Catholic’s are a pretty bonkers bunch if you think about it. I mean the narrative of Jesus is pretty out of this world (literally), we ask the Saints to pray for us and we think Jesus’s mother was a pretty cool lady.
We also have this kind of, sort of strange yet somewhat unquestionably important belief that at Mass, the bread and wine presented on the altar truly (and we mean truly) become the Flesh and Blood of The Risen Jesus. We go so far as to say that the little white host that the priest holds up in Mass IS Jesus. Like really.
Crazy right? Well… Not so much from a scriptural perspective. The opening verse of this post is one of the many instances where we are told what Jesus said at the Last Supper. “This is my body”.
So 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.”John 6:53
Basically, when people ask Catholics why we believe such crazy things we just point at Jesus and say, “Ask him!”
This is, in fact, a serious and contentious issue among Christians. Actually, one could say it is the issue. Now there is a lot of theology around this topic and I will leave it to you to Google “What do Catholics believe about the Eucharist”, if you so wish. Long and short of it, we believe when we receive communion (The Eucharist i.e: The Body and Blood of Christ) we are unified with God, we enter into His mystery but even more amazingly, He enters into our human frailty. He wants to be with us that much.
The Mass is the “re-presentation” of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross offered by the Priest who is acting in the person of Christ and not by his own authority. But it is more than that still. It is a sort of metaphysical time travel where we actually are present at the Last Supper and at the Crucifixion. It is a renewal of the New Covenant “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
And, believe it or not, it is kind of like how Catholics see sex as the renewal of the marriage covenant. Renewing the bond. Growing closer in unity.
At face value, I hear ya, bonkers. But if you look at it from a metaphysical and spiritual point of view, especially from the Catholic vantage point, it makes some sense. Catholics believe that we are body and soul, not respectively but as one. Just as Jesus is both Human and Divine. We are both body and soul, the two cannot be separated.The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church – Para 365
And as such, we see our bodies as good. Kind of like what God said when He made us… (see Genesis).
So that’s why, at least in the way I see it, the Eucharist can have a metaphysical effect on us as a whole being.
But it is more than that. It is a sacrament of the Church and so through it we receive God’s grace . This means it is salvific (a means by which we receive the Lord’s saving grace). “Nonsense!“ you cry. It does sound a bit crazy, but then, hey, ask this guy:
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
The people listening to Jesus were so offended by what He said that it is the only place in the New Testament where Jesus says something and the people stop following him because of it.
In all seriousness, I grew up Catholic but hardly knew my Faith and although there were many things I didn’t know or understand, somehow I knew the Eucharist was important. Now it is the centre of my life. If the Eucharist is actually Jesus Christ, who gives Himself to us under the guise of Bread, then “give us this bread always.” It is a mystery. A Mystical Union beyond human understanding and it is the most beautiful thing on earth, hands down without a doubt.
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ 1 Peter 1 vs 4
who humbled himself to share in our humanity. Phil 2 vs 8
Prayed by the priest during the Preparation of the Gifts.
A few weeks ago I was at a small, intimate Mass. I went up for communion last and as I received the Chalice (the Blood of Christ), which is wine (but is actually Blood… See transubstantiation), the priest said to me, “Finish it.” I didn’t know they could ask a lay person to finish the Chalice…. Now this is wine… 14% proof and the cup was full.
So, I did what I was told and downed it. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the recessional hymn. Who said that Mass was boring?