November 17, 2019

Where’s Jesus?: Thoughts On A Locally Available Christ

ist2_3530295_personal_jesus.jpgAnswering the question “Where can you get your Jesus?” is very important.

Many of the divisions among Christians are actually a commentary on the relationship of the person of Jesus to various means of “accessing” or “localizing” Jesus. In other words, the question “Where is Jesus?” is an extremely important question and the claim to have a certain answer to the question is a matter around which Christians legitimately unite or divide.

On several occasions, Jesus said “I will be with you.” For instance, in Matthew 28, Jesus says “..And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In Matthew 18, Jesus says “…For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” In John 15, in proximity to passages that speak of Jesus going away and sending the Holy Spirit as the “Helper,” Jesus tells his disciples repeatedly to “abide in him” in order that they bear real “fruit.” To abide or remain in Christ implies that Jesus is present. Jesus also spoke of himself as present in those to whom we minister, particularly the poor and the suffering.

How is Jesus, who left the world, present with us in it now? Is this presence of Christ connected to some “means” of accessing the reality of Christ, or is Jesus accessible to all Christians? Is the promise of Jesus to be “with” us tied to a church, or to the eucharist or a person? How localized, incarnated and mediated is Jesus in a particular local and physical reality?

Clearly, the claim of many Christians to have a localized presence and/or experience of Jesus Christ is a claim that cannot be completely ignored. Responding with a counter-set of “localization” claims is natural, but is Biblically pointless.

Think for a minute of the various forms in which Christians hear this claim.

“Our church is the true church. We are the actual body of Christ and we can prove it. Other gatherings of Christians are defective.”

“God shows us at our church every week. Our pastor is anointed with the Spirit and Jesus touches people through him.”

“The worship music at our church is so good. it’s almost like you can reach out and touch Jesus.”

“The essence of what it means to know Christ is contained in our confessions.”

“Come down the aisle and pray at the altar. Jesus is waiting for you.”

“When the Bible speaks, God speaks, and it’s the calling of our pastors to preach the Word of God.”

“In the Eucharist, Jesus is really and truly present.”

“Jesus is available to all persons who believe. To those who have received him as Lord and God, by faith, he is completely and genuinely present at every moment and in all of life. We live “Coram Deo.”

“I reached rock bottom in my drug use, and there was Jesus waiting for me.”

“Jesus spoke to me as I was driving, and he told me that he was very fond of me.”

“When I am serving the meal at the homeless shelter, I know I am feeding Jesus, who meets me in the poor.”

“I believe that Jesus is here tonight, inviting you to walk forward and accept him as your personal savior.”

“When Ben prayed for Grandmother, it was like Jesus was in the hospital room with us.”

“I had a dream and Jesus spoke to me. He told me that I should be a missionary.”

“If you are loving others, Jesus is with you.”

“When I am with Mark, I feel like I’m with Jesus.”

“Are you having a daily quiet time? Jesus is waiting to meet you every morning in that time you spend in the Word and prayer.”

All of us have heard and many of us have used these kinds of expressions that Jesus was present and available. These statements represent different approaches to Christian experience and different theological traditions, some of which reject major aspects of the claims of other traditions.

While I am not going to attempt a comprehensive demonstration in this post, I believe it is safe to say that each of these claims depends upon some use of scripture. Unless a person has subjected themselves to an extremely narrow and critical church tradition, many of these statements will have some resonance within their own experience. (Some, of course, will be antithetical to how scripture is understood, but that does not mean we cannot see how others are using scripture.)

These certainties of the presence of Jesus exist along side equally clear Biblical statements that Jesus is not here. For example, the Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father is a major aspect of the Biblical story. According to the New Testament, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He has sent the Holy Spirit to be his Paraclete. He ever lives, making intercession for us. His physical body is ascended and his physical body will return at the parousia. All of this is documented in any survey of the New Testament and no one makes any serious claims that these statements are not true.

Making all of this more difficult is the Trinitarian understanding of God, particularly the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s relation to Jesus is such that the presence of the Spirit is the power of Jesus, brings the authority of Jesus, glorifies Jesus in worship and creates a unity between Jesus and his people.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus tells the church at Laodecia that he stands at the door and knocks. He promises to come- personally- into present fellowship with those who open the door (Revelation 3:20) Yet John sees Jesus not only in the midst of his churches, but on the throne, the ruling, reigning and returning Lamb. Eventually, Jesus breaks into history as the rider on the white horse and the judge of all the earth.

One would be foolish, I believe, to attempt some interpretation that tries to exclusively “locate” Jesus on such a “map.” Any fair reading of the New Testament will conclude that Jesus Christ fills his universe in a way that does not correspond entirely to our localized concepts of “presence.” This makes it necessary to use certain texts whose implications can be overlooked when any particular “localization” of Jesus is emphasized.

For example…

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Perhaps Paul’s quotation of Epimenides is the best short summation of this truth: “In him we live and move and have our being.” Or John’s beautiful words in John 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

I do not believe the New Testament ever presents our access to Jesus Christ as a matter of localized access only. No building, experience, person, ritual or place is ever presented in such a way as to be seen in tension with the proclaimed presence of Jesus in all the other ways and places scripture presents him. This is a basic, but extremely helpful, truth for Christians who want to honor and worship Jesus in the fullness of the Biblical revelation and to relate to other Christians as those who experience and know the same Jesus.

For example, the presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper is a matter of division among Christians, but the presence of Jesus in the supper — no matter how we conceive of it — is not in tension with the ascension and reign of Jesus at God’s right hand. Jesus’ presence in prayer or in worship is never in tension with Jesus presence in the authority of Scripture. Jesus’ intercession on our behalf is never in tension with his presence holding all things together in his universe.

This also does not “zero out” the presence of Jesus associated with sacraments or particular experiences. The light coming through a particular window does not exhaust the manifestations of light, and it does not give the appreciator or light in windows any foundation for criticizing the astronomer or the painter. We ought to reject the “either/or” mentality and embrace the great affirmations of Christ’s presence with all of his people.

How many of us would confess that when we are among some Christians who affirm the presence of Jesus in ways we do not, we are uncomfortable? We have localized Jesus, and we are denying the great truths of the New Testament that Jesus is with us in many different ways. Without denigrating those ways of affirming his presence that Jesus himself instituted, we also should be clear that we have no right to say that Jesus does not manifest himself today in the many diverse ways we find in the language of the New Testament. Even with substantial differences in reading scripture, there is no way to deny the universal presence of Jesus in his church and in the universe that he rules over.

Presenting Christianity as a system of localized appearances of Jesus distorts many things that we want to continually affirm: Jesus as the one mediator, Jesus as the ascended Lord of the universe, Christ who is in the midst of his church and present with all of his people. Maintaining the Biblical balance between “Jesus on the table,” “Jesus in my experience” and “Jesus at the right hand of the Father” is a crucial task for worship leaders, pastors and teachers.

Comments

  1. There’s also the bit about Jesus “living in my heart,” which you discussed last month.

    This connects to the seemingly-contradictory ideas of God filling the universe with His omnipresence, yet at the same time individuals have had encounters with God’s personal presence, or “the face of God.” (Or the rear of God, as in Exodus 33:18-23.) How is God in every place, yet at the same time can apparently concentrate Himself in one place? Apparently God’s not as spacially limited as we are. And Jesus is God.

    Jesus is in a physical body, but ascending to the Father appears to have removed any limitation that being in a physical body might have. I have no trouble affirming that Jesus is as omnipresent as He was before the Incarnation. Thus Jesus is mediator and at the right hand of the Father; yet He appeared to Paul and Ananias after His ascension (Acts 9) and He appears to folks today. Both are true, despite how hard it is to wrap our minds around the idea.

    I don’t think our affirmations are lessened by it. I think it just goes to show how mighty Jesus is to save.

    (And personally, I’m not uncomfortable when someone affirms Jesus’s presence where I usually don’t. I certainly doubt that Jesus appears in tortillas, but so long as God is glorified and it gets people to turn to Him, I can’t see why He wouldn’t.)

  2. Dolan McKnight says

    I wonder how those who testify to the readily accessible presence of Christ deal with the doubts expressed by Mother Teresa? Early in her ministry she lived in agony over the absence of Christ’s presence.

    “Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone … Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.

    So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?” — addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated.

    Yet, while later she only briefly experience Christ’s presence, she continued His work and found His absence to be a blessing.

    “I can’t express in words — the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me — for the first time in … years — I have come to love the darkness — for I believe now that it is part of a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness & pain on earth. You have taught me to accept it [as] a ‘spiritual side of your work’ as you wrote — Today really I felt a deep joy — that Jesus can’t go anymore through the agony — but that He wants to go through it in me.” — to Neuner, her confessor, Circa 1961.

    I would doubt that any of those who claim that they feel the presence of Jesus readily and often have come anywhere close to carrying out His will than Mother Teresa. Feelings should not be in any way the barometer of closeness to Christ.

  3. I think Dolan makes a good point. The more I read of the lives of the saints the more I realize that they’re encounters with Christ especially their raptures into Trinitarian Communion make me wonder just what they mean by “experiencing Christ” because I think its safe to say most of us don’t mean that. Now to be sure I am in no place to judge one’s heart, but when we look at the lives lived by the people in question it becomes fairly clear that there is something much more profound in the Saints’ experience than the experience of most of us in the above situations.

  4. With respect to traditions that hold to the view that Christ is bodily present in the Eucharist: Would you please name a single theologian or name a single important church document that says that Christ is ONLY present in the Eucharist and is not present by any other means and in no other way (e.g., that by being present in the Eucharist he’s not at Father’s right hand, etc). I’ve heard you say this sort of thing before and my hunch is it’s just a straw-man. But if someone actually holds such an absurd view, I’d sure like to know it.

  5. I’m sure there is no such theologian. I never said or implied there was such a theologian. I said that, in my opinion, emphasizing the “local” over the “universal” is an error. Thanks for pointing that out.

  6. Brad: Would you deny my opening sentence?

    “Many of the divisions among Christians are actually a commentary on the relationship of the person of Jesus to various means of “accessing” or “localizing” Jesus.”

  7. I think it should be pointed out that when talking about the Eucharist we are talking about a distinctively different means of “accessing” Christ. Receiving Christ in the Eucharist is quite a different thing than “feeling” Christ’s presence during prayer or other “spiritual communions”.

    Holy Communion is a physical union with the God of the Universe. In this way it is different than other ways mentioned…is it the only way to encounter Christ? No. Is it a more full and awesome encounter than other wise? I don’t see why not. After all we’re talking about becoming One with God…thats pretty incredible.

    So it seems that there is a special emphasis placed on the union through the Eucharist one won’t encounter anywhere else this side of Heaven. Yet even still it is good to recognize Christ may be encountered in pretty much every other aspect of creation as well…although less fully.

    However it should also be pointed out as with any communion two must be present. With regards to the Eucharist Christ is always there, but we too must be present and engaged in the mystery before us; it isn’t enough to simply come to the altar; one must come to receive God and then give himself back with gratitude!

  8. >Holy Communion is a physical union with the God of the Universe.

    Significant sentence for this discussion. I appreciate your forthrightness, because that is a “localizing” claim that, if true, certainly would rearrange my entire understanding of the Gospel.

    Are you saying that we actually aren’t in a state of salvation/forgiveness until we physically eat the body of Jesus? Or is faith in the person and work of Jesus effectual without physically eating the body of Jesus?

    For example, where would you locate physically eating Jesus in the following text: Hebrews 10: 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

    Is it your understanding that “drawing near….with full assurance of faith” is the invitation to physically eat the flesh and blood of Jesus?

  9. Thanks for this thoughtful post. I agree with the opening sentence and also that the local presence of Jesus tends to carry far too much weight and the universal too little.

    A couple of questions: Do you think that Matt. 18:20 says that whenever two or three are gathered together Jesus is there? Would he not be present if one was not with two or three others? I wonder if the passage is making such a ‘general’ local out of a much more ‘specific’ one in the context? How about this? Jesus is not saying he’s always present when two or three are gathered together, as if two or three gathering was a magic formula, but he is there in the specific context of coming back together after one has sinned against another.

    Any thoughts? Many of the students I work with don’t have trouble with Jesus knocking on the door in Rev. 3:20, which is an excellent example of your point about local And universal presence, but they do have trouble with knowing where they can find the handle to open the door.

  10. For me, this is a puzzling question: “Where’s Jesus?” Well, John 14:20 tells you; ‘ … you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.’ Pardon my answer – but it is the best I can offer as I don’t think I fully understand the thrust of the question.

    The next area of confusion, which results in more than a little distress, is this type of question (re comment 2): “I wonder how those who testify to the readily accessible presence of Christ deal with the doubts expressed by Mother Teresa?”
    I answer: with compassion, love and empathy for a person on the same journey. Cognizant of Michael’s aversion to weird Christians, I will only say that I’ve had a ‘road to Damascus’ conversion experience, and my belief in Christ is knowledge based – a small shadow, perhaps; of what Paul experienced. Yet, I do have many nights of terror that come about from praying to my God who I know is listening but who chooses, at that point in time, not to answer my pleas.
    “I would doubt that any of those who claim that they feel the presence of Jesus readily and often have come anywhere close to carrying out His will than Mother Teresa. Feelings should not be in any way the barometer of closeness to Christ.”
    My answer is: I do of course agree with this statement – I am eternally grateful and overjoyed if I’m the last to enter God’s kingdom and the last to sit down, and Mother Teresa is seated next to Jesus if that’s God’s will. Yet, the word ‘feelings’ causes me much distress; my eternal life and the worth of God’s love for me is my death, and life – the feeling and expression of love I have for Jesus, is all that I have to offer, other than that – I enter His kingdom with empty hands.
    Yet, even given how far I am, from those like Mother Teresa, on this journey of life – I do experience the presence of our living Jesus – for which I will praise God. I feel so close to Jesus that it’s like He is in me! Sorry if that sounds weird to many. 🙂

    Shayne (blog: tofollowjesus.org)

  11. You can’t make Jesus into too much of a man. This is why Luther once quipped, “I want no God but the hairy one.”

    Jesus, the man, says “I will be with you always.” Jesus, the man, keeps the promise. It’s interesting that in John 20, Jesus says to Mary, “Do not cling to me now, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.”

    The implication is that Mary will get to cling to Him after the ascension. And indeed she will! She, with the rest of the church, will get to cling to Him in the way He has promised to come to her. In the proclamation of the Word and in His body and blood.

    If the God-man makes a promise, He’ll keep it. And both God and Man will do it.

    And another simple thought: The Lord’s Word does what it says.

    These thoughts are rather basic in my theology. 😉

    Ecce homo! Behold the Man! He is your Savior, after all.

    (BTW, Michael. Before Josh told me about his interviews here, I didn’t know about your blog. I like it. Though you’re not on the same page with me, you’re honest, and that’s a bit hard to find these days.)

  12. Michael,

    I would need to understand better what you mean by “a state of salvation/forgiveness”. It is not my intention to suggest that those who do not receive Holy Communion are not capable of receiving salvation and forgiveness through Christ. I certainly would proclaim this is possible. I also don’t mean to suggest that Christ’s True Presence in the Eucharist means he is not present anywhere else, but only not as fully. For no where else on earth may we be in his physical presence. Thus I don’t see it as a “localizing” claim in the broad sense because Christ is spiritually present probably everywhere, but He only gave us one way to encounter Him physically this side of Heaven and that is at Holy Mass and Holy Communion.

    Regarding Salvation I would highlight the fact that Eucharistic communion is in and of itself an experience of Salvation–a very real foretaste of Heaven. At that moment those in Heaven and on earth are made One with Christ and thus with each other. It is very mystical.

    As for the Hebrews passage: I am no scripture scholar and I find I lack substantially in that field, but sure, I think “drawing near….with full assurance of faith” can be an invitation to a Eucharistic communion and is certainly a prerequisite for it…but does it have to be? No. We should draw near to Christ in this manner whether it be prayer, praise, or Mass.

    As I said, I think your post is right on to point out that one may encounter Christ in a number of ways and we should certainly be mindful of that. I don’t mean to simply “localize” that general encounter to the Eucharist, but Christ did command us to eat his Flesh and drink his Blood, and he did this for good reason. We need it! It is the one flesh union of Christ and his Church–bridegroom and bride. It is a very significant encounter that ought to be contemplated greatly.

  13. Bob Sacamento says

    This comment might not be helpful and it will probably cheese somebody off, but I’m a lonely guy in need of attention so I’ll just go ahead and say it:

    Presenting Christianity as a system of localized appearances of Jesus distorts many things that we want to continually affirm: Jesus as the one mediator, Jesus as the ascended Lord of the universe, Christ who is in the midst of his church and present with all of his people.

    This post reminds me of the old Buddhist saying: “If you see the Buddha, kill him!” Meaning that the Buddha can’t be “localized”, as this post puts it. So if you see something “local” that looks for all the world like the Buddha, it 1) can’t be him and 2) is dangerous because it is compelling enough to convince the ignorant that it is him.

    This is also true to some degree in regards to relationship to Jesus and to God. I like theology; I believe in absolute truth. But I have come to realize that Jesus is simply Jesus, and we have to grow to know him as such, and not as a set of theological propositions or ethical guidelines. (Not that I claim to have accomplished this, mind you.) He is not reducible to any formula we have, nor to any mission we might be on. Not even a Biblical formula. A formula might be Biblical, but, being a formula, it just can’t capture the entire Biblical message. All of which you’ve already said, Michael. But, anyway, thanks for the post.

  14. Memphis Aggie says

    On Dolan’s question: I think Mother Theresa was suffering from the lack of an overt perception of Christs presence. This happens to many Saints, who after being blessed with visions or other strong signs, must, for reasons only Christ knows, undergo a period where they experience only the mundane.

    As for the Eucharist, how is John 6: 53 explained by Christians who do not believe in the Real Presence?

  15. Dolan McKnight says

    Shayne, I think it is wonderful that you “feel so close to Jesus that it’s like He is in me!” Unfortunately, there are many of us Christians who, like Mother Teresa, know intellectually that this is the case, but do not often have an encounter with Him. It is not that I have not experienced on occasion the presence of Christ in an emotional, or if you will, spiritual way – in the beauty of nature on a mountain top, in the deep night at church camp praying with my friends, in listening to Rutter’s Requiem soon after 9/11 – but these are rare, albeit memorable occasions.

    What I do experience often from Christ is His word speaking to me from the pages of the Bible, knowing I am doing His will when I teach a Sunday School lesson (teaching them to observe all things), the joy of giving to Him my meager tithes and offerings, praising Him in song and liturgy, and accomplishing worthwhile tasks in my profession.

    Perhaps I would experience Him more often if I were more diligent in aiding the poor directly as Mother Teresa did (at the Judgement He says He will call those who did so blessed)or more disciplined in my prayer life or more forthright in my confessions.

    But I am not dependent on these feelings of closeness for my assurance either of my ultimate salvation or of what He would have me do. I trust in the promises of the Bible and find through its guidance plenty of tasks He would have me to accomplish. That is sufficient for me.

  16. Joseph, thanks for your gracious response.

    I have to say that phrases like “…but only not as fully” sound meaningful, but in regard to Jesus, I just don’t see how they are meaningful. How can I quantify Jesus in the way he is available to believers who are promised the fullness of God in him?

    I find that my brothers and sisters who claim a “real presence” eventually have to resort to some kind of discussion of the physical material of Jesus and literally claim that to eat Jesus is better than to believe in Jesus.

    As I said, this is quite a deal breaker for me. The claim of a localized availability of Jesus is, in my view, an extraordinary claim.

    Peace

  17. Ferde Rombola says

    “I would doubt that any of those who claim that they feel the presence of Jesus readily and often have come anywhere close to carrying out His will than Mother Teresa. Feelings should not be in any way the barometer of closeness to Christ.”

    On the nose there, Dolan. The euphoria aroused in revival tent entertainment is often identified as the presence of Jesus and sworn to by the entertained. However, I’d rather say not *all* feelings should be considered a barometer of the closeness to Christ. Some ‘feelings’ are genuine in that regard; the Lord is close to many of His children and they can certainly ‘feel’ His presence.

    Michael, you asked:

    >

    “Let me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Jn:6:53.

    That and the other 35 of so verses, are what Jesus said about it. Does that mean the answer to your question is ‘yes?’ I don’t think so. Unless, of course, you believe the Bread of Life discourse is the truth. This goes back to your question 3 for Catholics. If I believe something is true and ignore it, I could be in a little trouble there.

    >

    A very complicated question. Is ‘faith in the person’ genuine and not contrived? Is the truth revealed to that person supressed to make room for a ‘faith’ of that person’s preference or convenience? In the end, I think only God can sort all that out.

  18. Ferde Rombola says

    >

    Joseph, it gets tricky trying to discuss Paul and the Holy Eucharist at the same time for several reasons. The actual authorship of Hebrews is uncertain. Since its style is more sophisticated than other of Paul’s writings, its author may not be Saul of Tarsus. Further, it was probably written around AD 90-95. The Gospel of John was not found in its final form until AD 95-100. Thus it’s doubtful Paul even knew about the Bread of Life discourse in John 6.

    “Drawing near to Jesus” is so vague an idea, I wouldn’t want to draw any conclusions from it.

  19. Nicholas Anton says

    As a broad personal overview, the presence of Christ in contemporary times could be summarized as follows; “While Jesus does not in the present exist or present Himself within the bounds of (or limitations of) time and space, as a human, He nevertheless, as He was at creation, is present as Deity”. The Incarnate, Risen Christ is not here. The Glorified Christ is everywhere as Christ in us, Christ in His Word and promises. Note what Origin states regarding the authority of Christ (the presence of Christ?) as given to Peter and as possessed by all believers who make the same profession;
    ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ If any one says this to Him…he will obtain the things that were spoken according to the letter of the Gospel to that Peter, but, as the spirit of the Gospel teaches to every one who becomes such as that Peter was. For all bear the surname ‘rock’ who are the imitators of Christ, that is, of the spiritual rock which followed those who are being saved, that they may drink from it the spiritual draught. But these bear the surname of rock just as Christ does. But also as members of Christ deriving their surname from Him they are called Christians, and from the rock, Peters…And to all such the saying of the Savior might be spoken, ‘Thou art Peter’ etc., down to the words, ‘prevail against it.’ But what is the it? Is it the rock upon which Christ builds the Church, or is it the Church? For the phrase is ambiguous. Or is it as if the rock and the Church were one and the same? This I think to be true; for neither against the rock on which Christ builds His Church, nor against the Church will the gates of Hades prevail. Now, if the gates of Hades prevail against any one, such an one cannot be a rock upon which the Christ builds the Church, nor the Church built by Jesus upon the rock
    Origen continues:
    ‘If we also say “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” then we also become Peter…for whoever assimilates to Christ, becomes rock.”… ’
    “According to Origen, therefore, Peter is no more than the first ‘believer,’ and the keys he received opened the gates of heaven to him alone: if others want to follow, they can ‘imitate’ Peter and receive the same keys. Thus the words of Christ have a soteriological, but not an institutional, significance.”
    Likewise, it would seem, that, as exemplified by the statements of Origin, the early church believed in the universal authority of Christ in every believer who makes the profession of Peter. This assumed authority however slowly transitioned from the believer to the leaders (e.g. “elder rule” ), to the institution (the institutional church), to the supreme earthly leader of the institution. The contemporary emphasis of “elder rule” is simply one of the first steps away from “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
    Col 1:24-29;
    Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
    This is the continual presence of Christ.

  20. Michael,

    You are right. It is an extraordinary claim. One that Christ first made as He held Himself in his hands at the Last Supper.

    To be sure we are offered the fullness of God through Christ, and I believe that those who enter the gates of Heaven will experience that fullness to which they were promised. However it is by the Eucharist that we may experience the fullness of our faith here on earth.

    Also I don’t think we should contrast Faith in the Eucharist with Faith in Jesus. The two are the same. I don’t suggest that Eating his Flesh is necessarily better than believing, but I am confused as to why the two would ever be separated in the first place. For me, Saint John, The Catholic Church (and pretty much all Christians prior to the Reformation) to believe in Christ was to eat his Flesh. The tragedy of the Reformation is that our Protestant brothers and sisters lost faith in the Eucharist.

    I do see your reservations with “localizing” Christ, but in all honesty the Eucharist seems far from it. I can say with certainty that in the vast majority of the world any Christian who desires Christ in the Eucharist may receive Him provided they truly believe He is there.

    So I’m still not convinced that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist “localizes” Jesus by making him less available…in fact I think its just the opposite. He is far more available than ever. Perhaps this is one reason (obviously not the only) he told the disciples “its better for you if I leave now.”

    But as you said, Michael, an extraordinary claim and one that will certainly shake things up for those not familiar with it. I can certainly attest to that!

    Ferde, Thanks for the tips on Hebrews. As I said I am not a man with great understanding of just how to read the scriptures. But I will say if the author of Hebrews was writing around 90-95 he most certainly knew of the Eucharist. But you are correct it is a vague phrase that can draw many conclusions.

    Thanks for the conversation.

  21. For me, a large part of the confusion I have about the Real Presence viewpoint is the use of the word “salvation.” What exactly are we talking about? In my Baptistic background, we view a believer’s salvation as past, present, and future–the past, when he placed faith in Christ, determining his eternal state; the present, the process of becoming more like Christ; and the future, the entering of the believer into God’s presence. Usually, we would refer to these as justification, sanctification, and glorification. (Forgive me if I’m being overly pedantic here.) Does the Christ-is-physically-present position reflect those distinctions? If so, what is accomplished in through the Eucharist?

    Completely apart from that, what is the rationale for saying that Christ is physically present in the Supper? From what I’ve read, most who take that view would saying the Church supplanted all of Israel’s covenants. (Not sure what the name for this is right now…covenantalism?) But isn’t the Passover feast symbolic, looking forward to Christ’s future redemption? Why then would the Supper, which is based on the Passover, not be a symbolic remembrance of Christ’s work?

    Does it all come down to whether we read “This is my body” as a figurative or literal statement, or is there something more behind the reasoning?

  22. Sorry, the end of the first paragraph should read,

    What is accomplished *in the believer* through the Eucharist?

  23. I read the little book by N.T. Wright a couple weeks ago (The Meal Jesus Gave Us). He mentions that the Greek literally says, “This–my body” rather than “This is my body.” Adds a bit of ambiguity to the possible interpretation in English, I think.

  24. I should mention that Wright also says that it might mean “This is my body”, but that the Greek does not use the equivalent of ‘is’, so that it is a little harder to interpret precisely. (my bad paraphrase from memory).

  25. Michael:
    I certainly don’t pretend to be versed in theology. I’m someone who tries to live my Catholic faith daily for the greater honor and glory of God.
    Re the localization of Jesus:
    In that great Discourse on the Eucharist in John 6, Jesus tells us that “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you.”
    Sadly, many of his disciples found it to be a hard saying and walked away. He didn’t ask them to come back to correct their misunderstanding. They understood correctly. Instead, he was also willing to lose His apostles, “Will you also walk away?” It was Peter who said “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life.” I’m sure most, if not all of the apostles, did not have the slightest idea what he meant or how it would be done. How can he be here and yet we must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood?
    It was at the Last Supper that it finally came together. I wonder how many that nite had an “aha” moment thinking back to that Discourse.
    For me, simply, Our Lord said at the Last Supper “Take and eat” not “Take and understand’
    It’s a mystery…like the Trinity
    And like all mysteries, we believe in order to understand rather than understand in order to believe.
    I see two choices: “It’s a hard saying” and walk away or “You have the words of eternal life. To whom shall we go.”
    I’m sure by now John 6 and the words of Eucharistic institution at the Last Supper have been raked raw to show their symbolic meaning.
    Jesus said it, I believe it. A simple faith, I guess. No complicated explanations.
    God bless you and your ministry, Michael.
    Pax Vobiscum!

  26. Even though this is late, to this part of the discussion, and is possibly off topic by now. I tend to be more of experiential Christian, rather than a theologian type. I think in analogies, and stories, not heavy duty theologies.

    Let me share two of my experiences. The lesser, and more frequent awareness of God/Jesus is similar to a woman working in the kitchen, and her beloved husband is behind her. She hears nothing, sees nothing, but somehow knows that he is there. And that all he is going to do is to hug her, while she is working. (Even that it has been a long time ago.)

    The stronger, probably closer to what Mother Theresa experienced, is even harder to put into words. The best analogy that I can come up with is this. People in a very dark house, lighting the place up with birthday cake candles. They are fine with the light produced, etc. Suddenly, a noon day sun breaks in briefly. The power, the light is both scary, and comforting. The person experiencing the bright burst of noon, keeps quiet, perhaps talking to only a very trusted companion, hopes for it again, perhaps, but keeps using the birthday cake candles, knowing that someday, they will experience noon not for a brief time, but forever.

  27. In John Chapter 6, Jesus identified himself as “bread from heaven” and told the people that “He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.” (6:54)

    Jesus was not recommending cannabalism – the words he spoke were “spirit and life.” (6:63) The interpretation of his words is in its spirit. To eat Jesus spiritually is to partake of the Word of Eternal Life, sent as a gift from heaven.

    It is noteworthy that some of his disciples did not understand what his words really meant and so “went back and walked no more with him.” (6:64) The misunderstanding of these disciples is essentially the same misunderstanding responsible for the doctrine of Transubstantiation. To accept this doctrine is to be chastised by Jesus, just as they were.

    Paul deals with the question in 1 Cor. 10:16-21. He speaks of those who partake of the “table of the Lord” as being “one loaf” and “one bread.” Jesus and his followers are of ONE spiritual flesh and blood. It follows logically, therefore, that if the actual flesh and blood of Jesus is consumed when the bread and wine of the Eucharist is consumed, then those who hold to the doctrine of Transubstantiation are actually eating themselves.

  28. vynette: Good summary of some of the problems with the “locally appearing” Christ.

  29. Vynette,

    Thanks for sharing your interpretation of John 6. Henry did a fine job of articulating the Chruch’s teaching on the matter so I wont go there. It is hard though because if we can only understand Scripture subjectively then how do we come to a proper understanding of the passage? If there is no authoritative way to interpret Sacred Scripture how does one know what a true reading of John 6 would be?

    As for myself I have to trust the Church because if it was up to me I’d certainly mess something up.

    I did have trouble following your logic in that pre-Reformation Christians and Catholics today eat each other’s flesh. We eat Christ’s Flesh and thus are made one in him and so in each other. We don’t eat our flesh, but His as was his command.

    I am also having trouble understanding why there are problems with this “locally appearing” Christ in the Eucharist. As I said it isn’t exclusive and the communion is open to anyone who desires it so where is the problem?

    Thanks again for the dialog.

  30. Michael,

    I’m having trouble understanding your difficulty with the “locally appearing” thing, too. In a first sense of “presence”, Jesus is God; as such, he is spiritually present in all physical locations (omnipresent), as the Father is. In a second sense, Jesus is human; as such, his physical body is located somewhere(s).

    In a third sense, God can be present in people’s hearts. This is different from his omnipresence, which refers to his spiritual presence in all physical locations. This other kind of presence is more like a spiritual presence in a spiritual “location”. His presence in a person’s heart happens more or less depending on how much the person turns towards Him, conforms themselves to him, does his will. The more we grow to resemble Him, the more of Him is present in us.

    There may be other senses of God’s presence.

    The claim of the Eucharist/Real Presence is a claim of the presence of Jesus in the second sense: physically. (Which ought to lead to an increase of His presence in the third sense, but might not). It doesn’t limit Jesus’ presence in other senses.

  31. Well….I don’t want to debate this, but I will respond a bit.

    1. The claim that something is physical is a scientific claim, verifiable in the realm of physics. The Roman Catholic view of the physical presence of Christ can’t be verified scientifically, so it’s a special definition that doesn’t correspond to anything meaningful. And when someone starts in on “Physical by faith, etc” then it’s got even less meaning. I don’t do well with language that doesn’t have meaningful correspondence, but is spoken to me like it’s supposed to be meaningful.

    2. The similar claim of another poster that Jesus is “more fully present” in the Eucharist also fails to be meaningful in anything but a special definition. “Full” is a quantifiable term and quantity simply doesn’t apply.

    3. Using this kind of langauge is meaningless to me. As I have written elsewhere, the “real presence” is a meaningful term and is meaningful to many different traditions. The claim that Christ is “more real” in some churches than others is a claim that, respectfully, I find meaningless.

    4. The “larger” passages on Christ, such as Colossians 1, and the overall Biblical message of Christ’s pervasive grace in all of creation leads me to say that Jesus manifests himself as he chooses. Certainly in the eucharist and other means that I listed in the post, but Christ’s presence is described and experienced in a myriad of ways, for which I am constantly in awe.

  32. MODERATOR: I normally don’t allow quoted material of this length and won’t on future posts. Use the links please, instead of printing out full quotes.

    In some ways, this discussion is rather “flat.” The horizons are too limited. I say that as a Catholic, because discussions about the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist are not, and never have been, in Catholic discourse, a matter of how can Jesus fit into the Host. Well, at times they have, sure. But that’s never been the main point.

    No, the conversation is much more – it is about sacrifice, reconciliation, about communion in the deepest sense. It is about food.

    And – I think this is what nettles and confuses – it is about the scandal of particularity.

    But that is the essential Christian problem, is it not?

    One might as well ask, how could the God of the universe live in a woman’s womb as a zygote and then grow to be born as a helpless child in a particular place and time?

    Is it not the same question, really?

    You can’t understand the Eucharist and the question of Jesus’ presence in it unless you come to grips with:

    1)the nature of God’s presence in his Creation
    2) How we encouter God through matter, through the things that he has made
    3)How God, through Christ, continues to redeem the world.

    In the Catholic understanding, the presence of Christ in the world is experienced (not solely, but truly) through this “matter” because – that is who we are. That is how humans live and move and experience and respond. It is not an obligation to accept a philosophical puzzle. It is a gift of a gracious, forgiving God.

    Couple of quotes from B16 to flesh it out, just a bit.

    Here

    Like the manna for the people of Israel, for every Christian generation the Eucharist is the indispensable nourishment that sustains them as they cross the desert of this world, parched by the ideological and economic systems that do not promote life but rather humiliate it. It is a world where the logic of power and possessions prevails rather than that of service and love; a world where the culture of violence and death is frequently triumphant.

    Yet Jesus comes to meet us and imbues us with certainty: he himself is “the Bread of life”

    Here:>/a>

    By his command to “do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:25), he asks us to respond to his gift and to make it sacramentally present. In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, his expectation that the Church, born of his sacrifice, will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the liturgical form of the sacrament. The remembrance of his perfect gift consists not in the mere repetition of the Last Supper, but in the Eucharist itself, that is, in the radical newness of Christian worship. In this way, Jesus left us the task of entering into his “hour.” “The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving.” (21) Jesus “draws us into himself.” (22) The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of “nuclear fission,” to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all

    And Here

    Nevertheless, from this intimacy that is a most personal gift of the Lord, the strength of the Sacrament of the Eucharist goes above and beyond the walls of our Churches. In this Sacrament, the Lord is always journeying to meet the world. This universal aspect of the Eucharistic presence becomes evident in today’s festive procession.

    We bring Christ, present under the sign of bread, onto the streets of our city. We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness. May our streets be streets of Jesus! May our houses be homes for him and with him! May our life of every day be penetrated by his presence.

    With this gesture, let us place under his eyes the sufferings of the sick, the solitude of young people and the elderly, temptations, fears – our entire life. The procession represents an immense and public blessing for our city: Christ is, in person, the divine Blessing for the world. May the ray of his blessing extend to us all!

    In the Corpus Domini procession, we walk with the Risen One on his journey to meet the entire world, as we said. By doing precisely this, we too answer his mandate: “Take, eat… Drink of it, all of you” (Mt 26: 26ff.).

    It is not possible to “eat” the Risen One, present under the sign of bread, as if it were a simple piece of bread. To eat this Bread is to communicate, to enter into communion with the person of the living Lord. This communion, this act of “eating”, is truly an encounter between two persons, it is allowing our lives to be penetrated by the life of the One who is the Lord, of the One who is my Creator and Redeemer.

    The purpose of this communion, of this partaking, is the assimilation of my life with his, my transformation and conformation into he who is living Love. Therefore, this communion implies adoration, it implies the will to follow Christ, to follow the One who goes ahead of us. Adoration and procession thereby make up a single gesture of communion; they answer his mandate: “Take and eat”.

    Sorry for the length, but I just wanted to make sure that folks who aren’t Catholic who are reading this understand the breadth and depth of the Catholic understanding of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist, which even these quotes barely begin to cover.

  33. I’d like to respond, but I need to avoid this argument. Suffice it to say that Jesus is “fully” the Bread of Life and the fullness of God to all of those who belong to him.

    Thanks.

  34. Michael,

    Response to your points:

    1) How do you define your body, scientifically? Are the atoms, or molecules, that you have now the same ones you had at birth? (Food and breathing recycle the atoms in your body). Are you the same shape as you were then? (I assume not, if you can reach a keyboard). Is there, really, *anything* about your body that can be described scientifically which is the same now as it was when you were born?

    The closest thing to it is your DNA. Does DNA define a body? If so, identical twins have only one body, yet we know that that’s not the case.

    So what makes your body “your body”? It isn’t really a matter of science, even though it is physical. (The recipient of a heart transplant has a heart that is part of their body; yet a DNA lab would identify it as another person). Personally, my guess is that what makes a body a body has something to do with *continuity*. But whatever it is that makes Jesus’ body his body, that is what we think is present in the Eucharist. It’s more than just the spirit, more than just the normal background presence of God, even if the physicality of it is horribly elusive to pin down.

    2) The claim that Jesus is “more” present in the Eucharist is not really meant to be quantitative. It just means that Jesus is present in both his spiritual and his physical aspects, as opposed to his otherwise normal mode of operating in our world in just his spiritual aspect. (If it’s quantitative at all, it’s: present two ways – physically and spiritually – is more than present one way – spiritually).

    3) Here’s why I tried to distinguish between omnipresence, physical presence, and presence-in-the-heart. Both the first and third senses are very, very Real (and the third is, ultimately, what the Christian life is about), even if they aren’t what Catholics mean by the “Real Presence” in the Eucharist. And Catholics have no special claim on real presence of either the first or the third sort. (And, in the long run, everyone is eventually going to be physically present to Jesus, so that too will be balanced out.) The point is, the Catholic belief about the Eucharist doesn’t contradict the idea that Jesus is just as really present in other churches as he is in the Catholic Church, it only says that one particular form or aspect or mode of his presence doesn’t happen to be repeated elsewhere (except the Orthodox).

    4) Of course his presence is experienced in a myriad of ways! The Real Presence in the Eucharist isn’t about excluding, invalidating, or making less important God’s many ways of manifesting himself to people. It’s about pointing out one particular and awesome way that Jesus has told us he manifests himself.

    Anyhow, I want to respect your desire not to debate this point, (but it’s so hard to! 😉 ), but I figured I would at least offer these thoughts for you to mull over.

  35. I must say, my understanding of the Lord’s Supper has changed a bit over the years. As a baptist by background I was of course taught that it was a memorial meal of the death of Jesus. I have come to believe that it is more than that though. In 1 Corinthians 11:27 that he who eats the supper in an unworthy manner is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. That seems to indicate that the bread and wine are more than just bread and wine (or Welch’s grape juice for us Baptists).

    I do however have a problem with the verses mentioned in the 6th chapter of John having to do with the Eucharist. In John’s gospel eternal life is most often connected with faith (1:12; 3:15-18; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40; 6:47; 11:25-26; 20:30-31). Note that I mentioned two verses right before John 6:53. That would seem to indicate, taking the whole passage in context as well as the whole book, that eating his flesh and drinking his blood have to do with believing in him. Most bible teachers I’ve read or heard have no problem with this in John 4 when he talks about drinking water. That has to do with belief not drinking some sanctified H2O. In other words, it is spiritual and not literal. Another thing is that the Eucharist isn’t mentioned in John’s gospel, as it is in the synoptics. If all one had to read was John’s Gospel, one would never know about the Lord’s Supper. So, I find it difficult to believe that John was referring to that when he wrote John 6:53.

  36. While I think lonelypilgrim is basically correct about what Jesus means in John 6, I think the passage is intended as a parallel to the eventual Last Supper, which when we do it “in remembrance of him,” we proclaim his death until he comes (look to what he did in the past, do it in the present, look to his coming in the future). Very powerful image, really. The meal itself is supposed to point us and others to the cross; point us to believe in Jesus, the bread of life. So the parallel itself does not negate the fact that his words are “spirit” — the phrase “drink my blood” would likely imply “benefit from my death”.

  37. I don’t think protestants and Catholics can have this argument because protestants don’t hold to an infallible papacy, tradition, or magisterium. It isn’t that we reject transubstantiation because we don’t see how it could work, we reject it because we don’t see it period. And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the terminology “presence of Christ in the Eucharist” more Lutheran than Catholic? In my (possibly flawed) understanding of the Catholic Eucharist, Christ isn’t present in the elements, the elements are His flesh and blood. A subtle distinction but an important one, not to mention a major stumbling block for protestants.

  38. Ferde Rombola says

    Bill:

    I think you’ve got it and it’s a more than subtle distinction. As a Catholic I believe the Holy Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Crist in the forms of bread and wine. I.e., the bread and wine retain their external character as bread and wine, but are no longer bread and wine. Catholics believe that, not because the Church says it, but because Jesus said it. And he said it more than once in different places at different times. It’s what the Church has believed from the beginning and still believes in the same way 2000 years later.

    Michael:

    If “verified scientifically” is the criteria for the validity of the Gospel, we’re all in a heap of trouble.

  39. Patrick Kyle says

    A couple of observations. Nicholas and Anna speak about Christ’s divine nature and human nature being separated,as though His human nature is incapable of being everywhere His divine nature is. Scripture never speaks like this. Speaking this way borders on Nestorianism(a heresy that was condemned by the Council of Ephesus, because by claiming that Christ was two separate persons,one human and one divine, in one body,holders of the Nestorian view deny the incarnation.)
    I am not charging anyone with this heresy,I’m saying that without further clarification this language is highly problematic, and doesn’t represent what the scriptures teach about the incarnation. The scriptures never speak of a divided Christ, or divide His presence into a spiritual one and a physical one. There is one Christ present according to both natures.
    As to His “locality” He “fills all things” and manifests Himself through the Word to everyone, yet has seen fit to highlight His presence in the Lord’s Supper as being specially important to believers. The institution of the LS is reiterated in three of the Gospels and in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians.( depending on your outlook there are some very strong allusions to the LS in John 6, Acts, and a couple other places.) When Scripture repeats something several times, especially in the Gospels, we are forced to the conclusion that Jesus thought it was something important for us to grasp.

  40. Patrick Kyle says

    Michael,
    What would be wrong with Jesus flesh and blood physically being in the LS? Just for the sake of discussion, what would this mean to you?

  41. Patrick,

    Let me answer your question this way. All of us read scripture with an understanding of the meaning of language, and whether we admit it or not, this is fairly vital to how the meaningfulness of scripture is experienced. This is very important, and in my opinion, very much of the essence of what it means to be human, since language is vital in so many ways to our identity and understanding.

    When someone asks you to abandon your own concepts of meaningful language and try on another set of possible meanings, it’s a major shift. In my case, the language of John 6 is no longer meaningful if it becomes literal. No matter how many Lutheran or Roman friends want me to consider that the physical cells, DNA, etc of Jesus are what is meant, my own understanding of language simply doesn’t go there. If it did, I’d really be cut loose from the moorings of meaningful sentences in all of Scripture and I’d become dependent on something that, to me, is the equivalent of gnostic approaches to language.

    peace

    MS

  42. Ferde Rombola says

    Michael:

    What is your evidence that the words of John 6 are not meant to be taken literally?? You talk about ‘verified scientifically’ being necessary in relation to the Eucharist. What is your liguistically verifiable evidence that John 6 is comprised of figures of speech? Or whatever you think it’s comprised of?

  43. Nicholas Anton says

    Patrick Kyle

    Please note where the comas are;
    I did not say “…exist, or present Himself…” but “… Jesus does not in the present exist or present Himself within the bounds of (or limitations of) time and space, as a human, He nevertheless, as He was at creation, is present as Deity”.
    I was simply trying to say that Jesus in the present does not limit Himself to time and space as he did at his incarnation. Otherwise, how could he in one breath say “..I go away…I will come again” and in another “…lo, I am with you always…”

  44. Ferde,

    You know brother, here in the states we have this thing called “burden of proof.” That is, whose job it is to prove an assertion. Now since I have a Bible and four Gospels full of Jesus saying “I am the good shepherd” and “I am your rock” and “I am the door” and so on, it’s not my job to demonstrate Jesus might have been speaking “words of eternal life” rather than a literal description of chewing his DNA. So in this instance, with all due respect, the burden of proof is on you, without recourse to your tradition, to demonstrate that in the real world the Eucharist served in your church has even one single quality of the DNA, cells and body tissue of a Mediterranean Jewish man, and that there is a transformation from Bread to real human body taking place under the words of a priest.

    Ferde, I am not going to debate this with you. You are welcome to believe whatever you want about the real presence. I’d just appreciate it if you would let Christ be real and present for the rest of us as well.

    peace,

    MS

  45. MS,

    I wrote this for you, relating to the “cells/DNA” thing.

    As for the burden of proof: you’re right that there are many places where Jesus says “I am something” in a metaphorical way. And it is, generally, clear that Jesus is being metaphorical; there is never any evidence of people taking his words in a literal way. And that is the difference between the other passages and John 6.

    It starts off in the same metaphorical way, in verse 35, “I am the bread of life”. In verse 41-42, it becomes clear that the Jews understand “bread” metaphorically, but they do complain on other grounds. In verse 48, Jesus repeats his metaphorical-sounding claim. It’s in verse 51 that Jesus suddenly throws the curve-ball by saying that the bread is his flesh. This is different from saying “I am the bread of life”. “Flesh”, in particular, has a much more literal sound to it. Which is why the Jews started complaining about the *literal* understanding in verse 52. (Unlike their previous objection).

    None of the other “I am the light/vine/gate” passages go beyond the initial metaphorical understandings. Only in John 6 do we have the adding-on of something more literal sounding, followed by the Jews complaining about the literal meaning of his words, followed by Jesus re-affirming in even stronger language (vs 53 & 55 especially) the literalness of his message. (As opposed to him telling them they were misunderstanding him).

    I say this because I believe it. But I am saddened that you have been upset over uncharitableness on Catholic issues. Please let me know if anything I say irks you.

    God bless,
    Anna

  46. Josh T., what text does Wright quote to come to his conclusion? My Greek New Testament (Nestle-Aland 26th edition) says “This of me is the body” (TOUTO MOU ESTIN TO SWMA). ESTIN translates as “is.” Some might question whether the original language spoken by Jesus contained an “is,” but what we consider the inspired text uses an “is.” I suppose that we could say that when Jesus’ words were translated into Greek, if there was a choice, the translator was inspired to choose the right one.

  47. Susan Peterson says

    Michael,

    I think-I more than think, I know- it is a mistaken idea of Catholic teaching on the eucharist to think that Christ’s cells or DNA are in it.

    What something is made of is not what it is. I think the commenter named Anna was trying to get at this in a long comment above.

    Substance is the word which was used in scholastic philosophy to translate “ousia”, or being. Thus homoousian was translated as consubstantial.(one in being, of one being) When we speak of Christ being consubstantial with the Father, you would never be thinking of cells or DNA in that context, I am sure.

    Substance is is being, what something really is. Catholics think that the substance of bread, what bread really is, is changed into the substance of Christ, while the appearances of the bread remain. Appearances include cells, DNA etc. If there is any DNA in the eucharistic bread it is the DNA of wheat cells! So what is it that bread “really is,” apart from what it is made up of? It is the “that for the sake of which” of something which is the most important cause and meaning of its being, I think, so that to the degree that one could describe the form,eidos, or true being of bread, it would be “that which is made to feed the bodies of human beings.” To understand transubstantiation, you have to get into the way of thinking that what is most real about something is not its physical makeup. So while every cell and molecule of the bread remain exactly the same, the real being of the bread becomes the real being of Christ’s body. He is really, truly, substantially present, NOT physically present in the way that modern science understands physical presence. If people say physically present, it is either that they are trying to say that Christ’s body is present, or that they misunderstand “substantially.”

    Now, what does it mean that Christ is really present, the whole Christ, therefore including his body, when there is no molecule present which was once present in Galilee? Well, what is the real or substantial presence of Christ? Not an easy question to come up with an easy answer for. But, first of all, in parallel to the real being of bread, which is to feed the body, the real being of the eucharistic body is to feed the soul. And then I think you could add to that everything which Christ’s body means to Christians: that which hung on the cross for us, that which died and was ressurected…that which was formed in the womb of a virgin, that which united our human nature and divinity. (I may be speaking a bit loosely in the last phrase.)

    So please, if nothing else, discard forever the thought of cells and DNA from Galilee in the year 33 (or whatever year they are saying now that it really was.) Catholic teaching is that Christ is really (substantially) present..and that the reality or substance of bread has gone and does not remain, but the accidents of bread, which includes its chemical composition, the stuff it is made out of, does remain. The best way we have found to try to explain this is using some ideas from Scholastic Aristotelianism about substance and accidents, but that explanation is not the doctrine.

    Susan Peterson

  48. Susan Peterson says

    And, another thing. What “validity” means. Catholics basically believe that God has told us how to celebrate the eucharist, in terms of having priests ordained by bishops who were ordained by bishops right back to the apostles who sat with Him at the last supper. “Valid” means that we are following the rules we believe He taught us, and that because of that, we can count on Him to keep his word and be there.

    But God is not limited by this pattern or these rules he gave us. We don’t know the story of God and other Christians. He hasn’t really told us. My guess, based on what I know of Him, is that when any Christians gather to follow his command to “Do this in remembrance of me, ” that He is at least as present as they expect Him to be. If they believe that His presence only lasts during the ceremony and they throw away any left over elements, well then I don’t think He is going to be sacramentally present in a way which persists in the elements in the way in which He is after a Catholic Eucharist. But He will come to His people and nourish them at least as much and in the way they expected and asked Him to…and maybe even more so. Not because their faith creates His presence or projects His presence or gives them a feeling of His presence, but because He loves them and wills to come to them.

    Is this the same as the Catholic Eucharist? I can’t say yes. For one thing, there is the whole issue of Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which Catholics believe the Church is ever making Christ’s sacrifice present in our world and in the current time. Aside from high church Anglicans I don’t think Protestants believe this or intend their celebrates to mean this.

    But again, I think those Catholics who jump from ideas about “validity” to saying that a Protestant eucharist is an empty ritual, are saying something the Church doesn’t require, or even authorize, them to say.

    Susan Peterson