Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

I've been looking at information about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but let me start with a story and work into the info part that you may or may not realize.

I think it's important to understand a lot about other people's faiths, not just information about the major religions that you study in school, but I mean the details about other denominations/sects. As I said, I grew up in the Bible belt and there was a lot of misinformation floating around. And I'm not talking about just with Catholicism, I mean with all denominations. My best friend in highschool was Lutheran. She was asked if that meant that she worshiped the devil. Was it a joke or just pure ignorance? I really couldn't tell you, but that's what she said. The whole thing frustrated her. And that's the reason for learning a lot about your own faith and others. You know what they say about assuming...

Because a majority of my friends were not Catholic, I would go to a number of different people's churches. Even as a child, if I was at a sleep over, it was a given that I would go to someone else's church. Once in junior high, I went to a church (couldn't tell you what it was) of a friend of mine. They were having communion. It was something that they did monthly. And it involved passing around a tray of what appeared to be oyster crackers. Then there was another tray and it had thimble sized cups with grape juice. After we were told we could, we ate the cracker and drank the grape juice. Then the cup was put into a holder on the back of a pew. And that was communion.

For those of you who don't know, Catholics celebrate communion or Holy Eucharist or the Lord's Supper (I think that is what the friend's church called it) every day. You can go to church for a service and receive Jesus every day. (Okay, I hope a few people who didn't know that have some sort of look on their face.) Eucharist means "thanksgiving" in Greek.

Catholics have two major parts to a service 1) the Bible reading 2) Holy Communion. (Yes, my Catholic friends, I know that there are a few more parts to it than that.) They have technical names: The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Liturgy just means "service." You can't have what is called a full Mass without both. If there is just communion it's called, communion service. I can't remember what it's called when it's just a reading. In general, though, you get a full Mass with both parts. Mass is the English flub for the phrase "ite missa est." It's Latin for "you are dismissed." It's spoken, obviously, at the very end of the Mass. So in other words we call our service, "dismissed." In other countries, they call the Catholic service something else.

Now here's the jaw dropping part, Catholics and Orthodox and some Anglicans believe that the bread and wine actually become Jesus. I mean that in the physical sense. Hence my horrible explanation about "Jesus in a box and we are going to eat him." This concept is called The Real Presence or transubstantiation, to use a technical term. Where does this concept come from? The Bible. In all the accounts of the Last Supper, Jesus says "this is my body" and "this is my blood." Also Paul refers to Communion as "the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor 11:27). And finally there is the passage in John 6 where Jesus talks about eating his body and drinking his blood. In the 66 verse many of the disciples seem bewildered and shocked so they turn away from him. Yes, I know 666. It's symbolic since 333 and 999 are supposed to be perfect numbers and Jews were big into number symbolism. But that's another post.

Sorry digressing again. Anyway...Because we believe that Jesus is physically and spiritually present, we bow and light candles, etc. In some churches Jesus is displayed, and we have people stay with Jesus at all hours. This is called "Perpetual Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament."

As I was looking up info on the Real Presence, I discovered that Lutherans believe something similar too. They believe that the bread and wine are still the bread and wine but also Jesus. Methodists refer to it as a "Holy Mystery" that can't be explained. Some of the reformed churches by Calvin believe it to not be the physical form of Jesus but somehow connected to him in a spiritual way. And of course, there are those who believe that it is simply a representation with no spiritual or corporal connection to Jesus at all.

I found this interesting because I at least have some sort of a better connection to my Traditional Protestant friends. At least in my head. I thought we were more different in beliefs, but really not as much as I had imagined. I thought the whole Real Presence concept was something Catholics only shared with Orthodox brethren, but nope that's what I get for assuming.

Next Wednesday, Baptism: A Spiritual Grace or Symbolic Conversion?


  1. Sorry... Still laughing over Jesus in a box.

    Great post though. I ended up visiting a lot of places as a kid too.. and in college. I don't know a lot about the more historical protestant churches, I know we have a lot more in common.. but I just don't know as much about them. Is interesting though :-)

  2. I think the body and blood of Jesus has only recently been viewed as symbolic. Part of the reason the Romans persecuted the Christians was because they found cannibalism repulsive. Later, when the Jewish people were persecuted by Christians, a common accusation was that the Jewish people had stolen the "Jesus in a box" and would torture it. There were reports of people seeing blood squirt out and everything. So, yeah, historically it literally is his flesh and blood.


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