March 24, 2018
The Fuel of Faithfulness is Constancy
We need not look too distant to see a parallel between the lack of constancy of Abraham in his belief in God’s promises to him and our moral obligations, as far as upholding or living out continuously a life conducive to the values of faith in Christ, if we identify ourselves to be Christian or Christ-like as Abraham himself wanted to believe that he had the greatest of confidence in God, even though time after time he would display a lack of perfection in his trust in God.
As disciples of Christ, the idea here is not to simply continually dispose to live a moral Christian life but to be continuously faithful if that moral Christian way of life. For to be continual objectively speaking signifies to maintain a continuum but with broken patterns. However, to be continuous is to maintain a continuum, but uninterruptedly by broken patterns; that is, unremittingly, unyieldingly or purely proceeding with purpose, fixed toward an objective hope; thereby the believer is then genuine or authentic indeed. In other words, to be continual in the faith, one tends to live a form of Christian life that is intercepted or interrupted by sets of patterns; meaning, one period of his or her life will reflect moral determination to live out a life of Gospel values and at another epoch, he or she likely to become lukewarm and complacent in his or her belief. However, the term continuous refers to a type of Christian living that is unyielding, which is rather fueled with a spirit of single-mindedness or being single-hearted and committed at whatever course to remain faithfully obedient to his or her vocation that is oriented or focused on Christ in season and out of season. St Paul, for example, tells us to pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, all circumstances, good or bad without exception. I once read from an article that virtue is no virtue if we think we can take a break from the practice every now and then, especially when we encounter an expected trial in life where we often compromise our values for the sake of conveniences or even to salvage our very lives at times. It seems that our Blessed Lord shares St Paul’s position concerning constancy; whereby, he does not at all approve of a lukewarm, complacent, or a feeble coward-ness disposition. For He says in Matthew’s Gospel, that “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful…[since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away]. Living true Christian life insists on the practice of morality; morality is a habitual way of living appropriately. There is no room to take a break from that, lest one succumbs to immoral behavior.
March 17, 2018
The Reciprocal and Communal Relationship Between Virtue and Morality
Morality and virtue are a two-sided coin. Morality has to do with supernatural freedom to choose to do good and avoid evil; it has to do with the capacity to pursue justice and refute injustice; it has to do with the ability to discern or identify and observe the truth from the lie; it is also about the quality of one’s heart, soul, or spirit in regard to that which is good and the knowledge of the truth and willingness to uphold the known truth, for such is the good. On the other hand, virtue is the effort performed in order to be morally good, which in turns reflects the quality and/or the disposition of one’s heart.
According to the Catechism of the Church, “A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.” It is, as John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor said, the essential and indispensable ‘strength’ that we need to make good of the moral natural law and our conscience and live out the moral virtuous life that can ever fulfill the man’s ultimate vocation: for “we also need to avoid a subservient to our passions and our feelings so that we can choose what we know to be true. That is, we ought not to be led by our feelings or passions uncritically.” In other words, through the empowerment of the virtues, we are able to incarnate the moral natural law; this is a law that has its origin in the Eternal Law upon which all other laws are based, which is written upon our conscience, and so with the assistance of the virtues, we can reproduce such shared knowledge of the Wisdom of God that enters in the mind of (us all) man by divine providence in our daily lives. To further develop St John Paul II’s above position concerning morality, conscience, and virtue, we can consider this example or analogy – music sheets with written music tunes upon them; the musician may gaze at the notes written on the paper and can even hear the sound of the notes in the depth and recess of his being and is moved by it. But, whatever way he may react to the written music notes on the sheet and grasp the manner they may sound because of his fluentness and natural dexterity when it comes to music, it is, nevertheless, not music at all; at least not music as the average and ordinary people, (who often are not able to or familiar with reading or discerning the sound of music by looking at the music sheet), do in fact hear music and appreciate music ‘played’. So it is with the employment of the virtues, we lift the music of morality off the sheet of our conscience and exhibit it accordingly in our daily lives. There exists to a significant extent a sense of reciprocity between morality and virtue. The former fostering the latter; the latter perfecting the former.
To further develop St John Paul II’s above position concerning morality, conscience, and virtue, we can consider this example or analogy – music sheets with written music tunes upon them; the musician may gaze at the notes written on the paper and can even hear the sound of the notes in the depth and recess of his being and is moved by it. But, whatever way he may react to the written music notes on the sheet and grasp the manner they may sound because of his fluentness and natural dexterity when it comes to music, it is, nevertheless, not music at all; at least not music as the average and ordinary people, (who often are not able to or familiar with reading or discerning the sound of music by looking at the music sheet), do in fact hear music and appreciate music ‘played’. So it is with the employment of the virtues, we lift the music of morality off the sheet of our conscience and exhibit it accordingly in our daily lives. There exists to a significant extent a sense of reciprocity between morality and virtue. The former fostering the latter; the latter perfecting the former.
Just as true infinite happiness, which man longs for, is not one located somewhere extrinsic of himself, but one that is intrinsic, which according to the Catechism, comes from within through the flow of the virtue of charity, so is the concept of virtue per se is not something estranged or extrinsic from the concept of morality, conscience nor our nature; that is, we are naturally endowed with the freedom or capacity (unlike the brute) to choose even good from evil. Dr. Asci Professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio indicated that, and I paraphrased, “The chief meaning of Law and conscience is our natural ability to identify the good and living out our freedom by willing the good.” Here we see that morality and conscience are so united even to signify a cohesive and a conjoined definition, which is the natural ability to identify the (truth) good and so will the (truth) good. St John Paul II accentuated that “There is a way the law of God serves our freedom as a kind of knowledge of the good through which the law can set us free,” and that our true freedom, not being hindered by disordered passion, hinges on living the moral life, which depends on being aware of the moral natural law prescribed upon our conscience, which is a universal law, an immutable law, and an indelible law. The moral natural law is universal in two ways: in terms of it being ubiquitous in the mind of all men; secondly, that everyone without exception is irrefutably charged and governed by such law. This law is immutable because it supersedes precepts that are contradictory to it irrespective of deep-rooted cultural values, language, or ideologies. This law is indelible because no one can cease to know about the basic principles of the natural law concerning the basic good of the human person in spite of the fact that man’s ability to reason or appropriate his conduct, after having fallen from grace, had been impaired, where his intellect became darkened, his will weakened, and he is now quick to succumb to sin. Morality makes sense of the appliance of virtue. Had it not been for the moral law, performing acts of virtues would be futile. Conversely, without the empowerment found in the proper dispositions prompted by the virtues, the natural law would remain idle. It is safe to compare both morality and virtue to the idea of faith and work. Just as the Apostle St James made clear that faith without work is dead, so is morality without the implementation of virtue is dead. For the soul (life) of morality (human freedom) is the exercise (work) of virtue. St John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor insists or argues that, and I paraphrased, “although the knowledge of the good is necessary to be a morally good person and to exercise our freedom in dignity; however, this knowledge is not enough. In fact, we need more than the knowledge of the good, we need a con-naturality with the good; that is, we need to become where doing the good become dynamically second nature. For this con-naturality, this movement toward the good within ourselves comes in the form of virtues. Namely, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance; but for Christians, it will be most of all, the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity that will move our whole being toward the good or establish a dynamic within ourselves by which we will be ordered toward the ultimate good” who is God himself.
March 10, 2018
The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist
Dear RCIA catechumens and candidates,
Concerning last Sunday’s class session apropos to the Holy Eucharist, my objective was to show how the first century Jewish Christians were so willing to embrace and assent to the concept and dogma of the Holy Eucharist in the manner that Christ prescribed to us and wanted us to understand It and thereby appreciate the love He bore humanity through the Holy Eucharist – the Bread of heaven, the Bread of angels, the Bread of eternal life.
I wanted to show how the first century Jewish Christians were able to see the significant similarities and dissimilarities that existed between the Old Passover and the New Passover – the manner they both Passover meals were celebrated.
I wanted to show that the first century Jewish Christians were able to discern through the analogy that the lamb of the Old Passover, which was the central part of the Passover meal, was a type of sacrificial offering (of Christ) that pointed to the true Lamb of God – Christ himself who would offer his life on the Cross for love and salvation of humanity. Their discernment of this was solidified and reassuring especially when they took time to have reflected on the words of St John the Baptist who restored confidence unto them at the Jordan River concerning the awaited Messiah and said to them – the Apostles who were first St John the Baptist’s own disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world [place your trust in him now].”
I wanted to show how the first century Jewish Christians through the prism of their Hebraic religious tradition understood that Christ indeed was the Paschal Lamb, the central part of the sacrificial meal of the Passover, and even further, the central point and purpose of our very lives, fullness of being, and existence.
I wanted to show how the first century Jewish Christians saw the connection between the elements of bread and wine offered by Christ in the New Passover and the bread and wine once provided and offered by the priest Melchizedek, king of Salem when he came together with Abraham to give thanks to our Blessed Lord the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
I wanted to show how the first century Jewish Christians, through the lenses of their Hebraic biblical tradition, were able to understand what Jesus meant by “It is finished” after he had drunk the sour wine as he hung and affixed by nailed on the Cross – the fruit of the vine, which he said he would not drink of it again until he drinks it with them in his Father’s Kingdom, inferring that his martyrdom is the glory of his heavenly Father, his Cross, although his altar of sacrifice, but likewise was his throne, his scepter, and symbol of both his kingship and his kingdom, the kingdom of his heavenly Father. And the way they understood that is the way St Paul implied in his epistle, that “He was raised for our justification”; meaning, the phrase “It is finished” did not suggest that the work of man’s redemption was completed, but rather, the bloody sacrifice of the Old Passover came to fulfillment in him, Christ, the True Lamb of God who did in his own body [which he, through the ministerial priesthood, will forever offer in the form and under the appearance of bread and wine], what the bloody sacrifice under the Old Covenant could not ever accomplish – the forgiveness of sin and a clear conscience for all men of good will; that the Old Covenant made with Abraham could not have established the perfect familial bond between God and man, even at the offering of the life of his own son to God on Mount Moriah, but came to fulfillment and was permanently instituted by God’s own provision of the True Lamb, His only begotten Son; that trust and love between God and man now is made evident – for it was trust or better yet the lack of it that was the crucible which brought about the fall of man from grace, from original justice, and from the pristine relationship he once enjoyed with God in the garden of Eden; thereby, where trust and love exist, there is no need for the force of law – for the Old Covenant had embedded in it a contractual connotation, whereby the children of Israel were expected to display their disposition continually in offering the bloody sacrifice as a testimony against their desire of the things that are not in conformity with divine precepts – all of that has been done away with and drowned in the love of Christ Crucified who is the New Covenant, the Holy Eucharist.
I wanted to show how the first century Jewish Christians were able to appreciate that God was worthy of their trust and love in Christ their High Priest, who reinstituted the priesthood in its former way – a priesthood base on trust, love, and mercy. For Adam was a type of priest during his tenure in Eden. However, he forfeited his office by succumbing to false pride, which ultimately derived from his lack of trust in God; thereby, his wife conceived the word of the serpent – Satan, gave birth to sin, disbelieving in God’s loving disposition toward them [through the devil’s deception], believing He was envious of them for forbidding them to eat the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
I wanted to show how the first century Jewish Christians understood from their biblical tradition that Christ indeed bore witnessed to the Truth; and the Truth is this, that God emptied himself in becoming, the permanent Covenant between God and man, and was the sacramental tide and subsidy for all men unto the glory of God his Father. For from the garden of Eden, man misconstrued God’s eternal disposition concerning him; that God couldn’t possibly empathize with them, considering man was a simple creature of flesh and bones, while God was the abstract Creator of the all glorious cosmos, thus perceived him distant from his own reality; thereby, man perceived his flesh, namely his wife, to be a greater reality and of eminent importance to him than God who created him; he was therefore quick to adhere to his wife’s voice, even to be mesmerized and beguiled by her, conjoined himself within her then questionable stance [for love of her in contrast to his love for God], to sin against God together with her in anticipation that they themselves would become like unto God by the consumption of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. By so doing, man found himself indeed distant from God lost in sin. But God in his infinite mercy would not suffer the loss of mankind, rather as St Paul puts it in his daring statement that “Him [Christ] who knew no sin he [God] made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him [Christ].” He further stated that “God demonstrates his love for us by the fact that the Christ died for us while we were still sinners, His enemies.”
If I was to consolidate everything I have just stated above in a simple phrase, it would be this, that our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ is the Eucharist – the eternal gratitude due unto our heavenly Father. For this is what the term Eucharist means, thanksgiving; from the Greek term, Eucharistia. St Augustine once said that the devil’s most infuriating concept [after love] is that of gratitude. We need not wonder why.
Holy Mother Church teaches that the Eucharist is the SOURCE and SUMMIT of the Christian life, our lives, the lives of us all who place our confidence in him, of whom John the Evangelist proclaims that “On him, God the Father has placed his seal”. For from all of the other sacraments, we receive supernatural grace, but it is from the Eucharist, we receive the Author of supernatural grace, Christ the Lord.
Permit me to accentuate one additional significant point concerning Christ being God made flesh, made Eucharist. By virtue of the fact that God became man, assuming human nature, conversely he became our Sacrament of grace and life, we are all then called to appropriate ourselves to embrace a New Exodus, a New Passover, a New Manna, a New Bread of the Presence, a New Pilgrimage, and a New Law, which brings us liberty from the bondage of sin, death, and sorrow.
Where the measure of the moral life of the Hebraic culture was based on the extent of their fidelity to the precepts of the Mosaic Law, the measure of the moral life we as believers in Christ are called to is the empowerment of Christ’s Holy Spirit poured out within us in baptism and Jesus himself in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist being present within the core and recess of both our bodies and souls. In other words, the New Law is Christ and his Holy Spirit within us. God the Holy Spirit and Christ both of their presence in us become the interior law of charity: charity, the perfection of Christian life. The Catechism teaches that “The New Law [the Law of Grace, the Law of Love] or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection of the divine law, the natural moral law, and the revealed law [given to the Hebraic people from Mount Sanai; that is the Ten Commandments, otherwise known as the Decalogue]”. Holy Scripture has it that “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. . . . I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
It is said that freedom is the ability to will the good, but I’m sure you will all agree that in order to do the good, we must first be able to identify the good. St John Paul II asserted that there is a way the law of God serves our freedom as a kind of knowledge of the good through which the law can set us free; that is, the law can assist us in identifying the good, which we should strive for in order to maintain and enhanced our freedom or moral quality, lest in not being able to identify the good by the absence of the light of the law, we succumb to nebulous self-seeking behavior that is contrary to the moral law of God, enslaving ourselves – misusing our ability to choose to do the good, choosing to do the wrong instead. The Old Law, the natural moral law, the Ten Commandments, which is the Decalogue were the light given to us through the Hebraic culture to assist us in identifying the good we are pursuing in order to fulfill our vocation. The New Law, the Law of Grace, the Law of Love, not only is made known to us in our hearts, but unlike the Old Law, empowers us to do the good, to be good, and even holy, to become perfect, even our heavenly Father is perfect. “The New Law…” the Catechism says, “… is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments [especially the Holy Eucharist]; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who ‘does not know what his master is doing’ to that of a friend of Christ – ‘For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you’ – or even to the status of son and heir.”
I hope you can recall from our conversation about the topic of Saquela Christi we had during one of the RCIA class session; that we are called not merely to observe the moral prescriptions of The Commandments, which serve us as a light, by which we know to do good and avoid evil, nor simply mimic Christ in his manner of living, but rather to come in union with him, sharing his values, his sorrows, his joy, in anticipation that everything we do will reflect him, his Personhood in us, as St Paul tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” According to Catholic Church, the holiness we are called to “flow from [trust and] faith in Christ [being one with him in mind and in body] and are animated by charity, the principal gift of the Holy Spirit.” In order for us obtain and maintain this fervidness that bring us in authentic relationship with Christ, we must admit that we are emphatically required to come in union, as in communion with Christ literally, that is, sacramentally, provided that we continually prepare ourselves to receive him in Holy Communion. For St Paul warned us that, “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”
Jesus tells us, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Our Blessed Lord likewise made provision for us how to abide in him –
- I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever;
- and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world…
- Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you…
- Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.
- For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.
- Just 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.
- …whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.
Below is delineated the definition of the concept of covenant and a list of the three ways that covenants may be classified in order to better appreciate the unfolding mystery concerning the provision our Lord God made unto Abraham, to us, and all of humanity at large in the Person of his only begotten Son, Jesus as the provided Lamb which he promised Abraham and that Abraham, in turn, assured Isaac his son – of whom, according to the flesh, is this divine provision is fulfilled or brought about; that is, God made man, made Sacrament for the establishment of the New Covenantal relationship, [through which mankind was justified, salvaged, and be made worthy to become children of the most high God], is ultimately actualized.
COVENANT: An agreement which forms the foundation of a familial relationship.
It is the mean by which the engaged parties established a familial relationship, deepen and bring to perfection the love they bear for one another that nurtures their familial affiliation with one another. Whereby, the solidity and solidarity, the perpetuity, the fruitfulness of the relationship will form the nucleus of society (the rational order of all creation) at large.
Why a covenant?
In order to establish trust, love, and enduring indissoluble familial bond; for where love and trust abide, there is no need to bring the force of law.
COVENANTS CAN BE CLASSIFIED IN THREE SENSES:
In all three, the relationship takes precedence over the obligation, pursuing the perfection of love between parties.
- A grant Covenant – one of greater authority to one with less authority
- A treaty Covenant – The Opposite of that – one of lesser authority to one with greater authority
- A kinship Covenant – two of equal dignity or authority assuming mutual obligation toward one another.
Three promises that God makes to Abraham
1 Land – “Go to a land that I will show you [and give you as an inheritance thereof”
2 Children – to be prosperous in a land of milk & honey; kings shall proceed from his lineage
3 Blessing – A threefold blessing: Abraham, his descendants, and all the world through them
THREE (covenants and) aspects of the blessing that God promises to Abraham
1 Blessing of land for Abraham
2 Blessing for his descendants, promise land, a land of milk and honey
3 Blessing for all the world through his (Seed) descendants
- First Covenant – concerning God’s first promise to Abraham about the land that he should inherit
1 Type: Grant
2 Promise: Land
3 Hesitation: Asking for a Sign – resulted in slow (partial forfeiting of the) inheriting of the land
4 Limitation: Slavery – in captivity for 400 years in the land of Egypt
5 Ratification: God’s Offering (Genesis 15:12-21) a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram
6 Fulfillment: Mosaic Covenant – the measure of their moral quality; it denounces disclosed sin, but it could not forgive sin
- Second Covenant – concerning God’s second promise to Abraham about his progeny that he will be given, including Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon
1 Type: Treaty
2 Promise: Children
3 Hesitation: Birth of Ishmael – resulting in a slow and delayed actualization of the promise of an heir
4 Limitation: – it would have been Grant Covenant, turned Into a Treaty Covenant God is holy, but Abraham needed to be holy on the terms dictated by God; whereby Abraham carried out the sacrifice that was to constitute (or sacramentilized) the Covenant
5 Ratification: Circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14)
6 Fulfillment: Davidic Covenant – the line of kings that were to come of his seed
- Third Covenant – concerning God’s third promise to Abraham about the universal blessing of all mankind through his Seed, namely Christ himself
- Type: Kinship
- Promise: Blessing of the entire world through the Seed of Abraham
- Hesitation: None
- Limitation: None
- Ratification: (Almost) Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22)
- Fulfillment: New (Kinship) Covenant (Jesus)
“God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering…”
Beware of Nestorianism regarding the interpretation of “This is my Body…This is my Blood.”
Nestorianism is the doctrine that says there are two separate persons, one human, and one divine, in the incarnate Christ. It is named after Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople (428–31), and was maintained by some ancient churches of the Middle East. A small Nestorian Church still exists in Iraq.
According to St Cyril, Patriarch (Bishop) of Alexandria, “Nestorius had [undermined] deprived the Eucharist of life-giving force and reduced it to cannibalism, since on his premises only the body of a man lay on the altar and the flesh consumed by the faithful was not truly vivified by [Jesus Christ who St John the Apostle circumscribes as] the Logos.”
Transubstantiation – the Catholic Apostolic position
Thus saith the Lord, “I myself will provide the lamb” in order to make our human condition His concern and reconcile us unto Himself; thereby, God became Flesh (man) and Sacrament, raising up Abraham and us all who placed our hope and confidence in Him unto a relationship with Him. “I the Lord thy God swears it and will not repent, thou art a Priest of the order (manner) of Melchizedek”. Of the many interpretations regarding these words of consecration of our Blessed Lord, “This is my body…This is my blood”, none is more fitting than the original interpretation (TRANSUBSTANTIATION) the Church always had since our Blessed Lord introduced the dogma of the Eucharist in the Eucharistic discourse found in John chapter 6 concerning that he is the Bread (the New Manna) which came down from heaven. For just as the Lord accepted only a partial sacrificial offering of Abraham, the offering of his only son unto God, in order that he may, in turn, offer the complete sacrificial offering of his own only begotten Son as to identify with us and assume our human condition as his own; thereby, he ennobled us. What the biblical narrative thus conveyed is that there is nothing we, as a fallen race, can ever offer unto God to establish a familial covenant with him, not even our own children to be burned could ever actualize this end. God on the other hand can make this unconceivable provision, whereby, we can become children of God, partaking in the divine Sonship of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God provided by God who takes away the sin of this world, happy are we who are called to part take in the supper of this Lamb.
You see, it is INFINITELY important that we take notice that in the consecration of the bread and the wine into the body and blood of our Savior, it is the bread which changes into his body and blood of our Blessed Lord; in other words, it is not Jesus who changes into the bread and the wine – that is what many outside the Catholic Faith believe, but that is heretical and idolatrous (as described below). This doctrinal position is a derivative of Nestorianism. It is a theological angle that was much influenced by Nestorius’ personal teaching. Below are two (more relatively modern) examples or fruits of his erroneous reasoning.
Consubstantiation – Protestants’ position
The 16-century doctrine, especially in Lutheran belief, which says that the substance of the bread and wine coexists with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, erroneously paving the way for the faithful to commit idolatry, considering the bread and wine concretely remained next to Christ’s presence (whatever that means).
And then there is the doctrine of:
Impanation – Protestants’ position
The reformers of the 16th-century, in anticipation to have removed themselves from hierarchical structure of the Church and the authority of the Papacy, found it necessary that they raised unto themselves doctrines that were different from those that were central to the Catholic Faith, even and especially how the Church ever understood the manner by which Christ himself, the Apostles, and their spiritual progenies in the Faith left us to believe and understand the Holy Eucharist. They were determined forged a different Eucharist – a different Jesus, which St Paul preemptively warned the Church against, to be careful that we do not forfeit the true Gospel, the true Faith, for another counterfeit gospel or false faith. But another medieval and Reformation doctrine, which claims that the body of Christ is present in the Eucharistic bread and does not replace it, emerged; that is, the substance of the bread does not change, but Christ is present in the bread as his Person is present in his incarnation, assuming a second nature other than his human nature; namely, bread. In this analysis, Christ is said to have, not two, but three natures – the divine nature, the human nature, the artificial-food nature of the bread dough.
Let me bring to your attention that which may be news to some of you. That is, immediately after the so-called reformation had gained grown in Europe, a cataclysmic wave of confusion emerged amidst the so-called reformers; there and then, according to Christopher Rasperger whose work concerning the topic of the Holy Eucharist was published in 1577, 200 different interpretations of the Words, “This is my Body” were frivolously promoted. Today there is an uncountable number of these heresies so many people, being uninformed or poorly catechized, are buying into. But given that the Holy Eucharist, in the manner Christ wishes us to understand It is the centrality of our lives, of being true Christians, to get it wrong here is to shipwreck the Faith to which we were all called to by Christ himself, that God truly became flesh and the sacrament of our salvation. Thus Christ says, “You believe in God, believe also in me.”
Of the various historical interpretation of the words of our Blessed Lord pertaining the Eucharist and how It ought to be understood, including assented to, the Church’s interpretation from the first time our Blessed Lord introduced the dogma in the Our Father… prayer and the Eucharistic discourse in the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel is the most fitting interpretation. Jesus introduced the Holy Eucharist to us first in the “Our Father…” prayer when his Apostles asked him to teach them how to pray to our heavenly Father, he told them that they had to ask of his Father for “epiousios” bread, supersubstantial bread, which is the Eucharist, although it likewise implies our daily necessities; but by virtue of the Greek chosen term inscribed in the Gospel to identify “this day, our daily bread,” we can safely infer that Christ is accentuating the importance of this Bread that he commands us to ask from his and our heavenly Father; it is to be daily as the children of Israel dwelled in the desert for forty years receiving manna, heavenly bread, daily; a bread that foreshadowed the true Manna from heaven, Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Afterward, in the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, he expounded on the dogma. It is worth noting that the dogma of the Holy Eucharist was the first for which Christ and his Church was ever abandoned by a number of his disciples that once walked with him, and so John attested that “From this time [on] many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
The Church’s interpretation of the Holy Eucharist is in keeping with the development of the Abrahamic Covenants to the letter. As I mentioned above, our human condition is not worthy to establish a familial bond with God that would render us children of God; there is nothing we could ever offer God for this to actualize. But according to Abraham, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Only God could ever make this provision by becoming one of us that he may identify with us, our human condition. Thereby, becoming the voice of our humanity unto his heavenly Father who sees in him sincere love and justice even as he is yet human. And so, by becoming man, he ennobled mankind, making man universally worthy to be identified with the God-man Christ, subsequently, to be worthy to be called children of God. Conversely, when we bring our offerings to the altar, the bread, and the wine, we bring to God in Christ all that we are about, all of our sorrows, all of our brokenness, all of our sins, all of our gratitude, all of our praises, all of our resolution to be faithful unto his calling, all of our good disposition from the depth and recess of our beings unto his love and mercy that he bears for us all. For such are the many things our offering of the bread and wine represent. But because of our lack of perfection in loving our neighbor as we ought and loving God as we are commanded to, our offering of the gifts needs to be vivified and divinized by the One who does indeed love without boundary, the One who is love himself. Therefore, Christ, the God-man mercifully and humbly accepts our offering and transformed such offering into himself; that is, he transforms the bread into his very flesh and the wine into his own blood that it may become an unblemished sacrificial offering of thanksgiving indeed. We can see how this mystery which the Church refers to as TRANSUBSTANTIATION does indeed fit the bill, the dogma’s parallelism with the Abrahamic Covenants development and in semblance our sacrificial offering as that of Abraham, which our Blessed Lord, though he accepts, undergoes kenosis by emptying himself, becoming one of us, in order to make provision for us by becoming the one and only acceptable sacrificial Lamb, the perfect Sacrament, the impeccable Eucharist (thanksgiving) per se unto the glory of God his heavenly Father. It is as if God says, ‘Let he who has ears hear, I myself will provide the lamb to reconcile man unto myself, raising Abraham to know my disciplines and in his Seed (Christ upon whom I set my seal), I will bring all of mankind into a permanent familial relationship with Me the Lord thy God, not by my might, but by my (Spirit of) love’ from whence comes my Christ Jesus.’
Further, in this letter, I furnished a series of quotes from early years of Christianity to illustrate how the communities of believers understood the Holy Eucharist, particularly those that were disciples of the Apostles of Christ. Namely, Ignatius of Antioch who was an immediate disciple of John the Apostle and was appointed bishop of Antioch by Peter, Prince of the Apostles; his tenure lasted forty years until he was martyred for the Faith by the Roman emperor Trajan, devoured by lions at a Colosseum in Rome; Another champion of the Holy Eucharist was Justin Martyr who lived in the following generation of that of Ignatius, though still in the second century; thirdly, Cyril of Jerusalem in the fourth century.
But before I start quoting the historical figures aforementioned, I would like to quote Holy Scripture per se, particularly St Matthew who wrote the Gospel of our Blessed Lord and St Paul the Apostle regarding their take on the Holy Eucharist.
St Matthew wrote, “[On the night He was betrayed], Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take this; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from this, all of you. “This is my blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin,”
And St Paul the Apostle said, “Do you not know The Chalice of benediction (Cup of Blessing), which we bless, is the communion of the Blood of Christ? And that the Bread, which we break, is [partaking of] the Body of the Lord?”
He went on to say, “…there is one loaf, we, who are many, are ONE BODY, for we all share the one [Eucharist] loaf.”
In AD 107, St Ignatius, bishop of Antioch wrote seven letters to seven branches of the Church just before his martyrdom in one of which, in order to have preserved understanding of the fundamentals of the Faith amidst the faithful, especially about the Holy Eucharist, he said,
“They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His Goodness, raised up again”
he went on to say, “So be diligent to use one Eucharist. For there is only one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup for unity in His blood, there is one altar as there is one bishop together with his presbyters and deacons my fellow servants. this is so that whatever you do, you may do in accordance with God.”
And, “I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ…and for drink I desire His Blood which is love incorruptible.”
St Justin Martyr in the 2nd century said, “This food is known among us as the Eucharist, we do not receive these things as common bread and common drink, but as Jesus Christ, our Savior being made flesh by the Word of God.”
St Cyril of Jerusalem in the 4th century in his daring statement said, “Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who after that will venture to doubt? And since he himself has affirmed quite categorically, This is my blood, who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood?”
He went on saying, “Do not, therefore, regard the Bread and Wine as simply that; for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the Body, and Blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by the faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the Body and Blood of Christ.”
Here are some terminologies that may be helpful in understanding that when we do consume our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist, given that he is so united to his heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit in their divine nature, we ultimately receive the whole God into our bosom, into the depth and recess of ourselves. This union I speak of now to you is known as Perichoresis in Greek and Circumincession in Latin – just in case you run into them or you were wondering.
Perichoresis (Greek) – the relationship of the three Persons the triune God
Circumincession (Latin) – the relationship of the three persons of the triune God
Vestigia Trinitatis – Vestiges of the footprint of the Holy Trinity in the world