I through a glass darkly

Writing about prayer, one contributor to Secondsightblog.net tells us that he finds himself unable to get behind the tangible “accidents”of the Eucharist – and through to the Real Presence. That doesn’t surprise me since faith is evidence of things not seen. There is mystery here and, as Frank Sheed told us, mystery is not a blank wall but a path to be endlessly, and fruitfully, explored.

Around 50 years ago, two theologians of huge stature (Rahner and Schillebeeckx) began to interpret the Real Presence in the language of Structuralism. They used terms like “transignification” and “transfinalisation”. Here, one did not speak of substance or identity but of signs and purposes. The Eucharist was a sign of the body and blood of Christ, or derived its purpose, and so its meaning, from its function. The approach was understandable. For example, I have beside me a flat-topped object with four legs. Is it a stool or a table? I reply that it is not a fixed substance but is defined in terms of what I recognise it to be (sign) or what I use it for (purpose). The question “What actually is it?” simply has no meaning.

But if we apply that approach to the Eucharist we find that Christ’s claim that we actually eat his body and blood has turned into a metaphor. The phrase “real presence” is void of meaning.

Paul VI’s encyclical on the Eucharist, Mysterium Fidei (1965), covers broad ground but its essential message is that the body and blood, soul and divinity are actually and really present. Indeed, they are a sign and can also be described in terms of purpose, but this in no way changes their reality. This, he emphasises, is a mystery which can only be grasped through faith.

And perhaps it is best to leave it at that. After trying to untangle the knot through concepts such as substance and accidents, which are favoured by the Church, I am left with saying: this is the outward appearance of bread and wine but in reality it is as the Church defines it and as Jesus described it. I cannot reconcile the two but I have ceased worrying.

In fact, any kind of discussion involving terms like substance, form or identity often founders on the difficulty of definition. For instance, how do you define identity (surely relevant to the mystery of the Eucharist)? Thanks to Plutarch we have the paradox of Theseus’s boat, which I will pose in colloquial form.

My friend Joe is a skilled carpenter and boat builder. Some years ago he built a small rowing boat. Being a perfectionist his habit was to replace any part of the boat which was in the slightest damaged or worn. The first two or three planks he replaced gave me no philosophical difficulty – it was clearly Joe’s old boat with a few repairs.

But the day came when he had in fact replaced every single part of the boat. When I suggested that he had made a new boat with a different identity he denied this, saying: “The shape and length of every replacement piece has been dictated by the form of the boat so there has clearly been a continuity of identity because of the continuity of the form.”

But I had a better idea. Joe never throws anything away. When I looked under the tarpaulin at the back of the shed I found all the pieces and planks he had removed. So I put the old boat together again. Every part had to be put into the only place it could fit – the form was preserved. And I asked him to tell me whether the two boats shared the same identity. Joe is still scratching his head, but you may agree with me that identity can be a difficult concept. And the difficulty may continue to plague us when we consider that the whole identity of Christ is actually present wherever the Blessed Sacrament is found. Thus we have a specific set of accidents in a particular place at a particular time which, to our senses, are bread and wine, but in reality is Christ who is eternally omnipresent. No wonder that our human, philosophical concepts are hard to apply.

I found some help in Blaise Pascal’s Lettres Provinciales, his famous attack on 17th-century Jesuit moral theology. Pascal presents the idea that both we and the blessed in heaven receive Christ whole and entire. The difference is that we receive him under the veil of the apparent bread and wine while the blessed receive him directly. Our indirect perception is made necessary by the limitation of our human understanding.

Following Pascal’s line of thought, it seems to me clear that the blessed in heaven can receive Christ directly because that takes place in eternity – outside time and place. We are, however, bound to the limitations of the earth. So the reception fittingly takes place through a medium which we encounter at a particular time and in a particular place. The veil, or the “accidents”, of bread and wine enable us to do this.

I have always thought of praying for the souls of the dead, or asking them for intercession. But now, it seems to me, I can pray with them. We are all on our metaphorical knees imbued with the Real Presence of Christ – they directly and I through a glass darkly.

So how do you see the Real Presence in the Eucharist? I think that we can deepen our understanding by listening to others’ experience.

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Philosophy, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to I through a glass darkly

  1. John says:

    Our church is part of a ‘Faith Trail’, which includes a Mosque, Hindu temple, and Sikh Gurdwara. When showing visitors (mostly other Christians rather than other faiths) round our church, I find myself almost making excuses for my belief in the Real Presence, as when I try to put it into words it it sounds so unbelievable.
    An explanation about Mass and the Blessed Sacrament is always part of my ‘tour’. Strangely, although I get questions about the stations of the cross and the confessionals (especially the confessionals!) I haven’t been asked questions about the Real Presence, or the consecration part of the Mass. Are the visitors just being polite, are they avoiding something they sense I am struggling with, or are they just accepting what I am saying, and leaving it at that?
    I think it’s probably more my problem than theirs. There are I would say areas where my faith is much weaker. I can (almost) fully accept the cross and the resurrection. But what is really happening at communion? At the end of the day all I can do is push the doubts to one side, make an (intellectual?) act of faith, and live in hope for the day when all doubts will be removed for ever.

    • st.joseph says:

      How can the Real Presence be more difficult to explain than the Immaculate Conception, Incarnation. Resurrection and Ascension,which other christians believe the same as catholics.
      We will never understand how it happens, only by the power of the Holy Spirit.
      All the 7 Sacraments are a Mystery too.

  2. We discussed the paradox of Theseus’s boat some time ago when I suggested the analogy of an orchestra. The London Symphony Orchestra, for instance, was founded in 1904, so it seems safe to assume that none of its original members is still alive; all have at one time or another been replaced by others, yet what remains is still the London Symphony Orchestra. In this case identity is defined by continuity of existence, not of components. If the original players had been in a position to get together again, what they formed would be something else.

    That is a simple case compared with the Real Presence. I have no difficulty in believing that what I receive in Communion is the body of Christ, since the Word of God can take to Himself whatever body he chooses, be it flesh developed from an embryo in the womb of Mary or a simple disc of wheaten flour. However, it leads to a further problem in that He now seems to have millions of bodies scattered around the world.

    This problem existed in essence from the inception of the sacrament, since at the culmination of the Last Supper Jesus was present both in human form and as the bread that he distributed to the disciples. I think someone suggested the parallel case of information, which I can give completely to any number of people yet still retain completely myself. How that might apply to the Real Presence is beyond me, and I suspect that st.joseph may have taken the path of wisdom in simply accepting the situation as a mystery.

  3. John Nolan says:

    In words attributed to Queen Elizabeth the First: “God was the Word and spake it, He took the bread and brake it, and what his words did make it, I do believe and take it”. At her coronation, which was performed according to Catholic rites by Bishop Oglethorpe, she withdrew at the elevation of the Host and Chalice, signifying her protestant rejection of the doctrine of transubstantiation.

    Too many people see the English Reformation as merely an emancipation from Roman jurisdiction when it was in fact an overturning of traditional Catholic doctrine. “Round Robin” and “Jack-in-the-Box” were derogatory terms applied by the reformers to the Blessed Sacrament. Some versions of the last-named children’s toy had “hocus pocus” engraved on the lid; a sacrilegious version of the Latin words of consecration.

    Belief in the Real Presence, which has been held for nigh on two millennia in both Eastern and Western Churches, is so integral to the Faith that I would earnestly entreat those who don’t believe in it to leave now; in the words of Cromwell – “Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once!”

  4. Iona says:

    It was Lady Macbeth, not Cromwell. Or maybe Cromwell said it too.

  5. Iona says:

    When I was being “instructed” in the faith (about a quarter of a century ago, now) the priest, sighing at my objections, eventually said: “Well, if Almighty God wants to be present in a little piece of bread I suppose He can be”.

    Strangely enough, I found this a very convincing argument. Though actually it isn’t an argument at all.

  6. claret says:

    ‘By inummerable statutes men, only confuse what God achieved in ten.’ The same might be said for the Eucharist in that we endlessly look to complicate something that is simple.
    Jesus instituted the Eucharist. He said what it was, and told us to to do it.

  7. st.joseph says:

    If one googles ‘Eucharist Miracles’, one can read interesting mircles approved by the Church.
    We need no proof above Jesus’s Word, but it will be very interesting.

  8. John Nolan says:

    @ Iona
    You’re right. I was thinking of Cromwell’s magisterial dismissal of the Rump parliament: “Away with this bauble!”

  9. RMBlaber says:

    Cromwell, of course, would have had no truck with the ‘Popish’ doctrine of transubstantiation – which is _not_ the same thing as the Real Presence, and we should be absolutely clear about that fact in any discussion of these matters.

    ‘Transubstantiation’ is, I’m afraid, a nonsense, based, as it is, on St Thomas Aquinas’s idea (employing Aristotelean concepts, but in an un-Aristotelean way) that a thing’s ‘substance’ could change, while its ‘accidents’ remained the same. In the case of the sacramental bread and wine, ‘accidents’ means what they look like, feel like, taste and smell like, how much they weigh, their volume, their chemical composition, molecular, atomic and sub-atomic structure. If all these things are ‘accidental’, what is there left that is ‘substantial’? We are left with an aetiolated, not to say otiose, metaphysics.

    Of course, Aquinas cannot be blamed for not having any knowledge of modern chemistry or physics, and he was merely trying to express the reality of his experience of Christ in the Eucharist, and the theological truth of the Real Presence, in terms of the philosophy a la mode of his day, namely Aristoteleanism.

    The sacrament, we are told, is ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’. Jesus Christ, as the Logos, the Second Person of the Godhead, shares all the attributes of the Godhead, including _omnipresence_. His human nature is united with His divine nature, and is no longer limited by the exigencies of earthly existence; indeed, we must take what St Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 15:50 seriously, that ‘flesh and blood cannot possess the kingdom of God’, and accept that Our Lord’s ‘body’ is a ‘spiritual’ as opposed to ‘psychic’ (or physical) one (1 Cor. 15:44, 46).

    What changes in the elements, therefore, is not a presence of Christ substituting for an absence, but a change in the _mode_ of His presence, merely, since He was there all along, and is ‘there’ everywhere in space and time.

    If we bear this in mind, then, in the words of the Anglican communion rite, it will be possible for us to ‘take and eat (or drink) this in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on Him in your hearts [i.e., your innermost selves] by faith, with thanksgiving’ – and do so with a clear conscience.

    As to whether or not anyone who agrees with this position, as opposed to the Thomist one, should leave either the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches, as John Nolan (who confuses transubstantiation and Real Presence) insists they should – this, surely, is a matter for the individual’s conscience, rather than for him to prescribe. He rightly condemns the language employed by the 16th Century Protestant Reformers against the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass, but – to be fair – vituperative polemic was employed by both sides in the dispute, and there were Protestant, as well as Catholic, martyrs. In fact, neither Luther nor Calvin denied the Real Presence, even if Zwingli and the Anabaptists did, although it must be admitted that Luther’s ‘consubstantiation’ was not a satisfactory alternative to transubstantiation. Of all the Reformers, Calvin probably came closest to the position I have outlined.

    If Mr Nolan still isn’t satisfied, can I assure him that I no longer consider myself to be a Roman Catholic, or to be in communion with that Church, or the Pope, and do not attend its services?

  10. Vincent says:

    RMBlaber, I think that it is rather easier to dismiss the term “substance” as a nonsense than to find a satisfactory substitute for our sense that an entity is more than simply a collection of accidents. It seems to me to be an aspect of ontology which philosophers have thought it worthwhile to work on continually without arriving at a satisfactory solution. Russell dismissed it imperiously as a “linguistic convenience”, if my memory serves me. I don’t see that modern understanding of the physical helps at all. It is surely a metaphysical question – in which case the later Wittgenstein would chide you for using the wrong language game.

  11. Quentin says:

    John Nolan, your last reply (to RMB) left me feeling very sad.

    • John Nolan says:

      Why so? If an individual cannot in conscience accept Christian doctrine then it’s up to him to work out his own salvation. I know we are required to evangelize but in the end intelligent people have to make up their own minds.

  12. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, In all fairness I felt ‘very ‘very ‘very ‘sad at RM Blabers comment in his last paragraph.
    After all he may not practice his faith-but there is no need to offend the Body of Christ= His Church.
    Unecessary remarks are made very often by non-practicing catholics. and it would be kind if those making them would consider that too. It can not be all one sided.
    I know how remarks from RM Blaber and another person, and you know,who made them to me-without an apology- can hurt.And no mention was made of that!
    I am being honest here! We have to be honest even if the truth hurts.
    If we are going to discuss controversal issues regarding our deeply held Faith-then the person criticising it ought to expect the consequences.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Yes, of course they should-Scourge them with red hot hooks I say..Cromwell would have at least done so…perhaps that will make us all feel better..nothing like a bit of moral fervour to set the jaw more firmly……!

  13. I think R M Blaber is being a little hasty in dismissing the Thomistic concept of “substance”. As I understand it, it is for instance the difference between a letter to a friend and mere marks of pigment on paper – both valid definitions of the same thing, but the first infinitely more significant than the second.

  14. Rahner says:

    Transubstantiation may be nonsense but like many theological/philosophical claims it is difficult to give an absolutely convincing demonstration of its coherence or incoherence. The Medieval theologians give a range of interpretations of the doctrine and the Council of Trent did not give a comprehensive analysis of the concept. Herbert McCabe remarks that “Aristotle could have made no sense of the notion of transubstatiation.It is not a notion that can be accomodated within the concepts of Aristotelian philosophy, it represents the breadown of these concepts in the face of mystery” The use of the concept today will probably generate more problems that it solves so theologians should explore other ways of formulating the doctrine of the Eucharist.

  15. st.joseph says:

    “Amen, amen I say unto you;Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath everlasting life; and I will raise Him up on the last day.
    When our Lord saw so many of His disciples leave Him He turned to the twelve and asked; Will you also leave me?
    They understood what He had said- yet they could not understood HOW His promise was to be accomplished until they saw it fulfilled on the night of the Last Supper.

    Is that too difficult for Rahner to understand.
    Perhaps you would be one that turned away.
    We dont need theologians to explore other ways of formulating the Doctrine of the Eucharist. It is already written in Blood.

    • Rahner says:

      “We dont need theologians to explore other ways of formulating the Doctrine of the Eucharist. It is already written in Blood.” So presumably you reject the doctrine of transubstatiation which is itself the product of theological exploration?

  16. BRIAN HAMILL says:

    I have read the above comments with much interest as this is the first time I have ventured into the land of Secondsight, a little like ‘the far land of Spare Oom’.

    When I was asked by my daughter to give an account of Transubstantion, or more accurately the Real Presence, for the benefit of one of her friends, I started out by attempting my own defintion, which, I thought, might be more helpful than some of the more traditional ones. My definition ran ‘the manifestation in time and space of the presence of the Jesus, the Son of God’. I based this on our experience of the human body. I am at present sitting and typing this in the presence of my wife. How do I know she is present? Because her body is present. If she took her body outside into the garden, she would no longer be bodily present to me. In a word, her living body is the manifestation in time and space of her human personhood. Only her death can deprive her body of that power of manifestation.

    Now to apply this to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist: when the priest says the words of consecration, something ‘happens’; the bread ceases to be bread of earth and becomes the Bread of Heaven. How this happens can be described but not explained, since we are at the central point of the wonderful mystery of the infinite love of God for each and every one of us. Quite simply God becomes edible, and why? For two interlocking reasons: first, so that each of our bodies, through consumption of this Bread, can become ‘the manifestation in time and space of the Son of God’. As the Fathers said, ‘Unlike earthly bread which becomes us when we consume it, in consuming the Bread of the Eucharist we become what we eat, the Body of Christ.’ Secondly, and following on from this according to the divine order and purpose, we can, and must, turn to our neighbours in Church and greet them in love as equally real manifestations of that same Person, Jesus.One could say that through the Real Presence what is contained in the ciborium is transferred to the community in the church; the church becomes full of manifestations in time and space of Jesus. This is why the doctrine of the Real Presence, as opposed to the explanation of Transubstantiation, is an essential part of the Good News. ‘He who eats this Bread shall live forever’, since through the Eucharist we live in reality, if not in full experience, the life of God. Our heaven has begun.

  17. mike Horsnall says:

    I took eucharist to someone dying last week, it was perhaps the greatest privelege to sit with them and share Christ that I have had in a long time. It seems to me that eucharist is only partially a doctrine, mainly it is a profound mystery built on a shared existent reality beyond the full reach of words. We do need to be careful in how we allow ourselves to be-first in our hearts and then in our words. I don’t think its an excuse to get too worked up about the replies of ‘non practicing catholics’ because you cannot really expect a non practicing catholic to have much sense of eucharist in the first place. I was at a churches together easter march of witness last week and what struck me was firstly how great it was to walk silently together through our town-but secondly how scant was the understanding of the church truly as the body of christ. I think the slow absorbing of a profound mystery together with the almost reverential handling of its discussion is almost the only viable way to an understanding; Richard Dawkings is clearly and intelligent man and passionately committed at that-but in terms of theological thinking, being or understanding he presents as a fool.

    • st.joseph says:

      Mike I dont get worked up about non-catholics not understanding the Eucharist, I married one.

      Apostasy,and scepticism or doubt from my Students Catholic Doctrine. Says-
      Those who do not believe in the doctrines of Christ are said to be in a state of Infidelity; but when the infidelity arises from involuntary or invincible ignorance of the doctrines of the Church, it may be termed negative infidelity.
      In such a case it is not a sin;
      “If I had not come, and spoken to them , they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John xv22).. And St Paul; ” Whosoever have sinned without the law shall perish without the law; and whosoever have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law”(Rom. ii.12)
      But when a man has well-founded reasons for believing that the Christian religion is the true one, and yet neglects to inquire further into it, he is guilty of what is termed privative infidelity, or infidelity in a partial degree, because his action is so far voluntary.
      He that believeth shall not be condemned. (Mark xvi.16)
      Apostasy, which always supposes previous faith, is the entire abandonment of the Christian Faith by one who has been baptised. It differs from Heresy in this, that the apostate rejects all the articles of Faith, whereas the heretic denies only some, yet continues to profess Christianity. Formal Heresy and Apostasy are a most grevious sin.
      Now God assures us, as St Paul assures us, has made Himself known to us through the Patriarchs and the Prophets of old, and last of all through His only-begotten Son.” No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John i.18 The Revelation, then which God has given us concerning His Infinite Being and attributes must contain truths which are above our reason, seeing that it is only finite, and therefore altogether incapable of grasping the infinite.
      Such revealed truths are what we call the Mysteries of Faith.
      Since reason itself compels us to admit the truth of many things we cannot fully understand, but of whose existence we can have no doubt.

      As for me, which I say to Rahner is- The Catholic Church does not decide ,without Scripture and Tradition what is True.
      The Doctrine of the Eucharist is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, until He comes again.
      I dont know whether you are a catholic or not-but I speak as a catholic and proud to be one.
      The Miracle of Lanciano, “The Word Made Flesh” might interest you.
      It took place at the beginning of the seventh century, during the celebration of Mass by a Basillan Monk.When he began to doubt about the Body and Blood of Christ being really and substantially present in the Host and in the Chalice.
      In Feb 1574 another miracle happened with the same coagulated blood.
      With the authorization of Rome they had a group of experts scientifically examine the Flesh and coagulated Blood.
      Between Nov 1970 and early March 1971, laboratory tests were conducted with the greatest rigour by Professors Lonoil and Bertoli, the latter from the University of Sienna. In 1973, a U.N.E.S.C.O. Medical Commission corroborated their findings by means of 500 tests lasting 15 months.
      1) The substance at issue are truly flesh and blood.
      2)The Flesh and Blood are from a human source.
      3)The flesh is constituted of muscular tissue from the heart (myocardium)
      4)The Flesh and Blood are from the same blood type AB
      5)The diagram of this Blood corresponds with human blood talen from a man’s
      body on that same day.
      6)The Flesh and Blood are exactly like those of a human being having really existed;
      7)No traces were found anywhere of a permeation of the organic tissue by any substance designed to preserve them through mummification.
      8) The manner in which this sample of flesh was obtained by the dissection of a part of the myocardium supposes exceptional skill on the part of the medical practitioner.
      9)No sign, not even of incipient corruption, was observed,though the relics have been been exposed for centuries to the action of physical,atmospheric, and biological agents.
      In 1574 the 2nd Miracle before Archbishop Rodriguez and the assembled crowd. On weighing each of the clots taken together from the Host and the Chalice-each one in different size respectively, equalled the weight of the five clots taken together. So did the Lord want to show in this way what the Church teaches; that Christ is totally present in the smallest fragment of the consecrated host, in the smallest drop of consecrated wine.

      I believed this since I was 5, so I didnt need to be told this a few years ago!
      It may interest some people.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Yes I am a catholic and not ashamed of the title to boot. But I do not have in common with some of the contributors to this page-yourself included- the long history of being catholic. This means that I have no library of events such as that of which you speak-but also no history of acceptance of that kind of event-so it has no impression upon me nor do quotes here and there from miscellaneous religious sources. This is I suspect due to one stage in my religious life being highly charismatic evangelical which relied heavily on the memorising of bible texts and the frequent quoting of them as answers. I found underneath the questions of the heart remained and that quoted answers were in the main unsatisfying and easily contradicted by other quotes or eminent sources. That is why I generally find lists of quotations -on this site too- dull and not particularly convincing because I am aware of their partiality.
        As to the culpability of the fallen disciple (apostasy etc) well St Joseph I have been a fallen disciple and God was kind enough to help me back to my feet, dress my bruised knees and hopefully, wipe the tears and one or two more of the scales from my eyes -I remember no threats or chastisings -no sense of flames or imminent abandonment-just kindness and gentle instruction.
        I have found little in the catechism -or in my catechists 2 year training that was there to kick against, the only thing which truly chafes is the legalism that seems to pervade this site and exude itself at the slightest hint of genuine disagreement. Jesus, if I remember rightly, allowed himself to be meekly led to a place where he was tormented till he could no longer stand then nailed to a cross with vinegar to drink..even then he laid no charge against his tormentors beyond ignorance. I think sometimes we get so carried away withour own little moments of veracity that we simply fail to see the wood for the trees. Lapsed catholics seem to me as prolific as autumn leaves-often ignorance or maltreatment are the issue though-aas John Nolan says -in the end we have to stand on our own two feet and make up our mind as to who we will follow.

  18. st.joseph says:

    Read me right Mike,!!!!!As I say to Rahner, in my comment ,which was meant for him .I know you are a catholic,you said so.! Rahner didn’t.
    It was not meant for you, but obviousley you have taken offence.
    We are discussing here facts of Faith, which this blog is all about!
    We are not meant to hide the truth of our beliefs from anyone, or ‘else’why contribute’
    Your last patronising comment on the earlier blog was uncalled for.
    I dont go for being ‘rude’ just honest-so why are you annoyed?
    I have never any difficult with your comments’
    When someone makes a comment, like two people have, and I ask for an explanation ‘I expect out of moral decency a reply.This is what communication is all about, and I will say I respect yours’ even though it wasn’t meant for you, but at least there was a feedback. Thank you.

    why comment here any way?

    • st.joseph says:

      Last line was a repeat. ‘why comment anyway’.
      Also Mike what I said to Rahner, from Students Catholic Doctrine, is no different from the CCC, I just had that at hand intead of the CCC,
      So it is all Catholic Doctrine.Which no doubt you will have understood when you converted!

  19. mike Horsnall says:

    Its probably simply the effect that ‘blogging’ has in general- in that it is very hard to see the heart behind the words in print. This means that -perhaps from my eyes at least- postings here often appear quite terse and judgemental St Joseph-which is why disagreements seem to escalate quickly- sorry-didnt mean to offend you!
    PS meant to ask, what is the Students Catholic Doctrine?

  20. Alan Pontet-Piccolomini says:

    I am not an educated person and nor I suspect are many or perhaps even most Roman Catholics, and yet, each of us – regardless of our human state, is called, by Jesus Christ, to practice our faith: “Take and eat, this is My body…/…take and drink, this is My blood…do this (yourselves – you the Apostles and those whom you appoint hereinafter) in memory of Me.”

    Both the hosts and the wine are ‘manufactured’ and are stored in the Sacristy until required upon the Altar. After Sanctification, the Hosts and Wine are handled and treated (although unfortunately not in most Catholic parishes – which does beg the question of ‘real faith’) with the utmost reverence and respect. Perhaps, therefore, when the Celebrant proclaims “Let them become for us the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, they do not, as we might be forgiven for thinking, suddenly change into something physically and biologically different, rather, the Sanctifying Presence of Our Crucified and Risen Saviour Jesus Christ becomes present within them, and thereinafter within us when we consume them – it is an abstract – of course we can see both see and taste them but, the Real Presence within requires of us absolute faith.

    So then, to John (April 23rd) who finds it difficult to approach the subject with non-Catholic visitors, perhaps the subject of the Real Presence is the central belief of the Roman Catholic faith which those visitors want to hear, and need to hear, and perhaps with it duly received, whether understood or not, there is a greater likelihood of more of them finding their way to eternal life through the Holy Catholic faith.

    Perhaps, amongst Catholics – educated and not, and more forgiveably especially when not, our lack of understanding in this subject is one of the causes of lapsation. Perhaps what we need on Sundays, rather than deeply intellectual reflections upon the Gospel -so many of which go over the heads of many or most of the faithful, is instruction on the Real Presence within the Blessed Eucharist. Perhaps thenafter, we might see evidence of understanding by way of improved reverence and respect, manifested by individuals kneeling (or bowing when unable to kneel) when they come into the presence of the Blessed Eucharist reserved in the Tabernacle, and manifested by improved reverence and respect by those entering upon the Sanctuary if the Tabernacle is there also.

    Alan Pontet-Piccolomini, Raynes Park, London

    • Horace says:

      I think it was one of the French revolutionaries who said, “If I truly believed what the Church wants me to believe, that Christ truly becomes present on the altar at the moment of consecration, I would not walk to the communion rail — I would crawl on my belly. That is how deep my faith and my humility would be.”
      {I thought of this quote and eventually found the above in an article ” How to Receive the Eucharist” by Rev Adrian J Parcher, O.S.B.}

      • st.joseph says:

        Thank you Horace for that article.
        It would be good if now and again the congregation were reminded during Mass how to receive Our Lord.
        Since the Tabernacle was moved to the side,I believe that reverance seems to become unecessary when entering church for Holy Mass. I am not saying that people dont feel reverant,obviousley they do! But I cant help but notice how some will welcome their friends in church before saying even a ‘hello’ to Our Lord in the Tabernacle first!
        I think moving the Tabernacle made it easy for those to speak ‘without upsetting Jesus’ as if He is asleep’.and will only be there in the Consecration. I think that was meant to be like that!!! since Vat2!! I will stand correced!!
        My husband used to say the same thing about ‘crawling on our bellies’years before he became a catholic. I used to get inwardly a little annoyed with him, I used to say to him ‘At least they are here’!! So I think we should look at it that way.
        And as far as children making a noise(I dont mean by that not checking them) people should understand. One can always go to another quieter Mass, but with the shortage of priests now-there is the weekdays for those who would like to be quiet, as well as Sunday of course
        We should be able to work around this.
        It is a pity that the Corpus Christi processions have been discontinued. People could then have a renewed awareness of the Presence of Our Lord for Adoration at Holy Mass and out side it.And sadly churches are closed.Where I go it is a Monastery and open all day.
        I think it must begin with childrens education from parents, and I find that converts are more aware of His Presence than catholics who have not over the last years, dare I say it ‘since Vat 2’ when devotions , Benediction, 40 hours ceased in many parishes and schools.
        That is the prayer life of our Church, which then I feel makes us stronger to carry our faith and defend it in the workplace and into the world.
        A pertinent homily I heard the other day, and that made me think a lot, and that was St Paul didn’t preach about Jesus’s Life – and miracles, but on His Death and Resurrection how He died and why He died. I believe His Healing Power is in the Sacraments and in the Eucharist-Jesus has Risen and is Alive to-day in His Resurrected Body, Soul and Divinity, in every Tabernacle in the world etc;,the prayer the Angel taught the children at Fatima to say often.’We are the ‘living’ Church’.
        It is good to see all christains uniting in public processions at Easter. ‘We will not be removed’

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Funnily enough Horace I can’t bear that comment without feeling vaguely nauseous! I’ve heard it a few times now over the years and it always makes me wince. This is because when I meet with Christ I’m rather hoping to be light of foot filled with joy (not to mention relief) and weeping tears both of contrition and recognition…worming my way forward on my face with a mouthful of carpet dust just doesnt quite fit with my understanding of the story of the prodigal son.

  21. st.joseph says:

    Its an old fashioned Catechism Mike, no different, I just find it easier to read than the CCC ,but the general arrangement of the book is based, as far as possible on the division and order of the Catechism; and the marginal notes on the various paragraphs does not only render instruction more easy, but serves a useful purpose in aiding the memory of a student preparing for examinations. Which my daughter was studying R.I at College as a teacher 28 years ago.
    Your apology is acepted. Thank you.

  22. John Nolan says:

    mike Horsnall: Your comments are very wise. It is easy to be judgemental and waspish in this medium, and less easy to accept that one’s own experiences and prejudices are not shared by everyone.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      John Nolan,
      Thankyou John for taking a few moments to write those words. Its a tricky business really because we talk of profound things which are important to us yet we need to somehow keep step with one another on the way and share a little lightness from time to time….rather like one imagines pilgrims on a long road to do… One of the things I’m coming to greatly appreciate about this site is that people seem to be overall forgiving of one anothers foibles-though whatever it is might take a day or two to settle!!

  23. Iona says:

    Brian Hamill – May 1st – I really liked that definition.

    When I was being “instructed” (if I remember rightly) I was told that “transubstantiation” is just one possible explanation of the Real Presence. We have to believe in the Real Presence. We don’t have to believe in transubstantiation.

    • st.joseph says:

      Some Protestants,while admitting the Real Presence,pretend that the substance of bread and wine is not destroyed, but that Jesus Christ is in the Eucharist either by Impanation-i.e., that is not by a change of substance, but by the union of the Body of our Saviour with the bread; or by Consubstantiation, by which they imply that the Body of Christ is present with the substance, or under the substance, or in the substance of the bread.
      Both of these teachings have been condemned by the Church.

      ‘Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us’,is present in many ways to his Church, in his word, in his Church’s prayer, where two or three are gathered in my name’, in the poor, the sick and the imprisoned,in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass and in the person of the minister. But ‘he is present,… most especially in the Eucharistic species,.


    • mike Horsnall says:

      I like that Iona.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        The reason I like it is that I seem to be temperamentally incapable of believing anything anybody says about anything -yet capable of assimilating deeper things through contemplation and all the usual devices which bypass or subserve the conscious processing. This means I believe very strongly in the Real Presence…I also believe that transsubstantiation is a good stab at explaining the inexplicable but am also aware that many of these doctrines arise from a need to set boundaries as much as anything else. Thanks for making the distinction though, it was quite helpful.

      • st.joseph says:

        What is the difference between Transubstantiation and the Real Presence- that we can believe in one and not the other?
        The real meaning of Transubstantiation is the Real Presence!!!

  24. mike Horsnall says:

    Yes I think you are probably right there St Joseph..at least they must be very closely linked…however proximity to the real presence doesn’t give me a headache whereas puzzling over transubstantiation may well do so!!

  25. st.joseph says:

    Mike, nothing is impossible for God- When we know what He has already done-and Risen ,it is quite easy to believe.
    I was taught that not only is this belief held by the Latins, and the Greeks, and the Easterns who are in communion with the Holy See, but it is important to remark that the doctrine of the Real Presence is held by the Schismatic Greeks, and the different sects of the East, some of which- as the Nestorians and the Eutychians-separated from the Roman Church as far back as the fifth century.
    Christ, whose Divine power is acknowledged by all true Christians, could not have made use of plainer words than those given us by St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke, and St Paul in his first Epistle to the Corinthians; “This is My Body; This is My Blood. Do this for a Commemoration of Me”
    Although the outward appearances, or accidents, sight ,touch ,taste etc remain the same as before Consecration.
    Yet faith teaches us that the substance of the bread and wine is really and truly changed into the substance of Christ’s Body and Blood. This change is what we mean by Transubstatiation. This is why it is called ‘Real’.
    It is of faith, and follows from what has been said, that we owe to the Blessed Eucharist
    the worship that is due to the Person of Jesus Christ- the highest degree of worship- the worship of latria, the adoration, respect,devotion, and love which belong to the One True God. Our worship is given directly to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father, and equally God with the Father.

    ‘And our neighbour as ourself ‘.Love them ‘Yes’ but not worship
    We will become like Him ‘only ‘in our resurrected bodies.Hopefully!

    • mike Horsnall says:

      St Joseph..it was a joke!! Well partially so anyway but mainly intended to hint at the point that what we feel in our hearts is difficult than what we think in our heads.

  26. Quentin says:

    Real Presence v. transubstantiation.

    Session 13, Council of Trent.

    But since Christ our Redeemer declared that to be truly His own body which He offered under the form of bread, it has, therefore, always been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy council now declares it anew, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a change is brought about of the whole substance of the 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 change the holy Catholic Church properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation.”

    The Council is defining the meaning of the Real Presence in the philosophical concepts of the time. “Substance” is also used in the Nicene Creed: “consubstantial” means “of one being with (the Father)”. I don’t think we necessarily have to take the Council’s choice of terms as infallible. But the Church does infallibly mean that, despite the normal appearance etc of bread and wine the Eucharist’s being is that Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity.

    I think the Church has been given to over-simplifying the meaning of mysteries, and other things beyond our understanding, while trying to be helpful. We all remember how Aquinas had a vision of reality before he died, and he was taken aback by the distance between his description and the real thing. Thus we are misled into thinking that we have understanding when the truth is far more wonderful.

    I suspect that Catholics who find it difficult to accept do so because they are trying to understand in terms of human concepts. If they abandon that, and accept the essential facts because Christ said so, and for no other reason, they may have a better grasp of faith than others who try to explain.

  27. mike Horsnall says:

    I think this is the key point in most of our discussions -we are usually fretting over labels. For some the label and its authority is all important-and justifiably so-but for others there is the apothatic view-how can any one speak with full definition about any of the mysteries of God? This does not mean that the definitions are wrong-merely that they are not full and their partial emptiness makes them difficult to ‘believe’ yet this difficulty is essentially a yearning for the fuller reality. No quentin I didn’t know about Aquinas’ vision of reality…what?

  28. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, I try as often possible to explain the ‘teachings of the Church’.
    Difficult as it is. But neverthless if one can give some understanding, reason and logic to a doctrine it does help the person who will ‘always’ doubt the Church.
    It is so simple to quote from the CCC, if there is no understanding or faith one will never convert. That is an easy way out and a road I dont like taking.
    It may sometimes be to some that it is arguing when I try to go deeper into a subject-but it is not. It is common sense!

  29. Iona says:

    Quentin, I’m sure you’re right, – that explanations in terms of “substance” and “accidents” simply uses philosophical concepts that were current at an earlier time. Philosophers don’t seem to think in those terms now, probably because physics has analysed the nature of matter into sub-atomic particles which just don’t tally with the idea of things, even elements, having an essential “substance” distinct from the substance of other things. Explanation of the Real Presence in terms of transubstantiation then seems irrelevant if not meaningless. But that doesn’t stop us believing in the Real Presence.

  30. BRIAN HAMILL says:

    Ithink that at times we miss the distinction between doctrine and dogma. Doctrine is concerned with the reality of truth; dogma is concerned with the expression of that truth. We have as the supreme example the doctrine of the Trinity, three Persons in one Nature. The formulation of this doctrine in the Athanasian Creed gets one completely tied up in knots. But the dogmatic formulation is not identical with the doctrine. The dogma comes second to the doctrine. There is wonderful formulation of that doctrine in the poetic image, found, I believe, in the Fathers, that the Holy Spirit is the kiss between the Father and Son. That speaks more deeply to the heart than any mathematical formula.

    Perhaps a good question to ask in the present discussion on the Real Presence is why this doctrine is essential to our salvation. For me the reason lies in my experience of the Eucharist as an experience of Jesus, the Son of God. He left us in the Eucharist the absolute surety of his total presence to us, both individually and communally, to the extent that we can say that through the Eucharist the Church manifests herself as the fulfilment of the incarnation. Because of this there can be no further revelation. The same logic concerns the doctrine that Jesus was and is the Son of God. If he were not, then there could be another revelation, along the lines of Islam. So the reasoning starts with the denial of the doctrine and then we see what difference that makes to our faith-filled experience. I think I am correct in saying that Athanasius used the above style of argument to combat Arius. St Paul seems to be doing it in his contest with those who claim that there was no resurrection of the dead in I Cor. 15.

    A potter once told me that when he fed his wood-fired kiln at its greatest heat, the wood literally exploded on entering the fire. It seems to me that when our puny dogmatic formulae enter the blazing heat of God’s love, they explode since the reality of the doctrine cannot be contained in the formula of the dogma. Perhaps this is what St Thomas experienced firsthand. But I might add that the wood did contribute, albeit momentarily, to the heat of the flames… Does this teach us to persevere in our theological discussions?

  31. st.joseph says:

    I was taught that the Body and Blood of Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine remains in us around 15 minutes until the Host disolves.
    I believe that His Presence is everywhere in His Glorified Body in the Spirit and the Trinity. But when we eat and drink at the Eucharist it is His Flesh and Blood, the Sacrifice of the Altar ‘Really’ . I dont think Our Lord would have made that promise to us if it wasn’t true. He made it perfectly clear.
    Whether one believes it or not, It still Is.

  32. mike Horsnall says:

    To persevere or not…

    Yes is the answer-we must persevere simply because perseverance in anything creative tends to produce beauty. I think that God is not dependent on our doctrines-and I’m not sure that ‘salvation’ is dependent on them either when it come to the great final day. But certainly the more we ponder and debate then our minds become fixed on things above and our hearts more sensitive to things around-I’m sure God likes this!
    In a nut shell and with as little formal religious language as possible, could someone please tell me why they think a belief in the real Presence at eucharist is ‘neccesary’ for salvation?

  33. st.joseph says:

    Yes Mike, to quote from my Catholic Doctrine book .
    To make his first Communion, however a child need not have an extensive knowledge of Christian Doctrine; but he should at least be instructed in the chief mysteries of Faith,and to know that what he receives in Holy Communion is not common bread, but that under the appearance of bread Our Lord Himself comes to dwell in him.
    Hence if, in a particular case,a child comes to the use of reason earlier than at the age of seven years and is capable of understanding what he is receiving, the obligation arises at that earlier age.
    Necessity of receiving Holy Communion.
    The Sacramental reception of the Blessed Eucharist is ‘not’ a necessary means of salvation, and one can be saved without having received it. It was not instituted to confer first grace or to remit mortal sin; but, being a Sacrament of the living, it supposes a state of grace in the recipient; and a soul in the state of sanctifying grace is always pleasing to God.
    Yet, for adults it is necessary by Divine and ecclesiastical precept; ‘Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you (John vi 54)
    According to this precept, then, Catholics, as soon as they are capable of being instructed in this sacred mystery, are bound to receive oly Communion- (1) When they are in probable or approximate danger of death; and (2) by the command of the Church, at least once a year, and that at Easter or there abouts.

    I take from this that a person must believe Who it is they are receiving.
    My son was six when he made his first Holy Communion. When he came back to his seat he put his hands in his head and cried, I asked him what was the matter he said’ I have just eaten Jesus’
    We have to become like little children again!

    • st.joseph says:

      Apologies- missed out the H in Holy.
      By the way. I dont think ‘only’ the Church commands us to believe in transubstantiation- But God also! Otherwise He would not have called it His Flesh and Blood.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Thanks St Joseph,
        It is as I thought then. Eucharist not neccessary for salvation but neccessary for LIFE (spiritual life do you think or the fleshly kind?)…I think it is possible to command loyalty by the way – but not belief; Jesus used the ‘if’ word quite a lot as I remember.

  34. st.joseph says:

    When it comes down to it Mike, faith is a Gift from God-given freely. Something we can not demand from each other- Sanctifying Grace which is infused into our soul at Baptism. I think we have a duty as a member of the Church to search for the Truth, which of course we are all doing here, when we discuss matters of Faith.
    This is a useful blog, but not the only way to find the Truth.
    You say you think it is possible to command loyalty but not belief. Where do we start to believe and stop, where do we choose which Mystery to believe or not? We have to put our trust in the Lord.He ( the Holy Spirit of Truth) is the only one that can enlighten us, no matter who says what . But there is one thing for sure Jesus is not going to be ‘sent again’ just to convince us . He has left us Himself in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where He doesn’t suffer again. Perhaps we owe Him!! Not loyalty but love.
    You say Spiritual Life, we are born of the Spirit now since our Baptism. It is not a matter of our ‘fleshly’ things-we are united with our spirits to the Holy Spirit.
    St Paul speaks a lot about that. I am not speaking about ‘sins of the flesh’ here.
    God has given us the beauty of our bodies-to respect.A wonderful gift-you will know what I mean! We have the Sacraments to strenghten us. We have everything in the Church for our salvation!.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      No, belief is not to do with choice-we believe with our hearts and not with our lips. I cannot even make MYSELF believe that which I do not much less another. Neither can you believe for me and neither can your belief for me-no matter how strenuous, impassioned or pleading affect me. This is the mystery of faith and also a measure of the respect that God has accorded to us; this is probably the root of arguments about predestination.

      In the end it is our hearts that are moved to confess Christ. Many a woe in my experience is caused by false professions-where individuals have professed a faith they did not in fact believe and then fell away to the bemusement of friends family spouse etc. We do not choose God, God first chooses us and enables our belief-it is mysterious.
      I frankly do not understand when people in church -and there are a lot of them- respond unthinkingly along the lines of how we have to ‘believe it all or not at all’ etc. Quite clearly questioning individuals have genuine questions or they would not raise them! Similarly the injunction to ‘trust in the Lord’..what is it? what does it feel like? How do you know when you are doing it? What is this ‘trust’ you speak of..? It seems clear to me that we trust to the level we know and not beyond, trust therefore represents gradual growth in understanding, experience and love-it is not a switch.

      • I must respectfully disagree with the assertion that we believe with our heats, at least as a generalisation. My own faith is a purely intellectual working hypothesis as a guide to conduct pending the final revelation, and the heart is not involved. I shall not take offence if Mike Horsnall considers that to be no faith at all!

  35. st.joseph says:

    Mike I trust in the Lord that He will reveal everything to me necessary for my salvation. This is between the Lord and myself. Our Blessed Mother and the Communion of Saints, and the Holy Souls.
    To me He is a personal God, a real Person, someone I believe in.
    A relationship which is personal to me, having known Him all my life.
    He knows my inner soul, all scars and all torments and pain, what I have done and what I have failed to do.He has led me on the right path when I have come to a cross road. He has squeezed me through the narrow gate-when it has been difficult to go through on my own . And I trust in Him to be close to me all the days of my life, because as you say He has chosen us- we haven’t chosen Him. Without His help I could not have done it on my own.
    That is the best I can do! Off the cuff. And without presumption, I can’t wait to see Him tomorrow.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Peter Wilson, heads vs hearts

      No of course I wouldnt say its no faith at all and yes it probably is a generalisation to a degree…But tell me this Peter, how do you know your faith is purely intellectual working hypothesis? Did you work it out step by step and has it never in your life brought you the slightest sense of consolation? I’m very interested in this.

      • To Mike Horsnall.
        Thank you for your interest. No, I did not work out what passes for my faith; as a child in the early 1940s I was taught it essentially as a set of rules, and we are constantly made aware of the distress caused by their neglect. That in itself is enough reason for trying to follow them. Then a few years ago I benefitted from what appears to have been a tangible minor miracle and I take as supporting evidence. For this, and for many other instances of good fortune throughout my life, I am grateful, and gratitude implies being thankful to a person.

        However, I distrust emotion. Certainly I have known moments of consolation; I remember one in particular, when as a rookie National Serviceman in 1955 I visited the camp chapel, but that could have been simply the relief of finding something familiar in a strange and uncongenial situation. If I had followed the promptings of the heart, I might well have left the Church long ago.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      St Joseph,

      What you describe is a relationship-probably I would say similar things. But you haven’t answered the point; how did that relationship arise and how long did it take you to form it to the current high level of ‘experience based’ trust?
      Was there never a time when all that you have said to me in your post-sounded like gobbledy gook?

      • st.joseph says:

        My husband and I had a Licensed Trade and Guest House, for many years, and we met lots of people, who had lots of questions to ask,as we were known to be a catholic family,even though my husband had not converted then, but he was was involved in parish life.
        When people asked questions it makes you find the answers, and a lot of people were interested in the Church. It was in those days when people called the village pub., their local and didn’t go anywher else.It was like a family.
        Religion was always discussed, never argued.And all the customers joined in raising funds for the newly built church
        I remember one gentleman saying to me that he believed in God, but he didn’t believe in anything else! I thought at the time ‘how strange it was to believe in God ,such a wonderful admission, and not to follow it up,or think about it further.
        When you are placed in the firing line-you have to give some answers. So without being theologines, christians need to be able to talk to people, and give some answers.
        When my husband decided to become a catholic-he didn’t need much instruction, as he searched himself-but he did find some inspiration from St Padre Pio’s Cannonisations to become a catholic.But on his last meeting with the other converts, he came home feeling disturbed. He told me that they were told by a priest that the Immaculate Conception was the Birth of Jesus.
        He was worried about this as he knew diffirently, but couldn’t bring himself to say anything at the time.
        So at 10 pm I said to him- ‘Peter you must phone the priest’, because I new he felt he ought. So he did, and he was told ‘Yes you are right, but we can’t tell them the truth sometimes as it will put them off! My husband said, ‘I want the Truth from the shoulder, or else I dont want to become a catholic.
        He was a non-practising Methodist when we met ,I was 17 he 21. and knew nothing about catholics only the stories !! So we need to keep ourselves informed.
        When I was a teenager in London, none of my friends knew anything about religion, and they had never heard of the Pope!
        This was the fifties, at least he is known today.

  36. st.joseph says:

    To answer your question Mike, No! Are you judging me, or questioning me.
    I can’t tell you my whole life story in a few sentences! One should grow in understanding, I am a cradle catholic.- before Vat 2, with a very holy grandmother who taught me a lot, and I have had very good teachers in my time ,I have had 70 years experience, and there has never been a time that it sounded like gobbledy gook.
    I have never considerd the Lord to be gobbledy gook either!

  37. mike Horsnall says:

    ‘The promptings of the heart’

    Yes I must agree the promptings of the heart are not especially trustworthy most of the time. I suspect that we are to a degree here worrying about words- For myself the heart means that part of me which recognises-sometimes instantly but most often through long encounter and thought-that something is good or right. That part, whatever it is, will cling to what it perceives as truth quite tenaciously. Perhaps it is age but a person could sit and explain explain explain till they were blue in the face but unless there was that small inner voice of assent it would be meaningless.

    I strongly distrust emotion too-that doesnt mean I am opposed to emotionsbut they are turbulent. I use the Ignatian trick of ‘water off rock’ or’ water into a sponge’ to try and discern my own emotional responses. If the prompting feels harsh, shrill and sharp then I ignore it-but if it seems softer and somehow good then maybe I will give it a bit of room.

    St Joseph
    ‘Gobbeldy gook’
    Its not a matter of judging or anything like that. I’m always curious about peoples religious experience. Its not that ‘The Lord’ is’ foreign’ just that you are evidently steeped in the particular language of your faith to a degree that things which are commonplace and meaningful to you are not to me; I just wondered how you got there thats all.

    • st.joseph says:

      Thank you Mike for your reply.
      I remember reading a poem -very young about 9. ‘Upon a Hill called Calvery,’ It touched me so much. I wanted to find out more. So maybe that had something to do with it.Maybe my femenine side was touched.
      Then I used to read my grandmothers old Missel the Epistlles and Gospels, And I suppose I took to it at an early age.
      Maybe thats why N.F.P took up 30 years voluntary of my life. Taking all the
      ‘insults’ you couldn’t imagine, from catholics. Looking at the Cross of Jesus.
      ( I am not a fanatic) Just did it for the Lord and Our Blessed Mother.
      I am not a martyr, just thankful I was given the opportunity to do something worthwhile for them both.

  38. st.joseph says:

    The Most Blessed Virgin, when the course of Her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the Glory of Heaven, where She already shares in the Glory of Her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of His Body. CCC 974.
    It stands to reason that Jesus would be Real Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist.

  39. st.joseph says:

    I find (Luke 24; v. 36-43 ).interesting.

  40. Superview says:

    Peter Wilson mentions the puzzling circumstances at the occasion of the last supper – Jesus said that the bread and wine are his body and blood, yet he was wholly and completely present as a human being without any injury. So how could that which the Apostles partook of actually and really be his body and blood? Vincent argues for the Real Presence to be a metaphysical real presence, which I think has its own problems, although I guess that is the mental accommodation that I must be making. But if the Christian message is for all, I don’t see why we can’t approach its fundamentals without the language of philosophers and theologians.
    I’m not a great fan of transubstantiation, and was about to contribute along the lines of RMBlaber, although without anything like the erudition. But at least transubstantiation was an impressive intellectual attempt of its age to explain something that otherwise could make no sense. However, we now know that no matter how deep you go you will not find anything that differs from what you started with.
    Many years ago I joined a conversation among work colleagues who were discussing Catholics, prompted by something in the news at the time. The view on the eating and drinking of the flesh and blood of Jesus was that it was bizarre, and if it actually occurred wasn’t it cannabilism? They were, in fact, like the ‘many of his followers’ in St. John’s gospel who found the proposition intolerable. Isn’t this a perfectly reasonable view? How do we end up doing mental gymnastics of an Olympian standard to understand something that features in so few words in the Gospels? On the other hand, isn’t it also a real puzzle that John, the only gospel author who was present at the last supper, doesn’t mention the Eucharist?

    • mike Horsnall says:

      I think thats partly it though-the WHOLE gospel of Christ is completely and utterly unreasonable-those who only see the world in terms of their own ‘reason’ will naturally be outraged-and are outraged, we too are outraged if we are honest. But the outrage serves to lead us either into mystery and life or to reasonable debate which in the end amounts to death as far as spirit is concerned. As to what John said..no one surely would expect a clear exposition of eucharist from anyone living at the time would they?

      • st.joseph says:

        Mike so right, they only had a proper understanding at Pentecost, with the Gift of the Holy Spirit. And they recognised Him with the Breaking of Bread.Like us !!!!
        Then I suppose it all became clear to them.
        The same as the Church, it becomes clearer as time goes on.
        Like us! If we are open to the Holy Spirit.
        But nothing new.

      • Superview says:

        I’m afraid you’ve slipt into hyperbole in this instance. The whole gospel of Christ isn’t unreasonable, quite the opposite in fact. Reason the death of spirit? What does that make of our human faculties to live in the world? What is theology if not the exercise of reason?
        As to what John (didn’t say) said, I simply note that though he must have been a first hand witness of the institution of the Eucharist he doesn’t mention it, being more impressed with the washing of the feet. In contrast, the other gospels have received it second hand. St.Paul, of course, is the powerful early reporter, though not first hand (‘For this is what I received from the Lord’ is surely more likely to have been one of the Apostles?) and that seems to be where Luke, who accompanied Paul as we see in the Acts, draws his account from, as the words are the same. These are plain observations, but I confess part of my curiousity relates to the speed at which a priestly cast developed.

  41. st.joseph says:

    To answer your question Superview. Jesus is really Wholly Present God the second person of the Blessed Trinity.
    He worked miracles on His own.Which He did! The first Holy Mass was the Last Supper! The first High Priest!

  42. st.joseph says:

    Yes, Judas was replaced very quickly to make up the 12
    The vote was between 2. They were the 2 who witnessed the Resurrection.
    That seemed to be the criteria. Those who saw the Risen Lord. I think they were considered to be the Bishops. I dont think St Paul was a Bishop.
    Maybe someone can correct me on this-I am only going from memory.
    St Paul as we all know was chosen by Our Lord, when He revealed Himself to Him.

  43. mike Horsnall says:

    Slipped into hyperbole….Whops you caught me at it! Yes I do like that phrase slipped into hyperbole-must remember it! Yep you are right..I knew it when i used those capitals…have to retire from the fray as I ‘m in the middle of my exams…I’ll catch up with you later about faith and reason-tempted to ask now though about what you think ‘reason’ is?

  44. mike Horsnall says:

    But I don’t think theology is the exercise of reason alone-it is the attempt to understand the divine-different I think.

  45. mike Horsnall says:

    Mr S… “What is theology if not the exercise of reason?”.

    Right, theology is not the application of human reason alone-I think that would be called philosophy. Theology is something like the the application -or cooperation between human reason and divine revelation-without Christ we can do nothing, think nothing and be nothing as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned-hence the discussion between Jesus and Pilate. I think you will find there are several strands to theology and several strands of theology. There is if I remember rightly the idea that we can reason our way to God from the starting point of his creation. There is also the thought that we can know absolutely nothing about God apart from revelation. That is what scripture means when it talks of Christ as a stumbling block and why Jesus always emphased that it was him that did the choosing. Theology is not a product of human reason alone and if it is then it is dead…ok?

  46. mike Horsnall says:

    Just a codicil to the above..CCC 153-160 covers it well and is a good exposition of reason seen as faith seeking understanding. There is a Ry Cooder song -College Blues which puts it more succinctly:

    “You can go to your college
    You can go to your school
    But if you aint got Jesus
    You’re an educated fool
    And thats all-
    Honey babe thats all
    If you ain’t got Jesus
    You got nothing at all..”

    The catechism is kinder.

  47. st.joseph says:

    On that NOTE Mike, I am going to bed with a smile.Good on You, as my late husband being Yorkshire would say!

  48. mike Horsnall says:

    Still replying to Mr S on theology and reason…

    Enlightenment Rationalism and its critique:

    Enlightenment rationalism is the technical name for the belief that Reason: ‘enlightens,dispelling the fog and darkness of Christian faith, and ushering in the glorious light of human rationality….’ Christian Theology an introduction p216 (Alister E Mcgrath)

    Reason as a faculty is the basic human faculty of thinking and as such is theologically neutral. If however it is seen as the chief method of understanding God then it becomes rationalism-which is not theologically neutral. The chief and obvious flaw with such rationalism is that no one seems to have been able to decide what rationalism is/was and upon what principles it i/was predicated..in fact universal rationality-or a shared common voice based soley upon reason -does not exist, universal ‘rationality’ is apparently viewed today as ‘little more than a fiction’

    McGrath is a 1st year theology text for most undergraduate courses of that nature-he is worth a read. its an interesting line for this site.

  49. Superview says:

    Thank you Mike Horsnall for keeping your promise to come back to the subject of the use of reason in matters religious. Two weeks in France has delayed my response.

    When I first started blogging on Second Sight a couple of years ago, and occasionally since then, I explained that, as a cradle Catholic, and having recently retired – and yes, having been shocked ‘beyond belief’ by the extent of the child abuse scandal and its cover-up by and with papal authority – I was on a quest to see how far reason could take me when assessing the doctrines and dogmas of the Church to which I belonged. That is still what interests me – how far can reason take me, and what is left for faith to take. It is not at all a surprise to find that even attempting to think about things that I have been taught from childhood produces a strong reaction from some, for whom such conduct is tantamount to courting heresy. My approach, or reasoning, is along the lines of see, judge, act – a method I was trained to use a long time ago. When I find, for example, doctrinal or dogmatic or related subjects lacking in evidence or argument, I form an opinion and explain it and I am happy to be challenged. What I hope to get is a reasoned argument, which is not the same as pot-boiled Catholic platitudes beloved of some. The Church’s position on evolution and the Fall is a case in point. I gave an account of my reasoning on 5 May in the blog on ‘How is your moral analysis?’ and the position I reached seems to me to be reasonable: If the Church asserts a very important fact as historically true and it is contradicted by the best available science, how do we resolve the matter – by ignoring it? As far as I can see, it looks as though things can only get worse when the science of human genomics is generating a whole new field of information about the origin of human kind.
    Another case: When Pope Pius XII formally asserts that popes and the hierarchy (Pastors and Teachers are the exact terms he uses, but what he means is clear) are divinely endowed with supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, do we really have to believe this? Would this be all such, or just the good ones? Is reason to be denied a challenge to this because a Pope has spoken?
    Finally, and briefly, on reason and theology: try doing any kind of theology without using your reason. That is, without behaving rationally. Beyond that, you can choose which theory of rationalism you like to support your argument.

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