Sacraments & Sacramentals

Today we are in Capernaum where Jesus said: “Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood.” I thought it appropriate that I post this challenge today.

A man sent a challenge saying “the Fathers of the Church limited the Eucharist to a symbol and therefore it is NOT the Real Presence of Christ.”

Is that true? My friend Gary Michuta answers the question.

Thanks for including me in on this conversation. Brian, there are three issues that commonly trip up non-Catholics when they read the early fathers on the Eucharist.

 The first obstacle is their inability to understand the difference between a complimentary statement and a contradictory statement. For example, the two following statements can be complementary (that is both true in the same manner and time):

1) This ball is red
2) This ball is round.

 A contradictory statement cannot be true in the same manner and at the same time. for example:

1) This ball is red
2) This ball is NOT red

 When an early father says that Eucharist is a symbol, it is not necessarily contradictory since the Eucharist can be both a symbol and the reality of Christ’s body and blood. A statement that would contradict Catholic teaching would be The Eucharist is ONLY a symbol.

 This brings up the second stumbling block. Catholic teaching on the Eucharist is much more complex than saying it is Christ’s body and blood (as you know). It is a Sacrament, which is a visible sign (symbol, type, figure) that points to an invisible reality (Christ Himself). Many non-Catholics are surprised that the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is a symbol (in regards to the Sacramental species or its outward appearances). 

 The Council of Trent, for example, said, “This, indeed, the most Holy Eucharist has in common with the other sacraments, that is a “symbol of a sacred thing and a visible form of an invisible grace (DS 1639). It elsewhere says that Christ “offered to the Father His own body and blood under the species of bread and wine, and under the symbols of those same things gave to the apostles… so that we might partake.” (DS 1740).

The old Roman Catechism (the Catechism of the Council of Trent) speaks in the same way. When the early Fathers speak of the Eucharist in terms of its species (mode in which it is given to us), it is correct to use terms like symbols, figures, types, and the like. However, when one is speaking about the invisible reality of the Eucharist (Christ Himself) we cannot speak of it as a symbolic (see DS 1651). 

 The third stumbling block, which this author seems totally oblivious, is the fact that the early Fathers interpreted Scripture according to a four-fold sense (literal, allegorical, moral and anagogical). Protestantism recognizes only one sense of Scripture, the literal (ala the Westminster Confession, 1, 9). There were schools in the ancient Church that specialized on these different senses. Antioch was known for its literal interpretations. Alexandria was known for its allegorical interpretations.

It’s not surprising that the two examples the author gives as being most surprising to Catholics are Clement and Origen. What a shock! They both taught in Alexandria and both are known for their allegorical interpretation. The quotes he gives shows very clearly that they are not talking about the literal sense of Christ’s words, but the allegorical (or perhaps moral/spiritual sense). But this sense tells us nothing about what the Eucharist truly, literally, is.

The Eucharist is both a symbol and IS what it symbolizes. 

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Do the Sacraments Need A “Digestive Juice”?

by Steve Ray on October 13, 2018

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At a recent conference, I mentioned that when we eat we need digestive juices in order to make our food do for our bodies what it was intended to do. I said sacraments are the same. The digestive juice of the sacraments is faith.

A listener honestly and respectfully questioned my comments. She asked her friend to contact me with the questions. Below is what she wrote:

I can’t go tonight or I would ask Steve this question myself but maybe if you get a chance, could you ask him to clarify something he said about Baptism. He talked about Baptism being somehow dependent on the faith of the one being baptized. Maybe I misunderstood him? I don’t think it’s proper to speak about Baptism in “receptionist” terms but maybe I’m missing something?

My response follows:

Dear Friend:

Baptism_photo_1First, I want to say that I did mean what I said in my talk about faith required for Baptism—and the other sacraments. The two go hand-in-hand and both are necessary. I have heard said that in baptism, if one does not have faith or believe—he just gets wet. For example, would an atheist who gets baptized for a joke, have the grace of salvation conferred?

Now, with infants, faith is still expressed through the intention of the parents. Even here it is not allowed, if I remember correctly, to baptize an infant against the will—thus the absence of faith and intention—of the parents.

For my whole response, click here.

 

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Can Relics and Sacramentals Relay the Power of God?

by Steve Ray on October 11, 2018

Some might claim that Catholic teaching on relics and Sacramentals is unbiblical. Really?

Check out these biblical passages:

“So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face CLOTHS or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

“So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the BONES of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet” (2 Kgs. 13:21).

“They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his SHADOW might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed” (Acts 5:15).

“When [Jesus] had said this, He spat on the ground, and made CLAY of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam ” (which is translated, Sent ). So he went away and washed and came back seeing” (John 9:6-7).

OIL – see James 5:14-15

WATER – see 2 Kings 5:14

SACRAMENTALISM (Quoted from Dave Armstrong’s “One Minute Apologist“)

Objection: Matter cannot convey grace. Sacramentalism and relics are unbiblical magic

The Bible teaches that grace and salvation come through the spirit (Jn. 6:63), not through “holy objects”

Initial reply : The Incarnation of Jesus “raised” matter, and His death on the cross was intensely physical. Protestants often speak of “the blood” (Rev. 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Jn. 1:7), which is but one of many examples of sacramentalism.

Extensive reply 

 The New Testament is filled with many concrete examples or teachings about the “incarnational principle” and sacramentalism. Baptism confers regeneration (Acts 2:38, 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21 – cf. Mk. 16:16; Rom 6:3-4 -, 1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3:5). Jesus’ garment (Matt. 9:20-22), saliva mixed with dirt (Jn. 9:5 ff.; Mk. 8:22-25), and water from the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7) all were used in healings. Anointing with oil for healing is also prescribed (Jas. 5:14). The Bible often calls for a laying on of hands for the purpose of ordination and commissioning (Acts 6:6) and in order to heal (Mk. 6:5; Lk. 13:13).

Catholics believe in seven sacraments: all of which are established on the basis of extensive biblical evidences: 1) The Eucharist: Lk. 22:19-20; Jn 6:53-58; 1 Cor. 11:23-30; 2) Baptism: Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38, 22:16; 3) Penance and Reconciliation: Matt. 16:19; Jn 20:23; 1 Cor. 5:3-5 with 2 Cor. 2:6-11; 4) Confirmation: Acts 8:14-17, 19:1-6; Eph. 1:13; 5) Anointing of the Sick: Mk. 6:13; Acts 9:17-18; Jas. 5:14-15; 6) Ordination: Mt. 18:18; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 7) Matrimony: Matt. 5:31-32, 19:1-9; Eph. 5:21-33.

Even relics (remnants of the bodies of saints and holy people, and related physical items), have (perhaps surprisingly) strong biblical support. Perhaps the most striking proof text is a story about the prophet Elisha:

2 Kings 13:20-21: So Eli’sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli’sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli’sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.

Examples of second-class relics (objects that came into contact with holy people) are also clearly found in passages about the prophet Elijah’s mantle, which parted the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:11-14), and Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15-16) and Paul’s handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12), used by God to heal sick people and to cast out demons. If all of this is “magic,” then it is a sort of “magic” directly sanctioned by God Himself.

Objection 

Protestants can agree with some of this. What cannot be found in the Bible, however, is the excessive veneration of relics. This goes too far, and is idolatry. We can remember the deeds of great heroes of the faith (Acts 7; Hebrews 11) and thank God for them, but we shouldn’t get into worshiping bones or pieces of hair and so forth, or go on pilgrimages to “holy places.” That’s too much like paganism or heathenism and adds nothing to our spiritual life. All places are equally “holy.”

Reply to Objection 

If matter can indeed convey grace and blessing, according to the Bible, then we can give glory to God for what He has done with lowly matter by venerating (not worshiping) even now-inanimate objects. Protestants themselves would not, for example, think that the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem or the hill where He died on the cross or His tomb, from which He rose from the dead, are merely rocks and dirt like any other rocks and dirt. In their own way they do indeed venerate and honor them. If the physical location were so irrelevant, why visit it at all; why not simply ponder Jerusalem and Israel in their heads, in “spirit.”

Plenty of Protestants are also fascinated and intrigued by the Shroud of Turin, which is an extraordinary secondary relic related to our Lord Jesus. That is an object, too; a mere piece of cloth. But would any Christian treat it like any other cloth and tear it up for rags to dust with? Of course they would not, because it was connected with Jesus and has miraculous properties (like Elisha’s bones): a supernaturally produced image. Therefore it is highly regarded and revered. It all goes back to God and His great works, using matter. Sacramentalism and relics flow from the Incarnation: God Himself taking on flesh and matter and becoming man.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) 

The death of Christ is the universal cause of man’s salvation: but a universal cause has to be applied to particular effects. Thus it was found necessary for certain remedies to be administered to men by way of bringing Christ’s death into proximate connection with them. Such remedies are the Sacraments of the Church.

And these remedies had to be administered with certain visible signs: — first, because God provides for man, as for other beings, according to his condition; and it is the condition of man’s nature to be led through sensible things to things spiritual and intelligible: secondly, because instruments must be proportioned to the prime cause; and the prime and universal cause of man’s salvation is the Word Incarnate: it was convenient therefore that the remedies, through which that universal cause reaches men, should resemble the cause in this, that divine power works invisibly through visible signs.

Hereby is excluded the error of certain heretics, who wish all visible sacramental signs swept away; and no wonder, for they take all visible things to be of their own nature evil, and the work of an evil author. These visible sacramental signs are the instruments of a God Incarnate and Crucified. (Summa Contra Gentiles, IV, 56: “Of the Need of Sacraments”)

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Who Says the Mass is a Sacrifice?

October 9, 2018

Who Says the Mass is a Sacrifice? Jimmy Swaggart (making a foolish and unhistorical claim): “The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is, without question, one of the most absurd doctrines ever imposed on a trusting public…  Roman Catholic errors are inevitably human innovations that were inserted into the church during the early centuries. This teaching on […]

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My Thoughts While Waiting In Line for Confession

September 2, 2018

My wife and I went to confession yesterday. The line was pretty long (which was good to see, though I hate lines :-)  As I sat and waited it struck me again that the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is not just “Jesus and me” as we […]

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The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church: Article by Steve Ray

August 12, 2018

The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

July 29, 2018

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

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Free Sacraments Chart

June 19, 2018

Free Sacraments Chart by Steve Ray  Want to know all about the Sacraments in a handy, short reference format? Download this link and print out your own 2-page chart — Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. It gives you references from the Bible and the Catechism. This chart was made to go with my 7 talk series […]

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Was Baptism Instituted Before or After Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?

May 25, 2018

The other day a friend wrote and asked a question. It was an interesting question. “Is the answer to this that in the earlier examples, only the disciples did the baptizing and John is using a Hebraic figure of speech such that his disciples did them in his name and by his authority? If so, […]

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My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

May 2, 2018

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It […]

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Why Can’t Evangelicals See the Eucharist?

April 24, 2018

I was recently asked why Evangelicals cannot see the Eucharist and Real Presence in the Bible. This person said that when they read the Bible it seems so clear — especially John 6 where Jesus says “Unless you eat my Flesh and drink my Blood . . .” and at the Last Supper when he […]

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So, Who Says the Mass is a Sacrifice?

April 2, 2018

Who Says the Mass is a Sacrifice? Well, Jimmy Swaggart says it is NOT a sacrifice and wrote: “The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is, without question, one of the most absurd doctrines ever imposed on a trusting public…  Roman Catholic errors are inevitably human innovations that were inserted into the church during the early centuries. This teaching […]

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Infant Baptism

February 10, 2018

Infant Baptism is discussed and argued about quite a bit in some circles. I was raised Baptist and taught that Infant Baptism was a man-made tradition invented by the heretical Catholics who abandoned the Word of God to follow ill-advised tradition. (Picture: My granddaughter Elizabeth Arabella Rose Ray is baptized.) But not all Protestants reject Infant […]

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White Bread and Shot Glass of Grape Juice: But Now I am Home!

September 16, 2017

Revet Elizabeth wrote: I grew up Catholic, left off practice of my faith, then wandered around several churches before coming back.  It just seemed like the preaching I was hearing treated the Bible like Ann Landers, and people wanted to be soothed rather than challenged.  There would be preaching and singing but no Eucharist.  It’s […]

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Pastor Bob “Preaches the Word” (Discussing A Sermon on Baptism)

June 27, 2017

Pastor Bob Preaches The Word (or does he?) By Steve Ray Josh left Sunday services full of excitement, anxious to discuss Pastor Bob’s sermon with his sister Jennifer who had recently converted to the Catholic Church. The pastor had explained how salvation was by “faith alone” and not by rituals and works. He was anxious […]

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Defending the Eucharist: Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live

June 14, 2017

This month my topic on Catholic Answers Live was “Defending the Eucharist.” You can listen here. Questions I Answered: 1. What did you believe about the Eucharist before you became Catholic? 2. What helped you understand the fullness of the teaching and why did you change? 3. The Bible also says Jesus is door, the […]

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