Monday, September 6, 2010

The Eucharist: Symbol or Truth?

Since having joined the Protestant group on campus, I have had a few friendly discussions/debates on Catholic doctrine. I simply love their fellowship and how they are choosing to alter their lifestyle to align with God's Holy Word. And naturally, questions arise between them and I: mainly it is I asking questions to better grasp their "culture" (because there are significant cultural differences! lol) and I am just fascinated by learning every minute detail of other faiths.

I read in my local Catholic newspaper that 45 years ago this fall, Pope Paul VI created the Nostra Aetate in an attempt to encourage inter-faith dialogue. I read this just in time to remind myself to be very open this semester, as many of the members want me to try their churches just for the experience alone (no conversions as promised haha). I am weary, but if I let this hold me back, what use am I to the Kingdom of God? I need to be willing and excited to open dialogue! As someone said on my comments, they were Protestant in college and by the example of a Catholic peer, they converted. *Not* that I want to convert anyone, that is definitely not my goal. I simply want to bring down the walls between us, as one of them expressed concern with the Catholic dogma. I want to prove their misconceptions wrong and bring them to a level of comfort with other Catholics...that they won't just dismiss us as "wrong".

So one of my friends from the group asked me to prepare a little list as to why I believe certain dogmas, and he would make a list of why he finds them to be false. (and he reads a lot of Reformist literature...something I never even thought to read, so ahh! nervous haha) But the main issue he had was *drum roll* the Eucharist and of course Mary/saints/rosary, but I'll just focus on my questions for you on his

Ok! So this young man is concerned that I take the Eucharist as more than a symbol. I started by quoting the mass/Luke 22 "This is my blood, the blood of the new and ever lasting covenant, which will be shed so that sins may be this in memory of me". This alone was not significant to him, he said that the disciples did not take a bite out of God then and there, thus Jesus was not being literal, he did speak in parables after all. This made me think hard, because a lot of the Bible isn't literal. So why this part? All I had was this feeling in my heart that he was severely wrong, and I longed for him to know Jesus in the Eucharist so badly.

This brought me to my next point: If we trust that God made Jesus in the first place, why can't we believe that He can bring Jesus to us in the Eucharist? My friend said that Jesus is risen, no longer on earth, He has no place/business here until the second coming. (This made my flash back to another debate I had with the woman on the boardwalk: my Jesus is raised!)

I think this is where our differences stem on this issue: Is Jesus raised and out of our lives here on earth until the second coming? Does His cross still have relevance in our worship of Him? Or is that not how we should view Him since He conquered death? An old MJ friend would not wear crucifixes because she felt they portrayed Jesus in a way He wasn't anymore.

I was driven nuts by this discussion for hours after it had ended because I wanted to give him a better answer. I just kept singing this song from mass, but didn't pay much attention to it. The next morning I was yet again singing this tune and I was curious as to why I was singing it, so I ran through it again, this time letting the words hit me "When we eat this bread, when we drink this cup, we proclaim your death Lord Jesus, until you come in glory"

Wow moment! I was like, duh that's the answer right? Catholic worship is almost centered entirely on the crucifixion because that passion was the saving act that covered all humanity's sins. Why shouldn't that be a vital aspect? Yes, Christ has been raised, but our sin has not stopped. We all crucified Jesus that day, and continue through further sinning, yet He readily gave Himself up to a painful death. God's grace doesn't end because the crucifixion itself has ended. Jesus' death was an intimate sacrifice for us, it was personal and individually tailored to each of us who believe & trust in Him. And while yes He is indeed risen, we could not have been saved without first having received His death. Thus, Catholics will remember and proclaim this event to remind us of His purpose in our own lives...until He comes again! We're not going to ignore His human life until He returns to us here on earth...because His sacrifice is always present.

53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" -John 6:53-60

So we read here that the Israelites, who physically ate the manna in the desert, died. Jesus says He is the new manna...God miraculously sent down the original manna from heaven, so we cannot reason that that was a metaphor. Jesus states He has been sent from heaven (and any Christian does agree that miraculously, God sent us Jesus through Mary). And He tells us that we will need to eat & drink his blood, just as the Israelites ate the manna in the desert. The disciples were obviously shocked by this teaching and even questioned it.

I know I don't have all the answers, but this is just what I have reasoned thus far through study & googling for common Catholic responses to this problem between us. Please leave your comments/opinions/further reasoning here so we can all learn a little bit about the Catholic faith and stance, and about our other differing beliefs.

If you're a Protestant/Christian, what is your most difficult Catholic concept or dogma? It may help me in making my list for my friend and for doing my part in the Nostra Aetate.

And I am sorry if these topics bore you! I know I post on the Eucharist a lot...I just love the topic and the experience itself. And I love my new friends and have such a respect for their faith in Jesus alone that I want to understand their qualms a little better.

So thanks guys! Love you lots,



Deltaflute said...

You hit upon the truth of things. It is a tough one for most Protestants because they can't wrap their heads around it. I explain that it's a mystery and mysteries are things that we can't explain. For example, the Trinity is a mystery. Unless your Mormon or Jehovah's witness, you believe in that and you can't explain it. No matter how much you try, a Mormon or an atheist won't get it. Similarly no matter how many times you try to explain the verses in John they are a mystery. We don't fully understand it, but that is what happens.

I hope that helps. Best of luck. Oh, and a bit of advice while debates are healthy the Church discourages them especially if they become unhealthy. It's better to agree to disagree.

caraboska said...

My comments on the Eucharist are here:

The other items that I find problematic are:

1) Tradition - this one is so important that there is no point in discussing any of the others until this one has been discussed

2) Apostolic succession

3) Ordination

4) Confession

5) Transsubstantiation

6) Veneration of the saints

Basically the entire foundation of the Catholic faith, in other words. I do not see that there can be any more than superficial agreement between the person who accepts tradition and the person who adheres to 'sola Scriptura', because the difference of foundation leads to diametrically opposing conclusions in matters impacting on the doctrine of salvation and probably even the doctrine of God which - if allowed to stand 'as is' - can in no way be reconciled.

caraboska said...

PS Oh, and I forgot about purgatory and perpetual virginity and the immaculate conception... But these are all found only in tradition. So they all go back to point 1. And transsubstantiation goes back to the question of what the Eucharist can and cannot be.

caraboska said...

PPS And of course I forgot about baptismal regeneration too :)

caraboska said...

PPPS When I say that the items on my list impact on the doctrine of God, what I mean by this is basically that each one poses the question of where we draw the line between God's agency and the agency of people or things in our lives. Obviously, I believe that each item on the list impacts negatively on the doctrine of God, in that it involves putting something or someone in a position which I believe should be occupied exclusively by God Himself. Otherwise, of course, it would not be on the list :)

Daughter of the King said...

I am actually pretty embarrassed. I've heard the term 'Eucharist' used before but had no clue what it actually was or meant! Sad....I know. In Christianity we partake in Communion and I guess that is the exact same thing. I will have to do more research on the Eucharist, but thus far I have no arguments against it.

As far as saints go...there are a lot in the Catholic faith that are held in high regard. By the same token we as Christians hold the Apostle Paul in high regard and talk about him and learn from his life as much as we do that of the life of Christ. In my's the same difference.

I actually thought that Catholics did not believe that Jesus had risen yet....maybe I got a different faith's beliefs mixed up in my head or something...I dunno.

I really think if we would all learn to live by the Word of God alone and focus on the sacrifice of God's one and only son Jesus who died for each and every one of us and stopped trying to convert one another to our 'traditional and religious' ways and just lived by HIM we would all be much better off.

I think Christianity and Catholicism are much more closely rooted than people like to admit...and I don't know why!? I have a Catholic Bible and I am ready to start digging into the origins of both our faiths better.

I won't become a convert to Catholicism, but that is because I want to live by the Holy Word of God and not by man's interpretation of what it is supposed to be traditionally or otherwise whether our faith be labeled Baptist, Catholic, or just "Christian."

You've given me lots to think about..keep the posts coming, please!

Blessings to you,

P.S. My favorite Saint is St. Joan! I've always felt that she is near and dear to my heart! :)

April said...

I was raised to believe that the great thing about being Protestant is that we did take the Bible literally. I was taught Creation was literal, Jesus was literally God, he literally died for our sins, we literally had to accept him or we would literally go to hell. So, when it came time for me to wrestle with the idea of transubstantiation I said... well, why should it not literally be Jesus? (The disciples who heard this and turned away obviously believed he was speaking literally John 6:53-68) As for whether or not the disciples ate Jesus while he was sitting there with him at the Last Supper. He is fully God and fully man, isn't he? He can be fully human and intact while still his Godhead is broken like the Paschal bread for the disciples, right? God is infinite, and therefore he can't become less if someone were to consume him.
As for the mass part "we proclaim your death until you come again" that is a quote from Scripture- 1 Corinthians 11:26. A lot of the mass parts are from Scripture, it's pretty cool!
The teachings that I find the hardest are mostly Marian doctrines: the Immaculate Conception, whether or not Jesus had brothers and sisters (since I tend to take things literally this one is hard), and the Queenship of Mary.
I'm ok with asking saints to intercede for us, and I think my beliefs line up with Catholic teaching pretty well, the problem for me is that I feel like Catholic laypeople don't understand the teachings correctly. Some "prayers to saints" ask for favors or for graces, and as far as I understand, that is incorrect according to Catholic teaching. All we can ask is for them to pray for us and for God to give us the favors and graces. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong :)

caraboska said...

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

The problem I have as a Protestant with the idea of the Communion elements being literally the Body and Blood of Christ is that the Bible says that His sacrifice was once for all. That Christ being dead can never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death that he died, he died to sin once for all; the life that he lives, he lives to God. And I take that literally and conclude that anything done after that can be no more than a memorial :)

kkollwitz said...

Cathoics re-enact the Last Supper at Mass (do this in memory of me). Did Jesus sacrifice himself at the Last Supper? He did not. He offered himself in sacrifice. Likewise at Mass, Christs's sacrifice is re-offered, he is not re-sacrificed. Catholics take the Scriptures literally: John 6, the Last Supper, the Heavenly Worship and Supper of the Lamb in Revelations.

As far as authoriity, the Church predates the New Testament. For generations of Christians there was no "New Testament" to "authoritatively" interpret as each saw fit. Jesus clearly left his authorized agents in charge and said not a word about a "New Testament," which was the Church's idea.

kkollwitz said...

"Jesus is risen, no longer on earth, He has no place/business here until the second coming."

Umm..."lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."

Anonymous said...

Soli Deo Gloria. "Jesus is risen, no longer on earth, He has no place/business here until the second coming." Who is kkollwitz quoting here? No one has said this thus far in the discussion. We all know that God the Father and Jesus Christ are both active on earth and in its inhabitants by means of the Holy Spirit.

caraboska said...

PS Ooops. That Anonymous comment was from me :)