Being spiritual is to be understood as one open to things beyond ones understanding. It has to be more than finding something meaningful. To parse the words that I just wrote, being spiritual is a temporary state of being whereas finding meaning is something you look for as the asserting agent. To be spiritual eventually has the person painted into a corner. We are meant to contemplate only to a point but then we are made to decide. To be converted fully is to be fixed on an objective reality that transcends any subjective truth to us. Our first instinct is to downsize truth to our understanding. We often make mysteries too easy a defined and incomplete.
Case in point in the 1st Century A.D when an itinerant rabbi named Yeshua bar Yosef (Jesus son of Joseph) teaches at the synagogue in Capernaum. The day before, he won a popularity contest that he was not running in, walked away and was found the next day.
Then he provokes them. Many people that “voted” for Jesus as king suddenly “un-vote” him thinking he is weird. He says that those who want eternal life must eat his flesh and drink his blood. They were scandalized with such wording.
Starting around 2010 there were questions in me about the kingdom of God that stirred within me. One was what communion really means. I heard about Catholics saying that the bread becomes the Body of Christ and the wine becomes the Precious Blood. That seemed superstitious to me. But I leaned towards getting answers about what Jesus meant in the Last Supper.
For many years I would look up at a stage with good preaching or lively worship and yearn without knowing why for some fixed focal point that centers my worship where it most deeply belongs. My spiritual hunger grew until I opened my heart and mind to the possibility that Jesus founded and maintained the Catholic Church. I began to ponder how a priest lifts up the Host saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). I asked for God to show me what I was missing.
I had blinders on about communion being Jesus Christ in body,blood, soul and divinity. As I said above, mankind is prone to over-simplifying truths to be more palatable. In my formation as a Protestant there are many advantages to calling communion symbolic along with many other convenient objections.
1: If it is literal, then it is a sacrifice. To see the Eucharist like the Catholics is not appreciating how Jesus died once for all.
I have found out that actually the Eucharist is a very thankful things to do. In fact, the Greek word for the Eucharist is eucharisteo which means thanksgiving. “Do not be anxious for anything but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving (eucharisteo) present your requests to God” (Philipians 4:6) When I found that last part, I was humbled and touched because that had been a favorite verse for me back to the year I first had follow up as a Christian.
As for the Eucharist undermining the work of the Cross in each mass, that is not the position of the Catholic Church.
In the institution narrative, the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ’s body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all (Catechism of the Catholic Church para. 1353).
It is a sacrifice in the mass but having spiritual merit in the time I experience by the timelessness of The Sacrifice of Calvary. God is not bound by space or time.
As for the Eucharist undermining the work of the Cross, that is not the position of the Catholic Church.
2: If I am burnt out on church, I can have a prayer goosebump, get some Twinkie and soda and call that communion and remembrance of Jesus. A formal communion is like an afterthought.
I continue as a Catholic to know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior— but also in the context of a visible Church that is his ecclesiastical Body. How many first person articles are there in the “Our Father”? None. Our Father…give us this day our daily bread…forgive us our sins…lead us not….deliver us from evil. He is a corporate savior, so we should make no mistake, to receive communion is a corporate experience.
3: If the Eucharist is the standard, isn’t that religious? I’m spiritual and do not want to be bound to a ceremony that would stifle the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit.
In short, I guess Jesus is too religious because he started this as shown in the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6. He told the disciples to do this and proclaimed that this was his body and blood. The adoration was not something made up in the middle ages. The Gnostics starting late in the 1st century decided to blur the line so John wrote his gospel to fill in more context after the other gospels.
Keep in mind that the spiritual son to John saw the Eucharist as both the substance of Christ and the summit of the unified faith. He wrote:
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God… They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.” —Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ch 6. 107 AD.
4: The center of the Christian assembly, a true one, needs to be centered on the Old Testament and New Testament. There is no room for Eucharistic Adoration.
This is not consistent with the historical Christianity of the early centuries. One can look at the writings of Augustine who wrote a few decades after the canonization of the Bible. “He took flesh from the flesh of Mary . . . and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. . . . We do sin by not adoring” (Explanations of the Psalms, 98, 9; on p.20)
What becomes clear in church history is that the New Testament was a sacrament before it was a document. When the books of the New Testament were spoken of by Ireneus it was in the context of books that gave testimony of the living New Testament- – Jesus.
“The works of the Church Fathers seem to indicate that the use of the “New Covenant”/ Testament” as the title of a collection emerges only with the turn of the third century. Until that time, Christians identified the term “New Testament” primarily with the family bond-and the resulting cosmic dispensation. This use of the phrase was dependent, however, upon the ritual worship Jesus had established in the offering of his body and blood. Church Fathers were dependent on the Eucharist” (Consuming The Word, Dr. Scott Hahn, 2013).
5: If you were to examine the Eucharist, would anything be guaranteed to be shown as different than before the priestly consecration?
If you were to take a hair of Jesus and examine it would that appear different even under a microscope? Likewise, If you were to take a blood sample at the age of 9 of me before I was born again, would there be a difference from afterwards? God does the changing, we do the believing whether or not there is seeing.
Finally, in addition to the themes by which Jesus and the Church communicate the Eucharist to our minds, the reader should consider two simple truths in contemplation. First, that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Second, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:7) which includes the barriers in our spiritual discernment.
The preaching of the word is to draw us to The Word (Logos) who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and it was to this reality of Jesus as truth that drew me to change. This continues as I grow in knowing Jesus Christ as my personal, corporate and sacramental Lord and Savior. This is the journey and why it is worth it.
Thus is the momentum in the message of Jesus known as The Bread of Life Discourse of John 6 as I will address next.