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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ . . . Reaffirmations Of The Real Presence

February 11, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 15

St. Thomas Aquinas coined this sentence of logic: “Contra facta non valent argumenta.”
Arguments are useless in the face of the facts. Against the facts, you can argue as much as you like, until Doomsday if you wish, but your arguments will not change the facts. Unless, of course, you are a follower of Vladimir Lenin, who said something to this effect: “If the facts disprove our theories, it is just tough luck for the facts!”
Now, the fact is that St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, clearly and unmistakably affirmed the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, when he asked the Corinthians these rhetorical questions: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?”
We all know that a rhetorical question has an answer that is so evident that it is unnecessary to state it. So, when St. Paul used the verb “to be” about the Eucharist, he naturally expected the Corinthians to answer with the same verb: “Yes, it is.” Then he logically concluded: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:27).
Today we call receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin, a sacrilege.
Shortly after St. Paul, St. Ignatius of Antioch, the great martyr who died in the Colosseum of Rome in the year 107, eaten alive by lions, wrote: “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.” Nobody dies for a lie. St. Ignatius learned the truth about the Eucharist from the apostles themselves, and laid down his life in that belief.
Just half a century later, the great apologist and also martyr, St. Justin (d. 167), wrote: “We take this not as ordinary bread nor as ordinary drink. But just as Jesus Christ our Savior . . . had Flesh and Blood for our salvation, so have we been taught that the food consecrated by the word of prayer coming from Him . . . is the Flesh and Blood of that Jesus who was made Flesh.”
A couple of decades later, another great defender of the Christian faith, St. Irenaeus (d. 202), wrote: “Wine and bread are by the word of God changed into the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ.”
Then came St. Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235): “He has given us His own divine Flesh and His own precious Blood to eat and to drink.”
Later evidence of this kind is abundant.
Another historical fact that argues in defense of the Real Presence is that there was a custom among the early Christians during the first centuries to hide from the heathens the more sacred and mysterious rites of their religion, and especially the real nature of the Blessed Eucharist. Why? They feared desecration of the Lord’s Body and Blood, if they fell into unworthy pagan hands. This practice has been termed “the discipline of the secret” (disciplina arcani).
But if they considered the Eucharist to be just a symbol, such secrecy would have been totally unnecessary. If it were merely a sacred meal to commemorate the Last Supper, why hide it from the heathen? Sacred meals were common among pagans, and a commemoration is just a commemoration, and they could even invite their pagan neighbors to share in their meal in an attempt to befriend them. But they never did.
Thus, for well over one thousand years there was no division among Christians regarding the Eucharist. Then Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and other heretics raised their heads with different and contradictory doctrines about the Eucharist, but unfortunately for them they came just a millennium and a half too late.
It is important to point out that, if the heretics were right, then Christ failed in protecting His Church, since He promised to be with her all days even unto the end of time. Therefore, He would not have allowed His children to live in the grossest of error and idolatry — worshipping bread — during all those centuries.
Besides, the heretics provided no real arguments against the Real Presence, only their own opinions. Now, an opinion is something like a nose, everybody has got one, or at least most people do. And, just like noses, opinions have holes, too. This can be seen in the gratuity of their arguments. For instance: Berengarius (d. 1088) held that the words of Christ, “This is my Body,” meant, “This is not my Body but a figure of it.” That is to say, Christ never gave men His Flesh to eat, and therefore violated the promise He had most distinctly made.
This incredibly gratuitous interpretation at once aroused the indignation of Christendom. It was branded as directly contradictory to the ancient faith of the Church and the teaching of Christ Himself. It was withdrawn by its author, who died repentant, realizing the insignificance of his objection, merely based upon an opinion.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) seems at first to have held the traditional teaching of the Church, but later maintained that Christ is present in the Blessed Eucharist only at the moment of its reception in Holy Communion. Where did he get this idea from? Who knows? Imagination reigned supreme those days. Companation, or consubstantiation, held by many Lutherans, means that the substance of bread and the Body of Christ exist together in the Eucharist.
Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) revived the gratuitous opinion of Berengarius, but unlike him, died holding the erroneous opinion.
John Calvin (1509-1564) proposed the incredibly far-fetched theory that the words, “This is my Body,” mean, “This is not really my Body, but when you receive it, you receive into your souls a spiritual influence from the Body of Christ which is in Heaven.” Talk about creativity, eh?
Andreas Osiander (1498-1552) thought that, as God became Man, so He became bread. Hence, “This is my Body,” would mean, “This is not my Body, but bread to which my Divinity is united.” This incredible theory is called impanation.
These are but a few of a great number of conflicting interpretations invented by the so-called “Reformers” to place as wide a gulf as possible between themselves and the Church of Jesus Christ that they had abandoned to follow their own individual lucubrations.
So, in the end, the fact is that the heretics who opposed the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist never produced any argument worthy of consideration.
In the year 1054 the Greeks broke away from Rome, and later on broke themselves into factions and different churches of the Eastern non-Catholic Christians. And yet they have always most emphatically professed their faith in the Real Presence.
Next article: Delving into the great Mystery of the Eucharist.

+ + +

(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. He is a militant pro-life writer and apologist, addressing live audiences and delivering talks on television, radio, and online. To date he has given over 2,500 presentations in 38 countries of the six continents. He is available to speak at Catholic events, both large and small, anywhere in the Free World, in four languages — English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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