Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Debate with "Briguy" on the Real Presence: Part 1

The following is the first part of a short debate I engaged in with a poster from Phatmass who calls himself "Briguy." He attempted to discredit the Real Presence of the Eucharist, so, of course, I had to respond to him! His words will be in silver.

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Hi There, I think it is important to look closely at what Jesus said. Below are the three accounts from Matthew, Mark and Luke, though I don't think they are in that order. Below that is two verses from when Jesus was in the garden and being arrested.
It's confusing to provide verses without the citation. Here they are again, with the citation and in the order they appear, so we can all follow along easier. I have also added some extra context, which I will refer to later.

Mat 26:26-30
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body."
27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you;
28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Mark 14:22-26
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body."
23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.
24 And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
25 Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Luke 22:15-20
15 And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer;
16 for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."
17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves;
18 for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

You also provided these verses:

John 18:11 Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?"

Luke 22:42 "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."

Whenever you refer to one of these passages, I have inserted the citation in brackets in your comments, so we know which gospel you are analyzing.
The reason I believe Jesus was using symbolism is because of what is said and what he says after the words in question. All three of the accounts have the blood being a new testament. [Luke 22:20] even says new testament before the word blood. What is Jesus saying by the word testament? He is explaining that something is completely changing and that a new sacrifice is being offered and the old things, covenants, etc… are leaving and something new is beginning and it is because he will shed His own blood, no more need for the blood of animals, His blood will be shed and with it something new.
Brian, if Jesus says that what He is pouring out for them at the table is the "blood of the covenant" then this must mean that what He is giving to them is also that which will be shed in order to institute the new covenant for His people. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). How much more plain can you get?

I agree with you that the new covenant abolishes the old sacrifical system. But, this is actually all the more reason to believe that He is speaking literally. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the entire process. He is both the lamb that was slain and the high priest who offered it. What is important to note about the blood is that the Jews were instructed from the time of Noah to not consume the blood of an animal (Gen 9:4), for it was the "life force" of it (Lev 17:11). The animal took the place of man himself, who was due to die for breaking the covenant. So, saving the blood for the Lord meant giving one's life to Him, who is the Author of all Life. Conversely, drinking the blood was a turning away from God.

However, Jesus institutes a new covenant in His Blood, freeing the people from the old sacrificial system. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Where before, the consumption of the life of an animal was a turning away from God, now consumption of the blood of Christ is a turning towards Him. "So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you'" (John 6:53).

Also note that if Jesus is the Lamb, then He too must be eaten, for this was obligatory of the sacrifical lamb. This is seen in Exo 12:8,11 where the Israelites were told to eat the lamb so that the angel would pass over them. In Exo 29:33 "they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them". In Lev 7:15 the flesh of the sacrifice must be eaten. In 2 Chron 30:15-17 (cf. 2 Chron 35:1,6,11,13; Ezr 6:20-21) the lamb is eaten so as to achieve purification. Also, in Ezek 2:8-10 and 3:1-3 Ezekiel is commanded by God to eat the scroll--the Word of God--which was in his mouth "as honey for sweetness." All of these verses forshadow Jesus Christ, the lamb and the Word of God, who must be eaten. Of course, Jesus Christ himself affirms this when he says "For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:55).

So, we see that it is not just in dying on the cross that he abolishes the old sacrifical system, but also by giving us his very self for our nourishment in the place of the flesh and blood of old.
Now remember when he made these statements he had not yet shed is blood and His body was in tact, which in any other example in the world we would view this type of thing as symbolic. If I point to a picture of my son and say "this is my son", did I lie? It is my son, but it is really just a piece of photo paper. The bread and wine were a "picture" of the body and blood.
You are forgetting how people conceptualized "symbols" in biblical times. As Apotheoun pointed out in his post (here), "the symbol and the thing symbolized are mystically one and the same reality....[sacraments] render present the thing they signify." Jesus gave his very self to the apostles on that night.

Also, note that when the Jews celebrated the Passover, it wasn't just for them a time of remembering what happened so long ago. They believed that the Passover they celebrated was a mystical re-presentation of the first Passover of their ancestors. And so, by instituting the Eucharist on the feast of the Passover, we have the old meal and the new meal literally coming together in the person of Jesus. He has infused his very self into the celebration replacing the old flesh and blood with His own Flesh and Blood.
Read the verse that is after the blood verse in [Mat 26:28-29 and Mark 14:24-25]. Jesus calls the cup He is holding "the fruit of the vine". This is right after he calls it His blood, or the new testament in his blood. You see, Jesus was not trying to say something supernatural happened to the wine. It was wine before He spoke and it was wine after He spoke but it symbolized the greatest change in covenants ever.
Jesus isn't referring to the same cup here. Scott Hahn provides some helpful context to these words (from this article):
There are four cups that represent the structure of the Passover. The first cup is the blessing of the festival day, it's the kiddush cup. The second cup of wine occurs really at the beginning of the Passover liturgy itself, and that involves the singing of psalm 113. And then there's the third cup, the cup of blessing which involves the actual meal, the unleavened bread and so on. And then, before the fourth cup, you sing the great hil-el psalms: 114, 115, 116, 117 and 118. And having sung those psalms you proceed to the fourth cup which for all practical purposes is the climax of the Passover.
The meal ends with the singing of the psalms (cf. Mat 26:30; Mark 14:26), so we know that the cup they drank was the third cup. Since they drink no more after this, then the "fruit of the vine" of which he will not drink "until the kingdom of God comes" (Luke 22:18) is the fourth cup. Also, what's interesting is that in Luke, Jesus actually tells them about not drinking of the vine before they drink the third cup (cf. Luke 22:18-20). So, this must mean that the third cup was more than just fruit from the vine.
Now, look at [John 18:11 and Luke 22:42] where even the word "cup" is symbolic. The cup in both cases represents the sacrifice He must make and is willing to make. Jesus drinks of the cup for us. He had his disciples and us drink of the cup to remember His drinking of the cup (His death and shedding of blood and resurrection).
You are on the verge of coming to the proper conclusion. Afterall, you are right when you say that the cup in question here is His death on the cross. But, what you have failed to notice is that His death replaces the fourth cup that is the culmination of the Passover meal. So, this means that what starts at the Passover ends on the Cross. Calvary begins with the Eucharist. The Eucharist ends at Calvary. The bread and the wine that they shared is brought into intimate connection with His death on the cross. The Lamb that they eat is the Lamb that is slain. The Blood that they drink is the Blood that was shed. None of this makes sense unless the bread and the wine are his actual Body and Blood.
I heard a speaker say something that made a lot of sense. He was a science teacher actually, at a Christian boarding school, who attends our church when in the country. Anyway, he said that when we eat and drink anything, the substance goes into every part of us. It no longer can be seen as separate, it indwells us in every way. That is what we remember at communion, that when we trusted Christ and he forgave us our Sin, He indwelt us and not just a little but in every way. The line of distinction between Him and us goes away and He fully indwells us in every way.
This is beautiful, and it actually explains quite well what we believe Jesus is doing through the Eucharist. He is indwelling in us in every way. When we consume his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, He nourishes us both physically and spiritually, by being both "real food" (John 6:55) for our bodies, and "life" (John 6:53) for our souls. This is why Jesus says that "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (John 6:56). He fills us entirely with His very Body and Blood.

In the OT, after the sacrifice was made, eating the flesh of the animal was seen as sharing in communion with the Lord. They actually saw this as sharing a meal with the Lord. Now, in the Eucharist, we have the ultimate fulfillment of this. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mat 5:17). So we consume the Flesh, and even the Blood (the life force) and in so doing enter into a mystical, intimate, and singularly profound communion with the Lord.
Just as a side note, that is why God can see us as perfect and Holy, worthy of Heaven. Anyway, that was just a quick explanation from my head. I just read the verses and looked at the context around the verses. Please ask me any questions about this as I know it is not as clear as it could be. Thanks for reading.
Hopefully that adequately addresses all the points you raised. I will respond to your next post with a subsequent post of my own.

Pax Christi,

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Hi Adam, covenant is a fine word and it is fine if we use that word.

Infinite, You implied that the covenant or contract had to do with the actual act of remembering, but it doesn't. I think Adam made that clear in so many words.

The testament or covenant spoken of was that which Jesus was in the process of making when he said the words and completed when he shed his blood and rose again. It was the final covenant ever made between God and His elect (those whom would by faith Trust in Christ to forgive them). There is no sacrifice for Sin without the sheding of blood. Jesus was pointing out the need to remember what he was about to do because it was the most important event in history. By remembering, in communion, the "event" stays fresh in our minds. For example, some of my emotion in regards to 9/11 had faded but when I saw the coverage recently of everything that happened on 9/11, the emotion came back. It helped foscus my thoughts again on what the war on terror is all about. In the case of communion it reminds us of our debt to Christ and how we need to serve him by loving others as He commanded. Communion helps to forward the Gospel by keeping people excited about what Christ did on the cross.

Actually, Catholics agree with all this. We know full well what the Eucharist symbolizes and to what we turn our hearts and minds. Your task is not to prove that the Eucharist is symbolic (in the modern sense), it is to prove that it is not also real.
Adam, yes, they ate the flesh of the animals, but it was cooked, not raw. The more important point is that they did not drink the blood of the sacrificed animal, it was spread on the alter, not consumed. By your thinking the wine in the cup should be sprinkled on an alter, not consumed, if it really is actual blood.
The point is that they ate it. Whether it was cooked or not is tangential. As for the blood, I think I have already explained why we now drink the Blood. If you would like to read more about how the Blood of the Eucharist relates with the prohibition of drinking blood in the OT, I highly suggest this article. It will aid our discussion immensely if you will read it.

Pax Christi,

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