Monday, January 27, 2014

Drink Your Wine with a Merry Heart: What the Bible Says about Alcoholic Beverages

I haven't engaged in a debate in a while, so this has been fun. I am currently discussing with a Protestant friend of mine what the Bible says about drinking wine. He is of the opinion that it is forbidden. I believe, as the Catholic Church teaches, that drinking wine with temperance is permissible.

Now, other people chimed in on this (it happened on Facebook, after all), but I'm only interested in presenting my exchange with him. That said, I will be providing his words to other people that also happened to bear upon the points I raised. I think this is the best way to present his side as faithfully as possible without belaboring this post with so many different voices. His words are indented and italicized.
This is a fantastic article. I'm not judging anyone who drinks...but if you're a believer and you drink, at least read this article. It's one of the most balanced I've read on the subject because it's not coming from a spirit of judgement. The last line says it best..."the question really isn’t CAN A CHRISTIAN DRINK? Rather, it is: SHOULD A CHRISTIAN DRINK?"
[. . .]
There was a time in my life when I drank. I'm not condemning anyone certainly. But the bible says to flee even the 'appearance' of evil. So that's a pretty high standard.
[. . .]
the Greek text bears out that the wine that was drunk in those days was non-alcoholic essentially. Never mind the fact that Jesus, Who is the Word of God made flesh (John 1) would never do something that violated that word...that would be sin and Jesus lived a sinless life.
[. . .]
Not to mention the fact that there are probably 50+ scriptures that instruct us that [the different types of wine found in the Bible] are harmful and we should abstain. I've studied this out out of curiosity (English, Greek and Hebrew) and to me it's pretty clear.
[. . .]
I would rather err on the side of caution for my sake and the sake of others. But again, I'm not going to judge you if you decided differently. In the end, it' s a decision that's between you and God...but it's something that most definitely can affect someone's decision to accept Christ or not.

If I could add my own 2 cents, Jesus and the Apostles all took wine to drink at the Last Supper (cf. Mt 26:27,29). The Son of man came “eating and drinking” (Lk 7:33-34). As for the OT evidence, the prophet Nehemiah commands the people to drink wine (cf. Neh 8:10). The sacrifices that God required often included wine as a drink offering (cf. Exo 29:40; Lev 23:13; Num 15:5,10; 28:7,14). The Psalmist says that God gives man plants so that he may make from them "wine to gladden the heart of man" (Psa 104: 14-15). In Proverbs we receive this counsel: “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress” (Prov 31:9). Wine is even used as a symbol of new life and of the fulfillment of God’s promises to mankind (cf. Isa 25:6; Amos 9:14; Zech 10:7).

You seem to believe that because the same Greek word (oinos) is used that every instance is the same drink. I think this is a mistaken exegetical view. Greek and English (as you all know) often do not align perfectly...hence the various translations of the Bible into English. For example we say love to mean everything from, "I love cheeseburgers" to "I love my wife". Those are obviously different meanings for the same word. In Greek, we see agape, phileo, and eros, all meaning love in its different forms. A good modern day look at this is how in the south some call every soft drink Coke. While Pepsi, Mt. Dew, etc are options, some use the word Coke as a euphemism for every type of soft drink. If we can go from one word (love) in English, to 3 words in Greek, doesn't it stand to reason that the process could work the other way as well? Isn't it possible that the Greek word (oinos) could be applied more broadly while in modern English we might parse words for different levels of fermentation (from plain grape juice to 100 year old wine)? I think that's a logical way to approach this. We have to see that Jesus would never violate God's word (and I've listed several places where the scriptures are clear about abstaining from alcoholic, highly fermented wine). Also, often times, especially in the OT, we see wine associated with the wine presses. Wine is not wine in the alcoholic sense when it is straight out of the presses. It's simply juice.

So, would you say that it was customary to drink grape juice during the Passover Meal and not fermented wine? That seems very highly unlikely to me. Also, look at Lk 7:33-34 again:
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, 'He has a demon.' 34 The Son of man has come eating and drinking; and you say, 'Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'
It seems to me from this that the drink in question is the type that intoxicates a person, that has the potential to make him a drunkard.

Regarding the passages I provided from the OT, how does grape juice "gladden the heart of man" (Psa 104:14-15; Zech 10:7)? It is "strong drink" not grape juice that Prov 31:9 instructs us to give. The Mosaic Law allowed the people to purchase strong drink and even consume it "before the LORD your God and rejoice" (Deut 14:23-26). This seems strange if it was actually forbidden.

We must also remember that the whole reason why wine (as in, the fermented beverage) is a symbol of eschatological hope is because the merriment and festivity it provides is a foretaste (pun intended) of the joy that the Messiah will bring. Grape juice cannot carry the weight of this symbolic value.

One of the passages I provided in this regard was Isa 25:6 "On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined." According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, the "lees" is:
Solid matter that settles out of wine during the fermentation process. In ancient Palestine, wine was allowed to remain on the lees to increase its strength and flavor. Such wine "on the lees" was much preferred to the newly fermented product. At Isaiah 25:6, a banquet of wine on the well-refined lees symbolizes God's people enjoying the best God can offer.
Consequently, this is also why the absence of this kind of wine is used as a symbol of God's judgment (cf. Isa 24:7-9; Joel 1:5-13), because it will mean for sinners the end of merriment and festivity.

I also mentioned that wine was used as a drink offering. Num 28:7 specifically says that the drink offering should be "of strong drink" to the Lord.

I think you make valid points. I can't say it changes my mind though. I still feel the preponderance of scriptural evidence points to the abstaining from (or at the very least a strong, strong caution against) alcohol. When you consider just the common sense side of how many rapes, murders, DUI's, etc. have alcohol use/abuse as an underlying cause, you can see the case against it, even if you set the scriptures aside. Also, I think it can be a deterrent to people accepting the Gospel if they see a believer drinking (this is especially in the south where we're taught from a social standpoint that alcohol should be avoided). I believe there should be a difference between the world and the church. If we act like the world, there is no separation to warrant someone looking for a better way. We're to be in the world, but not of the world. In other words, we can't act like everyone else and expect someone to be drawn to Jesus. Just my two cents.

I understand what you're saying. But, I also think there is a way to drink that allows one to still be firmly in the world but not of the world. Between the two extremes of drinking too much and none at all is the third way, what I would call the real Catholic way to drink: with temperance. For a non-believer, this third way is much more appealing b/c it reveals that, in accepting Christ, one does not have to forsake everything that brings him joy. Like you said, the Christian is still IN the world, he is just not OF the world, and the good Catholic takes this seriously. He does not drink as the world drinks, which is to excess. By drinking with temperance he still shows that he is a man set apart, and I can tell you from my own experience drinking in this way that people genuinely respect it when I say, "No thank you, I think I've had quite enough." This third way of drinking is one of discipline, but it is also one of thanking God for His many gifts.

For more on the "third way", see this article written by Sean P. Dailey, "The Lost Art of Catholic Drinking".

That said, I am curious as to what the rebuttal would be to the various passages I provided, and quite perplexed that they are not sufficient enough to change your mind. The provision from the Mosaic Law in particular seems quite unavoidable (cf. Deut 14:23-26). Oh, and if I could add another:
"Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already approved what you do." (Eccl 9:7)
This whole Catholic-quoting-Scripture thing is quite bothersome, isn't it!

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It's been four days since my last comment, which on Facebook is, like, forever, so I imagine this is the end of it. But, if he does respond then I will update this post. For more on what the bible says about drinking wine, see the following articles:
Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service

The week of Jan 26 – Feb 1 is Catholic Schools Week. The theme for this year is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.” There is a passage from one of Paul’s letters that gives us some insight into these three qualities of our Catholic school communities:
1 Cor 12:4-13 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
In this reading, we discover that all three are special gifts that God gives to the Church, the “body” that is made up of many members (vs. 12). Furthermore, these gifts of faith, knowledge, and service are given to each of us not just for our own benefit, but so that we may use them to build each other up and strengthen the Church. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (vs. 7).

Catholic Schools Week reminds us that, when we are good stewards of the gifts that God has given us, then our schools become a place where this work of building up the Church can occur. What can you do to help the people you encounter each day to have faith in God, to grow in their knowledge of Him, and to live a life of service to God and neighbor? We must each ask ourselves this question as we celebrate Catholic Schools Week. The Holy Spirit will provide the answer.

Also notice that these varieties of gifts, and service, and working come from the Spirit (vs. 4), the Lord (vs. 5), and God the Father (vs. 6). Although our God is one God, there exists within Him a diversity of personhood. Since the Church comes from this one and diverse God, it likewise possesses unity (in being one body) and diversity (in the multitude of gifts that the members receive).

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Holy Innocents, the Necessity of Baptism, and the Nature of Martyrdom

Someone recently sent me a very interesting question regarding today's feast day, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs. It reads:

How should we understand the necessity of baptism in light of the Feast of the Holy Innocents, by which it is celebrated the entrance of many children into heaven without this sacrament?

At first, the answer seems simple: the Church considers these children to be martyrs and so their "baptism of blood" is what merited their entrance into heaven. "Morning Prayer" from the Liturgy of the Hours on Dec. 28 provides ample evidence of this:
  • Invitatory antiphon: "Come, let us worship the newborn Christ who crowns with joy these children who died for him."
  • antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah: "At the king's command these innocent babies and little children were put to death; they died for Christ, and now in the glory of heaven as they follow him, the sinless Lamb, they sing for ever: Glory to you, O Lord."
  • from the Intercessions: "You rewarded the child martyrs with the first share in your kingdom ... do not let us be cast out from the unending heavenly banquet"
  • from the concluding Prayer: "Father, the Holy Innocents offered you praise by the death they suffered for Christ. May our lives bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips."

Where this becomes more difficult is in determining how it is that these children could be considered "martyrs" seeing as they had no explicit faith in Christ, nor did they die because of this faith. Brian A. Graebe, in an article for Homiletic and Pastoral Review, provides helpful clarification: "The Innocents are true martyrs not because of any decision on their part, but rather because of the conscious choice made by Herod to deny the Kingship of Christ." In other words, they may not have had any real faith in Christ, nor the willingness to die for Him, but since they died because of Him, they are considered martyrs by the Church.

But, is this an appropriate definition of martyrdom? Can anyone without an explicit faith in Christ truly be considered a martyr?

To this question, perhaps an implicit "Yes" is given by the Catechism, in its references to various righteous men who came before Christ. The seven sons from 2 Macc 7 (no. 297, 992) and the prophets of the Old Testament (no. 558, 2642) are all referred to as "martyrs" or their death as a "martyrdom" in the Catechism. This tells me that an explicit faith in Christ is not always necessary in order for one to be considered a martyr.

The A to Z Guide to the Catholic Faith (an abridged version of The Catholic Encyclopedia, published by Robert C. Broderick, Ed. in 1987) provides a further caveat. In the "Martyr" entry, we read:
"The term has also been applied in the Church to those who died natural deaths, but whose lives were living testaments of the faith. In this latter sense, it is no longer recognized as a title; but it is in this sense, and because of her 'living' sufferings that the Blessed Mother can be called the 'Queen of Martyrs' as well as being their Queen in heaven." (p. 411)
This is often referred to as "white martyrdom." Such a martyrdom is not a formal category recognized by the Church, but is a designation that springs from popular piety, as the faithful have considered the ways in which particular saints have "died to self" and even endured great suffering in order to unite themselves more fully to Christ.

Of course, the Holy Innocents did not die natural deaths, nor did they have the intention of uniting themselves to Christ through suffering. But, it can be seen from these examples that such rigid definitions as "a person who chooses death rather than to forsake his faith in Christ" or "a person who dies because of his faith in Christ" is not always strictly necessary in order for one to be considered a martyr. And at any rate, to understand martyrdom more broadly as "anyone who dies because of Christ" is really the only way to make sense of the Church's clear affirmation that the Holy Innocents are martyrs.

Now, I realize that, for some, this solution is unsatisfying. If you are among the more scrupulous who may be troubled by the fact that the meaning of martyrdom has been seemingly redefined, Dr. Jeff Mirus has written a supremely helpful article just for you, entitled "Hope from the Holy Innocents". I highly encourage you, scrupulous or not, to read it. Mirus makes the case that the Holy Innocents should be a source of hope for us. They represent all those persons who lacked an explicit faith in Christ and yet, in ways known to God alone, were granted entrance into heavenly paradise.

For more on the Holy Innocents, see the following articles:

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pray Like a Widow: On Perseverence in Prayer

What is the connection between the First Reading (cf. Exo 17:8-13) and the Gospel reading (cf. Lk 18:1-8) for this Sunday? They don’t seem very related to me.

Oh, but they are! In the Mass, the First Reading and the Gospel reading will always share a common theme of some kind. It is not always readily apparent what that theme is, but it is there, and I think it is a worthwhile exercise to try and discover what the connection might be.

In the First Reading, we have an account of a battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites. When Moses held his hands in the air, God’s people prevailed. When he lowered his hands, the enemy prevailed.

In the Gospel reading, we have the parable of the widow and the dishonest judge. The widow persisted in her cries to the judge for vindication against her adversary until the judge finally relented and gave her justice.

I think both readings teach us something about being persistent in prayer, about praying continually.

Regarding the First Reading, raising ones hands in the air was a common posture of prayer in biblical times. Earlier in the Book of Exodus, Moses “stretched out his hands to the Lord” to entreat Him to end the 7th plague of thunder and hail (9:33). Solomon “spread forth his hands toward heaven” in his prayer of dedication of the Temple (1 Ki 8:22). Moses had to keep doing this — to keep praying — in order for God’s people to achieve victory. The moment he became weary in praying, the enemy began to win.

In the Gospel reading, Luke himself tells us that the parable is about “the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary” (Lk 18:1). Like the Israelites in the First Reading, the widow too has an adversary, and it was only through her continual petitions to the judge that she was granted justice.

The judge of course is a mere shadow of our great and merciful God. If a judge with no regard for God or man will vindicate a persevering widow, how much more will our Father in heaven come to the aid of his prayerful children? “The Lord is the judge … he will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged … the widow when she pours out her story” (Sirach 35:12-14).

To be unceasing in prayer is a common theme in scripture. This isn’t even Jesus’ only parable on the topic. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel we also have the story of the man who knocked on his friend’s door and did not stop until he received three loaves of bread (cf. 11:5-8). Paul is much more to the point: “Be constant in prayer” (Rom 12:12). “Pray constantly” (1 Thes 5:17).

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Catholic Q&A: Part 34

This post continues my series of short answers to common (and not so common) questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Before my conversion to Catholicism, I read that God said, "If you love me, keep my precepts." Do you know where in the Bible I can find this? Is "commandments" another word for "precepts"?

You are referring to Jn 14:15, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments". Now, "commandments" and "precepts" are two possible translations for the Gk (ἐντολή, entole), but in Jn 14:15, it's almost always "commandments" or "commands". In fact, there isn't a single English translation I'm aware of that uses "precepts" in this verse.

When did folding or joining your hands together become the norm during prayer?

Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI gives us this explanation in his book Spirit of the Liturgy:
A later development was the gesture of praying with hands joined. This comes from the world of feudalism. The recipient of a feudal estate, on taking tenure, placed his joined hands in those of his lord -- a wonderful symbolic act. I lay my hands in yours, allow yours to enclose mine. This is an expression of trust as well as fidelity.
[. . .]
What within feudalism may be questionable -- for all human lordship is questionable and can only be justified if it represents and is faithful to the real Lord -- finds its true meaning in the relationship of the believer to Christ the Lord. This, then, is what is meant when we join our hands to pray: we are placing our hands in his, and with our hands we place in his hands our personal destiny. Trusting in his fidelity, we pledge our fidelity to him. (pg. 204-205)

Theoretically could the church open the canon of the bible and add books if it wanted since she determined the canon in the first place?

No. The canon of the bible constitutes public revelation, which is closed. From the Catechism we read:
66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

Did the devil and Michael really fight for Moses's body or was it a metaphor for something else?

The dispute between Michael and the devil over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9) derives from a Jewish apocryphal work called The Assumption of Moses. Since it is difficult to determine what from an apocryphal work is truth and what is "pious legend", it's difficult to say if this really happened or not.

The historicity of the event is really beside the point. Jude referred to a work that his audience was familiar with in order to prick their conscience. The archangel's prudence in not even cursing the devil serves to highlight the arrogance of the people, who cursed the angels.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Catholic Q&A: Part 33

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Did Jesus eat His own Flesh and Blood at the Last Supper?

Since Scripture is not explicit on the matter, and the Church has not defined as doctrine whether Jesus consumed His own Body and Blood, Catholics are free to mull it over and come to their own conclusion. However, that being said, it appears to me from various indications in the Bible that Jesus did consume His own Body and Blood.

He desired to "keep" (cf. Mt 26:18) or "eat" (cf. Mt 26:17, 20; Mk 14:12-14, 17-18; Lk 22:7-11) the Passover meal with his apostles, and this would have included the bread and wine transformed into His Body and Blood. Also, note that St. Thomas Aquinas answered in the affirmative in the Summa (Third Part, Question 81, Article 1), and his arguments, as always, are quite convincing.

Let me step back and say that I can see how this would all seem rather odd at first. But, if you think about it, Jesus consuming Himself is no more abhorrent than us consuming Him. Augustine once said, "Jesus held Himself in His hands", and Jerome, "The Lord Jesus Christ, Himself the guest and banquet, is both the partaker and what is eaten." If Jesus participated fully in the Passover meal, and this included the institution of the Eucharist, then it appears to me to be a logical deduction that Jesus consumed His own Flesh and Blood in a sacramental manner.

I am Catholic, but no matter how much reading I do, I can never seem to end this cycle of doubt that I feel over the truth of the Catholic faith. What do you suggest?

The "endless cycle of doubt" was closed for me once I was convinced that the Catholic Church was the Church founded by Christ, and that He gave Her the authority to distinguish truth from error. Once you believe that, then everything else falls into place.

All you have to do to find the Church of Christ is look at what Christians believed in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th centuries and see which Church present today still holds to those beliefs. The Church's teachings cannot change. If they do, then the Church has contradicted Herself and She loses any claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Church with the unchanging faith is the one you want. That Church is the Catholic Church and no other.

Only the Catholic Church has maintained a continuity of faith with the Christians of every age. The Reformers broke away from this continuity. They changed the faith. They are revolutionaries. They contradicted what came before. This is obvious proof that Reformation teaching (and the denominations that sprang from this teaching) is not of the Spirit, for the Spirit does not contradict Himself. There are elements of grace and truth in these denominations, but they have not maintained the fullness of truth that is found in the Catholic Church.

Look at the early Church and you'll see how very Catholic it is. They talk about praying to the saints, the authority of the pope and the bishops, the Marian dogmas, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, statues and icons, going to Confession, mortal and venial sin -- everything that separates Catholics from Protestants.

Speaking of the Real Presence, do you believe that the Eucharist is truly Christ? If you do, how could you possibly leave that for something else? That is a gift and a grace that you can't find anywhere else. The Eucharist means unparalleled intimacy with the Savior of the world. Unparalleled. There is nothing like it. Personally, there is no way I could turn my back on that.

My friend told me that Pope Callistus was a "oneness" and not a Catholic and he based this on the statements made by Hippolytus. How can I answer him?

First of all, we have to keep in mind that Hippolytus is a hostile source for the allegations that Callistus was a modalist. The two are practically arch-enemies. When Callistus became the pope, Hippolytus was so outraged he made himself pope of his own church! In light of this, it is difficult to trust Hippolytus as a reliable source. At any rate, even if Callistus was a modalist, it appears he maintained the orthodox faith once becoming pope. He even excommunicated Sabellius, the intellectual leader of the modalists.

Random "oneness" theologians can be found throughout the history of the Church. It doesn't really prove anything. Modalism was always considered a heresy by the vast majority of Christians, and by every pope and ecumenical council that addressed it. Of course, since Protestants have no connection with this tradition of hammering out the Apostolic faith, it's no surprise that a denomination would spring up in the 20th century and begin spouting the heresies of old. There is nothing new under the sun.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Advice for the New College Freshman


I noticed today that, over at Canterbury Tales, Taylor Marshall has written a Final 500 Words to College Students. I recently wrote my own version of this letter, for someone who is not Catholic, so it has a slightly different approach. I think if I had been writing this for my own son, or for a fellow Catholic, I would have included advice of a more Catholic nature (for example, make sure you go to Mass and confession regularly, find a spiritual director, maintain your prayer life, don't compromise what you believe in, etc.). But, I'm shooting for a broader audience here.

Please feel free to share this with any new college students you know, and let me know if it was of any help to them.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

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Why Me?

It feels a little awkward for me to be writing this letter. I am hardly among the “wise and learned”. I myself often feel that I do not know as much as I should, or act as responsibly as I should. What sort of life experience could I possibly draw from so as to prepare you for this grand adventure? I have been to college, I’ll tell you that. Shoot, I’ve been to a lot of college. 8 years of college. I know what I learned along the way and what I wish I could have done differently. So, I guess that counts for something.

When I graduated from high school, I was a fearful person. I was afraid of taking risks, afraid of what others might think, afraid of failure, afraid of the unknown, afraid of stepping outside my comfort zone, afraid of being too far away from home. When my parents drove me to Lindsey Wilson College, helped me unpack my things, and finally left me, alone and friendless in a place that was radically new, I was tremendously, overwhelmingly afraid.

Fears, Shmears

Somewhere along the way, somehow, I made a decision: I'm tired of being afraid. I decided that If I ever had a thought in my mind that I didn’t have what it took to do something, I would make that my reason for doing it. To walk up to a beautiful girl and talk to her, to run for homecoming king, to start up a new club on campus, to write for the school paper, to talk about my faith with others, to fight a guy who wouldn’t leave me alone, to get my ear pierced, to dress how I wanted to dress: to others these were probably very small things, but to me they were big things and I was determined to do them. I had to know what I was capable of, and I found that I was capable of more than I thought.

Of course, even though I tried my best to act in defiance of my fears, there were still times when I allowed them to hold me back. For example, I never studied abroad. I could have spent a semester in Rome or Austria! I told myself that I could not financially afford it, and it would delay when I intended to graduate. But, deep down I think I was just afraid.

I never acted in a play. I never sang karaoke. Hell, to this day I’ve never sang karaoke. My wildest fantasy is to stand up on a stage and just belt out a Journey song like there’s no tomorrow. But, I never did and I’m not sure I ever will. I haven’t quite conquered that one yet.

God knows I let many interesting and beautiful people walk on by. What friendships might I have formed if only I had been courageous enough to put myself out there and see what came of it?

My point is that I still don’t think I exhausted the full measure of what my many years in college had to offer. I tell you, you simply cannot be afraid. The college life offers so many rare and amazing opportunities. It is a crime and the grossest form of negligence to not take advantage of as many of these as possible. Don’t be afraid to step out on a limb. Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and your pre-conceived notions of what you think you are cable of. “Set out into the deep” (Lk 5:4).

Draw the Line

I also think that college is the time to ask the difficult questions, and it is vitally important that you answer them. Why I am here? What does God want me to do with my life? What do I believe in? What is right and what is wrong? G. K. Chesteron once said, “Morality, as in art, consists in drawing the line somewhere.” Where is that line for you? You must find out where you stand on these questions. Your answers to them essentially become the foundation upon which you build a life for yourself. These answers become your bearings when the lofty heights of higher academia attempt to “toss you to and fro” and “carry you about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14).

Of course, if it were up to me, you would stand on “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20), but it’s not up to me, it’s up to you. And while you are not quite a clean slate, you have still much left to learn about these questions. Be sure that there will be a vast myriad of voices trying to answer those questions for you.

My advice is to “test all things and hold fast to what is good” (1 Thes 5:21). Now is the time to let everyone have their say. When I went to college for the first time, I was fortunate enough to at least know what I believed. I just didn’t know why I believed it. As I progressed through the college years, my faith was challenged. I had to ask myself if I still wanted to be Catholic, or if there was perhaps a better place for me. I knew that Jesus was God and in my mind there was no denying that. As such, atheism, agnosticism, and the various non-Christians religions (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.) were never all that appealing to me, either emotionally or intellectually. But, the Protestants seem to have good reasons for why I shouldn’t be Catholic! My college years were really the first time I was ever confronted by another way of believing.

In order to test my faith and expose its weaknesses, I basically set it up against all opposing voices. I purposefully entered into discussions about religion. I joined web forums where I knew there would be a lot of members who not only disagreed with Catholicism but who outright hated it. I read books and articles from the great apologists of every Christian tradition. I debated the leaders of the other Christian groups on campus. A lot of times I got completely owned, but to me that was a good thing because it exposed the areas where my knowledge was weak and it allowed me to become familiar with other ways of thinking and believing and living.

Now, I realize that for most 18-19 year olds, these questions are not very important. You may be more concerned with which classes you are going to take, which clubs you are going to join, which dorm you’re going to live in, the ratio of males to females on campus, etc. But I tell you, the difficult questions even bear upon these concerns. After all, how will you decide which classes to take or what your degree will be if you don’t know what God wants you to do with your life? How will you treat those females and form relationships with them if you don't know what is right and wrong?

For example, some will say that pre-marital sex is okay, as long as you use protection. Catholics believe that pre-marital sex is wrong and even using protection is wrong. What do you say? More importantly, why do you say it? And why do Catholics say what they say? These questions become much more crucial than you first thought when they determine whether or not you’re going to hop in bed with the first attractive person you see!

Moral of the story: Use this time of great learning and discovery to determine where you stand. Don’t be afraid to let opposing voices have their say. The world chews up and spits out anyone who is neither here nor there. You must know what you believe in.

All in the Family

Finally, I want to close by encouraging you to never take your family for granted. Earlier I said that my parents left me at Lindsey Wilson College alone and friendless, but that was not entirely true. My twin brother Matt was there, praise God, and I don’t know what I might have done without him.

My twin and I have always leaned on each other. My whole life I never even had a bedroom to myself until I started my first Master’s degree and Matt moved on to work in Louisville. We have also always been a lot alike. Our personalities are a lot alike. We have many of the same strengths and weaknesses. Since we were always together, we shared the same experiences that shaped us into the people we are today. As a result of all this, I can always be sure that there is at least one person in this world who understands me perfectly, who knows what I’m feeling and why I’m feeling it, who knows what it’s like to struggle with what I struggle with, because he struggles with it too.

My point is that you should maintain your relationships with your siblings and your parents. I realize that this can be difficult. You might be thinking, "They are the past, college is the future." You might not always get along with your parents. You probably fight a lot with a sibling or two. But think about it, your family knows you better than anyone else. They know what you've been through. They know why you are the person you are today. You will still have them long after you have graduated college.

As such, if you are in trouble, there should really be no one better to help you than an older sibling, or even a younger one ... and you should be there for your siblings too, even though you "moved off to college." A person ought to at least be able to depend on his family to be the voice in his corner, not the voice against him. If you begin to make this your philosophy for dealing with your family members, then those relationships will give you hope and security when everyone else proves fake, or cold, or unfaithful. This is what family should be all about.

One More Thing ...

I think that’s all I want to say. I hope it helps. Please, take care of yourself, and don't ever forget: You have what it takes.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Building Booths for God

In the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration (cf. Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10; Lk 9:28-36), we read that Peter wanted to make “booths” for Elijah, Moses, and Jesus when these three gloriously appeared at the top of the mountain. What are “booths” and why did Peter want to build them?

First, the booths: these are small huts made of tree branches, the same shelters the Israelites used during the 40-year journey through the wilderness after the Exodus. They also utilized these booths in their encampment around Mt. Sinai, while Moses received the Law from God. Orthodox Jews construct these booths today when they celebrate the “Feast of Booths,” a seven-day commemoration of God’s protection of His people while they journeyed those 40 years.

I consulted several Scripture commentaries and the perception seems to be that Peter wanted to construct booths for Elijah, Moses, and Jesus so that he could prolong the glorious event that he was witnessing. That is certainly understandable. The Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (©1953), however, gives us another reason: Peter may have assumed that Moses and Elijah had come to stay and to herald Jesus in his glory.

This makes sense. After all, according to vs. 11, they believed that Elijah would return to pave the way for the Messiah. They also believed, according to Deut 18:15, that God would raise up a prophet like Moses to lead His people, and they would “listen to him.” And now here they are, Elijah and Moses, conversing with Jesus before their very eyes! And what does the voice from the cloud say? “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” This may have made Peter realize that he was witnessing the fulfillment of what the Jews had been anticipating. Moses and Elijah have come to tell the entire world that Jesus is the Messiah, the prophet like Moses! In Peter’s mind, if Elijah and Moses have come to stay then they need shelter, so he desired to make them each a booth. Of course, in his excitement he has forgotten that glorified bodies have no need for shelter!

Ultimately, I think the booths (as well as the setting and the cloud and pretty much everything else in the scene) serve to connect the Transfiguration with God’s revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Both take place on the seventh day, both occur on a mountain, both Jesus and Moses take three companions with them, both of their faces shine with God’s glory, both involve the cloud of God’s presence, and both events involve God speaking through a heavenly voice. These parallels solidify Jesus as the “new Moses,” and the fulfillment of the Law that Moses received. Like Moses, Jesus stands as the mediator between God and His people. Like Moses, Jesus frees us from slavery and bondage. Like Moses, Jesus feeds us with bread from heaven. Praise be to God!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, July 26, 2013

Debate on the Office of New Testament Priest: Part Four


Russell responded to Parts 3a and 3b, so it's time for another installment in our debate. His comments have caused me to think very deeply about the Mass and the particulars of the profound and abiding mystery that is unfolding whenever the Mass is celebrated. I am very thankful for that, but I also fear that I am running out of ways to explain it. Once I begin having to repeat myself, that's a good indication that a debate has reached a stalemate, and I fear that's where this debate is headed. But do not despair! I think there is some good stuff here, and I hope you will stick with me as I continue to make the case for a ministerial priesthood within the New Covenant People of God.

If you are just now joining me, you should know that this debate has shifted it's focus onto the Sacrifice of the Mass. I am usually a stickler for staying on topic, but I have allowed this shift and even contributed to it because I think that what the priest does in the Mass is at the very core of his identity as a priest. If there is no actual sacrifice being offered in the Mass, then the whole notion of "ministerial priest" in the Church needs to be re-examined and potentially discarded altogether. However, if the Mass is sacrificial, then the ministerial priest is an important and even necessary component of the makeup of the Church and the spiritual lives of Christians.

Also see Parts One and Two. His words will be indented and italicized.

You said:

“There is a difference between multiple sacrifices of various animals and one sacrifice perpetually offered. The sacrifices of the Old Covenant ministerial priest were of the first kind. The sacrifice of the New Covenant ministerial priest is of the second kind. This is a crucial distinction that must not be forgotten in this debate. We don't have multiple offerings, we have one offering without end, and every time the Mass is celebrated this offering is made present and it's merits applied to us.”

First of all, you are ASSUMING that Jesus’ sacrifice is somehow “perpetually offered” to the Father. But the book of Hebrews NEVER says that, nor is it found anywhere else in Scripture.
I've given you my evidence. You responded to some of it, and this post will address that response. But, there are other arguments I've made for the perpetuity of Christ's offering that you haven't responded to yet. I will provide them again:
  • John said, "I saw a lamb standing as though it had been slain" (Rev 5:6; cf. 14:1). Jesus is depicted as a lamb 28 times in the Book of Revelation. Why would Jesus still appear in heaven as a Passover lamb if He did not continually offer His sacrifice to the Father for us?
  • God desires that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure offering be made (cf. Mal 1:11). How is this fulfilled but by the Eucharist?
  • In Lk 22:19 (cf. 1 Cor 11:24) poieo is in the present tense. The present tense usually denotes a continuous kind of action. It can also be used to describe something some one does habitually. Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament says that "This do" (τουτο ποιειτε) indicates repetition, as if Jesus said, "keep on doing this."
  • David said the todah (thanksgiving offering) was to be offered continually, and the Eucharist is the new todah meal. Psa 50:12-14 echoes the opinion of the Jewish midrash that when the Messiah comes, all offerings will be abolished except the thanksgiving todah offering. It will continue.
  • Jesus is "ministering now in the sanctuary" (Heb 8:2), He has entered the sanctuary of heaven "now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf" (Heb 9:24). The High Priest enters the sanctuary to offer sacrifice, and the author says that he is presently ministering in there.

What do you make of all this?

In fact, when Hebrews is read in context, it contradicts your “crucial distinction.” For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church claims that the Eucharist is “truly propitiatory” (CCC #1367), and that it is “the Sacrament of redemption” (CCC #1846). So (according to them) it is obviously a sacrifice / offering FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN. But Scripture tells us that there is NO MORE OFFERING FOR SIN (Hebrews 10:18). There is quite an obvious difference between “perpetually offered” and “no more offering.”
First of all, that the Mass is truly sacrificial and of spiritual benefit does not contradict the distinction that I made. My very next sentence explains why: "We don't have multiple offerings, we have one offering without end, and every time the Mass is celebrated this offering is made present and it's merits applied to us." Since the sacrifice made present in the Mass is the sacrifice of Christ, the Church is obviously going to believe that the Mass is a truly propitiatory sacrament of redemption.

Secondly, I don't think Heb 10:18 means what you think it means. Let's look at it again in context:
Heb 10:11-18 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ[a] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
In this passage, the author is continuing his series of proofs for the superiority of Christ's sacrifice over the sacrifices of the Old Covenant. In vs. 18, he is basically saying that the sin offerings of the Old Covenant have been replaced by Christ's single sacrifice for sins and the forgiveness it brings. This has no bearing upon the Mass because the Mass IS the single sacrifice offered for all time from vs. 12. You are taking vs. 18 out of context if you think it refers to anything other than the Old Covenant sacrificial system.

Whenever terms like “forever” or “continual” are used in the book of Hebrews, they are addressing other things, like Jesus’ throne (1:8), His priesthood (5:6, 6:20; 7:17, 21, 28), the priesthood of Melchizedek (7:3), the perfection of believers (10:14), and Jesus Himself (7:24; 13:8). But this book (which deals extensively with sacrifices and offerings) never refers to Christ’s offering, itself, as “continual,” “perpetual,” “forever,” etc. So this concept is simply (and wrongly) read into the text.
Once you realize that the purpose of entering the sanctuary is to make an offering for sin, then verses like Heb 8:2 and 9:24 (which I referenced above) are clear indications that Jesus' offering is continual, perpetual, forever. It's happening "now". It is in fact "for all time", as we read twice in the passage I provided.

In this special case concerning Jesus, His perpetual priesthood does NOT require a perpetual sacrifice, because His offering is a sufficient and FINISHED work. How do we know this? Because He is SEATED at the right hand of the Father. Notice that the Old Testament priests were STANDING to offer sacrifices (Hebrews 10:11). They continually stood because their offering was never finished. But Jesus, after He offered Himself as a Sacrifice, SAT DOWN at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3; 10:12). This signifies that His work of redemption was done; it was completed; it was the END of His sacrificing. There was no more sacrificing (offering for sin) to do after this (Hebrews 10:18). The debt was paid.
I think you have completely misunderstood what it means that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. It does not mean that His work of redemption was done. It means that He has assumed the position of power and glory. One of the passages you cited provides this meaning:
Heb 1:3-4 He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.
To sit at the right hand of the Father is to assume the position of superiority over angels (cf. Heb 1:14) and enemies (cf. Heb 10:12-13), the position "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named" (Eph 1:20-21). To sit at the right hand is to be exalted (cf. Acts 2:33; 5:31). Jesus is "the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power" (Mt 26:64), that is "the power of God" (Lk 22:69). Ultimately, by His sitting, Jesus has assumed the position of one who is equal with the Father.

Jesus' sitting at the right hand does not mark the end of His redemptive work. Instead, this sitting includes it:
Rom 8:34 who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?

Heb 8:1-3 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.

Psa 110:1,4 The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.” [. . .] 4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchiz′edek.”
Jesus doesn't even remain seated. Stephen "gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55). John saw "a lamb standing as though it had been slain" (Rev 5:6; cf. 14:1). These passages reveal that His priestly ministry (which, as we will see, includes the offering of Himself) is part and parcel with His sitting at the right hand of the Father.

The only “priestly” work He does now is to INTERCEDE for us to the Father (Hebrews 7:24-25). Nicholas, you quoted this yourself, but you seem to have missed what it was saying. It says, “He ever lives to make intercession for them” (the saints). This is His work now, not offering sacrifice. It doesn’t say, “He ever lives to continue offering Himself to the Father.”
But how does He intercede? It is by "ministering in the sanctuary" (Heb 8:2). Christ offers His body (cf. Heb 10:10) and His blood (cf. Heb 9:12-14) as an atonement sacrifice in the sanctuary of heaven (cf. 9:24). "Christ has entered ... into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf ... to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb 9:24-26). Did you get that? He is in heaven, now, offering the sacrifice of Himself! I don't see how it gets much clearer than that.

Calvary is payment for a debt. The payment of a debt is not “never-ending” if it has been paid in full. There is no need to keep paying (or keep “offering” payment) for it. Are you possibly saying that Jesus’ work on the cross did NOT fully pay the debt for our sins? Hopefully, you don’t believe this. Then for what reason would it need to be “re-offered” or “re-presented” to the Father? Do His words, “It is finished” mean nothing? The context of this “once for all” language in Hebrews points to an ending / a finish / a halting of the sacrifice / offering, NOT a continuation.
The Protestant understanding of "It is finished" is probably the greatest instance of eisegesis that I have ever encountered. That is not what Jesus meant when He said, "It is finished." His words have nothing to do with the full payment of a debt. You are reading that into the text. When He said this, He had yet to die, nor had He risen from the dead or ascended to the right hand. These are crucial aspects of Jesus' redemptive work! (cf. Rom 4:25; Eph 1:18-20; 1 Pet 3:21-22; etc.). This can only mean that His work of redemption was not in fact finished.

What then did He mean? Let's look at the context:
Jn 19:28-30 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said to fulfill the scripture, “I thirst.” 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished (τετέλεσται, tetelestai)”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Notice that Jesus said, "It is finished" after He drank the wine, and He drank the wine to fulfill the scripture. Thus, what is finished is the fulfillment in Christ of everything the prophets said about how the Messiah would come into the world and suffer for us. The following verses (31-37) go on to give other ways in which His life and His suffering fulfilled prophecy. Jesus' words exist within this context. In fact, the Gk word for "finished" (τελέω, teleo) could also be translated as "fulfilled". The best indication that this is what is meant is found in Luke, where we read:
Lk 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished (τελεσθήσεται, telesthesetai).
Or, as the NIV has it, "will be fulfilled". The Gk word here and the one for "finished" in Jn 19:31 share the same base word. Jesus went to Jerusalem to fulfill what was written of the Son of man by the prophets. And when He finally drank from the sponge on the hyssop branch, that was mission accomplished. The prophecies were fulfilled. That's what Jesus meant.

You can look back at Calvary and be (perpetually) thankful for it, or maybe (perpetually) remember it or (perpetually) commemorate it with a ritual… but the payment for our sins (or its offering to the Father) is not perpetual, since it is a finished work.
Russell, Jesus is securing an eternal redemption with His own blood in the Holy Place, in the heavenly sanctuary (cf. Heb 9:12), where he resides "for all time" (Heb 10:12, 14). It all seems very obvious to me that the Letter to the Hebrews affirms what I've been defending. I don't really know what else to say.

The book of Hebrews contrasts the old sacrifices with the new. To proclaim that Jesus’ offering is perpetual is like saying:

“The Old Testament priests were merely mortal and the Old Testament sacrifices were imperfect, so the sacrifices had to be offered continually. On the other hand, the New Testament Priest (Jesus Christ) is immortal and His Sacrifice is perfect, and it ALSO has to be offered continually.”

This seems to be what you are saying, but this wouldn’t make sense. What is the point of the CONTRAST in Hebrews 7:27 if they are BOTH continual? If it is indeed a “continual” sacrifice, then Jesus would have to be in a continual state of death!
The sacrifices of the Old Covenant are not continual in the same way that Jesus' sacrifice is continual. I already addressed this in Part 3b when I explained what "once for all" meant, but I'll give it another go. The sacrifices of the Old Covenant were continual in the sense that the high priest was always going into the sanctuary, sacrificing an animal, then going out. In and out, in and out, each time sacrificing a different animal.

Jesus' sacrifice is continual in the sense that, when He enters the sanctuary, He does not leave. He stays there and offers the single sacrifice of Himself, to the Father, forever. This is also why He does not in fact "have to be in a continual state of death." He entered the heavenly sanctuary through His death, and since He does not leave it, it is not necessary for Him to die again (cf. Heb 9:25-26).

Within the context of the Mass, Jesus' sacrifice is continual because the Mass is celebrated every day. From the rising of the sun to its setting and in every place a pure offering is made (cf. Mal 1:11). Every day Catholics all over the world come together to witness this perpetual offering and to receive the spiritual benefits of it.

Surely you can see how the "continual" nature of the two kinds of sacrifices is not the same.

Again, look at the contrasts:

The Old Testament priests (plural) with the New Testament High Priest (singular)… The Old Testament offerings with the New Testament’s “no more offering”… the Old Testament continual sacrifices with the one sacrifice of Jesus… (the only other sacrifices in Hebrews are “sacrifices of praise, doing good and sharing, etc. - 13:15-16). And Hebrews never even mentions a New Testament priesthood (except for Jesus’). For a book that deals extensively with priests, offerings and sacrifices, the epistle of Hebrews doesn’t seem to be very “Catholic-friendly.”
Allow me to take each one in turn:
  • The Old Testament priests (plural) with the new Testament High Priest (singular): As I understand it, the contrast in Hebrews is not between priests and the High Priest, but between OT high priest and NT high priest. At any rate, the contrast as you present it is only damning of the Catholic position if the letter precludes a ministerial priesthood ... but you haven't proven that yet.
  • The Old Testament offerings with the New Testament's "no more offering": You are misinterpreting Heb 10:18, as I've already shown. "No more offering" does not apply to the Mass.
  • The Old Testament continual sacrifices with the one sacrifice of Jesus: See above.
Also, it's not true that the only other sacrifices in Hebrews are sacrifices of praise. Heb 9:23 speaks of the "better sacrifices" of heaven. I said in Part 3a, "It seems to me that the use of the plural in the place of the singular would more readily indicate the Mass, in which, in a mysterious way, the sacrifice is plural and singular." If you don't mind, I would like to elaborate on this by providing an extended quotation of Robert Sungenis. In his book Not By Bread Alone: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, he has this to say about Heb 9:22-24 (note: Sungenis assumes that Paul is the author of the letter):
Notice several things in these verses. First, the blood of the Old Covenant sacrifices was required to make everything ceremonially clean (cf. Heb 9:13); and such shedding and sprinkling of blood on the people cleansed them and obtained forgiveness for their sins. Thus, Leviticus 5:9-10; 16:30 [. . .] We have learned previously that this forgiveness, though real, was temporary and incomplete. Like every other Old Covenant sacrifice, it depended on the ultimate sacrifice of Christ even for its temporary effectiveness. God could forgive them since He saw Christ through the Old Testament atonement blood.

There is a further connection: the specific manner Hebrews 9:23 is phrased makes the "shedding of blood" refer to both the Old and the New Covenant, thus making Christ's work in "heaven itself" a "shedding of blood." This requires us to conclude that, in some manner, Christ's shed blood appears in heaven, which would coincide with Hebrews 9:24's statement that He will "now appear for us in God's presence."

Since Hebrews 9:23-24 clearly teaches that some kind of blood sacrifice is occurring presently in heaven, and since such sacrifice would constitute the ongoing work of Christ's eternal priesthood, we are not surprised to see Hebrews 9:23's use of the plural word "sacrifices" in the phrase "with better sacrifices than these" in reference to Christ's present work. Since Hebrews 9:22 introduced "blood" into the text as that which forgives sins, then Hebrews 9:23 would simply mean: "but the heavenly things themselves with better blood sacrifices than these." St. Paul is comparing and contrasting the Old Covenant "blood sacrifices" with the New Covenant "blood sacrifices."

Hence, Scripture is clear that "sacrifices" are being continually presented to God in heaven. This is the essence of the Catholic Mass -- Christ sheds His blood on the altar, under the appearance of bread and wine, and is presented, along with us, His body, to the Father in heaven, to propitiate Him for our sins and to seek his effectual graces. (pgs. 81-85)
What is singular in eternity is plural in time because each Mass presents the sacrifice of Christ, and the Mass is celebrated daily.

Finally, the Letter to the Hebrews may not specifically mention a New Testament priesthood, but when you combine this letter with the Institution narratives you basically have the basis for our understanding of the interplay that exists between the work of the High Priest Jesus Christ and the work of the ministerial priest in the Mass. The Church has always turned to this letter to form her conception of the identity and mission of the priest. Since the priest acts in the person of Christ and makes Him present, much of what describes the Jesus in this letter also applies to the priest. Of course, the letter applies to Christ pre-eminently and to the priest only secondarily, or instrumentally. But it still applies.

Now, concerning the idea that Calvary is “made present” when a Catholic priest consecrates the bread and wine… not only is this concept utterly ridiculous, it is also blasphemous. No priest can cause a past event to move into the present. And to say, “Well, it is God Who does it, not the priest,” or “It is a mystery,” or “It is done ‘sacramentally’” is just begging the question. There is nothing scriptural about this concept. The event of Calvary is no more “made present” today than the event of the death angel killing the firstborn Egyptian children was “made present” when the Jews would celebrate the Passover. Communion and Passover are reminders pointing to past events. The only way that either one would be “made present” is MENTALLY. After all, the communion service is indeed a MEMORIAL, because Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19).
That Calvary would be re-presented sacramentally is not begging the question if Jesus Himself told us that this was how it would be made present. When Jesus told the crowd in Jn 6 that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, most of the crowd walked away because they could not understand how He could be commanding them to resort to cannibalism. If they would have stuck around, they would have learned from the Apostles how it was to be done, for Jesus showed them at the Last Supper: It would be under the appearance of bread and wine.

This Eucharist makes Calvary present by anticipating it. What happens in the Eucharist in an unbloody manner is what takes place on the Cross in a bloody manner: His Body is broken, His Blood is poured out, His Blood is separated from His Body. These are all the hallmarks of a sacrifice, and so it follows that whenever this Eucharist is celebrated, this sacrifice is re-presented.

It is interesting that you point out that the Mass is a memorial. As I mentioned in Part 3b, Gerhard Kittel (no slouch in the Greek department) saw this idea of re-presentation connoted in the anamnesis (or "memorial") that Jesus commanded the Apostles to offer:
anámnēsis means “remembrance” or “recollection.” In Heb. the sin offerings cannot remove sins but remind us of them (cf. Num. 5:15). In 1 Cor. 11:24 Christians are to enact the Lord’s Supper in a recollection of Jesus which has the form of active re-presentation as the action of Jesus and the disciples is repeated. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume (the "Little Kittel"), pg. 56)
Also, I realize that you are content to scoff at how the Jews understood the greatest feast day of their lives, but God Himself set up the Passover meal in such a way that it would actively re-present for every Jew what God did for their ancestors (cf. Exo 12:26-27a; 13:8, 14-15a; Deut 6:20-22). I grant that on the order of substance it was not the same meal, but it was still the closest thing to a sacrament that the Jews possessed. Through active participation in a profound ritual -- through eating the same foods, preparing them in the same way, and reciting the same words -- the Jews made the first Passover present to future generations.

God desired that they make it present in this way. There could really be no other way to make it present until Christ came, the one who is Himself a living sacrament. Within the context of a sacrificial meal of re-presentation, He made Himself substantially present and commanded the Apostles to continue to make Him present in the same manner. That is how the Mass is a re-presentation.

But, let's step back for a moment. I don't want to get into a debate on the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and I actually don't think it is necessary. By displaying the Body and Blood in a state of separation, the elements display a sacrificial character. This is true regardless of whether Christ is literally present in the sacrament or whether He is only symbolically present. Even if He is only symbolically present, then the Eucharist symbolizes a sacrifice. It is a symbolic sacrifice. Because elders have the duty of performing the sacraments, they have the duty of performing this sacrifice, again indicating the priestly character of their office (cf. Jimmy Akin, "The Office of New Testament Priest").

In Part 3b, you said:

“To summarize, in the "doing", the "remembrance", and the "giving thanks" we find crucial indications of the sacrificial and perpetual nature of the meal that Jesus Christ instituted at the Last Supper.”

Nicholas, it seems that you spent a lot of time and energy in the whole first half of Part 3b emphasizing the “sacrificial language” surrounding this issue. But I already addressed that. I acknowledged that Jesus is the High Priest Who offered the perfect sacrifice, so yes, there are sacrificial overtones. And I said that this is all pointing to Jesus’ work at Calvary, not to a ritual (the Eucharist). The symbolism is found in the ritual, but the substance is found at the cross. To say that they are one-and-the-same, is, I believe, more than anyone can prove. The phrase, “This is My body” in no way proves this idea. See the links below.
How you could just dismiss all the evidence I provided with a simple wave of your hand is really quite baffling to me. Jesus wasn't simply waxing poetic about His death on the Cross. All of that "sacrificial language" applies to the meal He was celebrating. His command was to do something: Take bread, give thanks, break it, and distribute it ("In the same way also the cup", cf. 1 Cor 11:23-25). It is what we celebrate out of obedience to Christ that bears with it all of this sacrificial meaning!

The Institutional Narratives make this clear. In Mt 26:28 and Mk 14:24, we read: "this is my blood of the Covenant which is poured out for many." The Gk word for "which is poured out" is ἐκχυννόμενον, ekchynnomenon. It is a participle in the present tense. The present participle denotes an action in progress or simultaneous with the action of the principal verb (in this case, "is"). These verses would be more literally translated as "which is being poured out", as we find in the Amplified Bible and Young's Literal Translation.

What this means is that Jesus was not talking about the future shedding of His bled on the Cross. Instead, He was saying that in the distribution of the wine you have the present shedding of His blood. In other words, the symbolism and the substance is found in the ritual.

In Lk 22:19-20 you find the same thing:
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 (διδόμενον, didemenon) for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out (ἐκχυννόμενον, ekchynnomenon) for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Both Gk words are present participles. Jesus body "is being given", the cup "is being poured" at the time Jesus is speaking these words at the Last Supper. This proves that it is the Eucharist itself that is sacrificial.

Claiming that the Eucharist is Calvary “re-presented” because of the sacrificial language is like saying that a wedding album and the wedding it portrays are “one-and-the-same”. There are pictures of people in the album who are dressed for a wedding, there is a wedding cake, there are gifts and celebration involved, there is a bride and a groom making vows, and there are bridesmaids and groomsmen, wedding rings and wedding certificates, etc., etc. So, obviously, this album must be the wedding event itself, right? Since all these things in the album contain “wedding language,” and there are so many “marriage connotations” and references to a wedding, surely this album and the actual wedding event would have to be one-and- the-same, wouldn’t it (according to your logic)?

No, you can use all the “marriage language” and “wedding overtones” you want, but this won’t make the wedding album change into the actual wedding event itself. The album simply points back in time to the one-time wedding event.

It is the same thing with Christian Communion, i.e., the partaking of the bread and wine. Communion is a ritual (an important and profound one) which points back to the cross, the event of Calvary. They are not one-and-the-same. Communion is a symbol of what happened there. Let’s not confuse the symbols with the substance.
I think what you're comparing here is apples and oranges because the Eucharist is a more profound symbol than a wedding album. I agree that the Eucharist points to Calvary. The Catechism affirms the immense sign value of the Eucharist, as you know. But, being a sacrament, the Eucharist points to something that is substantially present.

 A sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality, and the language of the Last Supper reveals that the Eucharist is drawing our minds and hearts to something that is truly present. "Offer this as my memorial sacrifice" ... "My broken body is being given" ... "My blood is being poured out" ... the fact that it is a todah meal within the context of the sacrificial Passover meal -- this is more than artificial flourishing meant to remind us of Calvary. It appears that the Gospel writers have gone to great lengths to show us that the meal itself is a sacrifice.

You offer Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24 as proof of the Eucharist as a sacrifice. Not to get bogged down here on that specific topic, I would simply refer you to two of my articles on the Eucharist here:
http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2009/10/eucharist-part-1.html
http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2009/11/eucharist-part-2.html
Since I have not made the majority of the claims you are responding to in those posts, I don't really feel the need to address them. I think they would also steer us even further off topic. You did have some points in Part 2 about the Eucharist being a sacrifice, but I have responded to those already.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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