We cannot fully comprehend the meaning of the Eucharist without understanding the term transubstantiation. Catholic author Joan Carroll Cruz provides the following definition:
The word officially approved by the Council of Trent to express the changing of the entire substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. After the Consecration only the appearances, or “accidents” (color, taste, smell, quantity, etc.) of bread and wine remain.1
During the act of consecration (performed by a priest), the bread (wafer) and wine miraculously are transformed into the actual presence of Jesus Christ. While the bread and wine may appear to be still bread and wine following the consecration, a mystical process has occurred, it is believed. Thus, Jesus is supposed to be physically present on the altar and physically eaten when the recipient ingests the consecrated wafer.
The January/February 2000 issue of Envoy Magazine (a bimonthly journal of Catholic apologetics and evangelization) further confirms what I am saying. The purpose for publishing this magazine “is to present the truths of the Catholic Faith in a fresh, contemporary style, featuring today’s top Catholic writers, full color-graphics, and an upbeat innovative format.”2
Located on the front cover of this issue is an illustration that shows the hands of a Catholic priest holding up a consecrated wafer, the sky and clouds in the background. The title on the magazine cover reads: “This Looks Like Bread, Tastes Like Bread, and Feels Like Bread. Is this GOD?” The “O” (which is actually the consecrated wafer) is the conspicuous object on the cover. One article in this issue is written by David Armstrong, who states:
[L]et’s take a look at the actual nature of what occurs in the miracle of transubstantiation. Accidental change occurs when non-essential outward properties (accidents) are changed in some fashion. For example, water can take on the properties of solidity as ice, and of vapor as steam…. In our every day natural experience, a change of substance is always accompanied by a corresponding change of accidents, or outward properties. One example would be the metabolizing of food, which literally changes to become part of our bodies as a result of digestion.
But the Eucharist is a supernatural transformation, in which substantial change occurs without accidental change. Thus, the outward properties of bread and wine continue after consecration, but their essence and substance are replaced by the substance of the true and actual Body and Blood of Christ.3
It is important to mention that Armstrong is a convert to Catholicism. He confides that at one time, he did not understand the importance of transubstantiation. However, Armstrong now asks: “How could I … have had such an insufficient understanding of the Holy Eucharist: the central focus of Christian worship?”4
Like many others who have converted to Catholicism, Armstrong was enlightened to the significance of the Eucharist by studying the Church Fathers. He writes:
The evidence for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, among the Church Fathers, is the most compelling of any historic Christian doctrine which Protestants now dispute.5
Now Armstrong is convinced that the consecrated wafer and wine is God and that it is the true and actual body and blood of Christ. He concludes:
This is what requires faith, and what causes many to stumble, because it is a miracle of a very sophisticated nature, one that doesn’t lend itself to empirical or scientific “proof.” But, in a sense, it is no more difficult to believe than the changing of water to ice, in which the outward properties change, while the substance (molecular structure) doesn’t. The Eucharist merely involves the opposite scenario: the substance changes while the outward properties don’t.6
The Power of the Priest
According to Catholic documents, Catholic priests have the power to manifest the presence of Jesus on an altar. At the moment of Consecration, the miraculous process known as transubstantiation supposedly occurs. As Joan Carroll Cruz states in her book Eucharistic Miracles:
The wafer of unleavened bread which becomes the Body and Blood of Christ at the moment of Consecration in the Mass. (One large Host for the priest and many small Hosts for the congregation are consecrated at Mass). The word derives from the Latin hostia, or “victim” since in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Jesus Christ offers Himself to God the Father as the victim and propitiation for our sins. (Thus each Mass is the renewal of the one Sacrifice of Calvary).7
To support this view, Catholics claim that transubstantiation was taught by Jesus at the Last Supper. Further, it is also believed it was at this time that Jesus anointed His disciples with this power to transform bread and wine into the actual presence of Christ. In turn, the Catholic Church teaches that this power was then transferred down through the centuries to a select chosen priesthood by apostolic succession and priestly ordination.
David Pearson, another contributing author for Envoy Magazine, explains this scenario in his article “Do Catholics Worship Cookies?” He writes:
[T]he first communicants received the First Communion from the Great High Priest himself. The unblemished Lamb of God, about to be sacrificed for their sins and those of the whole world for all time, fed his twelve Apostles—our first band of bishops—His very body and blood, under the appearance of bread and wine, from His own hand.
That’s what happens today in every Mass. Jesus, God’s perfect Passover lamb, uses the graces of apostolic succession and priestly ordination (the “laying on of hands” in the early Church) to feed every generation on His flesh and blood until He returns in glory.8
Pearson quotes former Protestant, now Catholic Scott Hahn saying, “When Jesus comes again at the end of time, He will not have a single drop more glory than He has right now upon the altars and in the tabernacles of our churches.” Hahn adds:
Today, even though we are thousands of miles from that little hill in Israel, we are there with Jesus in the upper room, and we are there with Jesus in heaven, whenever we go to Mass.9
Scott Hahn on the Power of Priests
Scott Hahn is not only a convert to Catholicism but is also a zealous promoter of the Eucharist. Both he and his wife Kimberly have testified that the Eucharist played a major role in their conversion to the Catholic Church. Hahn, a theology professor at a Catholic University in Steubenville, Ohio, and author of a number of books, also writes a regular column called “Scripture Matters” for Envoy Magazine. In an article titled “The Paternal Order of Priests,” he enthusiastically reminds Catholic priests of the power they have been endowed with. He writes:
As priests of the New Covenant, you are conformed to Christ in a unique and powerful way. Christian tradition speaks of ordination in the most astonishing terms. It is a commonplace of Catholic speech to say that the priest is alter Christus, another Christ. The Catechism tells us further that the priest acts “in the person of Christ” and like Christ, he is a “living image of God the Father.” Through the ministry of ordained priests, the presence of Jesus Christ “is made visible in the community of believers.”10
Elevating the priesthood to a level of godhood, Hahn exalts ordinary sinful men, by saying:
Theologians refer to the ontological change—a change in the man’s very being—that occurs with the sacrament of Holy Orders. Ordination “confers an indelible spiritual character” that is permanent and imprinted … forever.”11
Then comparing this supernatural transformation attributed to priesthood with the transformation that occurs during the consecration of the Host, Hahn states:
The great Cappadocian Father Gregory of Nyssa compared this sacramental change to the transubstantiation that occurs in the Eucharist. “The bread,” he explains, “is at first common bread. But when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called the Body of Christ … The same power of the word makes the priest worthy of veneration and honor. The new blessing separates him from common, ordinary life. Yesterday he was one of the crowd, one of the people. Now, suddenly he has become a guide, a leader, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor of hidden mysteries. And this he does without any change in body and form. But while he appears to be the man he was before, his invisible soul has really been transformed to a higher condition by some invisible power and grace.”12
Vatican spokesman and Catholic priest Tom Forest says that true evangelization is not complete in a Christian’s life until he or she becomes Catholic. He points out the importance of the sacraments. Catholic sources state that the sacrament of the Eucharist is the most important sacrament. For example, in Eucharistic Miracles, Joan Carroll Cruz, writes:
[The Eucharist is] the Sacrament in which, under the appearances of bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ are truly, really and substantially present as the grace-producing food of our souls. More specifically, the consecrated Host and the consecrated “wine,” that is, the Precious Blood.13
Or according to the Catholic Catechism, we read:
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For the blessed Eucharist is contained in the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”14
Further, to make it absolutely clear the Eucharist is at the heart and core of what it means to be a Catholic, the Catechism further notes:
In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.15
According to Catholic teachings, the Eucharist represents Christ as a sacrifice for sins and that during the “sacrifice of the Mass,” Christ is daily being sacrificed for our sins. The Catholic Catechism states:
The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner.16
It should be apparent then that the Eucharistic Jesus present on every Catholic altar is of paramount importance to Catholicism and the Catholic faith. Truly the Eucharistic Jesus is the Jesus of Catholicism. However, this Eucharistic Christ is NOT the Jesus Christ of the Bible.
1. Joan Carroll Cruz, Eucharistic Miracles (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1987), p. xiii, Imprimatur, Philip M. Hannan, Archbishop of New Orleans, April 25, 1986, p. xxii.
2. Envoy Magazine, “What is Envoy’s Mission?” (http://www.envoymagazine.com/guidelines.html, accessed 09/2007).
3. David Armstrong, “Is This God?” (Envoy Magazine, January/February 2000, http://www.envoymagazine.com/backissues/4.1/god.htm, accessed 09/2007).
7. Joan Carroll Cruz, Eucharistic Miracles, op. cit., p. xxi.
8. David Pearson, “Do Catholics Worship Cookies?” (Envoy, Volume 7.2, 2003), p. 14.
10. Scott Hahn, “The Paternal Order of Priests: An Open Letter to Our Catholic Clergy, In a Time of Crisis” (insert in Envoy, Volume 7.2, 2003) in insert.
13. Joan Carroll Cruz, Eucharistic Miracles, op. cit., p. xxi.
14. Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York, NY: Doubleday, First Image Books edition, Second Edition, April 1995), para. 1324, pp. 368-369.
15. Ibid., para. 1327, p. 369.
16. Ibid., para. 1367, p. 381.
My Journey Out of Catholicism by David Dombrowski