By Tom Quiner
I lived the first half of my life as a Protestant, the second as a Roman Catholic.
Some Protestant services mirror the Catholic Mass liturgically, despite different beliefs regarding Eucharist.
Some Protestant services have no similarity, other than, perhaps, a scripture passage. Catholic Masses are very scriptural. A full quarter of the Mass is devoted to the Liturgy of the Word, complete with an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel passage, each brilliantly connected by a common theme.
Then we move to the drama of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which incorporates more scripture based on Christ’s words at the Last Supper.
So why do Catholics worship the way we do? Thousands of books have been written on the subject that explain all of this in a very scholarly way.
Here’s a quick, simple explanation: we do it exactly like the early Christians did it.
Catholics embrace the exact same Eucharist-centered beliefs that Saint Paul wrote about.
Catholics worship just like the early Church Fathers did, like St. Justin Martyr, a famous Christian apologist of the second century (100AD to 165AD).
St. Justin Martyr, who was martyred in the name of Christ, wrote clearly about the way Christians worshipped in the early Church with a clear devotion toward Eucharist:
“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.”
As Protestantism began to splinter into the some 40,000 versions that now exist, so did their rejection of the Eucharist. Today, some forms of Protestant worship and belief would be unrecognizable to the early Church Fathers.
So why do Catholics worship the way we do? We stuck with the beliefs and form of worship taught to the Church Fathers by the first Disciples.