By Greg Litmer
One of the doctrines of Catholicism that we must thoroughly investigate is the doctrine concerning the Lord’s Supper, or as they term it, the Holy Eucharist. In this lesson, we intend to examine this practice of the Catholics in depth. Allow me to say at this point that these lessons are not being given out of any animosity toward Catholics, because that simply is not the case. The scriptures teach us that we are to “hate every false way” (Psa. 119:104), however, and Catholicism is certainly that.
As a starting point for our lesson, let us determine just exactly what the Holy Eucharist is. According to the Baltimore Catechism (p. 273), “The Holy Eucharist is a sacrament and a sacrifice. In the Holy Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is contained, offered, and received. (a) The whole Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. We use the words `really, truly and substantially’ to describe Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist in order to distinguish Our Lord’s teaching from that of mere men who falsely teach that the Holy Eucharist is only a sign or figure of Christ, or that He is present only by His power” Later, on the same page, we are informed that the word “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving.”
The Catholics teach that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist on the night before He died. I agree that on that night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, but certainly did not institute what has grown in Catholic doctrine into the Holy Eucharist. The Biblical texts that they use to support this are Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; and 1 Cor. 11:23-29. Let us look at 1 Cor. 11:23-29. There we read,
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks he brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood.- this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself; not discerning the Lord’s body.”
Now before we begin to examine their texts and see whether or not they really teach what they say they teach, let us turn once again to the Baltimore Catechism to have their position a little more fully explained. In answer to the question, “How did Christ institute the Holy Eucharist?” the Catechism says, “Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist in this way: He took bread, blessed and broke it, and giving it to His apostles, said: `Take and eat; this is My body;’ then He took a cup of wine, blessed it, and giving it to them, said: `All of you drink of this; for this is my blood of the new covenant which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins;’ finally, He gave His apostles the commission: `Do this in remembrance of Me.’
Please pay careful attention to the next quote. In answer to the question, “What happened when our Lord said: `This is My body . . . this is My blood?”‘, the Catechism says, “When Our Lord said, `This is My body,’ the entire substance of the bread changed to His body; and when He said, `This is my blood,’ the entire substance of the wine was changed into His blood. (a) Christ could not have used clearer more explicit words than `This is My Body.’ He did not say, `This is a sign of My body,’ or `This represents My body,’ but; “This is My body.’ Catholics take Christ at His word because He is the omnipotent God. On His word, they know that the Holy Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.”
We are now going to look at the points that have been made from the Catechism thus far. Before we do, however, allow me to wander off of the subject a little because I cannot allow that last statement to go by unnoticed. In an obvious statement toward those who believe that the Lord’s Supper is a representation of the death of Jesus, they said that they take Christ at His word. Nothing could be further from the truth. Catholics take Christ at His word when His word suits their purposes and that is the only time. The same Jesus said in Matt. 23:8-10, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.” Jesus, whom the Catechism claims that Catholics take at His word, declared that we are not to use exalting titles for men, particularly religiously. The next time you run into a priest, see if he does not introduce himself as Father So-And-So, and expect to be called the same. Accepting part of what Jesus says is just like accepting none of it.
Let us look at their points now. It is true that Jesus said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” He said this as He was there bodily in the midst of the apostles. It is truly a beautiful example of figurative language, and considering what He was about to undergo, His death and resurrection, it takes on an even greater significance. But the fact remains that it was an example of figurative language. The very fact that He was standing there saying these words to His apostles and handing them the bread and fruit of the vine illustrates this point. Another example of this type of language occurs in John 10. Turn there and read the first ten verses. There the Bible says,
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 1 am the door. by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have, life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Twice in that passage Jesus said, “1 am the door,” but did He mean a literal door, one that you can open and walk through? Did he mean a door like the ones you have on your house? No, that was figurative language, meant to convey a message. Standing there as He was, it is obvious that He did not mean that He was a literal door, the kind that you can turn the knob and open.
So it was with the words He used when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. Just as Jesus did not become a literal door right before their eyes, neither did the bread and wine become His actual body and blood.
In the Catholic practice of Holy Eucharist, what happens to the bread and wine once this change is supposed to have taken place? Once again we turn to the Baltimore Catechism. In answer to the question. “Did anything of the bread and wine remain after their substance had been changed into Our Lord’s body and blood?”, the Catechism says, “After the substance of the bread and wine had been changed into Our Lord’s body and blood, there remained only the appearance of bread and wine. (a) Because the appearance of bread and wine remain in the Holy Eucharist, we cannot see Christ with our bodily eyes in this sacrament. We see Him, however, with the eyes of faith. Our bodily eyes, moreover, do not deceive us when they see the appearances of bread and wine, for these appearances really remain after the Consecration of the Mass.” In other words, no physical change takes place whatsoever. There is proof once again that the language that Jesus used was figurative.
In answer to the question, “What do we mean by the appearances of bread and wine?”, the Catechism says, “By the appearances of bread and wine we mean their color, taste, weight, shape, and whatever else appears to the senses.” That just about covers it, doesn’t it? What they are saying is that there is no evidence at all that a change has taken place. There is absolutely no evidence of a miracle. Interestingly enough, the .purpose of miracles in the New Testament was to confirm the word, to show that the Lord was working with them (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:4). With no evidence of a miracle having taken place, it could hardly fulfill that purpose, could it?
In all fairness though, let us allow the Catechism to explain how this change, which is called “Transubstantiation” takes place. In answer to the question, “How was Our Lord able to change bread and wine into His body and blood?”, it says, “Our Lord was able to change bread and wine into His body and blood by His almighty power. (a) God, who created all things from nothing, who- fed the five thousand with five loaves, who changed water into wine instantaneously, who raised the dead to life, can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Although the Holy Eucharist is a great mystery; and consequently beyond human understanding, (I think this is the key -gl) the principles of sound reason can show that this great gift is not impossible by the power of God.
I think that the principles of sound reasoning will show us that no change takes place at all. Using the miracles that they used in their defense, when God created the earth and all things in it, there was abundant evidence that He had done it. All we have to do is look around us. When the 5,000 were fed, the evidence was clear. All had eaten and were full, and there were 12 baskets of fragments left. When the water was changed to wine at Cana, it did not retain the physical qualities of water, it became wine physically, “really, truly, and substantially,” if I may borrow a term. Also, when the dead were raised to life, they walked and talked and were seen by the people. Miracles were faith-producing, not faith-dependent. Truly closer examination shows that the Lord’s Supper was meant to be a remembrance of our Lord’s death and the bread and fruit of the vine representatives of Jesus’ body and blood. It was never meant to be this doctrine called “Transubstantion,” and the Bible does not support it in any way.
According to the Baltimore Catechism, “Only ordained priests have the power of changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. When they consecrate, they act in the person of Christ, through the power received in the sacrament of Holy Orders.” According to the Catechism, the apostles were made priests at the Last Supper with the words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In our next lesson, we will be dealing with the topic of the priesthood and all of the special powers that are supposed to go with it.
We have shown in this discussion that the Bible does not teach the doctrine of Holy Eucharist and Transubstantiation. To the contrary, the words of Our Lord were a beautiful example of figurative language meant to convey the fact that the bread and wine were representatives of His body and blood which were soon to be offered, once and for all, for the salvtion of all who will avail themselves of it.
Friends and brethren, we do not belittle the Lord’s Supper by making these statements. What we are doing is practicing it in the way it was intended to be practiced.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 33, pp. 536-538
August 21, 1980