The Eucharist

Part 2 - Where's the Bread?

In my article Where's the Christ?, I detailed how declaring a false interpretation of Christ's words at the Last Supper to be dogma had led the Roman Catholic Church to invent a growing number of increasingly fanciful dogmas. I showed how a new dogma designed to explain away questions raised by some earlier dogma in turn engendered new questions which required even more dogmas to explain.

The Catholic teaching I used has to do with what Rome calls transubstantion, the miraculous transformation of bread and wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.

1413. By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity [cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651.] -- Catechism of the Catholic Church,, 2nd Ed., (c) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

The strange belief that a bit of created bread and wine are magically changed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ has been around for quite a while.

By the thirteenth century the term "transubstantiation" had come to be used to identify the change that occurs at the time of the consecration of the Eucharistic elements. At the Fourth Lateran Council, this term was part of the conciliar creed professing belief in the Eucharist. But Trent went a step farther. It not only used the term, but also declared the fitness of the expression... John A. Hardin, S.J., The Catholic Catechism, Doubleday & Co (1975), p. 462

For those who like to be provided specifics, the words used by the Bishops at Trent are: has always been a matter of conviction in the Church of God, and now this holy Synod declares it again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a conversion takes place of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This conversion is appropriately and properly called transubstantiation by the Catholic Church (can. 2). -- Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, Chap. 4, Council of Trent, Session XIII, Denzinger 877

And so we have here an infallible declaration of the Extraordinary Magisterium telling us that at the moment of consecration the "whole substance" of bread is magically transformed into the "substance" of the body of Christ and the "whole substance" of the wine is wonderfully converted into the "substance" of His blood. To my inquiring mind, this declaration raises more questions than it answers. "Whole substance" certainly means that every little bit, every atom or molecule, of the bread and wine are changed into either the body or the blood of the Catholic Christ. I call attention to the fact that the Bishops at Trent did NOT here declare that the whole substance of the bread is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. Nor did they declare that the whole substance of the wine is turned into the substance of the blood and body. In other words, if we are to believe the infallible declaration of the Extraordinary Magisterium represented at the Council of Trent, bread becomes body and wine becomes blood.

So. Are we to believe, then, that what used to be bread is now Christ's flesh? Is it to be our understanding that what used to be wine is now Christ's blood? In the preceding chapter, the Bishops declared a slightly different consequence of the consecration.

...this belief has always been held in the Church of God that immediately after the consecration the true body of our Lord and His true blood together with His soul and divinity exist under the species of bread and wine; but the body indeed under the species of bread, and the blood under the species of wine by the force of the words, but the body itself under both by force of that natural connection and concommitance by which the parts of Christ the Lord, "who hath risen from the dead to die no more" (Rom. 6:9), are mutually united, the divinity also because of the admirable hypostatic union (can. 1 and 3) with His body and soul. Therefore, it is very true that as much as is contained under either species as under both. For Christ whole and entire exists under the species of bread and under any part whatsoever of that species, likewise the whole (Christ) is present under the species of wine and under its parts (can. 3). == Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, Chap. 3, Council of Trent, Session XIII, Denzinger 876

What did the Bishops of Trent really mean? Is the bread transformed into the body of Christ and the wine into His blood? Or are both transformed into body, blood, soul and divinity? In that the two statements are taken from the same document, prepared by the same bishops at the same council, one must wonder that they do not agree. Given this apparent ambivalence on an issue of such major importance to Catholic theology, is it any wonder that some have difficulty comprehending the Catholic teaching? One would reasonably expect a clear definition from the Extraordinary Magisterium.

I observe, parenthetically, that Trent was an ecumenical council convened by a sitting pope. In its deliberations and pronouncements, it was the Extraordinary Magisterium and, therefore, supposedly empowered to establish infallible doctrine in matters of faith and morals.. How could an infallible body make two seemingly contradictory declarations in the same document on such a significant point of Catholic theology?

If it were indeed true that, after the Catholic shaman completes his rite of consecration, the species of bread and wine are magically changed into some combination of the body and blood and perhaps soul and divinity of the Catholic Christ, why does the wafer still look like and taste like a wafer and why does the wine look and taste like wine?

Some explanation was needed to support the transubstantiation myth, so Mother Church tells us that the form of the 'accidents' of bread and wine remain, though their atoms have been changed to those of the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Catholic Christ. Hmmm. Do such things as a soul or divinity have a molecular makeup? They must, I suppose, if what looks to be a wafer and a glass of wine is supposed to be really made up of those things.

As always, when a Catholic fantasy cannot be supported from the Scriptures, nor explained by science, someone in the Catholic hierarchy will conjure up an explanation.

Q. What is the Holy Eucharist?

A. The Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament which contains the body and blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.

When we say "contains," we mean the Sacrament which is the body and blood, etc. The Holy Eucharist is the same living body of Our Lord which He had upon earth; but it is in a new form, under the appearances of bread and wine. Therefore Our Lord in the tabernacle can see and hear us. (Thomas L. Kinkead,Baltimore Catechism 4 4, Lesson 22: Question 238 [My emphasis]

Now there's something else to think about. Those consecrated wafers reposing in a ciborium locked away in a tabernacle in just about every Catholic church around the world are watching and listening as Catholics pray and worship and, of course, when their minds drift to other things of a less wholesome nature.

The idea of those consecrated cookies functioning like closed circuit security cameras raises other questions. For example: Given the RCC teaching that the consecrated host contains the Catholic Christ entirely, does this mean that there are millions and millions of Catholic Christs locked away in millions of cibora around the world, all spying on the Catholic faithful in the church?

Enough of this. The Catholic teaching alone generates sufficient questions that there is no need to add to their number. The RCC teaches that the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Catholic Christ are present in the species under the "appearances of bread and wine." When attempting to comprehend Catholic doctrine and dogma, it is important to get the Catholic definition of important terms, for the Roman church often assigns esoteric meanings that do not conform to evangelical or secular understandings.

Q. What do you mean by the appearances of bread and wine?

A. By the appearances of bread and wine I mean the figure, the color, the taste, and whatever appears to the senses.

"Senses"--that is, eyes, ears, etc. Thus we have the sense of seeing, the sense of hearing, the sense of tasting, the sense of smelling, the sense of feeling... -- Thomas L. Kinkead,Baltimore Catechism 4 4, Lesson 22: Question 245.

In other words, it looks like bread and wine; it tastes like bread and wine; it feels like bread and wine; it smells like bread and wine, etc. Where I come from, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it IS a duck. Not so for the Catholic church.

This raises questions concerning the reliability of the Baltimore Catechism 4 4. Can it be trusted? It was prepared by a Catholic priest, Rev. Thomas L. Kinkead. The Censor Librorum, D.J. McMahon, gave it his Nihil Obstat. Michael Augustine, Archbishop of New York, signed the Imprimatur way back in 1891. The edition I cite also carries a Nihil Obstat and Imprimitur given in 1921. While these notations are no guarantee of the doctrinal accuracy of the teachings under the seals, they do assure the reader that the document contains nothing contrary to Catholic teaching in matters of faith and morals. Certainly a quite long string of cardinals, archbishops and bishops added their approval to the finished document. I imagine it should be considered a reliable source of information on RCC doctrine.

Let us return to the issues. In his response to Question 238, Kinkead stated "The Holy Eucharist is the same living body of Our Lord which He had upon earth; but it is in a new form..." The same living body? This raises still more questions. The Scriptures are clear that as Jesus (and His body) ascended heavenward, He (and it) were visible to watchers.

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
-- Acts 1:9-10

Scriptures also tell us that ascended Jesus (and His body) are seated at the right hand of the Father, where He is our advocate before the Throne, among other things. How do we know these things? We have the testimony of Christ Himself, and of witnesses such as the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who was blessed with a vision during his trial before the High Priest and council:

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
-- Acts 7:55-56

So we have the testimony of Stephen, and others, that the Christ is at the right hand of God, presumably in His glorified body as He was recognizable to Stephen. There is no way to know, of course, all the physical characteristics of either the earthly or the glorified body of Jesus Christ. We have no way of knowing, for example, how tall He was/is. We cannot know His girth or weight. However, just for the sake of argument, let us say that, on earth, He was of nonspectacular height or weight. Let us say He stood perhaps 68 inches tall and weighed in at something like 140 pounds. We are told that the very same body Christ used during His sojourn on earth in human form is the one Catholic priests conjure into little wafers and a mug of wine during the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. -- Thomas L. Kinkead,Baltimore Catechism 4 4, Lesson 22: Question 238 .

And this raises another issue. I believe it safe to say that Bible-believing Christians and most Catholics accept the Genesis account of Creation. The physical universe is governed by and operates under God's ordinances that men variously refer to as laws, theories, etc. These laws are understood as constants; as immutable definitions of the way God made things and how those things operate. In that God created the physical universe and defined how it functions, it seems reasonable to say that these laws help to clarify the will of God, as we are able to comprehend it.

One of these ordinances that govern the physical universe has to do with the nature of matter and is known as the Law of Conservation of Mass:

The law of conservation of mass was formulated by chemist Antoine Lavoisier in 1774. It states that matter cannot be created or destroyed. Thus in a chemical reaction, the total mass of the products equals the total mass of the reactants. -- Patricia Barnes-Svarney, Ed., The New York Library Science Desk Reference, MacMillan:New York (1995), p. 259

Getting back to the eucharistic species: Where did all the mass go following the consecration of the bread and wine during the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy? Using a working figure of 140 pounds for the living body of Jesus of Nazareth, and an estimated weight of less than a gram for the host and perhaps three ounces for the wine used in the Eucharistic sacrifice, there is a need to account for some 68,000 missing grams of matter. Not to worry, nothing is impossible to explain away when Rome's dreamworks are called upon.

In part of the response to a question dealing with the substance of the species, the Baltimore Catechism teaches: is much easier to change one thing into another than to make it entirely out of nothing. Anyone who can create out of nothing can surely change one thing into another. Now Our Lord, being God, created the world out of nothing; and He could therefore easily change the substance of bread into the substance of flesh. I have said Our Lord's body in the Holy Eucharist is a living body, and every living body contains blood; and that is why we receive both the body and the blood of Our Lord under the appearance of the bread alone. The priest receives the body and blood of Our Lord under the appearance of both bread and wine, while the people receive it only under the appearance of bread. -- Thomas L. Kinkead,Baltimore Catechism 4 4, Lesson 22: Question 242

The above has the appearance of being a syllogism, a device of logic which, when built around true statements, presents an unarguable truth. Kinkead's explanation, however, is not built around true statements. It is a false syllogism, or sophistry, the conclusion of which is NOT true. Let us return to one of the laws of physical science--one of the rules God established to govern or control the continuing functioning of Creation. It seems reasonable to postulate that the Law of Conservation of Mass, or any other constant of physical science, was not operational; in fact did not exist. prior to Creation. When all that existed was our Triune God, there would have been no need for such controls.

I accept Kinkead's proposition that it must be easier to change something into something else than to create something out of nothing. The problem, however, is that nothing is a term that expresses the absolute absence of anything. I accept that before Creation there existed no thing but God, Who is Spirit. Read again the inspired words that open the Gospel of John:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
-- John 1:1-3

Though it may seem a picayune matter, I wish to point out that the above passage does not declare that the Word changed nothing into anything. What it does declare, in crystal clear language, is that All things were made by Him. Putting that into theological terms of stone-ax simplicity; the passage informs that all that exists came into existance as a result of an act of Divine will. Responding to Kinkead's statement, I would say that willing something into existance where there once was nothing seems a whole lot more difficult than changing something--which would be the process by which, according to those who believe the universe came into being ex nihilo, nothing was changed into something [if that were possible].

And here is where we encounter yet another apparent conflict with Catholic doctrine. The Catechism declares that every living body contain blood, which is not true. In my school days, I looked through microscopes at multitudes of living, single-cell organisms that do not, as I understand, contain blood. The human body is host to trillions of other organisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, etc., some of which are necessary to the continued functioning of the living body. One must wonder whether these creatures also are holy and to be received with thanksgiving. Is there merit attached to receiving each and every microscopic organism in the 'living body' that is the consecrated host. If so, then how terribly complicated must be the accounting system used to monitor the Treasury of Merit the Roman Catholic Church claims to preside over. On the other hand, if these micro-organisms are not holy, then the consecrated species is contaminated and the sacrifice is impure.

Perhaps all those little creatures that are so necessary to life are not present in the consecrated species. No. That cannot be so, for if they were not present in the host, then the consecrated species would NOT truly be the same body that the Catholic Christ used on earth. Given that Scripture speaks of the glorified body of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and not that wane clone known to a billion souls as the Catholic Christ, there is no way to prove that the Catholic false Christ existed, much less existed without all that multitude of microorganisms necessary to the functioning of the human body.

Parenthetically, I do not doubt that during His life on earth, the Son of God existed as do all men, replete with internal creatures necessary to sustain life. I do not believe that the glorified body of Christ is so corrupted.

So many questions. So many answers that present other questions. That is a big problem when one relies on the inventiveness of man for dogma and doctrine. Man's thinking and priorities change with time, and so immutable dogmas must be clarified -- An RCC alternate term for changed -- to conform to the most recent understanding.

God's will as revealed in the Scriptures, on the other hand, indeed is unchanging.

In the next part of this continuing study of the Eucharistic sacrifice, I intend to examine what becomes of the bread and wine and some Catholic explanations of how Christ could be present in Heaven and also in millions of consecrated hosts. I shall also discuss the permanency of Christ in the species.

Click here to go to Part Three

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