One of the first truths I uncovered in my spiritual journey was the need for Holy Communion (aka The Eucharist or Lord’s Supper). My mother was Catholic and my father came from a Protestant background and later became Assembly of God. Consequently, I was never baptised as an infant so that I could decide my faith when I got older. One of the Catholic beliefs that I struggled with growing up was the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Some Christian denominations believe Holy Communion is only a symbolic act. Well, as the bible tells us, all scripture is God inspired (2 Timothy 3:16). You can’t believe some parts of the bible and not all of it. And scripture shows the importance of the Eucharist and supports the real presence of Christ in it as I will demonstrate below.
If we are all followers of Jesus our eyes and ears should perk up whenever he is quoted in the bible. And it should be important on how we remember him. So how does Jesus Christ really want us to remember him? With a special holiday for his birth? By wearing a crucifix around our neck? By putting up a nativity scene at Christmas? With a “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker? All of these are good things but in Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, Jesus was extremely clear on how he wanted us to remember him.
- Luke 22:19: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
- 1 Corinthians 11:24: “and gave thanks to God for it (bread). Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”
- 1 Corinthians 11:25: In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it."
So it should be obvious how Jesus wanted us to remember him. He doesn’t say how often we should “remember him” but I feel that this distinguishes the difference between gathering together in his name for fellowship, prayer, hymns and learning (as he says whenever two or more gather in his name, he will be there) versus attending a church service that fully honors Christ.
As followers of Jesus, I feel that an integral part of a church service should be remembering Christ (as he asked to be remembered) everytime because Jesus Christ is the head of the church. If we are the Body of Christ, we should desire the fullness of His body.
Symbolic Act or Real Presence?
So now comes this issue of whether Holy Communion is a symbolic act or one with the real presence of Christ. Jesus tells us:
- John 6:53-56, Jesus says "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”
Some Christian denominations believe that Jesus was talking in parables here and they believe that Jesus’s teachings are the flesh and blood. They point out scriptures in John Chapter 6 (6:35 and 6:48) when Jesus says “I am the bread of life.” It is important to note that John was the only one of the four Gospels that did not write a personal testimony about the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper (link).
Proof of Real Presence
Apostle Paul gives us the insight that Holy Communion has the real presence of Christ to the members in church in Corinth with the following scripture:
- 1 Corinthians 10:16: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
If Holy Communion was just a symbolic act with no real presence, why does Paul indicate the seriousness of eating the bread and drinking from the cup when he says we should examine ourselves before doing so? Read below:
- 1 Corinthians 11:27-30: Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
Would partaking in a symbolic act cast judgment on oneself if it was purely symbolic? Paul says only if we do so without recognizing the body of the Lord and says that is why many of the members of the Corinth Church were weak and sick.
A beautiful contemporary Christian song I recommend everyone listen to is "Upper Room" found at this link. It is the third song on the picklist: http://www.catholicmusicnetwork.com/cmn_cd_detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=50559
© Michael J. Cox
Please note my May 1st, 2009 blog on Real Presence