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, August 11, 2012

Is Transubstantiation Really Hocus Pocus?

My good friend since our college New Testament Greek class together in 1976, Father Bernard Ezaki is the guest blogpost writer today. He wrote this one on my favorite topic. Every day of my life, I contemplate transubstantiation, even if just for a moment during daily Mass and this blog usually returns to discussion about the Eucharist. What a concept! Jesus abiding with us under the appearances of bread and wine, by His power through the hands of a priest. God allows us to eat His body and drink His blood as He commanded. It is either totally insane, or totally true.  Take it away Fr. Ezaki!

 TRANSUBSTANTIATION- In the theology of the Eucharist, the conversion of the whole substance of the bread and wine into the whole substance of the Body and Blood of Christ, only the accidents (i.e. the appearances of the bread and wine) remaining. --Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

 Ever since the thirteenth century, much ink has been spilled over the subject of transubstantiation. This doctrine, defined by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, sets forth the official Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. Faithful Catholics believe that when the priest pronounces the words of consecration at Mass (viz. “For this is my Body.” “For this is the chalice of my Blood.”), the bread and wine of the altar are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, even though the sense perceptions (accidents) of the bread and wine remain unchanged. Admittedly, at first sight, this is a strange teaching. I repeatedly tell Jesus that, if I had to invent a religion, I could not come up with a doctrine more puzzling than transubstantiation. We are dealing with deep mystery here. The best analogy I can use for it is this: Suppose you engage the services of a well-known magician to come to your child’s birthday party and perform the famous tablecloth trick. You have a mahogany table covered with a linen tablecloth. On the table are various articles of china, linen, silver, and crystal. You hire the magician, at a very high cost incidentally, to grab two corners of the tablecloth and whisk the cloth off the table without disturbing a single item on it. The magician approaches the table, but what does he do? He simply says, “Hocus-pocus,” and walks away. “Wait a minute!” you protest. “I hired you to do the famous tablecloth trick, and you’ve done absolutely nothing.” “I’ve done nothing?” the magician asks. “Au contraire, mon ami!” He then proceeds to pick up one corner of the tablecloth, and you discover that the mahogany table has been transformed into solid gold! That is the best explanation I can give you of transubstantiation. The outward appearances remain exactly the same. The underlying substance has undergone a radical transformation for the better. The word “transubstantiation” means a change in substance. The bread and wine of the altar are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, even though the sense perceptions (the accidents) remain exactly the same. Now this teaching of transubstantiation is so strange that Protestants during the English Reformation understandably accused the Catholic Church of advocating magic. As a matter of fact, as you may know, our word “hocus-pocus” was originally a slur on the Latin Hoc est enim corpus meum, i.e. “For this is my Body,” the very same words the priest says during the consecration of the Mass. Although transubstantiation appears to be a bizarre teaching, I believe it. Why? First, the doctrine of transubstantiation is a literal interpretation of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. Our Lord said, “This is my Body. This is the cup of my Blood.” Second, the Church has always taught that the Eucharist is the Flesh and Blood of Christ. Yet there is also a third, and perhaps more personal reason for my belief. Transubstantiation is a model of what Jesus accomplishes in us. When Christ’s grace comes to us, we are inwardly transformed, although our outward appearances remain the same. Grace does not mean that we merely symbolize Christ. It doesn’t even mean that our sinful nature coexists with Christ. Grace means transformation (however gradual) from the inside out. We may look and feel the same on the outside, but, as St. Paul says (2 Corinthians 5:17), grace makes us a new creation. Do you see? The Church’s doctrine of transubstantiation is really a model of what takes place in a human being when he or she experiences true conversion—inner transformation beneath an unchanged exterior! One priest of our diocese, Father William Seifert, says: “If Jesus is willing to transform cheap bread and wine into His most precious Body and Blood, what will He not do for our hearts?” Transubstantiation, then, is a profound mystery that even our most clever analogies barely begin to explain. Yet it is also a model of Jesus’ transforming love. I BELIEVE!


Blogger D'artagnan said...

I have always found a type of prideful arrogance in non-Catholic Christians who mock the Eucharist as grape juice and crackers.
If God would humble himself to become man, than why not bread and wine; for humanity is sadly closer in intellect to a piece of rye than we are to being God (O:

August 12, 2012 8:16 AM  
Anonymous Renee Lin said...

"I repeatedly tell Jesus that, if I had to invent a religion, I could not come up with a doctrine more puzzling than transubstantiation."

As a Protestant, I repeatedly told Jesus that I could have invented a memorial meal that made more sense than the one I thought He left us! Transubstantiation is a deep mystery, but taking Jesus' words literally makes far more sense out of them than taking them figuratively. I believe that's why many Protestant groups only receive communion four times a year - the "Lord's supper" taken figuratively just doesn't make enough sense to be deeply meaningful.


Beautiful post - thank you, Father!

August 13, 2012 6:10 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Yes, and for 1500 years the Lord's words were taken literally. Why would anyone assume the reformers were correct and all the apostles and early Christians thereafter were wrong about the meaning of "eat His body and blood?"
It doesn't follow logic that the earliest beliefs were deemed false by the reformers and 15 centuries later they claim a "clearer revelation" than those who ate, slept and lived with the Lord and his disciples.

August 16, 2012 4:12 PM  

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