Thursday, May 23, 2013

Protestants: How can you not believe Communion = Body and Blood of Jesus Christ?

Had a great conversation with a Baptist riding on the softball team's bus back from a game a few weeks ago.  She is the assistant coach, and I am one of the team moms.
I wasn't looking to argue doctrine with her, she was just telling me where she went to church, and about the miracles her father-in-law, the pastor, and her mother-in-law experienced as he left the world of business and began to follow the call to be a pastor.  I would not rule out that she was looking to persuade me to come to her church.
She started telling me how they believe that we are saved by grace, by believing in Jesus Christ.  I don't disagree with that.  I don't believe our Church teaches that we can be saved, other than by believing and being washed clean in the Precious Blood of our Lord.
Then she told me about their belief that the celebration of Communion or "The Lord's Supper" is not the body and blood of Jesus, but just bread and wine.  She asked me what I believed. 
It was at this point that I thought she must have forgotten the conversation we had two years ago when I told her I was Catholic.
I told her that it is only the body and blood of Jesus if the priest consecrating it was ordained as part of the Apostolic Succession.  So if a church's minister is not ordained by those who were ordained by the the Apostles (Catholic, Orthodox Bishops) who were originally ordained by Christ, then that church only has bread and wine. 

I am shaky, or rather ignorant on the specifics as to whether Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran can validly claim to have this same Apostolic Succession and real presence doctrine in their churches.  I think some "sub-denominations" of each of these do claim and believe this and some are not as strong in the belief and allow for their members to believe in the real or optionally mystical or symbolic presence of Christ in Communion.  That isn't the focus of this post though.  I apologize if I offend any fellow Christians who do believe they are receiving the real presence of Christ at Communion due to my ignorance.
Her church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and they believe, "The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming."
I would agree that all they can celebrate without having a priest is a symbolic act of obedience, but it is not a real act of obedience.  That would actually be a bit of irony contained in this the VII. statement in their confession of beliefs.
What puzzles me would be how they can reconcile sola scripture and non-belief in the validity of the Sacrament as practiced in the Roman Catholic, Byzantine Catholic, Orthodox and other churches with priests ordained according to Apostolic Succession. 
While I could not at the time quote the chapter and verse, I asked her, "In Corinthians, St. Paul says not to receive the body and blood of the Lord unworthily.  How would we unworthily receive the body and blood if it were not the body and blood of Jesus Christ and instead just bread and wine?"
She said her pastor/father-in-law says that has to do with unworthy living, not following Christ, living as we should.

In other words, he preaches on this passage of scripture using a figurative interpretation.  He doesn't interpret the words of St. Paul literally, but instead when he says Body and Blood of the Lord he associates that not with the substance of the bread and wine but with those receiving the bread and wine.
1 Corinthians 11:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.
Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, Italy - the flesh was determined to be of the myocardium (wall of the heart)
So the focus in that Pastor's coverage of this passage is verse 11:28 an unworthy manner and in 11:29 the discernment would be to not discern that one is part of the body of Christ?
How do you get past the literal meaning in 11:24, "This is my body".  How can you profane the body and blood of the Lord (11:27) if it is just bread and wine or grape juice symbolically remembering Jesus's last supper? 

After we got off the bus, my daughter said I was a little loud and repetitive with the, "How could we unworthily receive bread and grape juice? It has to be unworthily receiving the body and blood of the Lord." She asked if I could have said it lower and less repeatedly, but of course that is not possible after the fact.
Similarly, and we didn't get this far, how do you interpret John 6:51 -
(Jesus said) "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
This would have to be symbolically interpretted I guess as well, right? 
That is what I heard on the last Journey Home episode I watched.  That for John 6 many of the Protestant sects switch from a literal interpretation of scripture to a figurative interpretation.  Some of the same preachers who tell their congregations how critical it is to believe God created the world in six 24 hour days (see Gen. 1) and rested on the seventh tell their congregations that John 6:51 and 1 Corinthians 11:27 are to be interpretted figuratively, or discern the body and blood is really talking about the body of Christ, the Church, that St. Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 12:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free -- and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
But that isn't what St. Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 11 and that isn't what Jesus is talking about in John 6:51 or the preceding verses in John 6.

As Flannery O'Connor said, "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it."
Flannery's quote could be applied to many things that have become tolerable and accepted in our culture, but for the purposes of this post, I am including it because it is a nagging thing isn't it to get good spiritual food in studying the Bible, hearing well-prepared sermons ("messages"), praising God in beautiful, heart-lifting music or traditional hymns and then to be hit in the face with not being in real obedience to Christ who told us to receive his body and his blood of the New Covenant in rememberance of him.  Then what an outrage to realize only those priests, and not all priestly people (see 1 Pet. 2:9), are ordained by Christ to consecrate bread and wine, and through the power of the Holy Spirit have those elements transubstantiated into the Real Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We as Catholics are sometimes left undernourished by the watered down reverence of our liturgies, ill-prepared homilies, or music gone awry that accompanies the Mass.  We do want it all though.  We want the fullness of the truth, and we want to be filled to overflowing by worshipping in Spirit and in Truth (see John 4:24).
Here are some quick points to remember, paraphrased from Fr. John Bartunek in The Better Part's
commentary on John 6:36-51:
Real Devotion to the Eucharist:
  • Active and prayerful involvement in the Mass (or Divine Liturgy for eastern rite Catholics)
  • Our recollection in receiving Communion (recollection = attention to the presence of God in the soul)
  • The frequency and sincerity of our visits to the Tabernacle
These things follow when we remember:
Jesus is the bread of eternal life, its source and sustenance and Jesus's presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist is the source and sustenance of our life of intimate communion with God.  In my own life I find that if I do not visit the Tabernacle, do not receive Jesus frequently in Holy Communion then my efforts toward recollection are more strained and less frequent as well.  I still find God and the presence of God in Scripture, as do my Protestant friends, but there is an emptiness and a more hollow recollection for me personally without basking in the Eucharistic presence of Christ in the Tabernacle, Monstrance, and receiving Jesus, my Lord, in Holy Communion.
For my fellow Catholics, you might want to check out this site:  Also, keep in mind there are many documented Eucharistic miracles through the centuries.  Unfortunately few Catholics in this country were told about them!

On Monday mornings, I pray with the Moms-in-Prayer group at my kids' school.  We pray in the "sanctuary" which is the entire church for the Reformed Church and not just the holiest area of the space where the altar and tabernacle reside.  Many times I notice, palpably, the emptiness of the worship space without the Eucharistic presence of Christ.  Once we begin praying I am aware that there he is in the midst of 2 or more gathered in his name (see Matt. 18:20) and we also pray using Scripture which helps.  For awhile I stopped attending this prayer group opting instead for Mass.  Now I am attending the group again, but stopping in for prayer in front of the Tabernacle at my Church afterward.  I can attend daily Mass on the other days of the week.  Praying for my children, the other moms' children, and the school together, in a focused and intense way is very worthwhile.  When I came back and rejoined them, the Lord seemed to confirm this for me.

I was led to the Church I attend now and it took care of the negative feelings I had when the three Scriptures for Mass were not used for the homily or only nominally used, and when the homilies were essentially as superficial as to find that set of words that would be least likely to cause anyone in attendance discomfort, and the music leader was given full rein to dress and orchestrate the music according to her whims.  In addition the Church I am in now is super reverant.  The priests are preachers in the tradition of the early Church fathers, and the homilies should cause us some discomfort and spur us to action, especially the action to repent of our sins and plead for the Lord's mercy.  Our priests regularly emphasize our personal relationship with all three persons in the Holy Trinity, the need for daily prayer, and the need for daily reading of Scripture.  As I told my Baptist friend on the bus, "You would be surprised that our priests preach many of the same things your Pastor or other Protestant preachers do." 

With the exception of course that the bread and wine we receive are not mere symbols of Christ's body and blood sacrificed on the cross, but his real body and blood to give us divine, eternal life in our souls.

Christ's gift of himself in the Eucharist is to me the way that he fulfills his promise:
"Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." - Matthew 28:20

Is it just me or does the refrain from the
Stations of the Cross echo in your mind when you enter a church where Christ is present in the Tabernacle or Monstrance?

Leader: We adore Thee, O Christ, and bless Thee.
All: Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

GREAT NEWS:  If you are attending a Protestant Church and want to learn more about Jesus's real presence in the Holy Sacrament of Communion and want to take steps to get your questions answered and, God willing, take the steps necessary to receive Jesus's body, blood, soul, and divinity, you can.  Please access this link to the Coming Home Network.  There are links from that home page for pastors, and non-pastor lay people.  Marcus Grodi is less "tongue-in-cheek" than I am.  He is more mature that way! 
I apologize if I offended any of my Protestant brothers and sisters in this post in any way.  It wasn't my intention, but I probably could have edited it more thoroughly to ensure it.  Please forgive me. 
My prayer is the same as Jesus's prayer to Our Father, "Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one." - John 17:11b

1 comment:

  1. Colleen, I know that you would never want to offend anyone. But, if a few took offense but at least one was inspired to seek the truth in the Words of Jesus and in the writings of the earliest Church fathers on the Most Holy Eucharist, then you have done very well indeed.

    I notice on the Journey Home, that it is almost always a yearning for the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist..the desire to experience this precious intimacy with Him, which attracts non-Catholics to the Church, and draws reverts back.

    I pray that someday your friend too will know the truth, and receive the "Passover" Lamb Who truly takes away the sins of the world.

    Great post, Colleen! Love you xoxo