Do bread and wine really become Jesus Christ?

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While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
— The Gospel of Saint Mark, 14:22-24

THE solemnity of the body and blood of Christ, to be celebrated tomorrow across the Catholic world, is perhaps the doctrine of faith provoking the most doubt, questioning, or silent disbelief among the faithful.

How exactly does bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity?

For many other Christian denominations, including the Anglican church which shares many traditions and beliefs with Catholicism, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist reprising Jesus’s words and gestures during the Last Supper before His passion and death, was just that: a re-enactment and remembering of that event, with the bread and wine being just symbols of Christ’s offering of His body and blood for our salvation.

“Do this in memory of me,” Jesus said after offering what He called His body and blood for His apostles to eat and drink. For non-Catholics, those words from our Lord affirm that repeating the bread and wine words and gestures merely recalled the Last Supper, but did not actually bring forth the real presence of Christ on the altar.

We won’t get into the centuries of theology explaining transubstantiation and other elements of doctrine buttressing the Catholic belief that bread and wine are actually transformed into the Lord’s body and blood. The catechism of the Catholic Church, The Catholic Encyclopedia, and other tomes, many of them available online, can elucidate this doctrine far better than this writer.

What this article might reflect upon instead is the meaning for humanity of Christ actually turning bread from wheat and wine from grapes into Himself.

Often expounded upon on homilies and writings is the oneness or communion with Christ that transpire when eating His body and drinking His blood. The Lord becomes part of us and we receive His unbounded love, redeeming grace, all-knowing wisdom, and almighty power. And we can harness these divine powers to the extent that we open ourselves to them through Christ-like living.

The great saints and even less inspired Christians have demonstrated how transformative and empowering Christ’s love, wisdom, and power are. From courageous martyrdom and heavenly spirituality to doctrinal brilliance and all-embracing charity, the bounties of communion with Christ are immense and accessible to all who would take up his or her cross and follow Jesus.

Equally significant, if less highlighted, however, is another immense significance of the Eucharist in our life and world: creation becomes Creator. The Eucharist is another manifestation of the paramount dogma of Christianity: God became man to save humankind through His total love and sacrifice.

In a kind of inverse of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity taking on human form, humble bread and wine are turned into His very Being. Earthly things become heavenly flesh and fluid. Pieces of creation are transformed into the Real Presence of the Creator.

Thus, in the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, we extol not only the coming of God to our world and His loving sacrifice for our redemption, and His giving of His body and blood for us to be one with Him and partake of His divinity. We also celebrate and reprise at every mass the Creator’s greatest gift to all His handiwork: that this world and all that is in it can become God Himself.

We creatures not only commune with Christ. We become Christ. After all, if God can do so for inanimate bread and wine, why not for human beings created in His own image?

For some people, however, the idea of creation becoming Creator may be even harder to accept than transubstantiation. How, they may ask, can this violent, lying, scheming, unjust, and devilish world ever be transformed into anything remotely resembling God?

Well, as chroniclers of saintly lives can point out, that same question can be asked of the wretched souls throughout history who have risen from debauchery, pride, sloth, venality, and every human sin and failing, to reach astounding heights of spirituality, charity, industry, and, indeed, near-divinity.

How did the persecutor of Christians become Saint Paul the Apostle, a womanizing philosopher arguing against the faith transform into St. Augustine, a proud and wayward youth humble himself into St. Francis of Assisi, and a haughty, conquering soldier enlist in Jesus’s army as St. Ignatius of Loyola?

The answer is the same to the inverse question: How did heavenly the Son of God become the man Jesus? By the love and grace of God.

In sum, not only does the solemnity of Corpus Christi celebrate God becoming man and giving His Body and Blood to us. Tomorrow we thank God for His paramount gift, promise and invitation for bread and wine, universe and humanity, you and me, to become Himself. Amen.

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14 Comments

  1. Amnata Pundit on

    One can be a believer and still be a crook, just like the many Ateneo graduates who are now serving in government. So the real question should be: ” Do bread and wine transform one’s moral character enough to qualify him a place in heaven?” The Church has created its own brand of logic that produces intense devotion to the Church as an organization but does nothing for the human soul, because she is a dominion seeker masquerading as spiritual savior. How much one has been filled with the Holy Spirit is always reflected in his character, or the totality of one’s speech and actions. How does the Church teach us to actually transform ourselves so that we reflect the Holy Spirit? A real holy man can answer that question very easily, but a dominion seeker cannot.

    • Justaskingseriously on

      Galatians 5:19-26 — “It is obvious what proceeds from the flesh: lewd conduct, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, bickering, jealousy, outbursts of rage, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I have warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

      In contrast, the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity. Against such there is no law! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the spirit, let us follow the spirit’s lead. Let us not be boastful, or challenging, or jealous toward one another.”

      And what is a dominion seeker?

  2. mark 14: 22-24, is symbolic, where until now it is being practice. the blood and body of Jesus Christ has been offered as sacrifice in the cross of Calvary to redeem the sins of the world. we were given a choice to accept Jesus as our lord and personal Savior thru faith. Our salvation thru Christ is grace and not by our good deeds, Ephesians 2: 8-9. in John 3: 16, God the father expresses his divine love to human kind where he give his only begotten son Jesus Christ to be a man and felt the pain when he was crucified.

    • Rolando, read Mathew 25:31-46 and tell me if our salvation is not based on good deeds… and also read James 2:14-26. God bless you…

    • Justaskingseriously on

      What is symbolic with the words “This IS My Body…This IS My Blood” ? You may have been practising it in the protestant way. Now that is definitely JUST symbolic. By the word of the Lord everything came to be.

  3. Sa salitang trinity,ay ipinakikita dito na totoong tatlo sila at hindi pueding isa! Magkakaibang antas,
    Ang ama ay siyang makapangyarihan sa lahat at tunay na diyos!si cristo ay nilikha lang niya mula pa noong una at itoy nasa isipan na niya,upang kung magkasala ang lahat ng tao,ay may isusugo siya, iba yung magsusugo at isusugo!upang tubusin ang tao sa kasalanan nila!
    Ang espiritu ay kapangyarihan nangagaling sa dios! Malinaw na ang cristo at espiritu ay kasangkapan pang ng dios AMA!
    Alin ang mahirap paniwalaan at kataka-taka at kababalahag dito!
    Kung hindi nag-imbento ang tao, wala sanang gulo!

    • justapatriot on

      In Revelation,John sees Jesus sitting in the throne of God. When Phillip asked Jesus a glimpse of the Father, Jesus rebukes him for his lack of understanding that when you see Jesus: you’re seeing the Father, and why look for someone beyond Him. In Old Testament understanding, to be a son meant to come from, language the Pharisees understood when they picked-up stones for blasphemy because to be the son of God=God Himself. Comprehend this: whenever we see Jesus sitting on the throne of God, you’re looking at God yet God is still present beyond the throne.

  4. Joel Arcenas on

    Dear Mr. Saludo , I can surmise from your articles in the Times that you are a devout Catholic Christian. What are your views regarding the recent legalization of same sex marriage through a national referendum in Catholic Ireland? Regards..J.V. Arcenas

    • Thank you for your question, Joel.
      The Ireland vote, like other political processes like legislation, is a human act which does not change the judgment of God on our actions.
      According to our faith, when we want to know what’s right or wrong, we don’t hold a plebiscite. We pray for divine guidance and seek it in revelation as presented in Holy Scripture and the Magisterium of our Holy Mother the Church.
      Thank you again.

  5. Transubstantiation is either a biblical teaching or a Catholic invention. Studied that in college and most just quietly not believed it. If it’s the body, then the blood is within and the cup is redundant, as the teaching goes. It can’t be the Lord’s actual body or else your mouth turns red when the bread disintegrates in your mouth. Communion, continually practiced for two thousand years has kept the Lord’s memories fresh in our hearts and serves as one evidence for Christ.

    • laguatanlawZen.com on

      Whether or not transubtantiation is biblical or whatever, nobody, including you, can delve deeper into the mystery of God. The foolishness of the fool and the ungodly, is the wisdom of God. Only by being humble, you can see God through the eyes of your faith.

    • Justaskingseriously on

      “Studied that in college…” sounds thorough enough, but could not even resolve the academic issue: biblical or invention? It is time to “unstudy”. Just like “Holy Trinity”, “transubstantiation” is a coined term to describe a biblical tenet. The term happened to have been coined by an ecumenical council held to counter the protestant reformation in the middle of the 16th century (1545-1563). Note: catholic doctrines are held long before they are defined. Definitions are occasioned by rampant denial; no denial = no need for definition. Or in the case of the doctrines on the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, the catholic faithful clamor for definition.

      Biblical? Read John chapter 6. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. Jesus multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed a vast crowd. Evening came. The disciples embarked to cross the lake of Galilee. They saw Jesus walking on the water. Morning came. The vast crowd look for Jesus. They found Jesus on the other side of the lake. That surprised them, because they had not seen Jesus embark with the disciples. Obviously they were looking for a free breakfast. Instead, Jesus told them they would need to eat his flesh and drink his blood which He was going to give them. They deserted Him. Their desertion was “evidence” that they understood exactly what Jesus was saying. Even the disciples who had embarked and therefore saw Jesus walking on the water deserted Jesus. It came down to the 12 apostles: would they too desert Him? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life…” was Simon Peter’s apostolic response.

      Brief analysis: Passover (Exodus 12) was approaching. Jesus shows He has power both over food (multiplies food) and over His own body (walks on water). Jesus proclaims Himself as the Paschal Lamb to be eaten during the feast. His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink. On the night of the Passover, the Egyptians who had no idea about the paschal lamb, lost their first born kids and beasts. Loss of first born = loss of a whole array. Partaking of the Paschal Lamb = eternal life.

      Just a memorial? “Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset…” That is the biblical concept of time. Unlike our concept of time, biblical time is recurrent. Events in time are also as recurrent. They are so unlike our own concept of time where past is past, and future is still future; all we can really do is remember and hold memorials.

      So which is it? Biblical or ….You decide.

      Catechism of the Catholic Church #1085. The Person of Jesus is eternal. Everything that happened to Him and everything that He did on earth partakes of eternity. Events in His earthly life transcend time. These events can therefore be made present any time. Liturgical celebrations in the catholic church present precisely such events. Biblical recurrence is reflected in the liturgical cycle. Everything is real. “Thy kingdom come” becomes “Thy kingdom is here and now.” “Give us this day our daily bread” becomes “Thank You” which is what Eucharist in Greek means. “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation….”

      Why offer bread and wine? Bread results from myriads of grains dying together, and wine results from innumerable grapes pressed together. Like grains and grapes, the baptized offer themselves with Jesus, through Jesus, and in Jesus in union with the Holy Spirit, to God the Father to Whom all honor and glory belongs — forever and ever. Amen.

    • justapatriot on

      I wouldn’t downplay the importance of biblical accuracy because its the basis of what we believe. Mary’s veneration did not start till the 10th or 11th century, and the doctrine of co-redemptor can not be supported by the word of God. Is Mary divine and omniscient? How can she hear her devotees requests from all over the world while she’s in heaven. Jesus can and will, when we pray in His name. Why employ a middle party when God wants us to bring our petitions directly to Him.

    • Justaskingseriously on

      Wherever the King is, His Queen Mother is by His side. This so found in the Book of Kings. The mother of Solomon intercedes with King David to remember his oath to make her son, Solomon, succeed him as king. When Solomon is made king, his paternal brother, Adoniah who had proclaimed himself king is looking for a way to save his neck. Adoniah seeks David directly? No. He goes to the Mother Queen for help. Does Solomon refuse the intercession of his mother?

      Jesus is the promised son of David whose house would last forever. Does Jesus refuse Mary’s hint that the marriage feast at Cana was running out of wine? It was just a hint and yet Mary was so confident that she went ahead and told the waiters, “Do what He tells you.”

      Who is claiming that Mary is divine? He doth protest too much, as Shakespeare would put it.

      The Church convened ecumenical councils to settle issues. The first council was in Jerusalem with Peter and Paul settling the Mosaic Law of circumcision. No more need for circumcision was the decision (Acts 15). Ecumenical or whole household councils followed to settle more issues 3 centuries later when priests doubted Jesus’ divinity. Then there was the council of Ephesus, Mary’s town, in 431. The people celebrated with a triumphant processionn when they heard that Mary was declared “Theotokos”. It was much much earlier than 10th or 11th century.