. The celebration of the Eucharist is the one and only Sacrifice… each time in each church where the celebration of the Eucharist is made, we are taken to the Passover feast and are participating in the One, Final, and Perfect Sacrifice made by Christ. Indeed, the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, our Risen Lord.
Just as Christ gave His authority to the Apostles only, so He gave the command “Do this in memory of Me” to them specifically. This is why only those with powers of ordination are capable of enacting the rite of Communion, and to mouth along the words of the Eucharistic Prayers is an illicit (although generally non-malicious) act on the part of laypersons.
Well, if they’re really unfamiliar with it, I’d probably begin by telling them how Our Lord’s love for us is so strong that He desires to be united with us; to personally abide in each of us. He desires full union, not just union with His spiritual Divine nature as the Second Person of the Trinity, but union with the fullness of His human incarnation as Jesus (His Divine nature united to His glorious resurrected human nature.) For this reason He instituted the Eucharist. Because of our limitations in experiencing something that is only present spiritually, He chose to do it in a tangible way. Thus, by using physical elements, we can experience the gift of His union through our senses also - we can know it is really occuring.
Next, take any questions concerning the above - and give some Scriptures that express His desire to abide in us. (John 15; Rev 3:20). From there go into John 6 and the institution narratives at the Last Supper.
Regarding the cannibalism. If that should come up at all, be sure to stress that it is union with our risen Lord, His glorified body. Cannibalism involves eating mortal (vs glorified immortal) flesh.
There is symbolism in the elements (bread and wine) that Jesus chose to use. At some point, perhaps after they’ve grasped that the elements have truly been changed into Our Lord, it would be good to discuss why Jesus chose those elements; what about them makes them symbolic of Himself and of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. That particular meditation is good for us old cradle Catholics as well as beginners seeking to understand.
As Catholics, we believe through scripture that we are the Bride of Christ. What is the role of the bride? To physically receive her groom and give herself back to him. Who is the groom? Christ. Eucharist is the earthly means by which Christ, our groom, unites with us His bride and we unite with Him. It is a great mystery of the faith, but one that is fully supported by scripture.
That’s where I would start. Obviously the person would have many more questions, but I’ve found the bride/bridegroom analogy helpful.
"If there is one mystery of faith around which revolves the whole Catholic liturgy, it is the Eucharist. Christian piety has been lavish in the titles it gives to this mystery, believing it is impossible to exhaust its depth of meaning. The name “Eucharist,” or thanksgiving, is to be explained either by the fact that at its institution Christ “gave thanks,” or by the fact that this is the supreme act of Christian gratitude to God. Early instances of this title occur in the ‘Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,’ in the letters of St. Igantius of Antioch, and in the Apologies of St. Justin. Other familiar names are the Lord’s Supper, the Table of the Lord, the Holy Sacrifice, the Holy of Holies, the Blessed Sacrament, or simply the Liturgy. Each of these and similar names concentrate on one or another of the three main aspects of the Eucharistic mystery, as Real Presence, as the Sacrifice of the Altar, or as the sacrament of Holy Communion.
It depends where the enquirer is coming from. If he is a pagan, which is unlikely, he will nothing strange in eating the totem animal, but will wonder why it done in the form of bread and wine. If he is a standard suburban American he will just see the whole idea of a ritual meal a weird. If he is Jewish he will understand that bread and wine are treated separately from other foods, but will be unfamiliar with the connection with the body of Christ.
Ultimately the eucharist is a command we are given, not something we can understand. I don’t think anyone would say that they know exactly what Jesus intended at the Last Supper. However it is the ancient tradition of the Church that the bread and wine are not just a memorial, but the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
56 For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. 57 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. 58 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. 59 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever. - John 6:56-59
Jesus is not speaking symbolism here. St. Paul also believed this read 1 Cor Chapter 11 which reads,
26 For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. 27 Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord. 30 Therefore are there many infirm and weak among you, and many sleep. 1 Cor 11:26-30.
Our finite minds cannot comprehend the mystery of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Christ’s Church teachings that Jesus is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
The physical appearance remains the same, but its substance is Jesus. Every particle or accident is Jesus’ flesh and blood.
And you wonder why Catholics have Eucharist Adoration in some parishes. It’s because we are worshipping Jesus. It’s called the Benediction.
If it were symbolic, it would be consider idol worship since symbolism denies the Real Presence.
Kitty Chan, I’m not trying to be offensive or to ridicule your faith. I’m just trying to explain the difference as I would see it.
Merely seeing Jesus’ crucifixtion and then partaking of a symbolic communion is like looking at pornography and then masturbating; you think about it, then fake the act. Actually recieving the eucharist is the bride actually recieving the bridegroom.
That probably came off as offensive. I’m sorry, but that’s how I see it.
I think I would start from what was familiar to them
BTW - the Eucharist, Catholic or otherwise, is certainly symbolic :D. It is a great deal more as well; but, it is that as well as those other things. There is nothing to be afraid of in saying it is a symbol, as long as we say the other things too. What we can’t say is that it is “only”, “merely”, “nothing but” a symbol.
What is the Eucharist? It is God with us. It is the Lord Jesus present in the tabernacles of our churches with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is Jesus veiled under the appearance of bread, but really and physically present in the consecrated Host, so that He dwells in our midst, works within us and for us. The Eucharistic Jesus is the true Emmanuel, the “God with us”"(Mt. 1:23).
The bread and wine keep only their appearances, to express the reality of food and drink, according to Jesus’ words, “My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink” (Jn. 6:56).
“The faith of the Church,” Pope Pius XII teaches us, “is this: That one and identical is the Word of God and the Son of Mary who suffered on the Cross, who is present in the Eucharist, and who rules in Heaven.”
For the Protestant, the Communion service (which most of them have once a month) is merely ceremonial. The Cream Crackers and Ribena merely symbolize the Body and Blood of Christ; whereas for us Catholics we believe it to BE real food and real drink -the Body and Blood of Christ – it is the Real Presence not symbolic.
At the Protestant Communion service, there is little reverence because it is only symbolic. One can witness children ‘playing’ with the Cream Crackers and spilling Ribena all over the floor….something unheard of for Catholics as we revere our Eucharist and treat our Lord in the Eucharist, with the respect He so deserves.
There is enough documented evidence to show how the consecrated host has actually transformed into the actual flesh and blood (miracles of Naju, Korea – Ms Julia Kim actually received the Holy Eucharist in the presence of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in Rome and the Host actually became flesh and blood). Blood tests revealed the blood to be of Group AB.
Eucharistic wonders are recorded in the lives of St. Rose of Lima, Bl. Angela of Foligno, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Philip Neri, St. Francis Borgia, St. Joseph of Cupertino, and many other saints, who sensibly perceived the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle and in the consecrated Hosts, seeing Jesus with their own eyes or enjoying His indescribable fragrance.
Well known is the episode in the life of St. Anthony of Padua when he once proved the Real Presence to an unbeliever by showing him a hungry mule kneeling before a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, in preference to devouring the basket of oats placed beside the monstrance.
The Sanctuary of Lanciano (in Abruzzi, Italy), in particular, is unique of its kind among the world’s Eucharistic sanctuaries and deserves to be better known throughout the entire world. There the marvelous presence of a Host transformed into live Flesh and preserved in this condition for many centuries can be contemplated. It is a visible miracle which amazes and moves hearts to this very day. Blood tests again revealed the blood to be of Group AB – it has always been that consistent.
The Protestants have no evidence of any such Eucharistic miracle simply because they do not believe in the Real Presence. Since there is no faith, surely no miracle will follow (Mat13:58 - And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.)
It is only after partaking in the Protestants’ Communion service (symbolic) and at the same time having been brought to the realization of the Real Presence in our own service, that we recognize how sacrosanct the Eucharist is to us Catholics.
Technically it does. What changes is NOT the “accidents” (the appearance, taste, feel, and etc.) but the “substance” (the what-is-it-ness) of the bread and wine.
As an illustration, when you look at that item in your dining room that is made of wood, has 4 legs and a big rectangular top, you call that a “table.” But over in the corner of another room, next to the sofa, is a small circular item that is about 18" in diameter, made of metal and glass upon which sits a lamp and the book you are reading. That item is also called a “table.” The accidents of these two items are totally different (different materials, different colors, different sizes, different textures, and etc.). However, the substance of both items is identical–both are “tables.”
In the Eucharist, we have an identical situation except that the accidents remain the same (before and after the consecration, the hosts look, feel, and taste the same) but the substance (the what-is-it-ness) changes. Even though we can not physically detect any changes in the acidents, the bread has become the glorified Body, the Real Presence) of Christ and the wine has become His glorified Blood. No physical test will sho any changes just like no physical test will show difinitely that both the tables are indeed “tables”.