“O you who do not have true belief regarding the feast you enjoy at the altar will be subject to a severe and painful judgement. Woe to the one who gave birth to you. If you really believe that you consume merely bread and wine, and if you do not renounce that belief, then woe betide your body, woe betide your soul. Do not let your thinking be led merely by what your blind senses perceive. What you consume is not just that but the faultless body of Christ.” –-Celtic Treatise on the Eucharist, c. 1090
The above quote from the oldest Irish manuscript that the Church has knowledge of the Eucharist, details some serious demands upon the human person. I would like to reflect upon this and then detail why the Catholic faith is the true faith of any self-identified Celt.
Of the now close to 33,000+ denominations in the world, there are only two that declare that the Bread and Wine is in reality the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, physical and present. These two are the Catholic and the Orthodox Church. Yet, only one of those goes so far to say that the very substance of the bread and wine changes to Christ eternal, just not the accident (aka the matter or what we see as bread and wine). The Orthodox Church does not stand for any action of transubstantiation, but it doesn’t deny it either. Rather, they state that it is a mystery and they really don’t know how it works, but they do believe that it truly is Jesus Christ and that transubstantiation is more than likely the best explanation. But what exactly is transubstantiation? Why does it matter?
Transubstantiation is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in article number 1376 where it states, “that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change 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 has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation”. (CCC 1376). Its first arrival on the Christian scene has been challenged by many, including Martin Luther who denied the substance change and is followed by the Lutheran Church in the conception of Consubstantiation, or no substance change. Yet, the teaching of transubstantiation was first hinted by St. John the Apostle in the early 100s, and furthered by St. Ignatius of Antioch, The Epistle of Clement, St. Justin Martyr and the Didache, or the teaching of the twelve, all within the first 200 years of Christianity. Furthermore, the Church faced the same heretical statements against transubstantiation by Berengarius, who was condemned as a heretic by the Church in the 800s.
Yet, why does this matter? Two words, eternal salvation. Jesus states in the John 6 that we who do not eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us (see John 6). He also states at the Last Supper that the bread and wine “is” the body and blood of Christ and commands his apostles to do the same thing. Now to deny transubstantiation tarnishes the picture of Jesus. For to say that it is not substantially, whole and entire, the actual body and blood of Christ, would mean to say that Jesus is a liar. He lied when he said that we had to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and he lied when he said that the bread and wine “is” his body and blood. Jesus as liar does not fit the picture of an all good God, so we can say that there is something wrong with the other sides argument. Furthermore, the Church has defended transubstantiation for over 2000 years, starting with the Apostle John. All this tells me that we must learn to listen to Mother Church, to be obedient and to recognize the reality of the mystery before us. Even if we cannot explain it in entirety, Jesus is substantially, whole and entire, present in the Eucharist consecrated by the episcopal action (the Priest or Bishop).
The belief in this reality leads us to that banquet which never ends. It is a feast that is continual and bestows blessing, but as the Irish Monks warn, woe to those who deny this fact, for they will more than likely eat and drink themselves to condemnation.
Prayer for the Day:
Almighty God, help us to overcome our blind senses so that we may see you perfectly in the divine institution of the Holy Eucharist. Help us to draw near to you and glorify you through your only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and your all good and holy Spirit, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever. Amen. Pray Bless Us, O Lord.