May 2002

Do We Receive Jesus Physically in Communion?

Regarding “‘This Is My Body…My Blood’: The Real Presence Is a Physical Presence” by Fr. Regis Scanlon (Feb.): It is obvious to any seven-year-old that the Real Presence of Christ under the disguise or appearance of bread and wine is not physical.

Physical things have size, shape, and weight. They can be seen, touched, smelled, and tasted. The word “real” does not, as many people mistakenly think, mean “physical.” You have a real intelligence, yet it has no size, shape, or weight, nor can it be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or felt. Intelligence is spiritual, not physical. Can you give me an ounce or teaspoon of your intelligence? Truth, goodness, love, and hate are real, but these, too, are spiritual, not physical.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “This is my body…. This is my blood….” At that time Jesus, like us, was composed of a physical body and a spiritual soul. But did Jesus slice off the flesh from His arm and cut it into pieces and pass it around? Did He cut an artery and drip the blood from His bleeding wrist into the chalice? No, He did not. Moreover, to do so would have broken the Mosaic Law forbidding eating meat with blood in it and drinking blood (see Lev. 17:14 and 19:26).

People who do not read the Bible carefully get confused and claim we receive the physical, resurrected Body of Christ in the Eucharist — as if we eat His hair, eyeballs, teeth, bones, and flesh — because when He appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection, His Body could be touched and He could eat broiled fish. But we do not receive this resurrected, physical Body of Christ. We receive His spiritual Body, under the appearance of the physical bread and wine.

Protestants usually claim that we receive the symbolic presence of Jesus in Communion. The footnotes in the NIV and RSV versions of the Bible explain that in Jesus’ time the expression “to eat someone’s flesh” was a metaphor meaning “to slander someone.” Did Jesus mean that to gain eternal life we must slander Him? Obviously not, for Jesus was not speaking metaphorically. In fact, to make His meaning even clearer, at first He used the ordinary word for “eat” (Greek: phagon): “Your fathers ate the manna,” but when He is challenged, the next four or five times He uses the word for “chew” (Greek: trogon): “Unless you chew my flesh you shall not have eternal life.”

So we don’t receive Christ physically, neither do we receive Him symbolically or metaphorically. We receive His real, actual, non-physical, spiritual Body. We receive the whole substance of Jesus Christ under the physical appearance of bread and wine.

Examine an unconsecrated host and a consecrated host under a powerful microscope. They are identical in physical appearance. The consecrated host looks, smells, feels, and tastes like bread to our senses, but it is not bread. It is the spiritual Body of Christ.

Jane P. Collard
Lakeside, California



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