It’s not symbolism in the perspective of the scriptures. In the Passover narrative in Exodus, was the lamb symbolic? Was the angel of death symbolic? Surely God didn’t kill the first born of all who didn’t take the word of Moses literally right?
I assure you He did!
Was it good enough to just sacrifice the lamb and put the blood of the lamb on the door post? Sure it was because it was only a symbol of faith right? One could have taken a one year old, unblemished lamb, without broken bones, and sacrifice it then place the blood on the door post and lintel then go to bed and wake up in the morning and all would be good, right? WRONG! They had to EAT THE LAMB!
Jesus came to bring us the new covenant, “the new and everlasting covenant.” In John 6;53 He plainly states that if you don’t eat His flesh and drink His blood you have no life within you. That is meant and taken literally. The Apostles may not have understood what He meant any more than we do, but they did not turn away from this difficult teaching.
There is a book by Scott Hahn, “The Lambs Supper”. Scott Hahn is a former Protestant minister who set out with his vast knowledge of scripture to “prove the Catholic Church wrong.” The result of his venture was to prove the Church was right and he converted in the early eighties. Google his conversion story, it evolved around the Eucharistic celebration of the mass. I would suggest all of you who doubt what the Church has always professed as truth, the Eucharist is the Lamb of God-Jesus, get a copy of this book and a bible and sit at your desk and start reading. When he references scripture, turn to it and read it in the context of it’s placement in the story. See what the word has for you.
There are many answers in the word, but as verse 63 or 64 reads (don’t have my bible with me) “the words I speak to you are spirit and life” it takes more than our human ability to see the truth in His words. It takes supernatural grace, which demands openness, just as Peter and the rest of the twelve, they didn’t understand but they knew to trust in Him.
I choose to trust in His word. I know I am in the minority within the Catholic Church that believes this teaching. Recent studies show that the majority of Catholics, let alone non Catholics, do not believe in the real presence. I guess some things never change, see most didn’t believe the words of Jesus then either, and they turned away and went back to their former way of life. To understand the Eucharist is to understand what He says in John 6;56, “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in Me and I in him.” It means making drastic changes in our lives. It means dying to self and, to steal a Protestant phrase, be born again in Christ; those who left that day, like the “rich young man” of last Sunday’s gospel, were not ready to give up the world to seek the Kingdom of God.
This teaching is hard, but it’s been truth since He said it!