Real Presence and the Second Coming, a Contradiction?

Good Morning,

I’m very interested in the debate between Protestants and Catholics on a number of issues.

One of those is the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s presence. I understand the Catholic arguments in favor of the real, local presence of Christ, and I don’t agree with those Protestant theologians who insist Jesus can’t be locally present because of his human nature (not all do), but one thing I do have a hard time understanding is how Catholics (and others who hold to the real presence view) can reconcile that position with the many passages of scripture talking about Christ’s second coming as a future event. If Christ is coming again and we are all awaiting that second coming, how can he already be here in the Lord’s Supper?

Are there any convincing arguments on this point that you can point me toward or present here? Any external sources? Thanks for your time!

-Justin

:popcorn:

Space and time prevent a truly fulsome answer to your question but briefly I would give it a feeble attempt. Jesus identified himself several times as the Bread of Life and instituted the Blessed Sacrament of the Mass at the Last Supper. He clearly stated that he was present, body blood soul and divinity, under the appearance of the bread and wine. He instructed his apostles to continue the sacrament after he was taken bodily from them. So it was Jesus who said he is present in the Real Presence, not just Catholics who believe what he said, did, and follow his instruction. Jesus also said that he would not leave us orphans but that he would be with us always in the Church which is his mystical body on earth. Jesus also said there would be a day when mankind would see him returning in glory from heaven with his angels. One part of scripture does not necessarily preclude other parts nor should one part taken in isolation and be used to draw conclusions without the whole of the truth of God’s complete revelation. I know that some Protestant theologians will have a hard time seeing this but unfortunately they are hampered by things such as sola scriptura and private interpretation of scripture.

The Lord is already specially present in any gathering of His followers, as He promised. And both Protestants and Catholics would say that He dwells in the “hearts” of Christians. Neither of these is taken to contradict the wait for the Second Coming, so I would not think that His real but hidden presence in the Eucharist would do so.

There’s a hymn I rather like. I believe it’s recent in composition, but it seems to me to express the very ancient heart of the Catholic (and generally the Christian) faith:

“We remember how You loved us to Your death;
And still we celebrate, for You are with us here;
And we believe that we will see You when You come in Your glory, Lord!
We remember, we celebrate, we believe.”

Wait a minute Catholics do not believe in the second coming?

Yes, of course we do.

The OP is asking whether the doctrine of the Real Presence (that Jesus is in a very real and local sense perpetually present in the consecrated species) contradicts the idea that Jesus is “not here” until the Second Coming.

Thank you for your response. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you appear to be saying that it is a contradiction, but one that must be mysteriously received and accepted. Would you say that’s correct?

This is correct.

Thanks for your response. I’m still not sure what the meaning of the “second” coming is if Jesus is already physically present on Earth every single day. It’s not really a “second” coming at all. Although many Protestants disagree on the specifics, most would probably argue that Christ is spiritually present when “two or three gather in His name,” but not physically present. The physical presence would come at the Second Coming. I’m not saying this view is wrong or right, but I think it’s important to understand that most Protestants wouldn’t argue Christ is ever physically present on Earth in his human, bodily form.

The teaching of transubstantiation does not date back to the Last Supper as most Catholics suppose. It was a controversial topic for many centuries before officially becoming an article of faith (which means that it is essential to salvation according to Rome). The idea of a physical presence was vaguely held by some, such as Ambrose, but it was not until 831 A.D. that Paschasius Radbertus, a Benedictine Monk, published a treatise openly advocating the doctrine. Even then, for almost another four centuries, theological was was waged over this teaching by bishops and people alike, until at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 A.D., it was officially defined and canonized as a dogma (a teaching or doctrine that can never be reversed or repealed. It is equal in authority to the Bible.) by Pope Innocent III.

Church historians tell us that when this doctrine first began to be taught, the priests took great care that no crumb should fall - lest the body of Jesus be hurt, or even eaten by a mouse or a dog! There were quite serious discussions as to what should be done if a person were to vomit after receiving the sacrament. At the Council of Constance, it was argued that if a communicant spilled some of the blood on his beard, both beard and the man should be destroyed by burning!

I understand the view, but this isn’t really on-topic.

Note that transubstantiation, which does indeed date to fairly late in Church history, is a specific philosophical explanation for the Real Presence, not the doctrine itself. It is similar to how the roots of the Trinity can be seen in Scripture and other early writings, but it was only in the Fourth Century that the relationships within the Trinity were defined in specific philosophical terms (simultaneously rejecting alternative formulations that were felt to safeguard the truth insufficiently).

Just because transubstantiation was articulated later, it should not be thought that earlier generations of Christians did not believe Jesus was really present in the consecrated species, though they may have had different explanations (or none at all) for HOW it happens. Eastern Christians do not teach transubstantiation specifically, but they certainly believe in the Real Presence.

Pick up a book called “Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Eucharist”. It’s cheap but probably the single best book I’ve ever read on the Eucharist, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, basically everything that happened in the last week of Jesus’s life, and even more than that. Amazing book!!! I’ve always believed everything whole heartedly but this book explains why we should believe…

Now, I add a caveat, this book does not directly answer your question about the second coming; however, it does give everything anyone needs, whether Catholic, Protestant or Jewish, to believe and understand the true presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

I cannot express how amazing this book is…

Hi, thanks for the recommendation. Believe it or not, I actually have the book and have read it at least twice. I agree that it’s very good, but much of what is in there could be harmonized with a belief in the spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It’s a very good book for refuting a purely symbolic view of the Lord’s Supper, however.

The distinction between a “physical” and a “spiritual” presence doesn’t seem to be a bright line. Transubstantiation is “physical” in that it includes the Lord’s Body (but then, any Real Presence that takes Jesus’ words into account would have to), but it is a very strange mode of physical presence, since all of Jesus is present in every single particle or drop of consecrated species, and His Body is not divided or chewed or digested by the act of consuming the Eucharist.

It may seem like a contradiction through a purely literal lens but certainly not through a spiritual one that recognizes that all things are possible for God.

Contradiction is an interesting word to use as Jesus was himself a contradiction to the secular world view of things. Bishop Fulton Sheen in his teaching often referred to the cross as a sign of contradiction.

Is there a contradiction between the words of Jesus about remaining with us (Matthew 28: 20…) …and his second coming?

No.

Nor with his that special manner he is with us (the Eucharist) in addition to others…

The Second Coming is a very particular even with him coming “on the clouds” in “glory”…which will happen at the end…along with the Resurrection etc…

There is no contradiction.

I understand your view, but again, those passages could easily be interpreted as meaning “Christ is spiritually present with us, but his physical human body is not locally here on Earth.” That’s what a lot of people have and do argue.

I agree. I don’t have a problem with difficult truths or seemingly contradictory claims, but I just don’t see the clear biblical language to support the conclusion the church is preaching here. Further, some of the early church fathers, especially Clement of Alexandria, clearly rejected the transubstantiation view. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it makes it hard to believe.

Not so sure what the confusion is but I think the definition or rather understanding of Real Presence and Second Coming must be agreed first. It seems each is already assuming what they are but Protestants and Catholics may understand them differently.

I don’t think there is any contradiction. We can’t see Jesus in Real Presence in the Eucharist except for the accidents but it is not so in the Second Coming where he will be King and hand out judgment.

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