On Holy Communion

[The following is from Questions Asked by Protestants Briefly Answered by Father M. Philipps, Rector of St. Joseph’s Church, Buffalo, NY.; Cabinet of Catholic Information, 1903; Imprimatur: Archbishop Farley.]

What difference is there between the Communion of Catholics and that of non-Catholics?

Non-Catholics believe that in communion they eat ordinary bread and drink ordinary wine; Catholics believe that in Communion they eat the real Body of Christ and the real Blood of Christ.

Did Jesus promise that He would give us His Body to eat and His Blood to drink?

Yes, in St. John, Chapter 6, Jesus said: “The bread which I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.” When the Jews doubted that Jesus could give them His flesh to eat, Our Lord answered them saying: “Truly, truly I say to you: except you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life….for my flesh is truly a food and my blood is truly a drink.”

Did Jesus later give to His apostles His Body to eat and His Blood to drink?

We read in St. Matthew 26: “And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed and broke: gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins.”

Does not the eating and drinking mean to believe in the Body and Blood of Jesus?

If eating and drinking meant to believe, Jesus would not have said: “my flesh is a food indeed, and my blood is a drink indeed,” and He would not have said to the Jews: “Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye shall not have life in you,” and the apostles would not have begun at once to bless, to break and to eat this bread.

But Christ said: It is the spirit that giveth life, the flesh profiteth nothing.

Eating the flesh of Jesus without faith profiteth nothing, but eating it with faith giveth life.

At the last supper Jesus meant to say, this means my body, this means my blood.

If Jesus had meant to say, this means my body, He would have said so, but He purposely said: this is my body, this is my blood. Long before the last supper Christ promised the people that He would give them His Body as a food indeed and His Blood as a drink indeed. If Christ had meant to say, this means my body, the Siriac language had at least forty words to express the word “means,” but He used the word is. In such an important matter Jesus wished to speak plainly, and not mislead thousands of souls by ambiguous words. The Church of Jesus during the last 2000 years constantly believed that the word is must be taken in the literal sense. The apostles believed it to be the real Body of Christ, as St. Paul says this bread is more than ordinary bread, but a bread that causes damnation if received unworthily.

How can God give us His own Body and Blood to eat and to drink?

Did not God feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fishes, did He not change rivers into blood in Egypt, is not God almighty and able to do all things, is a thing impossible to God, because we cannot see its possibility?

But the word “is” often stands for “means,” as in Matt. 13:18: The acre is the world.

In this case the context and the nature of the sense indicate that the acre signifies the world, but in the words of the institution the context indicates that it is indeed the Body and Blood of Jesus. Never was it found in the Bible nor in profane or sacred authors that the word “is” has the same sense as the word “means,” except the context requires a different sense.

When Jesus held the bread in His hands, and broke it, He would have broken His own body, according to the sense: This is My Body.

When Jesus broke the bread, He only broke the outward forms of bread, but not His body; to our eyes it seemed broken, but the appearances only were broken.

How could Jesus be present in different places at the same time?

How can God be present in many places at the same time is impossible for me to explain; but we know that in God all things are possible. The sun can send its light and warmth in many places at the same time and still be only one sun.

St. Paul calls it bread, and not the body of Jesus, when he says: “Whosoever shall eat of this bread.”

St. Paul with emphasis calls it “this bread,” meaning something more than ordinary bread. In the same chapter he complains that some people do not discern between this bread and ordinary bread, and he threatens some who eat of this bread unworthily to be guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ. Ordinary bread could not make them guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ.

I believe that Jesus gave His Body and Blood to His apostles, but I do not believe that priests can do this, and give the Body and Blood of Jesus to people.

Did not Jesus command His apostles to do what He did, when He said: Do this in commemoration of Me? Did not Jesus command us to eat His Body and drink His Blood in order to have life in us? How could we in these days eat the Body of Jesus and drink His Blood if priests had not the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ? Did not Jesus say to His apostles, all power in heaven and on earth is given to Me, as the Father has sent Me, so I send you? Jesus gave this power to His apostles, and they gave it to the priests.

The bread and wine in Communion is only a remembrance of Christ.

It is a remembrance of Christ, but it is also the true Body and Blood of Christ. If it were only a remembrance of Christ, Jesus would not have said: “This is my body, this is my blood.”

Did the first Christians believe that the bread and wine in the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ?

Historians of the early ages, as St. Justin in the year 150, says: The faithful receive communion not as an ordinary bread, or an ordinary drink, but we were instructed that it is the Flesh and Blood of Christ. St. Irenaeus (200) writing about the Gnostics says: They refuse to acknowledge that the bread in Communion is the Body of their Lord and the chalice His Blood. Many other early historians write in the same spirit, and say that Christ is united with us in communion not only through faith, but really and indeed. Some of these historians say that as water was changed into wine so the bread is changed in the Body of Christ. Others again speak of the adoration that we should give to this Holy bread and wine.

The Liturgies in the sixteenth century back to the time of the apostles contain prayers and ordinances, how to change or consecrate the bread and wine, as: “Come, Holy Spirit, consecrate, change, transform by thy almighty power the bread and wine into the body of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, and in the blood which was shed for our salvation.” These words clearly explain the faith of those early Christians.

The Armenians, the Greeks, the Jacobites and other sects that separated from the Catholic Church in remote ages, retained and still believe that the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. This shows that the early Christians believed in a real change of the bread and wine.

How could Jesus be present under so many wafers, and in so many different churches at the same time?

To God there is no space from one church to another, or from one wafer to another. He can be present in a thousand places at the same time. God can do many things of which we do not understand the how.

It is idolatry to adore bread in Communion.

It would be idolatry to adore ordinary bread, but this being the Body of Jesus, it is no idolatry.

How do you prove that the body of Jesus remains present in the wafer and can be preserved as such for some time?

The words of Jesus: “This is My Body,” really changed the bread in the Body of Jesus, and it remained so, as long as Jesus did not change it back into bread; but Jesus did not change it back; therefore, the body of Jesus remained present in the wafer as long as the appearances of bread remained.

Further, we know that the first Christians carried this consecrated bread to the sick, to prisoners, and kept it in precious vases in order to give it to the faithful at the point of death. This shows that they believed Christ remained present in the wafer even after the Consecration and Communion.

Will the Body of Jesus in us after Communion be subject to the laws of digestion?

No, only the appearances of bread will be subject to a change, but not the Body of Jesus.

Does the Bible say that Jesus will dwell in our heart after Communion?

Yes, in John 6:57, we read: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him.”

I believe that Jesus is present in the bread, but I do not believe that the bread is changed into the Body of Jesus.

Jesus holding bread in His hands said: “This is my body.” If it was then the Body of Jesus, it could no longer be bread, or else the words of Jesus, This is my body, were not true.