Why Is the Eucharist Really So Hard to Swallow?
For many of our non-Catholic brethren and some Catholics as well, the doctrine of the Real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (transubstantiation) is very hard to swallow. We are told it is nonsensical to believe God would reveal himself to us in the breaking of the Eucharisted bread and wine. The conservative Protestant theologian Louis Berkhof, in his famous work Systematic Theology, insists that the Roman teaching “. . . violates the human senses, where it asks us to believe that what tastes and looks like bread and wine, is really flesh and blood; and human reason." But doesn't the very definition of faith at some level imply a denial of human senses and reason? Therefore, we are either incredibly foolish heretics for believing this, or by God's grace alone, have been given the eyes of faith to see this.
It takes faith to believe in what the senses can't reveal to us. We are called idol worshipers for Eucharistic adoration because we place the Eucharistic Christ in a monstrance for hours of worship. To eyes that can't see, it appears we are bowing to a thin white wafer made of unleavened wheat.
But as a Christian, don't we believe a lot of things by faith? Don't we accept a lot of "nonsensical" things that Scripture tells us about the workings of God? After all, faith is believing what is not seen (by our senses). "Blessed are you who believe who have not seen."
It takes faith to believe....
in God and his three in one nature.
He created the world out of nothingness
He made Adam from the dust
Abram's wife conceived at 90 some years old
He flooded the earth(pre-figurement of dying in the waters of baptism)
Noah and his family lived on an ark for 40 days
He rained frogs on the Egyptians and the rivers turned to blood
He parted the Red sea for Moses ( another "shadow" of baptism)
He fed the people manna in the desert, bread from heaven (shadow of the Eucharist)
They got water from a rock
They were healed upon gazing at the serpent on a staff (even so must the son of man be lifted up)
Naaman was healed of leprosy by the waters of the Jordan
The miracle of Elijah and the prophets of Baal
That God used Elijah's bones to raise someone from the dead (OT use of relics)
That God came to earth and took human flesh..... (moment of silent reflection here)
That John the Baptist being conceived in the womb of a barren women jumped for joy, still in the womb, when he was in the presence of his Savior in Mary's womb?
That Jesus turned water into very good wine,
That Jesus turned a few loaves and fishes into a feast for 5000
That Jesus used mud and spit to heal blindness (was it the clay that healed the man or was it Jesus working through material things?)
That He has the very hairs of our head counted
That the God-man would go to the cross willingly to suffer and die for the sins of all humanity
That He would rise again in three days
That He would give power to men on earth to forgive sins (Jn 21)
That He could start a Church 2000 years ago that the gates of Hell have not yet prevailed against.
So if most of Christendom has enough faith to believe that the God of the universe can do all those things, why can't we believe that this very same God who came to us as a man continues to come to us in the Bread of Life as he promised?
So Why Is the doctrine of the Eucharist really so hard to swallow?
"Material food first changes into the one who eats it, and then, as a consequence, restores to him lost strength and increases his vitality. Spiritual food, on the other hand, changes the person who eats it into itself. Thus the effect proper to this Sacrament is the conversion of a man into Christ, so that he may no longer live, but Christ lives in him; consequently, it has the double effect of restoring the spiritual strength he had lost by his sins and defects, and of increasing the strength of his virtues."
St. Thomas Aquinas