Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Is the Doctrine of the Eucharist a Recent Invention?

In 2021, the U.S. Catholic bishops announced a 3-year Eucharistic Revival campaign. The first two years focused on promoting the Eucharist at the local parish level. Now, during the final year, there will be a National Eucharistic Congress, which will be held in Indianapolis on July 17 through 21.

With the Eucharistic Congress coming up soon, this is a good time to discuss the Eucharist, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls “the source and summit of the Christian life.”
First, let’s take a look at the origins of the Eucharist, the Church doctrine that claims the bread and wine at Mass are transformed in the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

There is a popular Bible tract that discusses the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist. By the way, Bible tracts are small booklets, sometimes with comic book illustrations, that present religious teachings. Fundamentalist Christians distribute Bible tracts by the millions. 

In this popular tract about the Eucharist, an unnamed pope during the Middle Ages is shown hatching a scheme to keep people in fear of the Church. With the aid of a trusted adviser, whose comic book image looks suspiciously like Satan, this pope announces out of the clear blue sky a brand new doctrine: he and all ordained priests now have the magical powers to transform bread into the body of Jesus Christ. All people must bow down and worship this bread, a practice which the tract calls blatant idolatry.

Furthermore, all people are required to eat this magical “bread of life,” or else they will NOT go to Heaven. And finally, if people disobey or in any way question anything said or done by priests, then the priests will withhold the magical bread, which means the disobedient persons are destined to spend eternity in Hell.
The Bible tract alleges this diabolical scheme was implemented during Medieval times, hundreds and hundreds of years after Jesus walked the earth. Therefore, the Catholic Church’s claim that the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ is not only unbiblical, but it is also based on purely selfish and power-hungry motives.

The comic book tract concludes by urging readers to flee from the non-Christian, Satan-inspired, demon-possessed Roman Catholic Church.

Fortunately, few Protestant groups nowadays go to this extreme in presenting nasty anti-Catholic teachings. However, the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist is a major stumbling block. The Catholic Church does indeed teach that mere bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood, soul and divinity, of Jesus Christ when an ordained priest says the prayer of consecration during Mass. Most Protestant groups, on the other hand, believe Communion is just a symbolic ritual, and the elements used, bread and wine (or grape juice), remain unchanged. When the worship service is over, any leftovers are tossed in the trash. Compare that to the Catholic practice of reverently putting any leftover hosts in the Tabernacle, typically located behind the altar in the church sanctuary.

To further complicate this issue, a sizable number of Catholics, including many ordained priests, do not believe the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist. They simply find it too fantastical that bread and wine can turn into the body and blood of Jesus.
If the Catholic belief is correct — that Jesus’ body and blood truly become present at Mass — then the Eucharist is the most powerful way for a person to be in union with the Son of God on this side of Heaven. It is “Emmanuel,” God with us, and therefore should be the central focus of the Christian life. But if the Protestant view is correct — that the bread and wine remain just bread and wine, and the whole ritual was meant by Jesus to be merely a symbolic gesture — then the Catholic Church, as the little comic book tract declares, is guilty of promoting the worst sin of all: idolatry, the worship of anything other than God.

Next week we will examine the claim that the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist is not biblical. Are there any verses in Scripture that indicate whether or not the Catholic teaching about the “Real Presence” is true?

Stay tuned for next week’s episode.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent thoughts on the Eucharist, Mr Dunn. I recognized it from your book, The Gospel According to Morty. Very well said. God bless you.
    Fr Steve