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, June 27, 2009

Protestant Views of the Communion of Saints

Prodigal daughter has a nice post about saints on her blog which brought to mind something I had just read:

"When in his frailty, a man invokes the saints, he invokes Christ, and without fail he will reach Christ whenever he calls upon their names, for wherever they are, they are in Christ and Christ is in them, and their name in Christ's name and Christ's name in their name."

This quote was from the early 16th century. How far we have gotten away from this concept! Back then, one could invoke the saints and not be accused of necromancy! It was not uncommon for a pious Christian to ask saints for intercession because it was common practice and had been part of the Church since the earliest days. The Apostles Creed probably written shortly after the last of the apostles died states "We believe in the communion of saints." The early church understood this to be an interaction on the saint's part for those of the body of Christ still left here on earth.
I like what Protestant minister Rev. James Dodd DD (1890) says about the Communion of Saints:
"Death separates the soul from the body, but it does not cut off the dead from communion with the Father or the Son. He who is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob is the God not of the dead, but of the living. Of the whole family of the saints, some are in heaven and some on earth, and, between those who are there and those who are here, there is communion. Since the heavenly Church received Abel as its first member, there has been unceasing fellowship between militant and glorified saints. Those who are here are shut out by the tabernacle of the body from personal intercourse with the souls of the departed, but are yet in a fellowship with them that is very real and precious. The holy dead act upon the living, and, it may be, are reacted upon in ways we do not understand. Of Abel we are told that "being dead, he yet speaketh."[196]
Boy if that doesn't sound Catholic to me! By the way, the first quote was from an individual who is the spiritual father of our separated brethren, none other than Martin Luther in 1522.
(5 years after he posted his theses on the door of that Catholic Church)

So, if the father of Protestantism believed in the Communion of Saints, why do our separated brethren oppose this creedal belief so vehemently?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jewel of the Caribbean Coffee

As a fund raiser for our Haiti medical missions, we are launching the Jewel of the Caribbean Coffee Company. I am purchasing green beans(un-roasted) from a Haitian gentleman who uses part of the proceeds to fund projects in his village in Haiti, L' Aisle. I will then be roasting the beans upon receiving an order and shipping out 1/2 lb bags. The taste of fresh roasted coffee is wonderful and once you taste fresh roasted, you may never go back to the stale store-bought brands. Also, this coffee is shade-grown and environmentally friendly with no pesticides or fertilizers used.
For 10 dollars (which includes shipping), you will receive 1/2 lb of whole-bean(you have to grind them yourself) fresh roasted coffee direct to your door. The date of roast will be stamped on the bag so you know it will be fresh!
The proceeds of the coffee sales will go to purchasing medical supplies that will be brought to the parishioners of St. Simon and Jude Parish in Port-Au-Prince. With each sip of this delicious coffee, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that whatsoever you did for the least of these, that you have done unto Him. God bless and thanks. Go here to find out how to get your Jewel of the Caribbean Coffee.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's So Great About Catholicism?


"Yes, the good old reactionary, repressive Catholic Church has been the most ardent defender of freedom in the history of the world – though it almost never gets credit for it. We live in an age of determinist ideologies – with the fate of nations and individuals supposedly determined by race, economics, history, psychology, genetics, or even – insofar as Protestants have any common doctrinal beliefs – predestination. The Catholic Church stands alone in radical defense of man's free will.

When the media, Protestants, and dissenters tell practicing Catholics that the impulse to sexual activity is overwhelmingly powerful and can't be controlled or renounced, Catholics alone say, "No, man is free. All Christians are called to chastity, and what they are called to do, they can do, and some can freely take on celibacy as a sacrifice to better serve God and His Church."

When Maximus in the movie Gladiator rallies his cavalrymen with the words, "What we do in this life echoes in eternity," he is speaking like a Catholic, not like a Reformed Protestant or a Muslim who believes that eternity is already written and that man has no free will.

When skeptics complain that the evidence for God is not clear or that a God who allows suffering and evil is Himself sadistic and evil, the Catholic responds, "Our God has made us free men. True freedom always comes with costs and challenges. You see, ours is not a religion of make-believe where actions have no consequences. Ours is a religion of life as it really is. And life as it really is, is a life of original sin. Catholicism is a religion of pilgrimage, freely accepted, to grow in Christ, to overcome sin."

It is another oft-propounded myth that the Western world didn't taste of freedom until the Protestant revolt of Martin Luther, which led to the division and state subordination of churches in northern Europe and eventually led, in some countries, to the separation of church and state and the irrelevance of church to state.

But who would blatantly say that the Renaissance – against which Luther revolted – was not free? Who would deny that the great check on state power throughout the entirety of European history, from the conversion of Constantine until the 20th century, was the Catholic Church?

Think of the Roman Emperor Theodosius, commander of all Rome's legions, stripping himself of all imperial insignia to do penance before an unarmed cleric, St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan. It was the Catholic Church that brought a moral check to bear on the exercise and perquisites of power.

Think of the martyrdom of Sir Thomas Beckett and Sire Thomas More. Think of the Protestant revolt, which argued that the power of the state was scriptural and the power of the papacy – the power of Christ's Church against the demands of the state – was not.

Think of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Kulturkampf of Bismarck, and later intellectual and political currents, including fascism, communism, and the liberalism of our own time, all of which saw – or see – the state as the essential thing, centralization of state authority as the central task, and state direction as the essential instrument of reform. And what was the roadblock to these "reformers"? The Catholic Church. It was the Church that asserted the independence of "subsidiarity institutions." It was the Church that defended the rights of the family against the state. It was the Church that protested, in the words of Pope Pius XI, against the "pagan worship of the state."

The true Catholic is a natural Tory anarchist – someone who believes in loyalty to persons, institutions, and the faith – semper fidelis – and in otherwise letting les bons temps rouler."(let the good times roll)

(cf. H. Crocker)

Monday, June 22, 2009

St Thomas More

Today the Church celebrates the life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More. He spent a year in the dreaded tower of London before being beheaded by his friend King Henry the 8th. His crime? He did not support the King of England as being sovereign over the Catholic Church in England and would not support his illicit marriage to his mistress Ann Boleyn.
The end result of King Henry's action was the traumatic schism we now see as the Anglican Communion. Did King Henry leave the Catholic Church because of doctrinal issues? Did he think Catholic theology was a bunch of man- made up religion? The answer is No to all these. Earlier in his life he won accolades from Rome and received the Church's highest honor for defending the Catholic faith writing a treatise against the doctrines of the reformation. (some believe it was ghost written by his chancellor, Thomas More)
The schism resulted from King Henry's moral issues, not theology. The persecution of Catholics that followed this created many British martyrs for the faith and some anti-Catholic laws are still "on the books" in England. (A Catholic cannot hold public office such as the prime minister)

St Thomas More, pray for us that we will be willing to stand for truth in a world that continues
to choose the path of least resistance and creates its own "morality and justice."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Catholics Love Retreats

Since I have been Catholic, I have heard about Catholic retreats. "Have you been on a retreat?" I would often hear. Many folks attribute their conversion to eeperiences they had at retreat weekends. Well, I just got back from a men's retreat sponsored by the Allentown Diocese this weekend. This was my first Catholic retreat. (I have played music for two of these retreats but was never a participant) It was held at an old seminary (owned by the archdiocese of Philadelphia) that is now used just for retreats. It is locate on 400 acres surrounded by breathtaking views and extreme quiet. Sadly it is going up for sale and this was one of the last retreats, unless a wealthy Catholic buys it. (Hey Tom Monaghan (founder/owner of Domino's Pizza, we could use a few Benjamins over here!)

We began the day with praying the liturgy of the hours, then Mass daily, and ending the evenings with Eucharistic adoration . On Saturday, the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) was available to all the men and I had a great time getting some spiritual direction as well as absolution. There's nothing like hearing those precious words and knowing that you are once again made clean by the blood of the Lamb.
Father Scott gave 4 excellent sessions focusing on fatherhood, spiritual warfare and how Catholic men can become better fathers and help bring their family to heaven with them. His enthusiasm was infectious and his love for Jesus was a delight to see and share.
The highlight was Saturday evening's Eucharistic adoration that went for over 2 hours! Seeing many on their knees with their hands raised to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was like a flashback to my old days in non-Catholic charismatic meetings. Now of course, Jesus was physically before us and that makes all the difference in the world for me.
Many needs were met as men were prayed for before the blessed sacrament. After adoration, Jesus was brought to a small chapel on the second floor with a candlelit procession where we could sign up for half-hour sessions of personal adoration through the night. (It is not appropriate to display the Blessed Sacrament unattended. cf:Could you not wait one hour with me?)

The weekend ended with a decision to have a mini-retreat in the fall with the same format since all us had such a positive experience. Yeah, Catholics and their retreats, a good thing!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More On Baptism

At my first Easter vigil Mass after returning to the Church, I was deeply moved by the scripture readings chosen for that Mass. Beginning in Genesis, the Church traces the doctrine of baptismal regeneration throughout the scriptures seemlessly showing us the importance of water and the blood. kkollwits from Smaller Manhattans has a nice post here illustrating this. He also includes a portion of the writings of the early Christians from 80 AD, the Didache, teaching how to use water for baptism. From this, one would gather that the early Church believed that baptism was more than symbolic. Why else would they go on about it in a teaching manual such as the Didache?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Justification-"Baptism Doth Save You"

Blood and Water---- Beloved, Do Not Pass Over This Mystery Without Thought

George over at Path of the Weis has an interesting post regarding his discovery of the Catholic and historic meaning of the water and blood that flowed from Christ's side after the piercing by the centurion's sword. (Thanks George!)
This got me thinking about how the Church has richly viewed each and every aspect of the life of Christ, and in this case, the Passion of Christ. As a Protestant, I sung about the cross, marveled at the blood shed for my sins thanked Jesus for saving me and then kinda moved on, or passed over any significance beyond that. Certainly the redemption of man through His blood is the most significant reality but the Catholic Church focuses on every aspect of that passion in great detail, being lead by the Spirit to discover everything there is to understand about these gospel events.
The early Christians wrote extensively about the crucifixion and what these events meant.
St Chrysostom(347-407 AD) of the early fifth century tells us that the early Christians viewed the water and blood as pointing to the the Sacraments of the Eucharist and baptism. Again, this resonates with my last post regarding the importance of baptism to the early believers.

“There flowed from his side water and blood”. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life."

Also, this view of the passion of Christ points to the idea that the Church was very important to the believing body of Christ. The idea of Christ giving birth to his Church was so key to the early Christians because they were united to this one body and hence were "in Christ." There was no concept of "me and Jesus." It was more like: "Me and the Church Jesus gave me that unites me to Him through his death which I experienced through baptism and the nourishment he gives me in his body and blood (the Eucharist)"

Here You Go Again, You Catholics are always talking about the Church, what about Jesus?
The early believers did not juxtapose Jesus and the Church. They were not pitted against another as happened after the reformation. It was a non-issue, and in the context of history at the time, impossible to consider. The Church was mentioned 111 times in the New Testament (KJV version) mentioned by Jesus, Peter, Luke, Paul, John and James.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"We Believe in One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins"

Question: Tell me, pray, and rid me of all doubts, why little children are baptized.?
Answer: That their sins may be forgiven them in baptism."
St. Jerome, Against the Pelagians, 3:18(A.D. 415)

Point A) The early Church believed in the necessity of baptism for salvation based on Jesus words and the teachings of the apostles. Numerous writings from the early Church prove that infant baptism was the normative pathway for salvation.

Point B) The fathers of the reformation both believed and insisted on infant baptism as necessary for salvation. As a matter of fact, Luther and Calvin dealt severely with anabaptists (did not believe in infant baptism) calling them heretics, blasphemers and even worse.

Point C) Some modern day Christians believe that if you ask Jesus into your heart to be your Personal Lord and Savior, you are saved. Baptism is then later "required but not necessary" or for some, never required at all.

So how did we get from point A to point C in just 500 years? What is the truth? Is the Creed written by the early Church stating we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, wrong? Is this concept of baptism for the forgiveness of sins something we can dismiss easily because it doesn't fit our modern day view of baptism? Even if our view is diametrically opposed to both early christian writings or the theology of the reformers?

Here's what the early church and the reformers said about baptism:

St Augustine 400 AD:

And if any one seek for divine authority in this matter, though what is held by the whole Church, and that not as instituted by Councils, but as a matter of invariable custom, is rightly held to have been handed down by apostolical authority, still we can form a true conjecture of the value of the sacrament of baptism in the case of infants, from the parallel of circumcision, which was received by God's earlier people, and before receiving which Abraham was justified, as Cornelius also was enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized."
Augustine,On Baptism against the Donatist,4:24:31(A.D. 400),in NPNF1,IV:461

John Calvin:
"But as baptism is a solemn recognition by which God introduces his children into the possession of life [e.g., regeneration], a true and effectual sealing of the promise, a pledge of sacred union with Christ, it is justly said to be the entrance and reception into the Church. And as the
instruments of the Holy Spirit are not dead, God truly performs and effects by baptism what he figures.”
“There is a union complementary with the thing figured, lest the sign be empty, because that which the Lord represents in sign he effects at the same time, and executes in us by the power of the Spirit . . . What indeed do we abrogate or take away from God when we teach that he acts through his instruments, indeed, he alone . . . God works . . . through the sacraments as instruments… The Spirit is the author, the sacrament is truly the instrument used.

"So then we must ever come to this point, that the Sacraments are effectual and that they are not trifling signs that vanish away in the air, but that the truth is always matched with them, because God who is faithful shows that he has not ordained anything in vain. And that is the reason why in Baptism we truly receive the forgiveness of sins, we are washed and cleansed with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are renewed by the operation of his Holy Spirit.

And how so? Does a little water have such power when it is cast upon the head of a child? No. But because it is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ that the water should be a visible sign of his blood and of the Holy Spirit. Therefore baptism has that power and whatsoever is there set forth to the eye is forthwith accomplished in very deed."

Martin Luther:
"That the Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ is sufficiently proved from His own work, namely, that God sanctifies many of them who have been thus baptized, and has given them the Holy Ghost."

The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church:

"The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. "Sacramental grace" is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior."

For more on why Catholic baptize babies go here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"The Catholic Is Never Alone"

Here is an excerpt from H. Crocker's essay "What's So Great about Catholicism."

"The Catholic is never alone. God is always near. The Catholic remembers Mary. He remembers her saying yes to the Incarnation. He remembers those who have gone before him: the vast parade of saints whose personalities and attributes are so various, so free, and yet so devoted to the singular path that leads to holiness and union with God.

Catholic women – as I noted in my agnostic Anglican days, when I was dating them – had stained-glass minds: an awareness of the romance of the past and of the depth and color of Christian history, even if it was just a velleity, not captured in details or knowledge. Catholics aren't divorced from history. They are not alone with their Bibles and their consciences. Catholics live history. They are part of the continuum of 2,000 years (or with the Old Testament, even longer) of man's pilgrimage with God.

In the Apostles' Creed, the earliest formulary of Christian belief that we have, the Bible is never mentioned. Individual conscience is never mentioned. What is mentioned is history: "born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried." And what is affirmed is belief in God; in the life, resurrection, and coming judgment of Jesus; and then the final litany: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting."

To the Catholic, life is good; the body is good (which is why it will be resurrected); and it is good for man, if we remember Genesis, not to be alone. In the Catholic Church, he is never alone but lives within the body of Christ, the Church Militant, wherein he receives the sacraments of his earthly pilgrimage; in his prayers for the dead, he remains in prayerful connection with the Church Suffering; and in his emulation of the saints and prayers for their intercession, he looks ahead to the Church Triumphant in heaven.

And what saints there are. "St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle"; the beloved St. Francis, "Lord, make me a channel of Your peace"; the "Dumb Ox" of logic and reason's call, St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Ignatius Loyola, who showed what miracles of conversion "the Pope's marines" could achieve when they were all devoted and orthodox (let us hope that they will be again); and on and on in endless panorama. All this belongs to the priceless Catholic heritage. Catholicism does not circumscribe and narrow the truth and practice of religion as all heresies do but celebrates the fullness of humanity and God's creation.

The saints show us the way. Catholics do not presume that they are saved through faith alone – as do Protestants. Salvation, of course, comes through God's grace. But as part of our free acceptance of that grace, we are called to become holy: to work, to act, to participate in that constant drama where we struggle to live the life of a saint – to live, that is, the life of Christ. None of us is the elect, predestined to salvation, with the remainder (the majority) predestinedly condemned to hell, as Calvin taught. The Catholic believes he is called to acts of corporal and spiritual mercy and that these help him, by God's grace, to achieve expiation of sin. Our models and aides in our never-ending effort to achieve sanctity are Jesus, the apostles, and all the saints."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Close Encounter of the Cello Kind

I recently put up a cello* for sale on CraigsList.
A young woman from south Jersey came up to look at it with her Dad, a guy slightly older than me. We chatted for over an hour while she "test drove" the cello in another room. Turns out I lived in Philadelphia not far from where he went to highschool, a Catholic school. So that lead to my story that I just recently converted (5 years ago now) and a quick outline of my journey. This lead to another 45 minutes of discussion. Turns out he had a similar journey. Both he and his wife left the Church in the early 70's for an AOG-type charismatic church while the kids were young, but they have returned, including their grown kids as well! He seemed surprised when I told him I haven't seen many of my ex-Catholic friends returning to the Church, but seem to run in the opposite direction or put up the "wall of silence." He said, "I see a lot of people returning to the Catholic Church, not in droves mind you, but they are coming back."
With that happy thought, his daughter decided to buy the cello, we shook hands, I gave them a DVD of our Journey Home appearance, and a good time was had by all.

*I'll post about my two-week foray into cello playing sometime (just enough to put a couple tracks down for the new album)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Today on his 23rd birthday, we drove our oldest son Jon to Center City Philadelphia to start his two year term in the Peace Corps. Tomorrow he will fly to Istanbul, then from there to Chisinau, Moldova. Moldova is the poorest country in Eastern Europe. He will live with a host family for three months in a rural village until he learns the language (either Romanian and/or Russian)then will be placed in another village to teach English, which will be his permanent assignment.
It is so hard to say goodbye but we trust that God will be with him. If you happen upon this blogpost please pray for him if you get a chance. Thanks so much.
My wife put together a video for him here on her blog.

Monday, June 08, 2009

H/T to Fr. Rich for this video

Another Anglican Priest Makes the Jump

Check out Father Jeffrey Steel's blog announcement. He is a priest in the Church of England who is crossing the Tiber along with his wife and children. Go on over and give him a Catholic blogger's welcome! Thanks Tim for the link.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity 2009

I have posted about this several Trinity Sunday's ago, but the celebration of the doctrine of the Trinity reinforces for me why we need the Church to be the final arbiter of doctrine and interpretation of Holy Scripture. The Nicean Creed of 325 AD was the "White Paper" for what the Christians need to understand about the nature of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Arians were saying Jesus was not God and many bishops of the Church were siding with them at the time. This occurred despite the fact that many of the books of the New Testament (not yet defined as the NT) were available to the Church and were being read in Mass at the time. The Council of Nicea and the creed that resulted resolved the issue of the nature of G0d, at least on paper.
Unfortunately, the heresy of Arius continues to rear its ugly head to this day by well-meaning people whose incorrect private interpretation of the Bible justifies their belief. Check out these 100 proof texts from the Bible that the author uses to "prove" Jesus is not God.

So today on the Solemnity of the Trinity, I thank God for the wisdom He provides us through the Catholic Church to rightly understand the nature of God. Not that we can ever fully comprehend the mystery of the Trinity, but we know and understand it as we do through by the work of the Holy Spirit through the bishops of this Church one humid summer 1684 years ago in the city of Nicea.

Check out the weather for modern day Nicea here.

An excellent discussion on the "catholicity" of the Council of Nicea here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Jewel of Caribbean (NEW VERSION)

This is a new version of Jewel of the Caribbean. It will be on the new CD (which is in the final stages of completion, the studio part that is)

Monday, June 01, 2009


We, the four Catholic Bishops of the Dioceses of Kansas, unequivocally condemn the murder of Dr. George Tiller that occurred in Wichita earlier today. The Catholic Church believes that every human life is sacred. The murder of a human being is the gravest of crimes and is an intrinsic evil. Such an act of violence against human life is a contradiction of the most fundamental principle of the Pro-Life movement. The fact that this attack occurred in a church, a place of prayer and worship, only adds to the horror of this terrible crime. We prayerfully commend Dr. George Tiller to the mercy of God and we pray for comfort and consolation for his family and friends.

Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas
Most Reverend Ronald M. Gilmore, Bishop of Dodge City
Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley, Bishop of Salina
Most Reverend Michael O. Jackels, Bishop of Wichita

Feast of St. Justin Martyr

One of my favorite saints, Justin Martyr was a philosopher converted from paganism who wrote extensive apologetics for the Christian faith in the 2nd century.
In one of his writings he described the mass of the early Christians. What he describes reveals to us that the Catholic Mass of today is almost 2000 years old. Based on his writings, we know that some of the same prayers the priest used this morning at Mass were used in the early Christian liturgies on the "day of the Sun."

"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

Could someone so close to the apostles have gotten it wrong regarding what is the true meaning of the Eucharist ?
How is it that all the early Church fathers describe the bread and wine as the actual body and blood of Christ yet 2000 years later we wave our hands and say "It's just symbolic?"