In sections 1322 through 1421 the Catholic Church teaches many doctrines which all pertain to the bread and wine that become the body and blood of Christ. This miraculous process is called transubstantiation and it takes place when the priest prays the prayer of consecration over the bread and wine (Catechism Section 1376). From Scripture, the Church affirms that it is the actual body and blood of Christ made miraculously present by the Holy Spirit. It is not a symbolic representation of His body and blood, and Scripture in no way whatsoever indicates such a notion. The writers of the early Church made clear the fact that they too believed in transubstantiation. One of the writers, Cyril of Jerusalem, writes the following: “The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ" (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]). In John Chapter 6 verse 27 Jesus tells the crowd to labor for the food, which endures to eternal life. In verse 32 he says that the Father will give them true bread from heaven, and in verse 35 he finally proceeds to tell the crowd “I am the bread from heaven”. In verse 48 he says it again, and in verse 49 he reminds them that their father’s literally ate bread in the wilderness, yet they still died. There are so many important things said on the subject in this passage that verses 50-60 are listed here: This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 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." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" Those who believe that Holy Communion is a mere symbol, hold a question in their minds similar to that of the Jews who said, “How can he give us his flesh to eat?” How he did this may be a mystery but Jesus made it clear that this is exactly did. If there were any doubt as to what he was saying it is removed when he says, “ My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” There is nothing more that he could have said if he had wanted to indicate an actual presence rather than a symbolic one. However if he had intended to leave behind only a symbolic presence, he could have stated it much more clearly. He could have said: this represents my Body or my Blood. However, that’s not what was said. The Jews knew that Christ literally meant what he had said, and so in disbelief they abandoned him in verse 66. It insults the intellect to believe that the Jews would have left merely over a symbol. Upon being questioned, Peter then tells Jesus that he and the other followers would not leave, because they knew that Jesus had the words of eternal life and that he was the Holy One of God. Peter’s statement does not say that he fully understood Christ’s discourse on the Body and Blood, only that he knew it to be true. It must have been a mystery to him and the other apostles as to how they were to feed upon Jesus’ flesh and blood. At the Last Supper, it became clear how they were to do this when Jesus said, “this is my body” (Luke 22:19, Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, 1 Corinthians 11:24). In all three of the synoptic Gospels and in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians those words appear. And in all four there are no indications either in Greek or English that Christ was speaking metaphorically. Also in those four passages, Christ tells the Apostles that the blood in the cup at the Last Supper is the blood of the new covenant. Two of those passages say that it is to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Every Christian knows that the blood that was shed for the new covenant, the blood that was poured out for sins, was the blood that was shed upon the cross. Thus, the blood in the cup and the blood shed upon the cross, are one and the same. Not only Scripture, but also the writings of the early Church fathers reflect these beliefs as well. The writings of the early Church can be found in reprints of the original works, or on the Catholic Answers web site at www.catholic.com. One of the early writers was Ignatius of Antioch who wrote a letter to the Romans in the year 110 A. D. One of the statements made in the letter is as follows: "I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible". Another early Christian, Aphraahat the Persian Sage, wrote the following in the year 340 A.D.,"After having spoken thus [at the Last Supper], the Lord rose up from the place where he had made the Passover and had given his Body as food and his Blood as drink, and he went with his disciples to the place where he was to be arrested. But he ate of his own Body and drank of his own Blood, while he was pondering on the dead. With his own hands the Lord presented his own Body to be eaten, and before he was crucified he gave his Blood as drink" (Treatises 12:6). Theodore of Mopsuestia, writing in the year 405, leaves the reader with no doubt as to whether Christ meant the Last Supper to be symbolic or not, when he writes, "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 receive them as they are, the body and blood of our Lord. We ought . . . not regard [the elements] merely as bread and cup, but as the body and blood of the Lord, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit" (Catechetical Homilies 5:1). Another Catholic teaching on the matter is that one should not receive the Lord’s body and blood while guilty of a mortal sin (Catechism 1385). A mortal sin is an offense against God that is so great that it merits eternal damnation. When a person commits a mortal sin, that person has chosen with full knowledge and consent, to separate himself from God. By committing some grave act against his fellow man or against God Himself, he has broken communion with the faithful and with God (Catechism 1472). If a person should be filled with grave sin, and take the body of our Lord into their own, they slam Christ into this terrible sin. God hates sin, and the communicant in this situation forces God into something he hates. Thus an even greater offense takes place. Saint Paul warns the Corinthians about this in 1 Corinthians 11:27-28. He says those who eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Not only does this suggest that one must have a clean conscience to receive Holy Communion, but it also reinforces the belief that Christ’s Body and Blood are actually present. If they weren’t actually present, then they could not be profaned as the verse suggests is a radical possibility. Furthermore, verse 29 explicitly states that those who eat and drink without knowing that it is the Lord’s Body eat and drink damnation on themselves. In the year 251 A.D., Cyprian of Carthage stated his view on this passage when he said, "He [Paul] threatens, moreover, the stubborn and forward, and denounces them, saying, 'Whosoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord' [1 Cor. 11:27]. All these warnings being scorned and contemned-- [lapsed Christians will often take communion] before their sin is expiated, before confession has been made of their crime, before their conscience has been purged by sacrifice and by the hand of the priest, before the offense of an angry and threatening Lord has been appeased, [and so] violence is done to His body and blood; and they sin now against their Lord more with their hand and mouth than when they denied their Lord" (The Lapsed 15-16). This is not some rule that God invented so that people could be more readily damned, rather it is a rule designed so as not to desecrate the Body of God. Those who feel that it is not a serious offense neglect the fact that it is not their place to decide what constitutes a mild or serious offense. Such a position is God’s, and he has already revealed His opinion on the matter. If a person is guilty of a mortal sin, the Church holds the same position as the early father that was just quoted. That position is that the person must go to confession before again receiving communion (Catechism 1385). Since God is the one who has been offended, only He can decide to grant forgiveness. Therefore He sets the conditions for when and how a person may be forgiven. However, Scripture reveals that Christ has passed on the ministry of forgiving sins to the apostles. In 2 Corinthians 5:16-20, St. Paul says that the apostles do not judge with a mere human standard. He also reveals that the ministry of reconciling sinners to God is now theirs. Also in John 20:22, Jesus told the apostles whichever sins they [the apostles] forgave on earth, He would forgive in heaven, and whichever sins they held bound He would hold bound. The only way that an Apostle could forgive a man’s sins would be if the man told the apostle which sins he committed and how many times he had committed them; thus the need for confession. There are many devoted Christians who have never heard such teachings as these, yet they are still loved by our Lord. They are in a situation much like Cornelius who our Lord loved even before he was a Christian (Acts Chapter10). It was not for his misguided ways that he enjoyed God’s affection, rather it was because he served God the best way that he knew how. The Jews may have voiced the opinion of many when they said, “This is a hard saying.” For the Christian however, complete understanding of this sacred mystery is not necessary. Rather it is only necessary to understand that it is true merely because God said that it was true. Augustine of Hippo writing around the year 400 A. D. realized that there are those who see it yet do not understand. He writes, “What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice is the Blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction". May God give each one of us the faith to accept in our hearts, those things that our minds know to be true.
Perpetual Virginity of Mary
Origin of Different Christian Denominations
The Bible, Church, and Tradition
Immaculate Conception and Sinlessness of Mary
Peter the First Pope