I have a question which to which I haven’t found an answer which makes sense to me, and I have come here for help. As one who is not Christian I understand the importance and meaning of the Eucharist, but I do not understand the reason for consuming the body and blood of Jesus. I found a word to describe this - theophagy - (some may call it ‘cannibalism’) but am left with the question of “Why?” Why does the physical act of eating Jesus bring one closer to him? Why not just pray and have Jesus enter your heart that way?
By the way, I really wish to avoid a discussion on transubstantiation in this thread since it is covered elsewhere.
First, because we are told to do this by Jesus Himself, “Do this in memory of me.” (Lk 22:19)
I’d also refer you to the following: newadvent.org/cathen/05584a.htm
Please scroll down to (3) The Effects of the Holy Eucharist. God bless.
Eating is a physical act. man is a spiritual AND physical creature. God relates to us in both ways. God our father chose to reveal himself not by infusing the knowledge into our brains in some sort of harmonic convergence. He chose to reveal himself in a series of inter-related physical events which is ended in the supreme physical event of actually coming to us in the physical flesh. Of the series of physical events throughout salvation history we are always informed of the final event that will ultimately save mankind. Several times God reveals physical covenents to us of which included animal sacrifice. In the Old Testament god made the people scacrifice an unblemished lamb and THEN EAT THAT LAMB. The new unblemished Lamb is JESUS and his sacrifice is perpetual for all times and all people so the mass is a perpetual continuation of that Sacrifice of Lamb in which like in ages pass we eat the lamb.
If GOd wanted us to just relate with him on the spritual level only he sure wasted alot of time by haveing all of those physical events. God could have done that but he chose to create us physical creatures out of love. Jesus actually died on the cross he did suffer spiritually but he also physically died.
It’s a fairly hard concept to grasp isn’t it, but it’s true! I had a great priest who was a theologian tell me that he believed that it, The Eucharist, was one was that Christ could touch us. Yes I realize our Lord can see and hear everything we do, but somehow this priest’s statement about being able to touch us physically helped me. I hope it helps you.
In the spitual life there is a parallel to the natural life. In the natural life we are born; in the spiritual life we are “born again”. When we are born again spiritually, we received a new form of life. This is supernatural life makes us, as the Bible says, “a partaker in the Divine Nature”. When a person has this spiritual life, which we can sanctifying grace, they truly have the Holy Spirit Dwelling within them, as St. Paul teaches.
Secondly, just as in the natural life we must feed ourselves to remain strong, so too in the spiritual life. The primary and by far the best way of feeding our spiritual life is to receive the source of that life, which is Jesus. It is not so much the Flesh that profits, but the spirit that is attached to the flesh.
The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. The Soul and Divinity are attached to Jesus’ Body and Blood, and it is that which feed our spiritual life. As Jesus said “it is the spirit that quickeneth”, but to receive the spirit we must prtake of that which the spirit it united to. This is why Jesus said that we must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood (See John 6).
One thing that is interesting is that the early Christians were also accused of canabalism, which confirms that they understood the Eucharist the same way that Catholics still do. The Eucharist differs from canabalism because we do not eat what appears to be Flesh and Blood, but what appears to be bread. We receive him sacramentally.
This is clearly taught in the Bible. The Eucharist is always referred to as the body of Christ and never as a mere symbol, and if you read John 6, beginning around the middle of the chapter, you will see Jesus teaching very clearly that we must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood if we are to have His life within us. He even allowed most of his disciples to leave him over this teaching. They said it was “too hard” of a teaching, and they left “never to follow him again”. And Jesus allowed it because this was to be the central teaching of His Church… and it has been ever since.
It should not surprise us that many today reject this teaching as being “too hard”, since even many who saw Him personally and heard Him speak face to face rejected this teaching. But, like the faithful Apostles, there are still those who believe, and like the unfaithful, still those who refuse.
Why eat Christ rather than just pray for Him to come into our hearts? Because of the Incarnation.
In the Incarnation God completely and perfectly united Himself with His creation, and in particular with humanity. This perfect unification included body and blood along with soul and spirit. God’s makeup now includes body as well as mind and spirit, just as our makeup includes body as well as mind and spirit. It also includes uniting our suffering and mortality with His own suffering and mortality on the cross.
Thus, the fullest possible union between God and humanity here on earth must involve a uniting, not just of mind and spirit, but also of bodies. God chose to enact that unity with us in the very symbolic and at the same time practical and life-giving form of eating and drinking. God is more than just mind and spirit, and we are more than just mind and spirit, and so any union of just mind and spirit is an incomplete union. Think of the difference between talking to a loved one on the phone, and being with that person. On earth the complete union with God is the Eucharist. It is God’s insistence that He has united Himself forever with His creation, and it is an individual act of union in which each believer is invited to participate, and it is an act of uniting His sacrifice with our own sacrifice of our gifts and our lives.
The Incarnation, the Passion and Resurrection, and the Eucharist. To understand any of them you must understand all of them.
If you read the Old Testament you will see how the Jews would slaughter the spotless lamb at passover and they would eat its flesh.
This prefigured what happened to Jesus- and He made it possible to do that very thing.
The creation story was told- was meant to be told exactly the way we read it in Genesis- that the fall of man was caused by eating the fruit from a tree that God commanded them not to eat from- lest they die.
When Jesus came he died on a tree, so to say- and that “fruit” we now have to eat in order to have eternal life.
When you read the Old Testament alongside the New Testament many of these things jump out at you-
I will give you another one-
Abraham was to sacrifice his son Issac. When the time came for the sacrifice God stopped him telling him he now trusted his faith in Him. Then issac pointed to a lamb with its head caught in a thorn bush saying “There is the lamb for the sacrifice.” - Now look at Jesus after they scourged Him - his head was crowned with thorns-.
When you read the Old Testament alongside the New Testament many of these things jump out at you-
Well, mainly Genesis and Exodus, maybe the Psalms,…and then there are like 40 books where not many of these overt Types are present…
Genesis especially seems a lot more “symbol heavy” then most of the Old Testament, much of which seems dry and bloody. Of course, perhaps as Christians we just have never really explored the rest of the Old Testament in such depth because we spend so much time on Genesis. All the commentators start with Genesis and it is so rich, that we rush through the rest just to squeeze it all in…
Just so the OP is not confused by these assertions,
Eating and drinking the flesh and blood of another is certainly not Jewish idiom for gaining knowledge. If it were the Jews would not have walked away in disgust in John 6. After all, they obviously knew their own idioms.
The Torah says nothing about eating the living God. To suggest that the Torah provisions apply to Jesus is to backhandedly deny that Jesus is God.
The prohibition against drinking blood is because “the life is in the blood” and Jews are not to seek to gain the life of lower animals by drinking their blood. However, the reason Christ became Incarnate, suffered, died and resurrected was precisely to give us His everlasting life. So the reasoning behind the prohibition against the blood of animals ties in perfectly with Christ’s actions in calling us to drink His blood.
Thanks, everyone, for your posts. I feel I am getting closer to an answer. What I am missing is - did Christ come up with the idea himself or was this a part of other religions in the area prior to Christ? Certainly the Jews did not eat human or God’s flesh, so where did the idea come from?
Read the old testment…the jews ate their lamb after they sacrificed it. Jesus is considered THE pascal lamb. That is what the catholic church believes. WE believe that Jesus was sacrificed on the cross for our sins. He is considered the Lamb of god. Much like the Lamb of the passover feast.
John 15:4-5…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, your are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. How do we abide in Him ?
**John 6: 52-59…**The jews than disputed among themselves, saying,"How can this man give us his flesh to eat? So Jesus said to them, "Truely, truely, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and **I in him. **As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever. .
Well my friend I really don’t know exactly how it is possible or why we should other than the fact that Christ himself said to do it. So I figure since He said to do it, it is proper and correct that we do.
I do not eat to remember (Protestants do). I eat to live. Jesus is the Bread of Life. This is the reason I eat the Eucharist.
The Eucharist cannot be symbolic because it is in the accidents of Bread & Wine, which was a staple of the commonfolk 2 millenia ago who ate and drank Bread & Wine everyday – to give them life. It is literal because Jesus was showing His followers that He is the one Who sustains them and feeds them. He is the Giver of life. Therefore, we are to partake of this Sacrifice which He freely gave to us everyday in the Mass. The Mass is the central focus of Christian worship and the Eucharist brings us so close to God on a personal level that it is indeed mystical. The Eucharist is the representation of the one Sacrifice on Calvary where the Lord freely chose to give up His life for us. It is represented to us everyday in the Mass because Jesus wanted to integrate His sacrifice into our daily lives to perfect us and bring Himself into us. The Lord & Savior works in mysterious ways, oftentimes ways we cannot comprehend, but the Scripture and the Tradition of the Fathers shows that the Eucharist has always been interpreted in a literal way by the ancient Christian Church Apostolic. Even the schismatic Easterns believe in the Sacrifice of the Mass (called Divine Liturgy in the Eastern tradition). Why won’t our Western Protestant brethren believe in this fact? It was not a Roman myth which defined transubstantiation, but the past testimony of the Church Apostolic, the Scriptures and Tradition which testify that the Eucharist is a literal phenomenon, not a parable.
Jesus did not speak Hebrew (at least not to the crowds of folks who surrounded Him who spoke Aramaic) and the Gospels were written in Greek. In Jn 6 the Jews were ready to kill Him for blasphemy when He said that, and they left Him when He said that – and He let them leave without clearing it up. Of course it’s literal!
We are not drinking dead blood, we are receiving the Blood of the Creator Himself and uniting ourselves to Him to His sacrifice on Calvary. Remember when Veronica wiped the face of Jesus which contained His blood, and presumably cried into it? This is not breaking the commandment and neither is partaking in the one sacrifice on Calvary as Veronica did.
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