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According to those who hold that the bread and wine do not merely represent the body and blood of Christ, but actually are those things, why are those things eaten?

Should they not be buried?

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  • possible duplicate of Why is bread and wine used to represent the body and blood of Christ? Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 16:11
  • Not an exact duplicate, but the answer can be found there too. Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 16:12
  • It is almost impossible to answer your question without you having some practical experience of what is involved and some background knowledge. You have to first study the history of bread. Concentrate on Egypt. Familiarize yourself with the concept of living with sour-dough as the only means to stay alive. Then study the role of wine in bread-making. Then study the Jewish festival of Pesach with a degree of intensity. Then read the words of Jesus again and then if you still do not understand ask your question. Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 17:02
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    "Should they not be buried?" No. We bury the dead, not the living. Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 4:21
  • So that by being united with His Eucharistic flesh and blood, our own sinful bodies might gain sanctifying grace and power to ward of temptation.
    – user46876
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 23:28

4 Answers 4

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Why are we "eating" the flesh and blood of Christ?

1. Because Jesus commanded us to

In the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus explicitly commands us to eat the bread and drink the wine, saying "This do in remembrance of me." Indeed, as often as we do this, we do "proclaim the Lord's death until He come."

Indeed, John goes even further, recording Jesus in dialogue saying:

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[c] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus[d] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

The fact that Christians "ate the body of Christ" and "drank his blood" led to the belief in ancient Rome that Christians were cannibals. This was one of the reasons they were persecuted. That said, the point was that Christians were completely identifying with Christ, and not just filling the belly.

2. Because Priests consume the sacrifice

1 Corinthians 5 says:

For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast.

This indicates that Christ, being the Passover, is the sacrifice. As a "royal priesthood," the pattern would be to handle the sacrifice as was custom. In Dueteronomy 18:1, we read of the Levites:

“The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the LORD’s food offerings as their inheritance.

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  • so if transubstantiated food becomes no longer fit to eat, what should be done with it? Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:27
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    @ClintEastwood It's buried or burnt. Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:33
  • FYI, I am not a transubstantiationist - but I understand the viewpoint Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 14:10
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Another meaning of eating Christ's flesh regards the Passover. Just before the exodus, the Hebrews were commanded to kill a lamb without blemish (i.e. "perfect") and use the blood to paint their doorposts and lintels so that God's angel would "pass them over" and not strike their firstborn sons dead (Ex 12). They were also commanded to remember this event every year and pass this story on to their children (Ex 13:14).

The Last Supper was a passover meal. At it, Jesus broke the unleavened bread that they were eating and established the eucharist, saying it was his body. There's some symbolism here regarding Jesus being the Passover lamb that saves us from death.

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I see John 6 as a chapter about belief in Christ - and not about God asking us to receive Him by becoming cannibals.

  • The Spirit gives life to the body, not the body to the Spirit.
  • Do you not understand, that whatsoever entereth into the mouth, goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the privy? (Matthew 15:17)

  • The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you — they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:63)

Beyond spouting Catholic theology about the Eucharist, I would like to have an explanation of how Christ, who always taught that the Spirit gives life, should all of a sudden tell us that we must cannibalize his body and blood to have life. I suggest everyone re-read John 6. From beginning to end it focuses on "belief in Christ"; this includes His metaphor about eating His body and blood.

Jesus used many metaphors in his ministry. When Jesus said, "I am the door", was it to mean we begin treating doors as though they are Jesus?

If the Lord told me that there is a spiritual benefit in my cannibalizing His body, I would do so. Like many things, Jesus taught and said - we are no different than His disciples. We need spiritual ears to understand His meaning.

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    – agarza
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 18:05
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    Is there not a difference between the clear direction of taking an action “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you” and a clear metaphor of Christ being a door? If the statement about consumption of the flesh is metaphorical, why doesn’t the author or Jesus ever clarify as they do in other places?
    – Luke Hill
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 19:39
  • Indeed in John 6, the crowd begins to disperse. They believed he meant it literally, and they didn't find it to their liking. Nor did he correct them. When the apostles said it was a "hard teaching" he didn't explain it as if it were a parable, but simply asked if they, too, would leave.
    – workerjoe
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 23:55
  • This doesn't answer the question as stated; the question is target at those who believe transubstantiation. To answer by claiming John 6 as metaphor, etc is incorrect. The point is not whether transubstantiation is correct but assuming it, why would that be.
    – eques
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 18:38
  • Very denominational and partisan answer. You ought to keep a neutral point of view and explain the Catholic/Orthodox position and others.
    – Fomalhaut
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 22:23
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Not being familiar with the teaching of transubstantiation, I can only refer you to Jesus' own words in this regard, as recorded in John 6:63. I'll include those words here and then comment on them.

"'It is the Spirit who gives life: the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."

Not only were Jesus' fellow Jews in the synagogue where He uttered the words about the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood (see Affable Geek's block of text in yellow, above) offended, but

"many of His disciples, when they heard this [i.e., the teaching on His being the bread of life, of whose flesh we must partake] said, 'This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?'" (v.60).

The offense taken by the Jews, and the grumbling evidenced by many of Jesus' disciples were triggered by their failure to realize Jesus was speaking in spiritual, not physical terms. Put differently, Jesus was speaking in metaphorical, not literal terms.

Jesus often used this tactic, if you will, for a number of reasons:

  • To get people's attention

  • To make people uncomfortable, to the point where they would clamor for clarity from Jesus

  • To expose the spiritual blindness and deafness in His critics and the "easy believers" among His disciples (see Matthew 13:13 NIV, where Jesus said,

"'This is why I speak to them in parables: 'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand'".

Just as Jesus' parables were designed both to offend people and to expose their unbelief, so also was His teaching on the bread of life, with its reference to eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

In conclusion, Jesus and His hearers were on different wavelengths, spiritually speaking, and Jesus used the hyperbole of His words to speak life into their lives. Again,

"'. . . the words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life'" (v.63).

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    The answer is supposed to be given from the point of view of those who do believe in transubstantiation. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 17:48
  • Not a useful or accurate answer either because it fails to take account of Jesus' reaction to the grumbling of those listening, i.e. if the Jesus was talking metaphorically but his listeners thought he was talking literally, why did Jesus not correct them? Quite the opposite! He doubled down and asked his disciples if they would also walk away.
    – user460114
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 9:17
  • user460114: WHY would Jesus correct them?! Jesus quite frequently left people where they were in their (mis)understanding. He neither continued throwing his pearls to the swine or casting what is holy to the dogs (see Matthew 7:6). Moreover, the Holy Spirit did not deem necessary the inclusion of Jesus' clarification, even if we assume Jesus gave one, which I believe he did not. My answer stands. Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 17:12
  • @ MattGutting: That is NOT how I read the question. Your interpretation of the question MAY be correct, but I sincerely doubt. I guess we need to agree to disagree, and to do so agreeably. Don Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 17:13

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