Thank you for asking! I’m happy to explain.
As I touched on in my last post, John Chapter 6 and Luke 22 are quite clear on the Eucharist. In John 6 Jesus promises His followers that He will give them his flesh and blood as their heavenly food and drink, and He fulfills this promise in Luke 22 at the Last Supper. Is this merely symbolic? Or was Jesus speaking literally? We, as Catholics, believe that Jesus was speaking literally, and here’s why.
At first, when Jesus said:
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)
the Jews thought that he was speaking metaphorically, as evidenced by the way they spoke about Him:
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:42)
But then Jesus repeated and clarified what He said.
"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John6:48-51)
After he said this, the Jews no longer took Him to be speaking metaphorically, but literally, because the Bible says:
"The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” " (John 6: 52)
But Jesus did not correct them, rather he confirmed their understanding, saying this:
"Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. " (John 6: 53-59)
We also know that He couldn’t have been speaking metaphorically here, because of the way his disciples reacted:
"Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”" (John 6:60)
Jesus told them to stop thinking in human terms, shocked by something so different, but to think as God would want them to think. He said:
"It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life." (John 6:63)
Many people take this last verse to mean that Jesus was saying that He was indeed speaking only metaphorically, in spiritual terms. It is a reasonable thought. But looking at the verses that follow we see that this cannot actually be the case.
Right after Jesus said this, the Bible says:
"As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6: 66-68)
Now if Jesus had really been speaking about things of the spirit, there would have been no reason for this drastic change of heart by so many of His followers. In John Chapter 4, Jesus also talked about spiritual things:
"Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”" (John 4:13-14)
Yet this did not drive people away, but only attracted more people to Jesus:
"The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” They went out of the town and came to him." (John 4: 28-30)
"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
So if Jesus had merely been speaking metaphorically, or in spiritual terms, there would be no explanation for people leaving Him. The most reasonable conclusion, I think, was that He was speaking literally.
At the Last Supper Jesus fulfilled these words:
"Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you." (Luke 22:17-20)
(By the way, here’s a great video by a formerly protestant scripture scholar explaining this scene in the Bible in the context of the Old Testament. He goes into far more detail than I know, which is why I’m linking it instead of explaining it, but I think you’d really like it. It’s only half an hour long. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uL_IAJWvX0 )
So if Jesus really was speaking literally, one would expect to find this understanding reflected later in scripture, and in the writings of the early Christians, specifically the Church Fathers. And it is.
Paul confirms this understanding in 1 Corinthians 10:16 when he says:
"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16)
and again in 1 Corinthians 11: 27-29
"Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself."(1 Cor. 11:27-29)
Why would eating regular bread and wine be such a big deal, why could a person rain down ‘judgement on himself’ for eating mere ordinary food unworthily, if it was not actually the body and blood of Christ?
The early church fathers took Jesus’ words quite literally. I quote a Catholic Answers article for the details:
"Ignatius of Antioch, who had been a disciple of the apostle John and who wrote a letter to the Smyrnaeans about A.D. 110, said, referring to "those who hold heterodox opinions," that "they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again" (6:2, 7:1).
Forty years later, Justin Martyr, wrote, “Not as common bread or 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 nourished, … is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66:1–20).
Origen, in a homily written about A.D. 244, attested to belief in the Real Presence. “I wish to admonish you with examples from your religion. You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence” (Homilies on Exodus 13:3).
Cyril of Jerusalem, in a catechetical lecture presented in the mid-300s, said, “Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that, for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy
of the body and blood of Christ” (Catechetical Discourses: Mystagogic 4:22:9).
In a fifth-century homily, Theodore of Mopsuestia seemed to be speaking to today’s Evangelicals and Fundamentalists: “When [Christ] gave the bread he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my body,’ but, ‘This is my body.’ In the same way, when he gave the cup of his blood he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my blood,’ but, ‘This is my blood,’ for he wanted us to look upon the [Eucharistic elements], after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit, not according to their nature, but to receive them as they are, the body and blood of our Lord” (Catechetical Homilies 5:1).
Whatever else might be said, the early Church took John 6 literally. In fact, there is no record from the early centuries that implies Christians doubted the constant Catholic interpretation. There exists no document in which the literal interpretation is opposed and only the metaphorical accepted.” (http://www.catholic.com/tracts/christ-in-the-eucharist )
So that is why we, as Catholics, believe that Jesus meant literally what He said in the Bible, and that He comes to us under the appearances of bread and wine.
I know it’s a lot to take in, so thank you for reading this, and please message me if I can clarify anything else!
May God bless you abundantly!
Reblogging again because this is one of the posts I regret deleting and also I’m genuinely shocked this has so many notes. :P
THIS EVANGELIZATION THOUGH…
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Even more captioned adventures of George Washington.
i wish this was what american history actually was like
Suffering tests the hearts of the faithful.
"Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me."
May they be eternally rewarded for their faithfulness.
|—||1 Corinthians 10:31 (via adam-says-hi)|
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Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis by therurrjurr
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”Food of angels, food for men. All you lowly come and eat.”
Immaculate Conception Basilica, Washington, DC