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Answering Objections Against the Real Presence

15. They object, first, the words of Christ: " It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. These words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John, vi, 64). See there, they say, the words which you make use of to prove the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist are figurative expressions, which signify the celestial food of life, which we receive by Faith. We answer, with St. John Chrysostom (1), that when Christ says the flesh profiteth nothing, he spoke not of his own flesh, God forbid ! but of those who carnally receive it, as the Apostle says: " The sensual man perceiveth not those things that are of the Spirit of God" (I. Cor. ii, 14), and those who carnally speak of the Divine Mysteries, and to this St. John refers when he says: " The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John, vi, 64), meaning that these words refer not to carnal and perishable things, but to spiritual things and to eternal life. But even supposing these words to refer to the flesh of Christ itself, they only mean, as St. Athanasius and St. Augustine explain them, that the flesh of Christ, given to us as food, sanctifies us by the Spirit, or the Divinity united to it, but that the flesh alone would be of no avail. These are St. Augustine’s words (2): " Non prodest quidquam (Caro), sed quomodo; illi intellexerunt, carnem quippe sic intellexerunt, quomodo in cadavere dilaniatur, aut in macello venditur, non quomodo spiritu vegetatur. Caro non prodest quidquam, sed sola caro; accedat spiritus ad carnem, et prodest plurimum."  

16. They object, secondly, that when Jesus Christ said: " This is my body," the word this in the sentence has reference to the bread alone, which he then held in his hand, but bread is only a figure of the body of Christ, but not the body itself. We answer that if we do not consider the proposition " This is my body" as complete in itself, that might be the case if he said, for example, this is, and did not say any more, then the word this would have reference to the bread alone, which he held in his hand; but taking the whole sentence together, there can be no doubt but that the word this refers to the body of Christ. When our Lord changed water into wine, if he had said, this is wine, every one would understand that the word this referred not to the water but to the wine, and in the same way in the Eucharist the word this, in the complete sense of the sentence, refers to the body, because the change is made when the whole sentence is completed. In fact the word this in the sentence has no meaning at all, till the latter part is pronounced, is my body then alone the sense is complete. (1) St. John Chrysos. Hom, in Joan. (2) St. Aug. Tract 27 in Joan,  

17. They object, thirdly, that the sentence, " This is my body" is just as figurative as other passages in the Scriptures, as for example, when Christ says: " I am the true vine," " I am the gate," or when it is said that he is the Rock. We reply that it is a matter of course that these propositions should be taken figuratively, for that Christ should be literally a vine, a door, or a rock is repugnant to common sense, and the words " I am," therefore, are figurative. In the words of consecration, however, there is nothing repugnant to reason in joining the predicate with the subject, because, as we have remarked already, Christ did not say this bread is my body, but " This is my body;" this, that is what is contained under the appearance of this bread is my body; here there is nothing repugnant to reason.  

18. They object, fourthly, that the Real Presence is opposed to the words of Christ himself, for he said (John xii, 8): " The poor you have always with you, but me you have not always." Our Saviour, therefore, after his ascension, is no longer on earth. Our Lord, we reply, then spoke of his visible presence as man receiving honour from Magdalen. When Judas, therefore, murmured against the waste of the ointment, our Lord reproves him, saying, you have not me always with you, that is, in the visible and natural form of man, but there is here nothing to prove that after his ascension into heaven he does not remain on earth in the Eucharist, under the appearance of bread and wine, invisibly, and in a supernatural manner. In this sense we must understand also, all similar passages, as, " I leave the world and go to my Father" (John, xvi, 18): "He was taken up into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God" (Mark, xvi, 19).  

19. They object, fifthly, these words of the Apostle: " Our fathers were all under the cloud and did all eat the same spiritual food" (I. Cor. x, 1 3); therefore, they say, we only receive Christ in the Eucharist by Faith, just as the Hebrews received him. We answer, that the sense of the words is, that the Hebrews received spiritual food, the Manna, of which St. Paul speaks, the figure of the Eucharist, but did not receive the body of Christ in reality, as we receive it. The Hebrews received the figure, but we receive the real body, already prefigured.  

20. Sixthly, they object that Christ said: " I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it with you new, in the kingdom of my Father" (Matt, xxvi, 29), and these words he expressed, after having previously said, " This is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many for the remission of sins" (ver. 28). Now, say they, take notice of the words, fruit of the vine, that is a proof that the wine remains after the consecration. We answer, first, that Christ might have called it wine, even after the consecration, not because the substance, but because the form of wine was retained, just as St. Paul calls the Eucharist bread after the consecration: " Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord" (ver. 29). Secondly, we reply, with St. Fulgentius (3), who supposes that Christ took two chalices, one the Paschal chalice, according to the Jewish Rite, the other according to the Sacramental Rite. Our Lord then, he says, when using the words they found the objection on, spoke of the first chalice, and not of the second, and that he did so is clear from the words of another of the Evangelists, St. Luke (xxii, 17), who says that " having taken the chalice, he gave thanks, and said: Take and divide it among you. For I say to you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, till the kingdom of God come." Now, if we read on to the 20th verse of the same chapter, we find that Jesus took the chalice of wine and consecrated it: " In like manner the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the New Testament, in my blood which shall be shed for you." Hence it is manifest that the words, " I will not drink of the fruit of the vine," were expressed by our Redeemer previous to the consecration of the chalice. (3) St. Fulgen. ad Ferrand. Dial, do Zuing. quæest. ix, 5.  

21. They object, seventhly, that the doctrine of the Real Presence cannot be true, for it is opposed to all our senses. But to this we reply, with the Apostle, that matters of faith are not manifest to the senses, for "Faith is the evidence of things that appear not" (Heb. xi, 1). And we have another text, also, which disposes of this feeble argument: " The sensual man perceiveth not the things that are of the Spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him" (I. Cor. ii, 14). All this will be answered more extensively farther on (sec. 3).  

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