The Eucharist v. Communion

I firmly feel that faith should not be blind and that, like the Bereans, we are to search the Scriptures daily to make sure that what we are being taught has merit (Acts 17:11). I am trying to do this with the Communion, or Eucharist.

Considering the differences in the Catholic and Protestant interpretation (one being the literal flesh and blood of Christ and the other being a representation), I am not finding it easy to set the two side by side and make a definite call as to the accuracy of one over the other.

Everyone claims to hold a literal translation of the Scriptures as doctrine, but I am finding that every denomination or entity within Christianity (excluding pseudo-Christian cults in the equation), Catholic or Protestant, chooses what is literal and what is symbolic. If everything was literal, God would have feathers and Christ would be a door.

Pertaining to the Eucharist, I am aware that Tertullian, Iraeneus, and probably other Ante-Nicene Fathers wrote of the transformation of the bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Christ, although Iraeneus refers to its dual identity as physical (bread) and spiritual (flesh), and so on. This makes me wonder what the true difference between bread representing the flesh to Protestants (other than Lutherans, of course) and it being flesh in a spiritual sense to Catholics.

Both sects of Christianity take it very seriously, as it is a great offense for both to partake in communion/Eucharist in a state of sinfulness that has not been properly dealt with. I know some raise the issue of justification, but where is this found in Catholic tradition? Is there an early Church Father that linked infused grace with the Eucharist? That this is more than “do this in remembrance of Me?” Obviously both believe there is more to it than just that, otherwise it would not be such a large offense to do so in an unworthy fashion. Also, why are Catholics prohibited from taking Protestant Communion? If it is done with the reading of the last supper and focuses solely on Christ, where is the offense in this? Do Catholics really believe that the receiving of the Catholic Eucharist is mandatory for salvation?

This is not meant to challenge Catholicism. I am only trying to tease out the differences.

Wow! You don’t start small, do you!:wink: You have several questions all rolled up into one little OP. First, I suggest that you read the First Apology of St. Justin Martyr written to the pagan Roman emperor, Antonius Pius.

66And this food is called among us ukaristia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.
For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.
67And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration. **(Ch. 66-67) **

What St. Justin speaks of in this very small section of an enormous work is the exact way we celebrate Mass today.

I also suggest you read this excellent work written by a well-know Catholic apologist on the Eucharist and Early Church Fathers.

There are volumes written on the subject, so if you have any further questions, perhaps we can point you in the right direction.

Peace be with you,


yea Jake welcome to the boards btw

someone after my own heart on this matter I too am trying to figure out what you stated. It is a source of frusteration for me as well.

I suggest reading John 6

I think that from verse 31 on, Jesus is telling us what He wants us to do. Also for me verse 68 will hit home for me. Jesus knew that there were going to be those who thought eating His flesh and drinking His blood was too much but he didn’t stop them and try to explain what he meant. He just turn to His apostles and asked them if they too would leave. I know I don’t want to leave so I must do what He asked us to do eat His flesh and drink His blood.

I hope that helps. Also welcome to the board.

Thanks everyone!

I do have Justin Martyr’s works and will read it and the other resources provided. Justin seems to be a great mediator between Protestants and Catholics since we both have to accept his validity, having written so early in Church History.

The quest for truth is exhausting- especially when it has the potential of challenging one’s paradigms! :eek: Thanks for the info and support!

Take a look at J.N.D. Kelley for a comprehensive view of early church doctrines. He is Protestant, but there are few things in his book that Catholics would not accept.


Actually Jesus does give an explanation. In verse 61 "But Jesus conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble?”"
Then in verse 63 He gives the answer. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life."
Jesus tells us that He was speaking in a spiritual sense, not a carnal one.

As for Church fathers.

Orth.—You are caught in the net you have woven yourself. For even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before. But they are regarded as what they are become, and believed so to be, and are worshipped as being what they are believed to be. Compare then the image with the archetype, and you will see the likeness, for the type must be like the reality. For that body preserves its former form, figure, and limitation and in a word the substance of the body; but after the resurrection it has become immortal and superior to corruption; it has become worthy of a seat on the right hand; it is adored by every creature as being called the natural body of the Lord. Theodret (Dialogues, 2)

Chapter 16.—Rule for Interpreting Commands and Prohibitions.

  1. If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,” says Christ, “and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53 This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us. Scripture says: “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink;” and this is beyond doubt a command to do a kindness. Augustine (On Christian Doctrine 3:16:24)

And if we who preside over the Churches are shepherds after the image of the good Shepherd, and you the sheep, are we not to regard the Lord as preserving consistency in the use of figurative speech, when He speaks also of the milk of the flock? And to this meaning we may secondly accommodate the expression,“I have given you milk to drink, and not given you food, for you are not yet able,” regarding the meat not as something different from the milk, but the same in substance. For the very same Word is fluid and mild as milk, or solid and compact as meat. And entertaining this view, we may regard the proclamation of the Gospel, which is universally diffused, as milk; and as meat, faith, which from instruction is compacted into a foundation, which, being more substantial than hearing, is likened to meat, and assimilates to the soul itself nourishment of this kind. Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: “Eat my flesh, and drink my blood;” John 6:34 describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both,—of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood. For in reality the blood of faith is hope, in which faith is held as by a vital principle. And when hope expires, it is as if blood flowed forth; and the vitality of faith is destroyed. Clement of Alexandria (The Instructor 1:6)

From Kelly on Justin, (pg 196-197)

It was natural for early Christians to think of the eucharist as a sacrifice. The fulfilment of prophecy demanded a solemn Christian offering, an the rite itself was wrapped in the sacrificial atmosphere with which out Lord invested the Last Supper. The words of institution, ‘Do thi’ must have been charged with sacrifical overtones for second century ears; Justin at any rate undestood them to mean ‘Offer this’. (1 apol 66,3 and dialogue 41, I) If we inquire what the sacrifice was supposed to consist in, the Didache for its part provides no clear answer. Justin, however, makes it plain (dialogue 41, 3) that the bread and the wine themselves were the ‘pure offering’ fortold by Malachi (1:10). Even if h holds that ‘prayers and thanksgivings’ are the only God-pleasing sacrifices, we must remember that he uses the term ‘thanksgiving’ as technically equivalent to ‘the Eucharistized bread and wine’. The bread and wine, moreover, are offered ‘for a memorial of the passion’, a phrase which in view of his identification of them with the Lord’s body and blood implies much more than an act of purely spiritual recollection. Altogether it would seem that, while his language is not fully explicit, Justin is feeling his way to the conception of the eucharist as the offering of the Saviour’s passion.

More from Kelly on Ireneaus (pg 197)

Irenaeus’s thoughts (haer 4,17,4-6; 4,33,2; 5,2,2) moves along rather different lines and does not link the eucharist so closely with Christ’s atoning death. When the bread and wine are offered to God, he thinks of them primarily as first-fruits of the earth which Christ has instructed us to offer, not because the Father needs them, but that we may not be found unfruitful or ungrateful. This is ‘the oblation of the Church’, and is well pleasing to God as the expression of a sincere and faithful disposition. But the idea of the passion prevades this approach too, for Irenaeus identifies the gifts with Chrisst’s body and blood and describes them, in laguage reminiscent of the Lord’swords at the Last Supper, as ‘the oblation of the new covenant’.

More on Didache and Ignatius of Antioch from Kelly.

This leads us to consider the significance attached to the elements themselves in this period. From the Didache we gather that the bread and wine are ‘holy’; they are spiritual food and ddrink communicating immortal life. Ignatius roundly declares (Smyrn 6, 2) that ‘the eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father in his godness raised up’. The bread is the flesh of Jesus, the cup His blood. (Rom 7,3). Clearly he intends this realism to be taken stricly, for he makes (Smyrn 6) it the basis of his argument against the Docetists’ denial of thereality of Christ’s body. Because the eucharist brings Christians into union with their Lord, it is the great bond between them; (Eph 13,1; Philad 4) and since it mediate communion with Christ, it is a medicine which procures immortality, an antidote against death which enables us to live in the Lord forever. (Eph 20, 2)

More on Fathers.

Justin actually refers to the changes. ‘We do not receive these’, he writes, (1 apol 66,2) ‘as common bread or common drink. But just as our Saviour Jesus Christ was made flesh through the Word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that teh food which has been echaristized by the word of prayer from Him (that food which by process of assimilation noureshes our flesh and blood) is the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus.’ So Irenaeus teaches (Haer Book 4, chapter 17:5; Book, chapter 18:4; Book 5 Chapter 2:3) that the bread and wine are really the Lord’s body and blood. His witness is, indeed, all the more impressive because he produces it quite incidentally while refuting the Gnostics and Docetic rejection of the Lord’s real humanity. Like Justin, too, he seems to postulate a change, for he remarks: ‘Just as the bread, which comes from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but eucharist, being composed of two elements, a terrestrial one and a celestial, so our bodies are no longer commonplace when they receive the eucharist, since they have the hope of resurrection to eternity’. (Haer Book 4 chapter 18:5 and Book 5 Chatper 2:3.

God bless

I beg to differ. Jesus would not say, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…” and then turn around and say that His flesh profits nothing. When he tells us that the flesh profits nothing he is referring to [mankind’s inclination to think using only what their natural human reason would tell them rather than what God would tell them. Thus in John 8:15–16 Jesus tells his opponents: “You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me.” So natural human judgment, unaided by God’s grace, is unreliable; but God’s judgment is always true.]

I have my case for this laid out on my blog.
The Eucharist IS Scriptural

Perhaps that will help somewhat.
Pax tecum,

I like simple arguments the best, and there is a simple argument from Scripture that is decisive as to the nature of the Eucharist. Of course, it comes from John 6. Before I get to it, let me say that both Protestants (those who believe in a symbolic-only Eucharist) and Catholics can make good cases for the Eucharist from the Bible, and Catholics can make a great case for the Real Presence from Tradition. But it is hard to find a decisive argument in all of this. “Why did the disciples walk away from Christ?!” is an argument that Catholics often use in reference to John 6. It is a compelling argument (imo), but not decisive.

That being said, verse 51 of John 6 very much is decisive. Here, Jesus says:
"…I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
The decisive part is the last sentence. Let’s assume the symbolic-only Protestant is right, and so we’ll use his interpretation for this verse. It would therefore mean something like:
This bread is my symbolic flesh, which will be symbolically given for the life of the world.
The Protestant interpretation results in a necessary denial of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. There are no two-ways about it: thanks to this single verse, we have only a few possibilities:
*]If you believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, then:
*]You believe in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and so believe in the Real Presence.
*]You do not believe in the Real Presence and so cannot believe in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.[/list]
*]Or you do not believe the Bible is inerrant.[/list]

The Protestant interpretation results in a necessary denial of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. There are no two-ways about it: thanks to this single verse, we have only a few possibilities:
If you believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, then:
You believe in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and so believe in the Real Presence.
You do not believe in the Real Presence and so cannot believe in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
Or you do not believe the Bible is inerrant.

Wow, as a Protestant I’m going to have to chew on this one for a while! Nicely done (to my own discomfort)!

St. Paul tells us that the “Blessing Cup” which we bless is a a prticipation in the Blood of Christ and the Bread which we bless is a participation in the Body of Christ. St. Paul aslo says that to partake of the Eucharist [Bread/Body and WIne/Blood that iss blessed] UNWORTHILY is to eat and drink to your DEATH…

It seems a HUGE leap to think that a SYMBOLIC COMMUNION could be FATAL!

Take your time.

I modified this argument from one made by John Martignoni. You might like to check out his website: In particular, check out his newsletters.

God bless.

When I compare the things of the Old Testament with the things of the New Testament, I see a progression from good to better. The teachings of Moses were good; the teachings of Jesus are better. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were good; the sacrifice of Jesus is better.

In the Old Testament, God gave good food to sustain His people in the desert, the miraculous manna from heaven. What is the better food that God gives to sustain His people now? The ordinary bread of Protestants that sort of represents the Body of Jesus? Or, the miraculous Eucharist of Catholics, the very Body of Jesus, under the guise of ordinary bread?

To put the question another way, which shows the greater love? The Protestant interpretation: God so loved the world that He gave a representation of the Body of His Son Jesus to eaten? Or, the Catholic interpretation: God so loved the world that He gave the very body of His Son Jesus to eaten?

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the Father who has life sent me and I have life because of the Father, so the man who feeds on me will have life because of me. (John 6:55-57)

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