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If We Got it Wrong, We Got it Wrong From the Beginning

June 27, AD2017

The Roman Catholic Church’s belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist has never varied in twenty centuries. Many other Christians have disagreed and got it wrong, sometimes with disastrous results.

We once lived about 100 miles south of Waco where Vernon Wayne Howell wrecked havoc when he was the leader of the Branch Davidians.  Howell had petitioned for a name change for business reasons in the 1990’s. The name he chose was David Koresh, David since he saw himself as a spiritual descendant of King David, and Koresh for a Persian king who was seen as a messiah during the Babylonian captivity.

This fellow took Christ’s message that we all attempt to see and follow and perverted it into something not readily identifiable as Christian by any of the other mainstream denominations.

Other People Who Got It Wrong

James Warren Jones took his message and watched as it was perverted into another strange sect in the jungles of South America.  The People’s Temple met a sad fate because their leader got it wrong.

Another space cadet who got it wrong was Marshall Applewhite who was in charge of a sect known as Heaven’s Gate.  They took their lives after having packed their bags for a trip on a hidden spacecraft.

There are also biblical references to people who may have gotten it wrong.  The reference I recalled was in the Book of Acts:

Acts 5:34-39

34 But a Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up, ordered the men to be put outside for a short time 35 and said to them, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men. 36 Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. 37 After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered. 38 So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. 39 But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him.

How Do We Know We Don’t Have It Wrong?

Thank you for asking the question.  We know we do not have it wrong for two primary reasons: First, Christ said it and we believe it “This is my Body”, next is the study known as Patristics.  This title is given to the study of the early church fathers and their writings.

In terms of those Catholics or others who are aligned with the Holy See in Rome, we know that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ Jesus, the Son of God who died for our salvation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that this truth scandalized people, even in the New Testament:

CCC 1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”160 The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. “Will you also go away?”:161 the Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has “the words of eternal life”162 and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.

Most other denominations believe that communion ( lower case use is deliberate here ) is a recollection of the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me, but I need you to hold off for  19 centuries until grape juice can be processed without becoming wine.”

Looking at the study of the early fathers in the study of Patristics, we find that St Ignatius in the very early second century ( approximately 110 A.D. ) told people he considered to be heretics to abstain from the Eucharist since they did not believe that it was the Body and Blood of Christ.

Any Others?

St. Justin Martyr in the year 150 AD, or close to there, wrote that we do not receive common bread and wine, but that we receive the food that we have been taught is the Eucharist of Christ.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote in the late 350’s wrote that no matter what your senses are trying to tell you, the bread and wine in front of you are the Body and Blood of Christ who died for us and our salvation.

So, we can see from reading the early church fathers, if we as Catholic Christians got it wrong, we got it wrong from the beginning since for twenty centuries now, we have been taught the same thing. St. John Chrysostom declares:

It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.

We can turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for validation of this as well:

CCC 1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion.

What is the Holy Eucharist?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers the best explanation of Holy Eucharist. It is a sacrament and a sacrifice. In the Holy Eucharist, under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Christ is contained, offered, and received.

(a) The whole Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. We use the words “really, truly, and substantially” to describe Christ’s presence in the Holy Eucharist in order to distinguish Our Lord’s teaching from that of mere men who falsely teach that the Holy Eucharist is only a sign or figure of Christ, or that He is present only by His power.

(b) All Christians, with but few minor exceptions, held the true doctrine of the Real Presence from the time of Christ until the Protestant Revolution in the sixteenth century.

(c) The word “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving.”

When did Christ Institute the Holy Eucharist?

Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the night before He died.

(a) About a year before the Last Supper Our Lord promised to give us the Holy Eucharist. This promise is related in the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John. The fulfillment of this promise took place at the Last Supper.

We cannot accept the watered-down version of the Holy Eucharist celebrated in Protestant churches as a mere remembrance of the Last Supper because the Eucharist is the source and summit of our life in Christ:

CCC1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”136 “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”137

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Dan and his bride, his gift from God, have been married over 50 years, and they have recently moved to East TN to reduce the distance to family. He is a 4th degree Knight, is active in the Society of St Vincent de Paul, and several other ministries. He has been listed in the "Who's Who Directory of Global Business Leaders".

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  • Guest

    Adam, you are trying to shame people who speak the truth. There is nothing wrong with the term “watered down”. I have seen this used in many places. This is practically a standard description of the Protestant eucharist. One of the spiritual acts of mercy is to teach the ignorant. Shaming people into silence is the devil’s work. You can sin by omission and by doing nothing when you should. Yes, we are our brothers’ keepers. We need to speak up without fear because we have the truth, and they don’t. If you don’t believe that, then you cannot be Catholic. So, Adam, I hope you become unafraid and speak up for Catholicism, and not defend the misconceptions of the non-catholics out of fear and to use your word, “shame.”

  • Scripture emphasizes faith and trust directly in Christ as the primary way of connecting with Him.
    The Church emphasizes the Eucharist. Why the difference?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      @aiellopj:disqus, have you ever read Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John? The Eucharist *is* Christ.

      You could also read Brant Pitre’s “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.”

    • I have read chapter 6 of John. The New Testament epistles do not place as much emphasis on the Eucharist as the present day Catholic Church. 1Corinthians 10 and 11 speak of it; and then it is totally absent in the epistles before and after that.

    • Kevin Aldrich
    • After Jesus’ sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension, He became a life-giving Spirit. During the gospel period He was not. He could not inhabit us at that point (see John 14:17). The shedding of His blood was required for this to eventually happen. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin (Hebrews (:22). This was the prerequisite for everything that follows in Christianity. The Old Testament sacrifices prefigured the death of Christ.

      The Spirit of Christ became available at Pentecost after the ascension. Jesus speaks of this in the 17th chapter of John before it happened.

      Acquiring the Spirit of Christ is the main theme of the epistles. Paul says in Romans 5:1-2: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
      Faith is the vehicle of transmission for the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Spirit did not arrive during a communion meal.

      Vatican II, in Sacrosanctum Concilium 59, says of the sacraments: “They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also
      nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called
      “sacraments of faith”. Of themselves, the sacraments don’t stand
      alone to supply the grace in which we stand.

      Baptism and Confirmation are the sacraments pertaining to receiving the Spirit and walking in the Spirit, which, in turn, enable the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). These are prior to the Eucharist and put us in the state of grace. The Eucharist does not put us in the state of grace. The sacrament of reconciliation is listed after the
      Eucharist. Does this reflect the order of importance?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It sounds like you have your own theology.

      The ordinary way we receive grace is through the sacraments. The Magisterium teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian lives. This is because the Eucharist is Christ. Of course, we can receive Christ well or badly.

      Bad and good the feast are sharing,
      Of what divers [different] dooms preparing,
      Endless death, or endless life.

      Life to these, to those damnation,
      See how like participation
      Is with unlike issues [outcomes] rife.

    • Kevin Aldrich
  • ZorroRules

    The pope is in the process of destroying the teachings on the true presence via his scandalous behavior relative to his exhortation which has brought confusion by his failure to answer legitimate questions and his apparent change in discipline which by its nature brings into question the nature of the Eucharist and what it is. Because if one can be unmarried and have sexual relations and still receive communion then it would seem either marriage or the Eucharist or both don’t really matter and sin also seems to be unimportant because there is raised some question as to the sacred nature of receiving the eucharist. The Eucharistic cannot be both Holy, Sacred, and indeed The Body and Blood of Christ if it is not treated as such, because it makes no sense to trivialize such a thing. Either the Eucharist is Jesus and deserves to be treated as such or if not then any dog can have it. And frankly the pope is on the trivializing path. His actions trivialize marriage, and in fact all the sacraments, were it otherwise then he could answer simple questions about his teaching and how we can understand it in the context of tradition and past teachings, in other words he could simply enlighten us by explaining. The pope’s silence is a form of arrogance and neglect and it shows that he is no good father, but a prideful man. He should be absolutely be removed from office. It is only a matter of time before fornication matters not at all, nor any sexual behavior, therfore as rumored, one can indeed expect Humane Vitae to be gutted, and homosexual “unions” will be fully tolerated and perhaps even more. The pro-life movement will also be gutted and destroyed and has already been damaged by this pontiff’s failures to address congress and his nasty words about having children. The man is a disaster.

  • C-Marie

    Beautiful article! God bless, C-Marie

  • Wayne

    Pointing out error is not deprecating. Educating the ignorant is a spiritual work of mercy. It should be done respectfully, yes. But if there had been enough people willing to point out error in the last 50 years maybe we would not have the chaos in the Church we have now.

    • adam aquinas

      Whether or not, Wayne, you believe sincerely in something; telling another believer that sincerely believe something contrary is deprecating … belief is a function os many factors like family of origin, culture, coutry/state, etc Hold your beliefs firmly, telling another sincere believer that they are in error is deprecating, demeaning, and simply mean.

    • Wayne

      So letting someone continue living according to error that might endanger their salvation or even their temporal life is less mean? When if you kindly point out their error and they then refrain from it, they might enter into more authentic belief and eternal happiness in the next life, that’s “mean”? I don’t get it.

    • Adam aquinas may be [who knows?] one of those many Catholics who, when corrected by a non-Catholic on some scriptural matter— are swift to charge “anti-Catholic.” He might excuse such behavior by use of the same argument he makes here.

    • Beth Van

      Basically you are saying that we are of a certain religion only because we were born into it I can’t say that I completely disagree with that. I was born into a family that practiced, just barely, Catholicism. I had twelve years of Catholic education through the 50s and 60s because that is what people did. However, as soon as I was an adult I basically disconnected myself from Catholicism and did not even reliably attend Mass at Christmas let alone Easter. However, I never doubted the existence of the Holy Trinity. I never doubted the existence of God and I never blamed him for the bad things that happened in the world or to me or others I knew. I think that is what helped lead me to, by God’s grace, make a total commitment to Catholicism 45 years later. That confession was really something and I am glad for the seal of the confessional. Now, Should I find myself in a conversational situation in which my belief in the Eucharist were somehow challenged, I would have to assert, as kindly and calmly as I could, what I know to be true. that is my right and responsibility.

    • DebraBrunsberg

      Jesus Christ told us that if we do not eat His body or drink His Blood, we will have no life within us. Who would not want to point out to others, that they are not receiving Jesus? When He said that He would always be with us, He was not kidding. Read John 6 and really pray on what the Lord was telling you. I know it has to be hard for people who were raised to believe things that were false, but all of the Protestant sects that exist today have not been given the Truth. The sad part is that Jesus is so clear and man has dismissed His very words about the Eucharist as well as Reconciliation and the other Sacraments. Jesus didn’t just realize that His Church got it all wrong in the 1500’s. He was and is still guiding Her. Men decided that they knew better than the Lord. Truth can hurt, but it is all about the Truth. If one is given the Truth and chooses to ignore, that is their choice, but to attack others because they are truthful is just silly.

  • adam aquinas

    It is always Right to take a stand and support that which you sincerely believe. It is always WRONG to deprecate the beliefs of those who do not subscribe to your notion of reality. What is “watered down” to your belief system, is genuine belief for others. Support your beliefs, do not deprecate others … that is shameful!

    • Ronky

      “watered down” is merely a neutral factual description of changing the belief that the Eucharist is really and truly the Body and Blood of Christ, into a belief that it’s merely bread and wine eaten to bring Christ to mind. Anyone who feels “deprecated” by this has an amazingly thin skin, and I suggest probably is worried by the nagging feeling that he’s got it wrong about the Eucharist.

    • Therese

      This is THE most important issue where truth must ALWAYS triumph over feelings. There is nothing shameful about it.

    • Beth Van

      Instead of “taking a stand” I would say speak the Truth clearly and plainly. No, we should not go out of our way to “deprecate” the beliefs of others. However, should the circumstances arise, we have an obligation to assert what we believe as faithful Catholics.