Friday, April 15, 2011

Communion: Could Transubstantiation be in Play?

I remember the first time I went to the altar of Lutheran Communion with my mother and sister. I was ten my sister was five. I think we were made to go to the front because my sister and I were misbehaving, therefore we could not be left in the pew to our own devices. As we knelt at the alter/communion rail with the wine and wafer before us, I remember my sister saying, “MmMm, smells like grape juice”- to which I started laughing uncontrollably, (to this day I don't know why?) My mom countered my ill timed laughter with her patented pain-maneuver which consisted of her digging her stiletto-like fingernails into the soft flesh of my upper arm, all while maintaining a glorious smile on her face. This was all accomplished with the speed and silence of a ninja assassin. I must say, nothing will stop a wayward child in mid-cackle faster than the searing pain of acrylic knives piercing their young tender flesh. Holy, Holy, Holy-crap that hurts!...well played mother.

Over the years I gradually came to understand what communion was, though I really did not see what all the to-do was about? I supposed I would have learned more as a teenager had I not been booted out of confirmation, but such was not to be. (you can read about that here if you missed it)

As an adult Christian, I have taken a lot of time to study the scriptures regarding communion. Now I’m not going to show all the scriptures in their entirety, but you can look them up: Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. I know we observe communion because the Lord Jesus Christ told us to. I also know that we do this in remembrance for all the things HE did for us. It is also a time for examining ourselves, as well as proclaiming His death until HE comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). That being said, is this the full extent of communion…or is there something more?

Let me explain:

My wife was born and raised Catholic; as a matter of fact, she was a model Catholic. She was to Catholicism everything I wasn’t to Lutheranism (which is saying a lot!) While we were dating I decided to tag along with her to a few Catholic Masses. I found that I enjoyed the structure and discovered the Mass to be biblically sound. I sang the songs, kneeled  for the prayers, and had an over-all pleasant experience. However, one thing I did not participate in was the Holy Communion (Eucharist). In the Christian School I attended growing up they equated the Catholic Eucharist with the black mass of Satan. So not wanting to trespass on the Catholic prerequisites, or confront my past indoctrination, I elected to pass on the wine and host. Now after about five or six services I was beginning to feel a bit tired and extremely awkward about just sitting in the pew while everyone else went up. I felt like everyone else was able participate in the big game while I was left in the basement listening to the broadcast on a transistor radio! Finally I told my then girlfriend, “screw it! Next Mass I’m going up to get my treats too!” She said that was fine with her. She knew that I had a firm biblical grasp on Communion; she also knew that I understood the Catholic belief/doctrine of Transubstantiation…Therefore she was not worried about my eternal soul, or the church roof falling in on me as a consequence of my insolence and ignorance. 

The next weeks Mass, before communion, I prepared myself like always: I confessed my sins, and examined myself via the Holy Spirit to expose any grievances or impurities. When the time came for my row to be called, I got into line with all the other Catholic parishioners. I must confess I was a bit nervous. I felt like I was walking through the airport metal detector carrying a shiv, thus, I was half expecting a Catholic-Poser-alarm to sound and be tackled by some secret division of the Vatican! Hey, I seen the Da Vinci Code…some of those can guys play rough! But to my surprise no alarm bells, or buzzers went off and eventually found myself standing before the priest who was dispensing the Body of Christ. Over the past six weeks I had gotten pretty good at the Catholic protocol, so I placed my overlapping hands out and the Host was placed therein. I then praised the Lord for His sacrifice and put it in my mouth. Immediately after biting down I felt a strange, powerful sensation…however, there was no time for reflection because I still had the wine/blood to partake of and there were 50+ people behind me waiting to get their goodies. I then stepped up to the Cup, where the priest said “The blood of Christ”. After I took a drink for the cup I felt an overwhelming sense of warmth and absolute love. This feeling was so strong I almost forgot where I was! and it took everything I had to make the trek back to the kneeler. By the grace of God I did finally get back without falling flat on my face, or plopping down in the wrong row. Once prostrate, I thanked the Lord for His blessings and mercy and thought-WOW! Since then I have probably taken Catholic Communion 9 or 10 times…and every time I have a similar, albeit not as intense, experiences. I have also taken many Communions at other non-Catholic churches, but without near as much fervor. I understand that I take Communion as an act of obedience...but some things cannot be ignored.

So in closing:

Do you think there is something to Transubstantiation? Could it be a mystery of faith that the Protestant church is ignoring? Do you think it is sacrilege? Let me know…

25 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I am a Protestant and have taken communion almost every Sunday since I was about 10 years old. I have never experienced what you did. I also know it is in how you prepare yourself as to how meaningful it is.
    Maybe I will try a Catholic Mass! Or at least spend more time reflecting and confessing before I partake.

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  2. Very interesting. I am a Protestant and have taken communion almost every Sunday since I was about 10 years old. I have never experienced what you did. I also know it is in how you prepare yourself as to how meaningful it is.
    Maybe I will try a Catholic Mass! Or at least spend more time reflecting and confessing before I partake.

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  3. Very Interesting. I am a Protestant and have taken communion almost every Sunday since I was about 10 years old. I have never experienced what you did. i also know it is in how you prepare yourself as to how meaningful it is.
    Maybe I will try a Catholic mass! Or at least spend more time reflecting and confessing before I partake.

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  5. I don't know, I've been to one Catholic mass and didn't participate. Anything is possible with God so very well could be transubstantiation :) Some day we'll know.

    Blessings,
    Mel
    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

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  6. I guess imam caught in the middle. I believe it is much more than many Protestants ascribe to it but I do not beleive it is literal flesh and blood.

    Nearly every time I have taken communion I felt the very real presence of the Lord.

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  7. I guess imam caught in the middle. I believe it is much more than many Protestants ascribe to it but I do not beleive it is literal flesh and blood.

    Nearly every time I have taken communion I felt the very real presence of the Lord.

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  8. As someone who loved the rituals of the Mass, I would encourage you to visit a Catholic church. I think a lot of people have misconceptions or stereotyped ideas about different denominations or churches and they only way to challenge them is to see what they are really like. There are plenty of times I didn't want to go to a church because I already made up my mind about it, but my husband encourages me to try it out- at least I'll be well educated!

    And I love the Eucharist, it was the hardest part about joining a non-Catholic church, was leaving the Eucharist behind. There is something powerful in bringing to mind Christ's sacrifice and then experiencing close intimacy with Him.

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  9. Cool read. I grew up Catholic and the mystery stuff was always pretty cool to me. Was not much of a confession type and I never knew what to say. After reading this I might just head back to mass lol!

    mitch

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  10. Hi,

    I believe it is the body and blood of Jesus, and it is good we can reflect on the extreme weightiness of His actions. I have seen some people who don't believe this to actually seriously pass out pizza and coke and call it the Lord's supper. I think the reality of His presence helps us to keep in mind the reality of His sacrifice. And as you say, you can perceive inwardly that something very real is going on there.

    Lou Barba

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  11. Hi Lou! I totally agree that the reality of His presence keeps us mindful of His sacrifice. I remember when the weight of His presence really hit me. I was 18 or 19 in my first year of college and someone told me how humbled she was that Christ would want to physically be a part of her. When we take in the body and blood of Christ we are united with Him on a physical level that is almost like a consummation of Christ's spiritual indwelling in us. I believe the bread and wine become the body and blood as a consequence of our faith- so it very much brings to mind Christ's sacrifice on the cross. I don't think Communion is simply something Christ commanded us to do, but is very much a gift He gave/gives us.
    Thanks for your comment!

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  12. Thanks Mitch for stopping by! Perhaps I could get some Kick-backs from the Catholic church for getting their people back in the pews:-> Dare to dream.

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  13. Thanks for your comment Luther. I think Communion is a very vital part of the Christian Church. I also don't think most churches put the same value on it as they should.

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  14. Yes, with God all things are indeed possible!

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  15. Thanks for the comment DS! Also thanks for the link to the website with a thousand pop-up ad's!

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  16. Sounds like it was Jesus' body...and your blood! Ouch!

    Yes, we Lutherans have the tue body and blood of Christ in the Supper, as well. The thing that makes it a bit different for us (than the Roman view) is the direction. We believe it is a free gift from God, down to us. And it is efficacious because of the Word, alone. In the Roman church the Sacrament is a re-sacrifice of Christ and offered up to Him. And it is ONLY valid if a properly ordained priest (in historic succession) administers the Sacrament. The R. Catholics do not believe that our (Protestant) Sacrament is valid.

    Thanks!

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  17. I went to a Catholic church on numerous occasions for a school project - I too didn't find the heresy I was warned would be there. I sat out the communion simply because they said it was for Catholics only. I, as usual, am somewhere in the middle. Its difficult to say you are suddenly eating Jesus anytime someone takes the bread and wine, but at the same time just calling it a symbolic ritual takes some of the power out of it. I imagine lots of people say its all about your heart, but I imagine people who went up out of duty found themselves moved. One of them darned mysteries!

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  18. LOL! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I do not believe that the Catholics have cornered the market on Communion; I just think that a lot of modern churches do not have the proper reverence for the Lords Supper. I personally believe that anyone can administer, and observe Communion as well. As a matter of fact I have a personal Communion set that I use whenever needed. Thank you again!

    Blessings,

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  19. Definitely one of those darned mysteries! I used to think I could never attend any other church but Catholic because I loved the Eucharist so much, but then Mark changed my perspective on it. No where in the Bible does it say a celibate cleric is the only one who is qualified to offer communion. I also came to understand that transubstantiation isn't necessarily a consequence of Catholic ritual but of God's power and an answer to our faith- so I would say (cause I believe this) that if we are faithful God turns the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood. But then you brought up the point of people who only take communion out of duty and have had a powerful experience anyways. That's tough. The Catholic church would say because the priest conducted the ritual and transubstantiation occurred that even if there was no belief there could be an affect. So yea. I believe that I am partaking of Christ's body and blood, but I don't necessarily believe that if someone who doesn't believe in literal communion (Catholic or otherwise) that God will strike them down, or convict them in the process, or that they are consuming more than a cracker and some juice.

    Thanks for you comment Charlie. I'm trying to think of something witty to say to wrap up this extra long comment, but my brain doesn't seem to be cooperating at the moment, so I'm done. :)

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  20. Definitely one of those darned mysteries! I used to think I could never attend any other church but Catholic because I loved the Eucharist so much, but then Mark changed my perspective on it. No where in the Bible does it say a celibate cleric is the only one who is qualified to offer communion. I also came to understand that transubstantiation isn't necessarily a consequence of Catholic ritual but of God's power and an answer to our faith- so I would say (cause I believe this) that if we are faithful God turns the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood. But then you brought up the point of people who only take communion out of duty and have had a powerful experience anyways. That's tough. The Catholic church would say because the priest conducted the ritual and transubstantiation occurred that even if there was no belief there could be an affect. So yea. I believe that I am partaking of Christ's body and blood, but I don't necessarily believe that if someone who doesn't believe in literal communion (Catholic or otherwise) that God will strike them down, or convict them in the process, or that they are consuming more than a cracker and some juice.

    Thanks for you comment Charlie. I'm trying to think of something witty to say to wrap up this extra long comment, but my brain doesn't seem to be cooperating at the moment, so I'm done. :)

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  21. I don't believe the priest is supposed to give the Eucharist to non-Catholics without special permission from the Bishop on a case-by-case basis. I.e., by posing as a Catholic, instead of croossing your arms over your chest to receive a blessing instead, you are probably making the priest violate his vows.

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  22. I don't believe the priest is supposed to give the Eucharist to non-Catholics without special permission from the Bishop on a case-by-case basis. I.e., by posing as a Catholic, instead of croossing your arms over your chest to receive a blessing instead, you are probably making the priest violate his vows.

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  23. I used to get all bent out of shape when people disobeyed this rule. But really, there are plenty of Catholics out there who receive communion without understanding it or putting any thought or prayer into it. There are Catholics who haven't gone to reconciliation for years and technically they aren't supposed to receive communion either, or if your divorced without an annulment, of if you have missed Mass without confession. There are A LOT of rules, and I would challenge you to find the Scriptural basis for them. Most of them are documented at different councils and are contrived by men, not necessarily by the Word of God. I think a person's heart, attitude, and motivation are much more relevant to receiving Christ's body and blood than anything else. But what do I know? I practiced Catholicism for 24+ years and taught Catholic Catechism for 4 years and got fed with with the lack of Biblical precedence behind many of these rules.

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  24. If one takes the Eucharist in a Catholic Church, one is implicitly and even explicitly uniting him/herself to the Roman Catholic Church. The Eucharist for the RCC both displays the unity of the communicants with the Church and creates that unity. I do not see how or why a person who thinks what the RCC teaches about the Eucharist and the priesthood and the church is unscriptural would want to participate in the RCC Eucharist. For communicants are not just receiving Christ, they're acknowledging and receiving the RCC Christ whether they like to think they are or not. Because I consider the RCC to be unscriptural in so many ways, I would never and could never take the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass; I'd sooner eat meat sacrificed to idols. And I'm not speaking from ignorance or simplistic fundamentalist stereotypes about Catholicism. I know what the Catechism teaches, I've studied church history and the development of the liturgy, etc., for years, read the Apostolic and Church Fathers, etc.

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  25. Well first of all, I think that the Roman Catholic Church is part of the Church as a whole. The church being the worldwide followers of Christ. I believe that there are many sincere and faithful Catholics that have a relationship with Christ and attempt to live their lives for Him-therefore they are member's of Christ's church. That being said, if I receive communion at Catholic church or at a non-denom church and I believe in transubstantiation than I am receiving Christ, not "the RCC Christ". I don't find a difference. I don't think the idea of a priest officiating the Eucharistic Rite is scriptural but the Roman Catholic's stance on transubstantiation is. Many parts of the Mass are scriptural, but when it comes to certain rules the church ordains they are lacking in scriptural wisdom and discernment. Most churches have some of these same problems in some of their minor doctrine. I refuse to bash the Catholic Church or any Christ-based denomination. You can read more about that here http://www.3-foldcord.com/2011/03/catholic-or-cath-o-lite.html

    I think creating divisions in Christendom based on denominational or doctrinal lines goes against the church Christ envisioned for us, and goes against many of His teachings. The Church as a whole could accomplish much more in this world if we would stop all the in-fighting and unite together to serve the Lord and bring about Christ's Will in this world. More about that here http://www.3-foldcord.com/2011/02/christian-frustrations.html

    You said you would rather eat the meat sacrificed to idols. Paul stated all things were permissible- including eating food sacrificed to idols, unless it became a stumbling for a brother. I do not think my receiving communion at Catholic church is a stumbling block for others. If someone asked me not to, I would refrain. If I was publicly defending abortion or encouraging others to engage in pre-marital sex I would think publicly taking communion anywhere would be a stumbling block- but I don't do those things.

    I'm sorry if you thought that I assumed you were an ignorant fundamentalist. I actually assumed you were Catholic. ;) I was simply trying to point out my history with Catholicism briefly, but now I've provided you with a link so you can explore it more.

    We would enjoy hearing your take on some of our other posts. Feel free to remain anonymous, but it would be nice to put some sort of name with the person we are conversing with. And if you have your own blog it would be an excellent way to generate some traffic your way. We aren't into judging or lambasting here, but do what ever feels comfortable.

    Thanks for your comments/discussion and please keep it coming.

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