Saturday, March 5, 2016

Discussion on Transubstantiation and Church Authority

Recently, I posted an earlier blog post of mine on transubstantiation. I was surprised at how many comments I got back on it, and the number of discussions that resulted from it. One such discussion I engaged in was with a Fundamentalist Protestant who had an issue with the belief in the Real Presence on the grounds that it wasn't apostolic. that is, no Apostle believed the Eucharist to be the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord. I would've loved to have continued the conversation a bit more, but I will post here the brief exchange that we had. Look for an essay to come from this conversation on Catholic 365 sometime in the near future, highlighting the relevant proofs and information I've posted in this exchange. My words will be in blue, and "Tom's" in red.
Christ Among the Doctors-José de Ribera 

Nicholas, you are spending too much time on using the similar logical exercises. Why don'y you simply show those silly Protestants the truth by pointing out those verses in the bible where the apostles believed that the bread and wine were actually, physically Jesus' body and blood? I don't have my Bible handy, but someone should be able to point them out. That will shut those Protestants up for good.

Tom, no need to be passive aggressive. I never said anyone was silly, nor am I trying to "shut those Protestants up." I'm simply reiterating the Catholic, and Biblical, belief on the Eucharist.

"Nicholas, you are spending too much time on using the similar logical exercises."

I don't understand what this means.

"point out those verses in the bible where the apostles believed that the bread and wine were actually, physically Jesus' body and blood?"

Well, I'll quote the one commonly referred to as The Apostle for starters:

"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Cor. 23-29).

Not to mention, that we see many of Christ's disciples leave after He spoke about the Eucharist in the episode described in John 6. However, when Christ asks Peter if he will also leave, Peter answers, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Peter had faith in Christ even though this was a "difficult saying". He obviously believed that the bread and wine were actually, physically Jesus' body and blood.

Apostles at the Assumption of Mary
Now maybe you're looking for some smoking gun, a verse that explicitly says, "Peter, Andrew, James, James John, Philip and the rest all affirmed and swore that they believed that the bread and wine were actually Jesus' Body and Blood." Well, you won't find that. But you see, myself and many other Christians do not believe to receive revelation only from Scripture, but from the sturdy, three legged stool of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium (or teaching authority) of the Church. 

The inspired books teach the truth. Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book." Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, a word which is "not a written and mute word, but the Word is incarnate and living". If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open our minds to understand the Scriptures." 

Again, John wrote in his Gospel, "But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (John: 21: 25). Just because the fake verse I posted above doesn't appear in the Bible, it doesn't mean that the fact such a statement is absent makes it a certainty that the apostles rejected Christ's teaching on the Eucharist. Luckily, we have the writings of the Church Fathers, a part of revealed Tradition, to work alongside Scripture and show us how the earliest of Christians (i.e. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch) understood Christ's words in the Gospels and the apostles commands after His Ascension.

Nicholas, I imagine we could have an excellent conversation about john 6, which is an excellent chapter on belief. There is so much there that you haven't been taught. And the 1 Corinthians verses aren't a belief in the transubstantiation at all, which you probably know, but a corrective letter to a church that had gone off the rails. I know you make the magisterium and tradition (which seems hard to define as I have asked) equal to the bible (by definition if you let either supercede the Bible). And yes, John said that Jesus performed many other signs and miracles that aren't written down.

Nicholas, we do not know those things, and there is no secret list that the Vatican has but has withheld from us all. When someone says the Word is "living" that means usually that they are reserving the right to change the bible to suit their particular desires. And so it has happened. People from before Christ's time have claimed to receive "revelation" from God. In the past, false prophets were stoned. Today, they show up in TV, and in churches sometimes, still telling people they have received "revelations" from God, and don't worry about that Bible thing so much.

Tom, I agree that we could have a great discussion on John 6. And I'd also agree that I do have a lot to learn, I'm always learning. There's so much in our great Christian faith to study and learn about, and really, I want to learn about it all! But as St. Thomas Aquinas said, "We can't have full knowledge all at once. We must start by believing; then afterwards we may be led on to master the evidence for ourselves." I admit I don't have all the "knowledge" yet, but there are some subjects that I feel I have become articulate in, However, I will not admit to your implication that I have so much to learn because of my Catholic Christian heritage. In fact, I've learned many things because I've rejected the "personal magisterium" that so many non-Catholic Christians claim to possess today. I willfully and humbly submit to the Bride of Christ referred to in John's Apocalypse.

Now, I agree that 1 Corinthians is a corrective letter, but what doesn't follow is that because of this, it proves St. Paul wasn't talking about the Real Presence of the Eucharist through transubstantiation. Before we get any further, please realize that the Eastern Catholic Churches don't use the term "transubstantiation", but do believe in the Real Presence the same way as Latin Catholics do. Transubstantiation is a term which attempts to define how the Eucharistic species becomes the Body, Blood, Soul and, Divinity of our Lord. You seem to think just because the term was coined in the 13th century, the teaching of the Real Presence did not exist before then. It most certainly did, as we can see the evidence from Apostolic times. That's why I think it'd be better if we refer to what transubstantiation POINTS TO, that is, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

That being said, St. Paul most certainly is talking about the Real Presence in the Scripture selection I posted. What does it mean to be "guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord"? The expression St. Paul uses basically means to be guilty of murder, to actually shed someone's blood. To receive the Eucharist in an unworthy way would mean we're guilty of a crime comparable to shedding Christ's blood. How can one be guilty of killing someone if we only profane a symbol? If I burn a picture of some politician and slander him as I'm doing so, am I guilty of assault or murder? Obviously not, I'm not harming the politician at all. How can one be held to answer for Christ's Body and Blood if His Body and Blood aren't actually in the Eucharist? St. Paul's admonitions here mean absolutely nothing without a belief in the Real Presence.

Christ With the Eucharist- Vicente Juan Masip
Furthermore, in 1 Cor. 11: 28-29, how can I be guilty of not discerning the Body of our Lord in the Eucharist if it's only bread and wine? If it's possible to NOT recognize Christ in the Eucharist, logically that means He IS present to indeed recognize. Do you discern the Body of Christ (that is, Christ Himself) in the Eucharist? St. Paul obviously does, otherwise he wouldn't be giving such strong admonitions to a church off the rails.

You are absolutely right though; we don't know exactly what John is referring to when he speaks of the other signs and miracles. Yet we know things outside of Scripture occurred, and became part of Sacred Tradition. You're correct, the Vatican doesn't have some "secret list". To even suggest such a thing in jest makes a caricature of what Catholics call the Magisterium which safeguards Sacred Tradition and the Scriptures. Where is this Sacred Tradition mentioned in the Bible? St. Paul mentions it here: "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, EITHER BY WORD OF MOUTH or by letter. (2 Thes 2: 15) and here as well: "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you." (1 Cor 11:2)

And you see, you may be confused... the living Word that I am talking about is Christ Himself. The Word whom the Scriptures point to. Perhaps some Christians have "changed the Bible" to suit their selfish motives, but where has the Catholic Church done so? In fact, the Catholic Church remains firmly entrenched in Apostolic tradition, not wavering on doctrines, such as the evils of contraception for example, as so many other Protestant churches have. Remember, the Word "is not God of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong" (Mark 12:27).

Therefore, the Scriptures that attest to Him must have a living and continuing authority to guard and officially interpret it. Since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written." This can be true with any document that governs a country, such as the U.S. Constitution. If the document is not living and interpreted properly, chaos will ensue as everyone and their brother tries to interpret said document according to their own prejudices and feelings. Doesn't God have more wisdom than a man-made government document? He doesn't leave us to struggle on our own with Scripture, because if Scripture is really as perspicuous as you think it is, then we wouldn't be having this discussion right now. As St. Peter mentions regarding St. Paul's New Testament writings, "There are some things in [Paul's letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures" (2 Pt 3: 15-16).

Clearly many people who became Christians while the Apostles were still alive were incapable of reading. Not to mention the Bible was not compiled yet. What did they do, without the Scriptures, some not even written yet(!), in front of them? As St. Paul mentioned above, they stood firm and held to the traditions they were taught. Here's one such Tradition that proves the belief of the Real Presence was firmly established in Apostolic times. The Didache, which of course translates to "The Teaching of the 12 Apostles, deals specifically with the Eucharist in a few spots, and is dated sometime between A.D. 30-100, so definitely in the first century. This comes from Section XIV:

"On the Lord's Day of the Lord come together, break bread and hold Eucharist (Eucharist translating, of course, to "thanksgiving), after confessing your transgressions that your sacrifice may be pure; But let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled. For this is that sacrifice spoken by the Lord, 'In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king,"'saith the Lord, 'and my name is wonderful among the heathen'."
Prophet Malachi
Now, some may say that the opening words here signal something simpler like an "agape" meal, instead of a Eucharistic liturgy. However, looking at the opening of the citation, clearly referring to the Sunday assembly, and as the entire selection uses the same terminology of other sections of the Didache (section IX and X), the thought that the prayers of the Didache are not Eucharistic prayers as not likely in the slightest. As theologian Johannes Quasten notes, "The opinion advanced more than once, that we have here no specific Eucharistic prayers but simply table prayers, is untenable. The discussion of the Eucharist is closely connected with that of baptism, and the two are evidently associated in the author's mind. Unbaptized persons are moreover expressly excluded from the reception of the Eucharist."

Also, of note... did you notice the last line of the selection? It's basically a direct quote of Malachi 1:11. Why would the early Christians call this a sacrifice if it wasn't just that? We see the word "sacrifice" used four times. Can a symbol truly be a sacrifice? No. In order for a sacrifice to be taking place, a belief in the Real Presence is required.

Is the author of the Didache a "false prophet", as you say, or has he passed on the Sacred Tradition of this particular revelation to Christians both in the 1st and 21st centuries? Obviously, the author of the Didache did worry about "that Bible thing", and very much so as we see Malachi directly quoted. It is the same with the Church today. Scripture is a very important part in the lives of Catholics, and thank God that we have the Tradition of the Apostles and the authority of the Magisterium to interpret said Scriptures to go along with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment