By Tom Quiner
I know a guy who can’t talk about Holy Eucharist without getting choked up.
For this Catholic convert, the act of taking Christ’s body, soul, and divinity into his body is moving beyond words.
He tries, I think very effectively, to explain his thoughts and feelings on these frequent encounters with Christ, but words are inadequate.
Catholicism, more than any other Christian denomination, encourages a uniquely “personal relationship with Christ,” none more than experiencing Holy Eucharist. We each experience this intensely personal relationship in our own unique ways.
I encounter Christ intensely through the sacraments of Marriage and Reconciliation in addition to Holy Eucharist because they are a regular part of my life.
I am able to experience these beautiful sacraments because of my Baptism as a baby, and my Confirmation as a teenager.
For non-Catholics, and especially for non-believers of any kind, I’m talking a foreign language to some extent when I talk about my Catholic faith. My beliefs just don’t seem logical to them.
Why do I believe as I do? Because I have been moved by the testimony of others who have helped to draw me into my own relationship with Christ. And I hope my own testimony does the same for you.
The great Catholic convert of the 19th century, Blessed John Henry Newman, said it well:
“Faith by its very nature is the acceptance of a truth that our reason cannot attain; simply and unconditionally on the basis of testimony.”
If you have a buddy get choked up simply talking about his close encounter with Christ when taking Eucharist, you’re going to listen. His testimony matters.
Down through the ages, men and women without faith have been moved by the testimonies of men and women who have encountered the living Christ in profound ways in their lives. The previously unfaithful become faithful themselves.
Why did Mother Teresa of Calcutta do what she did? Because she had a close encounter with the living Christ.
Why did the early Christians do what they did knowing that their Christian faith put their earthly lives at risk? Because they experienced Christ in very personal ways. Their testimonies survive to this day inspiring modern man.
Take St. Justin Martyr. His testimony explains why Roman Catholics view Holy Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ: because that is exactly the way the early Church worshipped. Some early Fathers of the Church overlapped with the disciples, such as St. John.
St. John’s testimony on the meaning of Eucharist appears in his Gospel in chapter 6, verses 47-53:
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48 I am the bread of life.49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a
52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
At this point, Jesus lost His audience, according to St. John. The gathered Jews left, muttering about His “hard” teachings.
This is why Roman Catholicism is different and goes so far beyond Protestantism: we believe and worship based on the testimony of St. John and the other gospel writers. [For the record, I am a Catholic convert who maintains great respect and reverence for my Protestant brothers and sisters.]
We embrace Eucharist as Real Food, not mere symbolism, because of consistent testimony from our Church Fathers. Take the testimony of St. Justin Martyr:
“And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.
For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.
For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone.”
The early Church Fathers were unanimous in their belief that Christ was present in the Eucharist, body, soul, and divinity, which even Martin Luther adamantly affirmed (Luther’s Collected Works, Wittenburg Edition, no. 7 p, 391):
“Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present.
Surely, it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: It is bread only; or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly, in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous.”
I am moved by two-thousand years of testimony which affirms the awe and majesty of Holy Eucharist. These testimonies abound and proliferate with each passing day.
Christ lives. His very Body and Blood are the source of life, the very “medicine of immortality,” to quote St. Ignatius of Antioch.
If you desire a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it awaits you in the Roman Catholic Church.