“This is My Body.” This central theme of the ancient Church became a dividing line more than 1500 years after the birth of Christianity.
There are approximately 2 billion Christians in various denominations worldwide. Approximately 2/3 of those Christians believe in the Real Presence. That is, that the bread and wine really do change during the words of consecration and really do become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. That leaves 1/3 who don’t believe. That 1/3 are Protestants who came into existence 1,500 after the birth of Christianity.
All Christians believed in the Real Presence for the first 1,500 years of Christianity. In fact, if you didn’t believe you weren’t part of the Church. The Holy Eucharist was and remains the central focus of Christian worship for the majority of Christians throughout the world.
The Eastern Orthodox Church separated from the Western Roman Catholic Church approximately 450 years before the Protestant Reformation. All branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church believe and always have believed in the Real Presence.
Incidentally, Protestant historians and scholars also know Christians never doubted the Real Presence until the 16th century. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press, 1983) says under Eucharist, “That the Eucharist conveyed to the believer the Body and Blood of Christ was universally accepted from the first, and language was very commonly used which referred to the Eucharistic elements as themselves the Body and Blood . . . From the fourth century, the language about the transformation of the elements began to become general . . . The first controversies on the nature of the Eucharistic Presence date from the earlier Middle Ages.”
The early Romans also knew the first Christians believed in the Real Presence. Roman writers often commented on the disgusting Christians who ate flesh and drank blood when they gathered together.
Luther retained belief in the Real Presence, although slightly modified, but Calvin watered it down to a “mystical presence.” Zwingli watered it down all the way to a symbolic presence. All three of them changed the ancient belief in the Real Presence based on their personal interpretation of the Bible.
2/3 of Christianity today simply doesn’t trust their personal interpretations. The ancient, consistent belief in the Real Presence was taught to the Church by the apostles from the beginning and the Church honors their teaching to this day.
Today, Protestants, particularly American Protestants, are taught that the Catholic Church came up with the idea of the Real Presence centuries after the Christian church began. They are taught this is an added on doctrine and is not an accurate interpretation of Scripture. Jesus was speaking metaphorically or symbolically when he repeatedly commanded the crowd to “eat my flesh and drink my blood.”
If you are a Christian who does not believe in the Real Presence, please read John 6 again. Regrettably, one problem Protestant believers have is that their Bible was translated by other Protestants. The result is that Jesus’ words in John 6 are diluted somewhat. But if you have an open mind and are willing to entertain the possibility that this ancient teaching is correct, you should read John 6, Luke 22:19-20 (cf. Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24), 1 Corinthians 10:16, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-30.
The Last Supper — Jesus and the Twelve celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover — involved a sacrificial lamb. The Apostles could hardly have missed the significance of what Jesus was saying, when He told them, “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” Before and after those statements, He spoke of His imminent suffering (Luke 22:15-16,18,21-22). And John the Baptist had already referred to Him as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29).
St. Paul’s Eucharistic passages (1 Cor.10:16; 11:23-30) are also intended to be taken at face value. How can one be guilty of profaning the “body and blood of the Lord” by engaging in a merely symbolic act (1 Cor. 11:27)?
Paul also teaches, “Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?” (1 Cor. 10:18). Two verses earlier he said, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Just as the Jewish sacrifices were literal and not symbolic, so is the Christian sacrifice of the Mass!
Furthermore, the whole thrust of the contextual passage of 1 Corinthians 10: 14-22 is to contrast Christian Eucharistic sacrifice with pagan sacrifice (1 Cor. 10:19-20), and the pagan “table of demons” to the “table [altar] of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:21). It is inescapable for those with an open mind. The ancient, literal interpretation requires no twisting of the text.
Bishop Fulton Sheen echoed the early Church Fathers when he noted that at the end of John chapter 6, after Jesus and the apostles watched many of his followers walk away, He asked the twelve, “And you – would you also like to leave?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” Jesus said, “I chose the twelve of you, didn’t I. Yet one of you is a devil.” The text continues, “He was talking about Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. For Judas, even though he was one of the twelve disciples was going to betray him.”
Judas didn’t believe in the Real Presence.
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