Category Archives: Sacraments

A Baptist minister discovers the Eucharist: Part 7 of 9


-by Ken Hensley

“In our last post we looked at the pattern of miraculous meals in Scripture. This is a theme that recurs throughout the Old Testament and continues into the New Testament as well.

In their wilderness wanderings, the Lord supplied the children of Israel with supernatural food and drink, sending manna from heaven every morning and causing water to spring up from a rock to satisfy their hunger and thirst (Exodus 1-17).

During a time of drought and famine in Israel, the Lord sent ravens to miraculously feed Elijah and sending Elijah to miraculously feed a poor widow and her son (1 Kings 17:8-16).

Elijah’s successor Elisha miraculously multiplied a few loaves to feed a hundred hungry disciples (2 Kings 4:42-44) and pulled supernatural strings to cause a widow’s “one little jar of oil” to somehow fill to overflowing as many large vessels as she could find (2 Kings 4:1-7).

According to the Apostle John, the first “sign” our Lord performed, manifesting his glory and causing his disciples to believe in him, was to turn water into wine (John 2:1-11).

And then, the final example recorded in all four Gospels, the high point of this biblical pattern, the greatest of all miraculous meals, when Jesus takes a few loaves and fish and multiplies them to feed thousands and thousands of men, women and children.

Or was it? Was the feeding of the multitudes the greatest of all miraculous meals, the high point in the development of this biblical pattern and theme?

The Catholic scholars I was reading insisted that it wasn’t. They said that the feeding of the multitudes was simply the greatest type, the greatest shadow, pointing forward to the culmination and fulfillment of the all miraculous meals of Scripture: The Eucharist.

Of course as a Baptist it would not have crossed my mind to think of the Lord’s Supper as being prefigured by the manna, the water from the rock, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, the feeding of the multitudes. At that time, I didn’t think of the Lord’s Supper as a meal in which a miracle of any kind was taking place.

The Bread of Life Discourse

There’s no doubt that John 6:22-69 is one of the most important New Testament passages that Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans point to when presenting a biblical case for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Biblical scholars typically refer to this passage as the “Bread of Life Discourse.”

It just so happens to immediately follow John’s account of the feeding of the five thousand. Amazed at the miraculous meal Jesus has provided, the crowds want to take him by force and make him king. He withdrew to the hills alone, but word spreads of his location and the next day the crowds return, hungry and hoping that whatever he did the day before, he will do it again (John 6:14-24).

Jesus knows their hearts and encourages them to think about something more important than mere food and drink. “You seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you…” Jesus calls them to “believe” in him (vs. 25-29).

The response of the people is clever:

Fine. You want us to believe in you? You mention signs. OK, what sign will you perform so that we can believe in you? When our forefathers were starving in the wilderness, Moses was kind enough to give them bread from heaven. How about something along those lines?

But our Lord’s response is even more clever:

You just wait! The bread my Father is going to provide will make the manna look like the stalest of stale loaves! “The bread of God,” Jesus says, “is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (vs. 32-33).

The crowds are not sure what he’s saying, but they’re ready to listen: “Lord, give us this bread always” (vs. 34).

At this point, Jesus speaks the words no other religious figure in the history of the world has ever spoken or ever would have dared to speak: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Believe and Receive

Now, as a Baptist, here is how I would have answered the Catholic who wished to argue that this passage in some way is looking forward to the Eucharist:

Yes, Jesus is the bread of life that the Father has sent from heaven to give life to the world. Yes, Jesus is the true manna.

However, notice what Jesus says here in verse 35: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” And recall how he answered when the people asked him, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” His answer? “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent” (vs. 29). And then what Jesus goes on to say in verse 40: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” And verse 47: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”

In other words, Jesus is speaking figuratively. All he means to say by calling himself the bread of life is that the Father has sent him to bring life to the world. To possess that life, we must see the Son, come to him and believe in him. That’s it.

This is exactly what I would have said. And if the Bread of Life Discourse ended with verse 29, or 35, or 40, or 47, this interpretation might seem to explain Jesus’ words and make perfect sense of them.

The problem is that the passage doesn’t end with these verses.

Instead, Jesus continues on to say many things. What Catholic apologists were pointing out (and I was listening with greater care at this point) is that when one listens carefully to what Jesus says in verses 48 – 69, and watches what Jesus does, the figurative interpretation begins to makes less and less sense.

It just doesn’t deal seriously with the whole of the passage.”

Love,
Matthew

A Baptist minister discovers the Eucharist: Part 6 of 9


-by Ken Hensley

Miraculous Meals in the Old Testament

Now this whole concept was new to me.

It shouldn’t have been. After all, miraculous meals are a recurring theme in the Bible. Again and again, in both the Old and New Testaments, we find stories in which God’s people are fed through some supernatural means.

There’s the manna from heaven (Exodus 16) and water from the rock (Exodus 17). There’s the time when the Lord sent ravens to feed Elijah as he hiding in the wilderness (1 Kings 17).

And then there are a number of stories in which a small amount of food is miraculously multiplied to feed God’s people.

In 1 Kings 17, for instance, the prophet Elijah visits the home of a poor widow and her son. He says to her, “Make me something to eat!” She responds, “As the Lord lives, all I have is a little meal in my jar and a little oil in my vessel. I’m gathering some sticks right now to make something for me and my son before we die!”

Elijah instructs her to first make a cake and bring it to him and then to feed herself and her son, adding: “For thus says the Lord the God of Israel, ‘The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the vessel of oil shall not fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’”

And it happened. Her little jar of meal and vessel of oil miraculously continued to produce until it was no longer needed.

In 2 Kings chapter 4 we find a similar account. This time it’s Elisha the prophet meeting a woman who explains that her husband has died, that she’s in tremendous debt, and that her two children are about to be sold as slaves to pay the debt. She informs Elisha that all she has to her name is “one little jar of oil.”

Elisha immediately instructs her to “Go and borrow empty vessels from all your neighbors. Find as many as you can and bring them here!” He then tells her to fill the vessels from her “one little jar.” Miraculously, the oil doesn’t stop flowing until she has filled every vessel to overflowing and run out of vessels to fill.

Later on in that same chapter of 2 Kings, another miraculous multiplication of food takes place.

In this case Elisha is sitting with one hundred of his disciples and they’re hungry. One of his servants has some loaves of barley and a few ears of grain. Here’s the passage:

And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How am I to set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” So he set it before them. And they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord (2 Kings 4:42-44).

This is a recurring theme in the Old Testament and a theme that continues right on into the New Testament.

Miracle Meals in the New Testament

It’s hard to read the account of the woman who borrowed all the vessels from her neighbors and filled them to overflowing from her “one little jar” without being reminded of a similar miracle that would take place centuries later, this time at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, when Jesus would command the servants to bring six stone water jars each containing twenty or thirty gallons and “fill the jars with water” so that he might transform the water into wine.

It’s hard to read the account of Elisha multiplying the barley loaves and ears of grain to feed one hundred hungry disciples without thinking about the time Jesus took a few loaves and fish and multiplied them to feed thousands of men, women and children who had come to listen to him speak and had become hungry.

In fact, the parallels between these Old and New Testament stories are clear and fascinating.

Elijah has compassion on the poor starving widow and Elisha on his famished disciples. Likewise, when Jesus sees the crowds he says, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way” (Matt 15:32)

Elisha’s servant objects when the prophet suggests that he feed the men: “How am I to set this before a hundred men?” (2 Kings 4:43). Likewise, the disciples object when Jesus suggests that they feed the multitude: “Where are we to get bread enough in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” (Matt 15:33).

In the end, Elijah and Elisha take whatever small amount the people have and miraculously multiply it to meet the need. Jesus does the same: “’How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked. ‘Seven,’ they replied, ‘and a few small fish’ (Matt 15:34).

And commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied (Matt 15:35-37).

When our Lord changed water into wine and miraculously multiplied loaves and fish to feed the crowds, I’m convinced that he was consciously reenacting the miraculous meals of Moses, Elijah and Elisha, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus was saying, “One greater than these has come!”

But was he also looking forward when he performed these miracles? Was the feeding of the multitudes the end of this Scriptural pattern of miraculous meals, or was there more to come? This is something St. Paul’s association of the Eucharist with supernatural food and drink made me wonder about. It’s something the early Church’s beliefs about the Eucharist made me wonder about. If anything was clear, it was that the early Church viewed the Eucharist as a miraculous meal.

The Last Supper

As an Evangelical Protestant, when I thought about the Last Supper, two things primarily came to mind: the Passover and the institution of the New Covenant.

By choosing to share this Last Supper during the celebration of the Passover meal, Jesus was surely revealing himself to be the true Passover Lamb, whose death would free his people from their sins. “This is my body which is broken for you.”

But he was also announcing the institution of the New Covenant. In Exodus 24 Moses sprinkled blood on the altar on Mt. Sinai and instituted the Old Covenant with these words: “This is the blood of the covenant.” When Jesus raised the chalice at the Last Supper and said, “This is my blood of the covenant,” he was deliberately echoing Moses’ words. Jesus was announcing the institution of the New Covenant—this time in his own blood.

The Last Supper was patterned after these sacrificial meals. This much is clear.

But there seems to be more, here. The Last Supper also seems to be patterned after Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes.

In the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, whether in Matthew, Mark or Luke, the actions of Jesus are described in a very specific manner. As the disciples are reclining at table (Luke 22:14), Jesus “takes” bread, he “blesses” it, he “breaks” it, and he “gives” it to his disciples (See Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19).

Fine. So what? Well, it turns out that in every account of Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes—again, whether looking at Matthew, Mark or Luke—Jesus’ actions are described in exactly the same way—in fact, using the very same words.

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied (Matt 14:19-20)

Here’s the point: It appears that Gospel authors have for some reason consciously patterned their description of the Last Supper in terms of Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes. The two events are being connected. Even the crowds being commanded to sit down on the grass is echoed in the disciplines reclining at the table.

Whether the feeding of the multitudes is seen as somehow looking forward to the Last Supper, or the Last Supper is seen as somehow looking backward to the feeding of the multitudes, the two are connected in the minds of the Gospel writers.

Conclusion

Certainly, at this point, there were more questions than answers for this Baptist minister.

But the questions were provocative: Why did the Apostles draw this connection between the Last Supper and the feeding of the multitudes? Did they conceive of the Last Supper as some kind of meal in which a miracle was taking place?

And what about the Eucharist, to which the Last Supper points? From the earliest centuries of Christian history, the Eucharist was treated as the center of Christian worship and, essentially, as theNew Testament fulfillment of the miracle of the manna, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha, our Lord’s multiplication of the loaves and the fish. Is there truth to this? Is something happening in the Eucharist that is like what happened when Jesus fed the multitudes?

Is the Eucharist a miraculous meal?”

Love,
Matthew

A Baptist minister discovers the Eucharist: Part 5 of 9


-by Ken Hensley

For not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food that has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus. – Justin Martyr

My journey to the Eucharist began when I read the early Church Fathers—really read them—for the first time and found myself faced with the reality that what theologians refer to as the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist appeared to have been the doctrine of Christianity from the beginning.

A few of these earliest witnesses—mainly bishops and apologists—were either direct disciples of the Apostles or disciples of disciples of the Apostles. All of them that described the Eucharist described it in terms that made it abundantly clear to me that for them the Eucharist was not a simple meal of remembrance and proclamation.

For them, it was a miraculous meal. St. Ignatius, bishop of the Church in Antioch, who as a young man had been personally instructed in the faith by the Apostle John speaks of the Eucharist as “the medicine of immortality.”

This had been the doctrine of the early Church, and it continued to be the doctrine of the Church, in both the East and the West, essentially until the time of Reformation in the 16th century.

Discovering this was step one for me.

Step two was returning to the New Testament, re-examining everything the New Testament writers had to say about the Eucharist (or Lord’s Supper) and finding that it was entirely consistent with what the early Church seems to have believed.

Now, given my commitment at the time to the foundational Protestant principle of sola Scriptura—that we look to Scripture alone to authoritatively determine Christian doctrine—if I had discovered that the New Testament teaching on the Eucharist contradicted belief in the Real Presence, I might have been able to ignore what I had seen in the writings of the early Church Fathers. After all, it didn’t cross my mind back then to think that the faith of the early Church, as revealed in her doctrine, worship and practice, might provide compelling evidence of what the Apostles had actually taught their Christian communities.

But this didn’t happen.

I began by looking at the key passage on the topic in St. Paul’s writings: 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. Not only did I find nothing there that contradicted the “miraculous meal” conception of the early Church, there was at least one passage that seemed to lend positive support to the notion. I’m talking about 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, where the Apostle draws a direct line between the Eucharist and the supernatural food and drink provided the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness.

Although Paul’s message to the believers in Corinth is implied, it is nevertheless quite clear: The Israelites were baptized into Moses and received supernatural food and drink from God and yet did not make it to the Promised Land. You Corinthian Christians need to beware. You likewise may have been baptized into Jesus Christ. You may have received your own supernatural food and drink (the Eucharist!), but none of this guarantees that you will inherit the Promised Land of heaven if you choose to imitate the Israelites in their unbelief and disobedience.

It seems that when Paul thought about the Lord’s Supper, while he certainly thought about remembering Christ’s death and proclaiming it (1 Cor 11:23-26), he also thought about supernatural food and drink, manna falling from heaven to feed God’s people and water springing up from a rock to quench their thirst.”

Love,
Matthew

A Baptist minister discovers the Eucharist: Part 4 of 9


-by Ken Hensley

“With all of this in mind, I did not feel that I could easily dismiss the witness of the early Church. I could not treat that witness as though it didn’t matter and shouldn’t carry weight in my thinking.

At the same time, I was eager to reexamine the New Testament passages that touched on the Lord’s Supper. Was there anything in the New Testament that might somehow demonstrate that the early Church’s view of the Eucharist, regardless of how long or unanimously it was held, was in error? Was there anything in the New Testament I had not seen before and that might support the early Church’s view?

First Corinthians 10 and 11

The passage that immediately came to mind was 1 Corinthians 10 and 11, the only passage in all the New Testament Epistles where the Lord’s Supper is discussed at some length.

The results were more than interesting.

1. It seemed clear to me that for Paul the Lord’s Supper was about remembering and proclaiming the Lord’s death — a point on which all Christians agree.

No dispute. Paul states this clearly in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given the thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So far, so good.

2. It also seems clear to me that when Paul in 1 Cor 10:16-17 identified the bread and the cup with the body and blood of Christ he was not speaking literally but figuratively.

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Cor 10:16-17).

Now the Greek word translated “participation” here is koinonia. It simply means “to share in” or “to participate in.” When we celebrate the Eucharist, Paul says, we are sharing in the body and blood of Christ.

Because of this, Paul could be saying that when we receive the bread and the cup we are sharing literally in the body and blood of Christ. And while I have come as a Catholic to believe this to be true, I do not believe Paul is saying that in this passage.

If you read further to verses 18-21, Paul compares this “sharing,” this “participation” in Christ with those who might “share” or “participate” in the altars of demons. He does not want his readers, he says, to be “partners with demons” (same Greek word koinonia). He goes on to say “You cannot partake (koinonia) of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Well, since I doubt very much that Paul means that when one eats pagan sacrifices he is consuming literal demons, it makes the most sense to think that what Paul is saying in vs. 16-17 is that when we share in the bread and the cup we are uniting ourselves to Christ, we are expressing our partnership with Christ.

Again, something all Christians believe.

3. But then, it also seemed to me that Paul thought of the Lord’s Supper as as in some sense parallel to the supernatural food and drink with which the Israelites were sustained in the desert.

Now this was something of a revelation to me.

I had read 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 many times. It’s the classic passage where St. Paul uses Old Covenant Israel’s experience in the wilderness as an illustration of what will happen to his New Covenant readers in Corinth — if they allow themselves to fall into sin again and fail to persevere in the obedience of faith.

I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things are examples for us, not to desire evil as they did.

Even though the Israelites had been baptized into Moses; even though they were given supernatural food and drink to sustain them in their journey through the wilderness—the manna from heaven, the water from the rock—many of them never made it to the Promised Land.

There’s the example of Old Covenant Israel. OK, so what’s Paul’s message to the believers in Corinth? What is Paul saying to them by raising the illustration of Old Covenant Israel?

Here’s the implied message: “Brothers and sisters, you may have received your own baptism. You may have your own supernatural food and drink. But as with Israel in the wilderness, none of this guarantees that you will make it to the end of your journey—if you follow the example of Israel and fail to persevere in the obedience of faith.”

Here’s what I had not seen before but that now struck me as obvious: In this passage, Paul is drawing a direct parallel between the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, and the miraculous food and drink with which the Lord fed the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings. Paul is implicitly referring to the Eucharist as “supernatural food and drink.”

In other words, when the Apostle Paul thought about the Lord’s Supper, he didn’t just think about remembering our Lord’s death and proclaiming it. Images also came to his mind of water springing up from rocks and manna falling down from heaven. When Paul thought about the Eucharist he thought about supernatural food and drink given to sustain the New Covenant people of God on their journey through the wilderness of this world to the Promised Land of the Beatific Vision.

Paul seems to have thought of the Eucharist as supernatural food and drink.

4. Finally, I had to admit that what Paul goes on to say about the danger of receiving the Eucharist unworthily seemed somewhat at least strange—if he believed that the Lord’s Supper was nothing more than a simple meal by which we remember our Lord’s death.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged (1 Cor 11:27-31).

To receive unworthily is to profane the body and blood of the Lord?

It is to drink judgment on oneself?

One can become weak and ill and even die by receiving the Lord’s Supper unworthily?

Again, in biblical interpretation, it’s always possible to say, “Well, I think he just means…” and then go on to explain what the inspired author “just means.” But it sure seemed to me like Paul viewed Christ’s body and blood as being somehow truly present and received in the Eucharist.

It sure seemed to me like Paul viewed the Eucharist as something more than a merely symbolic meal of remembrance.

Conclusion

I left chapters 10 and 11 of 1 Corinthians with three main thoughts in mind:

1. Nothing Paul says in this passage “proves” or “demonstrates conclusively” the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I don’t believe one could demonstrate the doctrine from 1 Cor 10 and 11.

2. At the same time, Paul says nothing in these chapters that is not entirely consistent with the doctrine of the Real Presence and a few things in 1 Cor 1:1-6 and 11:27-31 that make a great of sense on the premise that he took the Eucharist to be more than a simple meal of remembrance. So while the Real Presence can’t be proved, it fits.

3. Finally, the question of how to weight the evidence from the early Church. Given that Paul doesn’t spell out a “doctrine of the Eucharist” anywhere in his writings, if the early Church believed and taught the Real Presence, and if what Paul says is consistent with the Real Presence, upon what exactly would I stand to reject that belief and teaching?

The mere possibility that this isn’t what Paul meant?’

Love,
Matthew

A Baptist minister discovers the Eucharist: Part 3 of 9


-by Ken Hensley

If I had wanted to remain a Baptist pastor, I should never have read the brilliant Anglican convert John Henry Newman.

It was Newman who in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine famously said, “to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” He insisted that it was “easy” to show that the early Church was not Protestant. He went so far as to assert that if the system of doctrine I held as a Baptist minister had ever existed in the earliest centuries of Christian history, it has been swept from the historical record as if by a flood. There is simply no evidence of it.

A single quotation from St. Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D., sums up what seems to have been the universal teaching of Christianity, in both the East and the West, for the first fifteen hundred years of Christian history.

For not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food that has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus (First Apology 66).

From History to Scripture

How does a Christian who has always viewed the Lord’s Supper as a simple symbolic meal of remembrance respond to this challenge?

A good number have ingrained into them so deeply the conviction that “nothing really matters except what the New Testament teaches” that they don’t care what the early Church believed.

Assuming that they know pretty well what the New Testament teaches on the topic, the idea that the Church might have held—even for the first fifteen hundred years of it’s existence—a view of the Eucharist that was in all essentials Catholic, doesn’t rattle them enough to make them even want to find out if it’s true.

I wasn’t able to respond like this.

First, I had spent years and years in academic study of the New Testament writings. I had preached verse by verse through a number of New Testament books, working directly from the Greek text. I knew enough about the New Testament to know that it is not even close to being a “manual of Christian doctrine.”

If it was a manual of Christian doctrine, we wouldn’t have so many contradictory opinions on so many doctrinal issues among Christians who all believe they are following the clear teaching of Scripture.

The ministry of the Apostles was primarily one of evangelizing, making disciples, establishing churches and teaching those churches the doctrines of the faith. Instructing them.

When the Apostles wrote, most of the time they wrote to deal with specific problems that had arisen in specific churches. They didn’t write to summarize Christian doctrine and with rare exceptions, they don’t summarize Christian doctrine.

I knew this. And I knew enough about the contents of the New Testament to suspect that there was no passage to which I was going to be able to point to say, “Here it is! Proof that the early Church’s belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is unbiblical!”

Second, with respect to the value of early Church history, it seemed reasonable to me to think that even as the teaching of the Apostles would be reflected in their writings, so would their teaching be reflected in the faith and practice of the early Church.

Would not the faith and practice of the early Church, I asked myself, be a good indicator of what the Apostles had taught – especially in a case like this where the Church’s belief and practice seemed unanimous and was evidenced very early in the Church’s history?

This seemed reasonable to me.

It did not seem reasonable to think that the apostles would teach one thing and the entire Church turn around and immediately teach another.

Third, what seemed reasonable to me clearly seemed reasonable to the early Church as well.

St. Irenaeus describes the Apostles as having deposited their teaching in the Church as a rich man deposits his money in a bank. Because of this, Christians, he says, can come to the Church to draw from her the truth.

As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith [from the apostles], although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth…. When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth, which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything which pertains to the truth; and everyone whoever wishes draws from her the drink of life (Against Heresies I:10:2 and 3:4:1, c. 189 A.D.)

Love,
Matthew

A Baptist minister discovers the Eucharist: the witness of the Fathers, Part 2 of 9


-Christ & Church Fathers, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Ken Hensley

“One of the earliest post-apostolic writers is St. Ignatius, bishop of the Church in Antioch and personal disciple of John the Apostle. 

Late in his life (107-110 A.D.) Ignatius was condemned to death in the arena in Rome. He was to be fed alive to wild beasts. On his way from Antioch to Rome, he wrote letters to seven churches scattered throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), many of the same churches St. John wrote to in the Apocalypse.

In his letter to the Church in Smyrna, Ignatius mentions a certain group he clearly conceives as being outside the fellowship of the Church. This is how he describes them: 

But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ, which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; of the bond or of the free; of the hungry or of the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which was offered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6-7).

This was the first time I remember hearing the Eucharist described as “the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ.” And I was hearing it in a pastoral letter, written by a man who learned his Christian doctrine from John the Apostle himself, written by a man on is way to die for that faith.

In the same letter, St. Ignatius refers to the Eucharist as “the medicine of immortality.” The medicine of immortality. 

What could I say? Clearly, this was language that would never have entered my mind to use to describe the Lord’s Supper. Whether Ignatius was right in his view or had already departed from the teaching of the Bible into “magical” Catholic ways of thinking, it was beyond dispute that this early bishop and martyr held a view of the Eucharist very different from mine.

*****

I read on and came to St. Justin Martyr, the first of the great Christian apologists. Writing around 150 A.D., he also described the Eucharist, and in terms similar to those of St. Ignatius: 

For not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food that has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus (First Apology 66).

To this Baptist minister, there were nearly as many strange ideas as words in this passage. Food that is “made” into the Eucharist? Food that is made into the Eucharist “by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him”? Food that by the change of which” our blood and flesh is “nurtured”? 

A prayer that “changes” bread and wine and “makes” it into the Eucharist? Never had I heard anyone speak about the Lord’s Supper as these two early witnesses did — except of course my old friend who had become Catholic.

*****

I read on and came to St. Irenaeus, bishop of the Church in Lyon and the first great biblical theologian. Writing around A.D. 180, he described the Eucharist in these terms: 

Just as the bread from the earth, receiving the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist consisting of two things, the earthly and the heavenly, so our bodies, receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible but have the hope of resurrection to eternal life (Against Heresies, IV. 18).

*****

I read on and came to Tertullian. Writing around A.D. 210, he describes what is happening in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, he says, “the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ that the soul likewise may be filled with God” (Resurrection of the Flesh, 8).

I read on and came to Cyril of Jerusalem. Around 350 A.D he wrote in his Catechetical Lectures: 

[A]s the bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the invocation of the Trinity… [are] simply bread and wine, after the invocation the bread becomes the body of Christ, and the wine the blood of Christ (19;7).

The problem for me was not that I could find a few references like these scattered over the first four centuries of Christian history. The problem was that I found I could continue multiplying quotations like these from virtually everyone writing in those early centuries!

St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Hippolytus of Rome, Origin of Alexandria, St. Cyprian of Carthage, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Augustine of Hippo, and many, many more. It wasn’t just some of these early bishops and theologians and apologists that used this kind of language when speaking of the Eucharist. All of them did!

They all seemed to believe that when the words of consecration were spoken over the bread and the wine, these elements were changed. They all seemed to believe that some kind of miracle took place and that what was received in communion was no longer simple bread and wine but in some way, unknown to me, the body and blood of Christ. 

As far as I could tell, there was no evidence of any period of early Christian history in which the Church believed what I believed about the Lord’s Supper.

From History Back to Scripture

The questions that ran through my mind at this point were these: 

If the apostles taught that the Lord’s Supper was a simple meal of remembrance involving bread and wine as symbol, how could the early Church have gotten so far off, and so quickly, and so universally? 

How is it that Christian bishops and theologians living in different centuries and scattered all over the then-known world all speak in such similar ways? 

And if all of this is evidence of a grand departure from the teaching of the New Testament, how is it there no evidence anywhere of anyone saying this? Why is there no one raising his voice to complain? “Listen, brothers, this not what the apostles taught!” One can find plenty of evidence of other disputes in the early Church. Why not on this issue?

My instinct as a Protestant committed to sola scriptura was to respond to these questions as many others have responded: 

Who cares? Who cares what the early Church believed and taught about the Lord’s Supper? In the end, all that really matters is what the Bible teaches. As for Ignatius and Justin and Irenaeus and Ambrose and Augustine and the rest, Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” 

On the other hand, was it possible that there was more support for the teaching of the early Church in the Bible than I knew? How certain was I that the doctrine of the Real Presence was unbiblical?”

Love,
Matthew

A Baptist minister discovers the Eucharist: Part 1 of 9


St Jerome’s cave, beneath the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Israel, please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Ken Hensley

For many years I believed that what we Catholics refer to as the Holy Eucharist was something very different.

It was the “Lord’s Supper” to Baptists and other Evangelicals. We viewed it as a simple meal of remembrance and recommitment.

Jesus had said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” St. Paul had written, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). And in the thinking of essentially every Christian I knew, this was the sum of it: the Lord’s Supper was a time for calling to mind what our Lord had suffered for us, giving thanks, recommitting our lives to Him and by the sacred use of bread and wine proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes again.

Of course, we believed Jesus was “with us” in the breaking of the bread, but not in any sense substantially different than He is with us all the time. Certainly there was no “miracle” taking place by which bread and wine were changed in any way. No. The bread and wine were mere symbols, the bread depicting Christ’s broken body, the cup his shed blood.  

With this view, although it was common for an ordained minister to lead in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and for it to be celebrated in the church and during the Sunday worship service – once a month, once each quarter depending on the church – this wasn’t in any sense required. Indeed, it was common in the evangelical circles I was familiar with for adults, young adults, even teenagers, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at youth camps and retreats, using whatever elements they had available.

Once I heard about potato chips and Coke being used.

Now, I don’t mean to say that the Lord’s Supper wasn’t treated as important, or meaningful, because it was. It was a solemn time. But like reading the Bible, or singing a hymn, or praying, it just wasn’t something regular Christians couldn’t do when and where they liked. Again, it’s not like some special miracle of some sort was taking place!

Calvin’s Conception

At some point along the way, the teaching of John Calvin on this subject began to intrigue me.

He spoke of the Lord’s Supper as a special “means of grace” in which Christ is not merely remembered and proclaimed, but is present in a special “spiritual” sense. He said that in communion Christ gives himself to us as “spiritual food” and that in communion we Christians “feast” upon Christ our Passover Lamb, that we “partake” of Him.

Now, Christ is the only food of our soul, and therefore our heavenly Father invites us to Christ, that, refreshed by partaking of him, we may repeatedly gather strength until we shall have reached heavenly immortality (Institutes of the Christian Religion Book IV, Chap XVII.1).

Of course Calvin was eager to emphasize that this was a “spiritual” feasting and not anything like what Catholics believe. 

I was intrigued by this idea. And while I knew there were a number of New Testament passages that might – might! — support such a notion (we will return to these later in this series), I didn’t think Calvin’s view could be established with any degree of certainty from the data of the New Testament alone. 

What was clear to me – what I thought could be clearly demonstrated from the pages of the New Testament – was that in the Lord’s Supper we remember, we recommit, we proclaim. 

The New Hampshire Confession of Faith, a Baptist Confession drawn up in 1833, spoke of 

The Lord’s Supper, in which the members of the church, by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; preceded always by solemn self-examination.

I was happy to stick with this simple definition.

A Friend’s Conversion

About eight years into my pastoral ministry, I learned that an old acquaintance from seminary days had become Catholic. 

I listened to his recorded conversion story and I still remember physically wincing when he spoke of receiving Christ in the Eucharist, “body, blood, soul and divinity.” The idea was so entirely foreign to me. In truth, I felt a little sick thinking about it.

This doctrine of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist was completely alien to the evangelical world in which I had learned the faith and in which I lived and ministered.

Yes, I was aware that this “view” was anything but foreign to hundreds of millions of Christians from the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran traditions. Martin Luther himself defended to the end a doctrine of the Real Presence. But none of these Christian denominations, I would have insisted, had adhered faithfully to the practice of sola scriptura.

If they had developed their theology of the Lord’s Supper directly – and solely! – from the teaching of the inspired Word of God, the Bible, they would never have embraced such nonsense.

Although I felt secure that I stood with Holy Scripture on this subject, there was one thing my old acquaintance said in his conversion story that made me sincerely curious. 

He claimed that the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist had been the faith of the Church from the beginning. 

The Testimony of the Fathers

Now, my assumption had always been that these “magical” views of the Lord’s Supper (baptism as well, but that’s another subject) must have arisen slowly over the course of several centuries as the Church incrementally strayed from a strict adherence to the Bible alone. Now I was being told that this wasn’t the case. 

So what was the truth? What did Christians in the earliest centuries after the apostles believe about the Lord’s Supper? 

I began for the first time in my Christian life to read the early Church fathers and to really listen to what they had to say. 

In A Plea for the Christians (circa A.D. 170) Athenagoras, one of the earliest Christian apologists, wrote to answer certain charges that were being hurled against the early Christians. Besides being accused of “atheism” (because they rejected the gods of the Greek and Roman pantheons), and of participating in sexual orgies (because they were known to “love one another” and greet each other with a “holy kiss”), the pagans accused the early Christians of practicing cannibalism. 

Why? Because it was known that in their clandestine meetings the Christians gathered to celebrate a secret meal, during which they would eat the flesh and drink of the blood of a human being.

Athenagoras mentions that the Christians were accused of celebrating “Thyestian Feasts” — a reference to Greek mythology, where Atreus, motivated by revenge, killed the children of his brother Thyestes and served them to him for dinner. Thus the charge of cannibalism.

The charges of course were nonsense—although after reading the language the early bishops, theologians and apologists routinely used to describe the Eucharist, I had to admit that I could understand how some might misunderstand.”

Love,
Matthew

Eucharistic joy -St Julian Eymard

-by St Julian Eymard

“God desired to nourish our spirit, so He gave it His Bread, the Eucharist, announced by Holy Scripture: “He will feed them with the Bread of life and understanding.”

Now, there are no greater joys on earth than the joys of the spirit. Contentment of heart is less lasting because it is based on feeling, and feeling is apt to be inconstant. True joy is of the spirit and consists in the quiet knowledge of the truth.

The light-minded and coarse of soul enjoys nothing spiritually. Even pious souls that lack recollection will never experience spiritual joys. Frivolity of spirit is the greatest obstacle to the reign of God in the soul. If you wish to taste the sweetness of God and enjoy His presence, you must lead a life of recollection and prayer. Even so, your meditations will never yield true happiness if they are not based on Communion, but will only leave you with the sense of perpetual sacrifice.

Jesus Christ exercised the prerogative that was His to give us experience of true joy through Himself alone. The soul that only seldom receives Communion gives God no opportunity to dwell in it in a completely efficacious way. The one, on the contrary, that receives Him frequently will be longer and more often in His presence and, seeing Him and contemplating Him freely, will learn to know Him well and will end by enjoying Him.

In Communion, we enjoy our Lord in our Lord Himself. It is then that we have our most intimate communion with Him — a communion from which we gain a true and profound knowledge of what He is. It is then that Jesus manifests Himself to us most clearly. Faith is a light; Communion is at once light and feeling.

This manifestation of Jesus through Communion enlightens the mind and gives it a special aptitude for discerning more and more clearly the things of God. Just as the elect receive the power to contemplate the being and the majesty of God without being blinded, likewise Jesus, in Communion, increases our ability to know Him, and to such an extent that there is a vast difference in a person before and after Communion.

Take a child before his First Communion; he understands his catechism in the literal sense, word for word. But after Communion, his mind is, as it were, transformed; the child understands then, and feels, and is eager to know more about Jesus Christ. He is fortified and disposed to hear whatever truths you teach.

Can you explain this phenomenon? Before Communion, you hear about Jesus Christ and you know Him; you are told of His Cross, of His suffering. Doubtless you are affected and are even touched with compassion. But let these same truths be presented to you after you have received Communion, and oh, how much more deeply your soul is moved! It cannot hear enough; it understands much more perfectly. Before Communion, you contemplate Jesus outside you; now you contemplate Him within you, with His own eyes!

It is the mystery of Emmaus re-enacted. When Jesus taught the two disciples along the way, explaining the Scriptures to them, their faith still wavered, although they felt inwardly some mysterious emotion. But by their participating in the breaking of the bread, immediately their eyes were opened, and their hearts were ready to burst with joy. The voice of Jesus had not sufficed to reveal His presence to them. They had to feel His Heart; they had to be fed with the Bread of understanding!

Second, this joy of spirit, this manifestation of Himself that Jesus gives us by Communion, awakens in us a hunger for God. This divine hunger draws us into the sweetness of His Heart, into the sanctuary of His Spirit. More by impression than by reason, it gives us knowledge of Him. It gives us a powerful attraction to the Eucharist and everything connected with it and enables us to enter with ease into Jesus Christ.

This ease, this attraction, mysterious to some extent, is the special grace of Communion. It is the spirit of kinship with God. From where, do you think, does that similarity of feeling, of acting, of morals in a family come, if not from family spirit, from family love, which unites all members in mutual affection? Such is the bond of earthly kinship.

Through Communion, we gain entrance into the love, into the Heart, of our Lord; we catch the spirit of His love, His own understanding, His own judgment. Is not the first grace of Communion, in fact, a grace of recollection that enables us to penetrate into Jesus Christ and commune intimately with Him? Yes, intimately. One who does not receive Communion knows, by faith, only the vesture, the outward appearance of our Lord. We can know Jesus Christ well only by receiving Him, just as we perceive the sweetness of honey only by tasting it. We can say, then, with a great saint, “I am more convinced of the truth of Jesus Christ, of His existence, of His perfections by a single Communion than I could be by all the reasoning in the world.”

Such is the brevity of this life that, if we had to arrive at the knowledge of truth in general, and of divine truth in particular, only by the proofs of reason, be well assured we would know very few truths. But it is God’s will that much of our knowledge should come by intuition. He has endowed us with an instinct by which, without the faculty of reason, we are able to distinguish good from evil, truth from falsehood. He has given us natural inclinations and antipathies. Thus, in our efforts to know our Lord, we first feel His goodness, and then we arrive at His other qualities, more by contemplation, by sight, and by instinct than by reason.

A great many people habitually make the mistake of talking too much in their thanksgiving after Communion, that highest of prayers. By overmuch speaking, they render their Communion ineffective.

Listen to our Lord a little after Communion. This is not the time to seek, but to enjoy. This is the time when God makes Himself known through Himself: “And they shall all be taught of God.” How does a mother teach her little child what endless love and tenderness she has for him? She is content to show by her devotion that she loves him. God does the same in Communion. Remember that one who does not receive Communion will never know the Heart of our Lord or the magnitude of His love. The heart makes itself known through itself alone; we must feel it beating.

Sometimes you have no experience of spiritual joy in Communion. Wait. Although the Sun is hidden, it is within you; you will feel it when you need to — be sure of that. What am I saying? Already you feel it! Are you not at peace? Are you not desirous of glorifying God more than ever? And what is that but the throbbing of the Heart of our Lord within you?

Lastly, the manifestation of our Lord in Communion makes His presence and His conversation indispensable to the soul. The soul that has known Jesus Christ and has enjoyed Him takes pleasure in nothing else. Creatures leave it cold and indifferent because it compares them with Him. God has left in the soul a need that no person, no creature, can ever satisfy.

Moreover, the soul feels a constant desire for Jesus and for His glory. Ever onward, without pausing to enjoy a moment’s rest: that is its motto. Its only longing is for Jesus, who leads it from clarity to clarity. Our Lord being inexhaustible, whoever receives Him can neither be sated nor exhaust Him, but desires only to plunge deeper and deeper into the abysses of His love.

Oh, come and enjoy our Lord often in Communion, if you wish truly to understand Him!

“Beware of abusing this privilege,” someone will say. Do the elect go to excess in their enjoyment of God? No! They never enjoy Him too much. Taste the Lord, and you will see. After you have received Communion, you will understand.

How sad that people will not believe us! They wish to judge of God only by faith. But taste first; afterward you shall judge. And if the incredulous would but prepare themselves to receive Jesus Christ worthily, they would understand sooner and better than by any amount of persuasion and reasoning. Besides, the ignorant person who receives well knows more about it than the savant, however learned, who does not go to Communion.

To summarize briefly, I say that the intelligence finds its supreme happiness in Communion and that, the more often one receives, the happier one is spiritually. God is the only source of happiness; happiness is in Him alone, and He has reserved the right to bestow it through Himself. And well it is for us that we must go to God Himself to find happiness! In this way, we do not devote ourselves to creatures or find in them our highest good. Happiness is not even in the bestowal of the priest. He gives you a share in the fruits of the Redemption, cleanses you from your sins, and gives you the peace of a clear conscience; but happiness and joy he cannot give you.

Mary herself, who is the Mother of Mercy, will lead you back to the right way and will appease the anger of her Son, whom you have offended; but God alone will give you joy and happiness. The angel said to the shepherds, “I bring you good tidings of great joy: He who is its cause and its source, your Savior and God, is born to you.”

Oh, come, let us rejoice! This Savior is still on the altar waiting to flood our hearts, upon His entrance therein, with as much joy and happiness as we are able to bear, in anticipation of the unspeakable and everlasting delights of the homeland of Heaven.”

Love & joy,
Matthew

Eucharist: the grace & virtue of love – St Julian Eymard

St Julian Eymard

“Not only does Communion enlighten our mind by a special grace, revealing to us, by impression rather than by reason, all that our Lord is, but it is also, and above all, the revelation to our heart of the law of love.

The Eucharist is the sacrament of love par excellence. Certainly the other sacraments are proofs of God’s love for us; they are gifts of God. But in the Eucharist, we receive the Author of every gift, God Himself. So it is in Communion especially that we learn to know the law of love that our Lord came to reveal. There we receive the special grace of love. There, finally, more than anywhere else, we acquire the practice, the virtue, of love.

First of all, what is love? It is a gift. That is why the Holy Spirit, who, as love, proceeds from the First and Second Per­sons of the Most Holy Trinity, is truly the Gift.

How do we recognize love? By what it gives. See what our Lord gives us in the Eucharist: all His graces and all His possessions are for us; His gift is Himself, the source of every gift. Communion gives us participation in the merits of all His life and obliges us to recognize the love that God has for us, because, in Communion, we receive the whole and perfect gift.

How did you begin to love your mother? Sleeping within you, without sign of life, was a seed, an instinct, of love. Your mother’s love awakened it; she cared for you, suffered for you, fed you with her body. By this generous gift you recognized her love. Well then! Our Lord, by giving Himself entirely to you, and to you in particular, proves to you invincibly that He loves you personally with an infinite love. He is in the Eucharist for you and entirely for you. Others enjoy Him also, to be sure, but in the same way that they benefit from the sun without preventing you from enjoying its rays as much as you wish.

Ah, such is this law of love engraved in our hearts by God Himself in Communion! In olden times, God wrote His law on tables of stone, but the New Law He has written in our hearts, with letters of fire. Oh, whoever does not know the Eucharist does not know the love of God! At most, he knows certain effects of it, as the beggar recognizes the generosity of the rich man from the few coins he receives from him. But in Communion, the Christian sees himself loved with all of God’s power to love, with all of Himself. Therefore, if you would really know God’s love for you, receive the Eucharist, and then look within you. You have no need to seek elsewhere for further proofs.

Communion gives us the grace of love. In order to love Jesus Christ as a Friend we need a special grace. Jesus, in coming to us, brings this grace at the same time that He places the object of it — that is, Himself — in our soul. Our Lord did not ask His disciples before the Last Supper to love Him as He had loved them; He did not yet say to them, “Abide in my love.” That was too hard for them then; they would not have understood. But after the Last Supper, He no longer says simply, “Love God; love your neighbor,” but, “Love me as a brother, intimately, with a love that is your life and the law of your life.” “I will not now call you servants . . . but friends.”

If you do not receive Communion, you can love our Lord as your Creator, your Redeemer, and your Rewarder, but you will never see in Him your Friend. Friendship is based on union, on a certain equality, two things that are found with God only in the Eucharist. Who, I ask you, would dare call himself the friend of God and believe himself worthy of His particular affection? A servant would insult his master in presuming to treat him as a friend; he must wait until his master grants him the right by first calling him by that name.

But when God Himself has come under our roof; when He has come to share with us His life, His possessions, and His mer­its; when He has thus made the first advances, we no longer presume, but with reason call Him our Friend. So, after the Last Supper, our Lord tells His Apostles, “I will not now call you servants. I call you friends. You are my friends, because all things whatsoever I have received of my Father I have given to you; you are my friends, because to you I have confided the secret of my majesty.”

He will do even more; He will appear to Mary Magdalene and say to her, “Go to my brethren.” What? His brethren? Can there be a higher title? Yet the Apostles had received Communion only once! What will it be for those who, like us, have received Him so often?

Will anyone be afraid now to love our Lord with the tenderest affection? It is well to tremble before Communion, thinking of what you are and of Him you are about to receive; you need His mercy then. But afterward, rejoice! There is no longer room for fear; even humility must make way for gladness. See how joyous Zacchaeus is when our Lord accepts his hospitality! But see, too, how his devotion is fired by this kind reception; he is ready to make every sacrifice and to atone over and over for all his sins.

The more you receive Communion, the more will your love be enkindled, your heart enlarged; your affection will become more ardent and tender as the intensity of this divine fire increases. Jesus bestows upon us the grace of His love. He comes Himself to kindle this flame of love in our hearts. He feeds it by His frequent visits until it becomes a consuming fire. This is in truth the “live coal which sets us on fire.” And if we so will, this fire will never go out, for it is fed not by us but by Jesus Christ Himself, who gives to it His force and action. Do not extinguish it by willful sin, and it will burn on forever.

Come often, every day if necessary, to this divine Furnace to increase the tiny flame in your hearts! Do you think your fire will continue to burn if you do not feed it?

Communion makes us practice the virtue of love. True and perfect love finds its full expression only in Communion. If a fire cannot spread, it goes out. So our Lord, wishing us to love Him and knowing how incapable of it we are of ourselves, fills us with His own love; He Himself comes and loves in us. We, then, work on a divine object. There is no gradual passage or transition; we are simultaneously in the grace and in the object of love. That is why our best and most fervent acts of love are made during our thanksgiving; we are nearer then to Him who forms them. Pour out your heart to our Lord at this time. Love Him tenderly.

Do not try so hard to make this or that act of virtue. Let our Lord grow within you. Enter into partnership with Him; let Him be the capital in your soul’s traffic, and your gains will be doubled with the doubling of your spiritual funds. Working with and by our Lord, you will gain a greater benefit than if you tried to increase your virtues simply by multiplied acts.

Receive our Lord, and keep Him as long as you can. Make plenty of room for Him within you. To let Jesus Christ increase in one’s soul is the most perfect act of love. Certainly, penitent and suffering love is good and meritorious; but the heart is re­pressed by it, weighed down beneath the thought of the con­tinual sacrifices it must bear. This way, on the contrary, the heart expands, opens fully and freely; it shows its happiness.

For one who does not receive Communion, these words have no meaning; but let him plunge into this divine fire, and he will understand.

No, it is not enough simply to believe in the Holy Eucharist; we must also obey the laws it prescribes. Since the Eucharist is above all the Sacrament of love, our Lord desires us to share in that love and draw inspiration therefrom. So come to Jesus out of love for Him! We must come humbly, to be sure; but let love, or at least the longing to love, be our ruling motive. Let us desire to pour out our heart in His Heart; let us give evidence to Him of our tenderness and affection. Then we shall know what depths of love are in the adorable Eucharist.”

Love & the JOY only He can bring!
Matthew

Mysterium fidei

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, and I adore You. Increase my faith.

MEDITATION

In the Canon [Eucharistic Prayer] of the Mass, the Eucharist is called “Mysterium fidei,” the Mystery of faith; indeed, only faith can make us see God present under the appearances of bread. Here, as St. Thomas says, the senses do not help at all—sight, touch, and taste are deceived, finding in the consecrated Host only a little bread. But what matters? We have the word of the Son of God; the word of Christ, who declared: “This is My Body … This is My Blood” and we firmly believe in His word. “Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius, nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.” I believe everything the Son of God has said; nothing can be truer than this word of Truth (Adoro Te Devote). We firmly believe in the Eucharist, we have no doubts about it; unfortunately, however, we must admit that our faith is often weak and dull. Although we may not live far from a church, although we may perhaps dwell under the same roof with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, it is easy to become rather indifferent, or even cold, in the presence of this great reality. Alas, our coarse nature gradually grows accustomed to even the most sublime and beautiful realities, so that they no longer impress us and have no power to move us, especially when they are near at hand. Thus it happens that while we believe in the ineffable presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we pay little or no attention to the greatness of this reality, and we fail to have the lively, concrete appreciation of it which the saints had. Let us then repeat, very humbly and confidently, the Apostles’ beautiful prayer: “Domine, adauge nobis fidem,” Lord, increase our faith! (Luke 17:5).

COLLOQUY

“Praise and thanks to you, O blessed faith! You tell me with certitude that the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, the heavenly Manna, is no longer bread, but my Lord Jesus Christ Who is wholly present there for love of me.

One day, O Jesus, full of love and of goodness, You sat beside the well to await the Samaritan woman, that You might convert and save her. Now, You dwell on our altars, hidden in the consecrated Host, where You wait and sweetly invite souls, to win them to Your love. From the tabernacle you seem to say to us all: ‘O men, why do you not come to Me, Who love you so much? I am not come to judge you! I have hidden myself in this Sacrament of love only to do good and to console all who have recourse to Me’; I understand, O Lord; love has made You our prisoner; the passionate love You have for us has so bound You that it does not permit You to leave us.

O Lord, You find Your delight in being with us, but do we find ours in being with You? Especially do we, who have the privilege of dwelling so near Your altar, perhaps even in Your very own house, find our delight in being with You? Oh! how much coldness, indifference, and even insults You have to endure in this Sacrament, while You remain there to help us by Your presence!

O God, present in the Eucharist, O Bread of Angels, O heavenly Food, I love You; but You are not, nor am I, satisfied with my love. I love You, but I love You too little! Banish from my heart, O Jesus, all earthly affections and give place, or better, give the whole place to Your divine love. To fill me with Yourself, and to unite Yourself entirely to me, You come down from heaven upon the altar every day; justly then, should I think of nothing else but of loving, adoring, and pleasing You. I love You with my whole soul, with all my strength. If You want to make a return for my love, increase it and make it always more ardent!” (St. Alphonsus).

Love,
Matthew