O PRIESTS HAVE power to change the elements of bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Christ during the mass ritual? Is this belief founded on the Scriptures?
The Catholic position is summed up in the following words from The Catholic Encyclopedia: "In the celebration of the Holy Mass, the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. It is called transubstantiation, for in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of bread and wine do not remain, but the entire substance of bread is changed into the body of Christ, and the entire substance of wine is changed into his blood, the species or outward semblance of bread and wine alone remaining."1
Support for this belief is sought in the words of Jesus when he said of the bread he had blessed, "Take eat; this is my body" and of the cup, "Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood" (Matt. 26:26-28). But forcing a literal meaning on these words creates numerous problems of interpretation and tends to overlook the fact that the Bible commonly uses figurative expressions.
When some of David's men risked their lives to bring him water from Bethlehem, he refused it, saying, "Is not this the blood of men who went in jeopardy of their lives?" (2 Sam. 23:17). The Bible speaks of Jesus as a "door", "vine", and "rock" (John 10:9; 15:5; 1 Cor. 10:4). All recognize these statements are to be understood in a figurative sense. We believe that such is also true of Christ's statement "this is my body...this is my blood." The bread and wine are symbols of his body and blood. This does not detract at all from the reality of his presence within an assembly of believers, for he promised, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). To reject the idea that he becomes literally present in pieces of bread or inside a cup of wine is not to reject that he is present spiritually among believers!
After Jesus "blessed" the elements, they were not changed into his literal flesh and blood, for he (literally) was still there. He had not vanished away to appear in the form of bread and wine. After he had blessed the cup, he still called it "the fruit of the vine" not literal blood (Matt. 26:29). Since Jesus drank from the cup also, did he drink his own blood? If the wine became actual blood, to drink it would have been forbidden by the Bible (Deut. 12:16; Acts 15:20).
There is no evidence that any change comes to the elements through the Romish ritual. They have the same taste, color, smell, weight, and dimensions. The bread still looks like bread, tastes like bread, smells like bread, and feels like bread. But in the Catholic mind, it is the flesh of God. The wine still looks like wine, tastes like wine, smells like wine, and if one drank enough, it would make him drunk like wine! But this is believed to be the blood of God. When the priest blesses the bread and wine, he says the Latin words, Hoc est corpus meus. In view of the fact that no change takes place, we can understand how the expression "hocus-pocus" originated with these words.2
The poem on page 125 is not included to be unkind or to ridicule what many sincere people consider a very sacred ceremony. In spite of its crudeness, the poem does make a point.
The learned Council of Trent proclaimed that the belief in transubstantion was essential to salvation and pronounced curses on any who would deny it. The Council ordered pastors to explain that not only did the elements of the Mass contain flesh, bones, and nerves as a part of Christ, "but also a WHOLE CHRIST."3 The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "The dogma of the totality of the Real Presence means that in each individual species the whole Christ, flesh and blood, body and soul, Divinity and humanity, is really present."4
The piece of bread having become "Christ," it is believed that in offering it up, the priest sacrifices Christ. A curse was pronounced by the Council of Trent on any who believed otherwise. "If any one saith that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God...let him be anathema."5 In Catholic belief, this "sacrifice" is a renewal of the sacrifice of the cross. "Christ., .commanded that his bloody
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