Holy Eucharist, What is the Message?

From an official Catholic teaching “The Holy Eucharist (aka, giving thanks to God) is a sacrament and a sacrifice… under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is contained, offered, and received.

It is common for Christians to observe this tradition on a daytime every Sunday as others have come to do. Some celebrate this occasion on the night of Nisan 14, while most Jews do this on the night of Nisan 15 of the Jewish calendar on the first day of Unleavened Bread. We were advised by Christ himself to continue as in “do this in remembrance of me”. Notice that the event is to be remembered and that the bread and wine, respectively, represent his body and blood shed for all of us.

 It is an occasion to proclaim Jesus’ death, resurrection and his 2nd coming as the apostle Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:The Lord Jesus, on the night 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, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

As vital as they are, still, all of these remained symbolic proclamation and nothing else. Any extension beyond that can be controversial .

The tangential question posed, refers to whether there is really “transubstantiation” of the bread and wine into actual blood and body of Christ? Is there “communion” between Christ and bread/wine or, by this teaching, are we missing out on the “real communion? Did “All Christians, with but few minor exceptions, hold the true doctrine of the Real Presence from the time of Christ until the Protestant Revolution in the sixteenth century? To get to the bottom of that question requires going back in history. And, this is not an exercise to “shame, berate, discredit, minimize” those who believe in transubstantiation or anything similar; instead this is an honest and respectful quest for what really is the message of this tradition.

History of “Breaking of a Bread

In the Jewish calendar, the day includes the darkness-part when it starts and daylight-part when it ends from “evening to evening or sunset to sunset”. Biblically, the “passover meal” every year occurs on the night of Nisan 15, the first day of Unleavened Bread, which is in itself commemorated for 7 days. In contrast, the timing of Jesus’ “last supper” was nighttime of Nisan 14, the night of his betrayal by Judas. This was also the night before Jesus was crucified which was on the daytime of Nisan 14, the preparation day of Passover. And, this was done obviously because he could not eat the “passover meal” on the night of Nisan 15, even when he “eagerly desired” as he would be crucified the day before. Jesus said in Luke 15:22 to express his intention:

And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

Instead of eating the traditional passover lamb on the night or start of Nisan 15, Jesus commanded his disciples to prepare the meal on the night or beginning of Nisan 14.

Since then, his disciples have continued this commemoration of Passover meal on the night of Nisan 15, every year and not on the night of Nisan 14. And, it goes without saying that they commemorated Nisan 14, the “preparation day” as the day of Jesus’ crucifixion when the “true Lamb of God was sacrificed”, as in:

At that time no small controversy arose because all the dioceses of Asia thought it right, as though by more ancient tradition, to observe for the feast of the Saviour’s passover the fourteenth day of the moon, on which the Jews had been commanded to kill the lamb.” (Eusebius, Church History, Ch. XXIII.)

Early church fathers like Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Tertulian, Origen and Augustine were thought by other historians to have embraced transubstantiation. In actuality, according to Nathan Busenitz, they may have misinterpreted the meaning of their writings at that time when there were people who rejected the incarnation and humanity of Jesus; they may have believed that the bread and wine as symbols.

Other historians noted absence of transubstantiation teaching since Jesus “broke bread”. When did it start, then?

Berengar of Tours, French theologian rejected the then-current view of transubstantiation credited to the 9th-century abbot of Corbie, St. Paschasius Radbertus, who professed that the bread and wine, after consecration in the mass, became the real body and blood of Christ. 

Most well-known and influential work of St. Paschasius, De Corpore et Sanguine Domini (written between 831 and 833), is an exposition on the nature of the Eucharist. In it, Paschasius agrees with 4th century anti-Arianism Bishop of Milan Ambrose (Aurelius Ambrosius) in affirming that the Eucharist contains the true, historical body of Jesus Christ. He thus believed that the transubstantiation of the bread and wine offered in the Eucharist really occurred. “Only if the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ can a Christian know it is salvific.”

So, it appears that it may have been a teaching of the 4th century, like the teaching of “trinity” at the Council of Nicea. The affirmation of this doctrine was expressed, using the word “transubstantiate”, by the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215 and extended through the 9th century to this day.

Altogether, transubstantiation does not appear to be based on original or actual teaching. Rather, it has evolved from perception and interpretation.

What is the truth and message?

It was about the in-dwelling of Holy Spirit in humans. The “breaking of bread” on that night of Nisan 14, expressed what was planned from the foundation of the world. This is a plan for the future in-dwelling of Christ in us but only after his death and resurrection and receiving that power from the Father. This in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in humans first occurred to our “trailblazer and origin of our faith/salvation“, Jesus Christ, then to his disciples and subsequently to others in a general way, from Pentecost on. It was not about “transubstantiation” which detracts and distracts from his actual plan for mankind.

Summary

The Eucharist is a major teaching of Christianity that must be commemorated. As to the day and time, there was no specific mandate, except the Passover meal on the night of Nisan 15. But the message can not be ignored nor sidelined. Transubstantiation of bread and wine is an interpretation that detracts and distracts from the actual message and process of “in-dwelling” of Christ in humans ( in the real you) through the Holy Spirit of power. And, this is an ongoing process from the time of Jesus’ receiving the Holy Spirit of power from the Father and subsequently to be given to us. Remember what John said, “He will baptize you in Spirit”. Instead of transubstantiation, the message of Eucharist is “oneness” and “ongoing creation”, the “real communion with God“.

God bless 🙏😇

Original post: May 14, 2020

Please tap on hyperlinks for references.

Critique is welcome at foundationacts@yahoo.com

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