Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

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
, Commentary on Book IV of the Sentences, d.12, q.2, a.11


Blogger Gretchen said...

Thanks for the wonderfully commonsense post. A great read.

April 21, 2007 3:09 PM  
Blogger Pilgrimsarbour said...

Brother TJ,

I should think that we as believers in Christ would want to be very careful in dealing with each other on this very important issue. I understand what you are saying here, but let's not forget that there is a difference between matters of faith that derive from factual historical narrative, and those which additionally take on a "conceptual" aspect. What I mean is, as a matter of faith, I would not equate the historical truth of the creation of the world with the conceptual truth of the Trinity. One is specifically stated, the other is necessarily and rightly inferred. Each requires a different kind and measure of faith. The words of Jesus in the matter of the Eucharist have been debated by godly men and women of good will for centuries. It is possible to wrongly infer from what is expressly stated. For example, Jesus is not a door or gate (physically), nor is He a lamb (that is, an animal). So when Jesus calls Himself the "Bread of Life," we have reasonable precedent and obligation to consider these words with great care. I would find it inappropriate to accuse my Catholic brethren of idolatry regarding the Eucharist. I would hope that the words "lack of faith," a common fundamentalist and charismatic argument, would also not be the basis of discussion of this weighty and important doctrine.

All God's Best,

April 21, 2007 9:14 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

I agree with you that it would be wrong to infer that all those who don't except the doctrine don't accept it because of a "lack of faith." There are many other reasons why it is not accepted, I suspect, influenced from one's ecclesiology.
As you know, there were some in the early Church as evidenced by the writings of the Church Fathers that did not believe it, though the doctrine was held largely unchallenged until the 16th Century with a few exceptions.
My point, which may not have been expressed well, was that Louis Berkhof said the Roman teaching "violates human senses" but I maintain that faith often calls upon us to "go beyond" our human senses. We as Christians can and do believe by faith many "hard sayings."
I apologize if I implied that non catholics as well as some catholics just "lack faith." I truly believe that it is by God's grace alone that He instilled in me the ability to accept this doctrine. It's a hard saying!

Aquinas said that faith sees where the feeble senses fail us. I was trying to express, in modern terms his Eucharistic theology in the hymn Tantum Ergo :

"Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe'r ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor blessing,
Might and endless majesty.

God bless

April 22, 2007 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Theo said...

Our brother Pilgrim wrote in part...
"I would hope that the words "lack of faith," a common fundamentalist and charismatic argument, would also not be the basis of discussion of this weighty and important doctrine."

I comment...

If I read Tiber correctly, he does not appear to trotting out the charismatic "faith" card; but then, knowing his personal history, I'd be flabbergasted were that his intent. I believe he is merely addressing the specific objection that is indeed nothing more than a statement of disbelief in God's power: the "God can't do that" argument.

We might look at the charismatic "faith" doctrine in similar light. I deem it foolish to assert that God *must* honor faith by granting all requests, healing all who are sick and prospering all who ask for riches--and then imply that all who do not get the chocolate pudding they prayed for are somehow lacking in faith or disapproved by God or fill in the "bad thing."

I deem it equally foolish to assert that He *can't* do any of those things if He wills it. Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" and also to pray, "Not my will, but Thine be done."

The point seems to be that whatever *doctrinal* reasons one might offer to doubt Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, "God can't do that" is not one.

Hoping that my contribution is toward peace and understanding in Christ,

April 23, 2007 5:20 PM  

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