March 14, 2010


Fr. Rene Butler

Catholics are sometimes disturbed by the claim that in receiving the Body of Christ they can be called cannibals. The reasoning goes: Catholics (and Orthodox, by the way) take literally the words of Jesus, “This is my body,” and “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you,” so they must be cannibals when they take Communion.

Such reasoning is based on the failure to understand the sacraments. Jesus is present in all the sacraments. This sacramental presence is real, and not merely symbolic; but it is likewise not merely materialistic.

For example, when the minister of Baptism pours water and says the words, Jesus is really – not symbolically, not materialistically, but sacramentally – present, cleansing the soul of all sin. The Eucharist is different in that Jesus is present in the bread and wine, whereas we do not say that He is present in the baptismal water. How can this be? Over 900 years ago theologians came up with the best explanation to date: that which makes bread bread or wine wine, its substance, becomes, really, that which is Jesus Christ. This is the Church doctrine of Transubstantiation. It is theological and academic in form, but it speaks to the heart as well.

Cannibals materially eat human flesh. We do not. We receive the Body and Blood of Christ really and truly – sacramentally.

1 comment :

Fr. Larry said...

Glory be to Jesus Christ! Thank you for your defense of the Holy Eucharist. I would, however, make one slight amendment. Jesus is not present IN the bread and wine, for the bread and the wine cease to exist. The whole substance of the bread changes into the whole substance of His Body. The accidents are not the bread. The way you have described it is not transubstantiation but consubstantiation. Martin Luther argued for consubstantiation. Thomas Aquinas has argued that if any part of the bread remained we would be guilty of idolatry because we were worshipping bread.