Thinking consistently about the Eucharist


#1

Hi, I’m a seeker trying to get a thorough understanding of Catholic liturgy.

I’m trying to get a better understanding of what transpires in the eucharist, and I have a problem. I hope I can pre-empt people from just citing the catechimus, or explain what happens spiritually. All that is interesting, and I encourage citations as long as they help solve the problem I have.

The communion wafer, at the moment its hitting a catholic believers tongue (presented by a priest in the proper ceremonial context) is the body of Christ. As far as I understand it, the bread isn’t just symbolically or spirtually Christ’s body, but the bread substance becomes completely part of Christ. Physically as well. Its awe inspiring, but I have a hard time thinking it through systematically. The bread is ingested, and starts to get digested. The matter of the bread becomes part of the human body, some of it participating in respiration, some of it becomes part of new cells and proteins, and the rest returns to the natural cycle.

Does this mean, and I’m just trying to understand the doctrine concretely. That if I kneeled and recieved communion at such a Catholic ceremony, and took the wafer I would be… biting into Christ? Chewing Christ? Swallowing Christ? Digesting Christ? Having Christ become part of my body? His bio-molecules against mine? Flesh against flesh? Blood along blood? Breathing with me? Feeling with me? A union like that would be far closer than anything sex can accomplish.

Somehow I think the chain of thought has become uncoupled from the true catholic picture somewhere. Either I’m not understanding the nature of such a physical union (because the way I laid it out was obscene). Or this is not what’s transpiring and Christ doesn’t physically become part of my body? Or perhaps something I haven’t thought of.

Can anyone better schooled in Catholic liturgy (which I suspect is most people here), shine some light on this confusion of mine?


#2

Communion means coming into union. So yes, when you eat the Flesh of Christ you become one with him.


#3

Hi Leon,

Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

You're on the right track. Jesus, in the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, explains what it is to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them."
- John 6:56

Read this section of John 6:

47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Many Disciples Desert Jesus

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%206:47-69&version=NIV


#4

[quote="Leonhard, post:1, topic:305961"]
Hi, I'm a seeker trying to get a thorough understanding of Catholic liturgy.

I'm trying to get a better understanding of what transpires in the eucharist, and I have a problem. I hope I can pre-empt people from just citing the catechimus, or explain what happens spiritually. All that is interesting, and I encourage citations as long as they help solve the problem I have.

The communion wafer, at the moment its hitting a catholic believers tongue (presented by a priest in the proper ceremonial context) is the body of Christ. As far as I understand it, the bread isn't just symbolically or spirtually Christ's body, but the bread substance becomes completely part of Christ. Physically as well. Its awe inspiring, but I have a hard time thinking it through systematically. The bread is ingested, and starts to get digested. The matter of the bread becomes part of the human body, some of it participating in respiration, some of it becomes part of new cells and proteins, and the rest returns to the natural cycle.

Does this mean, and I'm just trying to understand the doctrine concretely. That if I kneeled and recieved communion at such a Catholic ceremony, and took the wafer I would be.. biting into Christ? Chewing Christ? Swallowing Christ? Digesting Christ? Having Christ become part of my body? His bio-molecules against mine? Flesh against flesh? Blood along blood? Breathing with me? Feeling with me? A union like that would be far closer than anything sex can accomplish.

Somehow I think the chain of thought has become uncoupled from the true catholic picture somewhere. Either I'm not understanding the nature of such a physical union (because the way I laid it out was obscene). Or this is not what's transpiring and Christ doesn't physically become part of my body? Or perhaps something I haven't thought of.

Can anyone better schooled in Catholic liturgy (which I suspect is most people here), shine some light on this confusion of mine?

[/quote]

Jesus described his body and blood as true food and true drink, meaning that he is physically present, but not in a cannibalistic way (though such imagery is unavoidable).

The Church found over centuries of thinking on this matter that the Host (wafer) is only in the substance of the Body of Christ when it is still in the form of bread. As saliva dissolves the host, it ceases to be the Body of Christ, however the divine graces are transferred by same process. It is a physical means of deliver spiritual grace, not a physical means of merging the Jesus' body into our own.

I did once get the Host stuck in my tooth, and felt awkward that I had my Lord and Savior sitting uncomfortably between two molars... :shrug:


#5

I sound like a skipping record here (remember LPs?), but you would most likely benefit from a copy of Catholicism for Dummies. It is an excellent, easily read and understood introduction to the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church. As to the Eucharist speifically, maybe a 64 page book written by Mark Shea, This Is My Body. Or, Celebrating the Holy Eucharist by Francis Cardinal Arinze.

Alternatively, you may simply go to your nearest Catholic parish and spend time in thought, prayer, meditation, or contemplation before the Tabernacle, in which the Eucharist is reserved. Spending time in Christ’s presence at adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is extremely powerful for those who are seeking. You might be amazed at how you will receive your answer.


#6

Thanks po18guy for the reading tips.

You can become one with a person is many ways. There's just something that doesn't seem to rhyme with Christ's body physically dwelling inside me. Becoming part of my flesh. I mean the wafer will be digested and broken into its component molecules which will participate in my being. If they're still Christ's body at time, even though its lost the form of bread, then I'll have cells in my body that are Christ's.

[quote=Nigel7, post:3, topic:305961"]
Hi Leon,

Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

You're on the right track. Jesus, in the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, explains what it is to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them."
- John 6:56

Read this section of John 6:

[/quote]

Oh yes, that part I definitely think is sine qua non of Catholic liturgy. I'm afraid I don't find block quoting the bible useful. I agree that this passage is central to any Christian's understanding of the Eucharist. But how is it to be read? And I'm snagged on the idea of what happens to Christ's body after its being ingested. If its remains Christ's body after its lost the form of bread... what happens when its flushed into nature? Do we end up with a pseudo-pantheism where Christ's corpus is spread across the world?

Jesus described his body and blood as true food and true drink, meaning that he is physically present, but not in a cannibalistic way (though such imagery is unavoidable).

The Church found over centuries of thinking on this matter that the Host (wafer) is only in the substance of the Body of Christ when it is still in the form of bread. As saliva dissolves the host, it ceases to be the Body of Christ, however the divine graces are transferred by same process. It is a physical means of deliver spiritual grace, not a physical means of merging the Jesus' body into our own.

I'm very interested in getting some sources on that if you have any. This seems like it solves the problem in a fairly common sensical way. I can see how thomists would argue this since the wafer changes form when its digested, and the essence of digested wafer is not identical to the wafer you were presented with. So if one is Christ's body, its conceivable that the other isn't.

At the ressurection, if you're among the saints imagine wondering about your lack of good deeds and having him put a hand on your shoulder and proclaiming to the other newly ressurected saints "I was once stuck between two hard places and he helped me out"*

*I'm new to this forum and I apologize if this kind of humour is unwelcome. Its meant to be a harmless joke on Matt 25:37-40


#7

Thanks po18guy for the sources.


#8

[quote="Leonhard, post:1, topic:305961"]
Hi, I'm a seeker trying to get a thorough understanding of Catholic liturgy.

I'm trying to get a better understanding of what transpires in the eucharist, and I have a problem. I hope I can pre-empt people from just citing the catechimus, or explain what happens spiritually. All that is interesting, and I encourage citations as long as they help solve the problem I have.

The communion wafer, at the moment its hitting a catholic believers tongue (presented by a priest in the proper ceremonial context) is the body of Christ. As far as I understand it, the bread isn't just symbolically or spirtually Christ's body, but the bread substance becomes completely part of Christ. Physically as well. Its awe inspiring, but I have a hard time thinking it through systematically. The bread is ingested, and starts to get digested. The matter of the bread becomes part of the human body, some of it participating in respiration, some of it becomes part of new cells and proteins, and the rest returns to the natural cycle.

Does this mean, and I'm just trying to understand the doctrine concretely. That if I kneeled and recieved communion at such a Catholic ceremony, and took the wafer I would be.. biting into Christ? Chewing Christ? Swallowing Christ? Digesting Christ? Having Christ become part of my body? His bio-molecules against mine? Flesh against flesh? Blood along blood? Breathing with me? Feeling with me? A union like that would be far closer than anything sex can accomplish.

Somehow I think the chain of thought has become uncoupled from the true catholic picture somewhere. Either I'm not understanding the nature of such a physical union (because the way I laid it out was obscene). Or this is not what's transpiring and Christ doesn't physically become part of my body? Or perhaps something I haven't thought of.

Can anyone better schooled in Catholic liturgy (which I suspect is most people here), shine some light on this confusion of mine?

[/quote]

The host is transformed into Christ's body the moment the preist utters the words of consencration, not when it comes into contact with the beleiver.
Yes Crist's flesh indeed becomes part of our body.


#9

Along the same lines, Paul talks about how if someone brings judgement upon himself if he unworthily receives the Eucharist, 1 Corinthians 11:27.

If we carry on the metaphor, is that basically, Christ (as the head) rejecting an infected organ of His Body?


#10

I’'l give a very brief reply, as I need to get to bed:

The communion wafer, at the moment its hitting a catholic believers tongue (presented by a priest in the proper ceremonial context) is the body of Christ. As far as I understand it, the bread isn’t just symbolically or spirtually Christ’s body, but the bread substance becomes completely part of Christ. Physically as well. Its awe inspiring, but I have a hard time thinking it through systematically. The bread is ingested, and starts to get digested. The matter of the bread becomes part of the human body, some of it participating in respiration, some of it becomes part of new cells and proteins, and the rest returns to the natural cycle.

As soon as the host no longer retains the appearance of a host- upon digestion, etc- it ceases to be the Body of Christ. The host and wine become bread and body when the priest consecrates them during Mass- thus, someone can desecrate a host.

It has nothing to do with the holiness (or lack thereof) of the priest, or the belief of the person. If a priest consecrates it, it IS.

Does this mean, and I’m just trying to understand the doctrine concretely. That if I kneeled and recieved communion at such a Catholic ceremony, and took the wafer I would be… biting into Christ? Chewing Christ? Swallowing Christ? Digesting Christ? Having Christ become part of my body? His bio-molecules against mine? Flesh against flesh? Blood along blood? Breathing with me? Feeling with me? A union like that would be far closer than anything sex can accomplish.

For a very brief time, yes, He is in you!

Try here: catholic.com/magazine/articles/a-substantial-change

More than you probably want to know: usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/resources-for-the-eucharist/the-real-presence-of-jesus-christ-in-the-sacrament-of-the-eucharist-basic-questions-and-answers.cfm

At the ressurection, if you’re among the saints imagine wondering about your lack of good deeds and having him put a hand on your shoulder and proclaiming to the other newly ressurected saints “I was once stuck between two hard places and he helped me out”*

I love it! :smiley:


closed #11

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