Help! I am always stumped when defending the Eucharist as the person inevitably says…drinking blood is forbidden under Jewish Law, so what do I say, besides…well, Jesus commands it…?
Yes indeed, Jewish law forbids the drinking of any kind of blood. This is why many followers of Jesus left Him when He spoke of the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. (Jn 6: 60) Because He fulfilled the Mosaic Law, we are no longer subject to it. So we can eat pork and shell fish and cheeseburgers—milk products combined with meat.
In Leviticus God forbids the consuming of any kind of blood. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life.” (Lev 17: 11) The blood of animals was offered on the altar to atone for sin. Because it was associated with life, it was to be used solely for this purpose. So when the Son of God was sacrificed, His blood supplanted the offering of animal blood. This is the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God. We indeed drink His blood. It is THE blood of the atonement for sin—of which the earlier animal sacrifices where only a sign. It was in anticipation of His blood, that the prohibition against the drinking of blood was made.
I hope this helps. (In dealing with such questions, it can be very convenient having an office right next to Rosalind Moss’s.)
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.