1. Is the Eucharist just a symbol?

2. Do Catholics have a "personal relationship with Jesus"?

3. Convincing someone of the Real Presence

4. What do you think of the Tridentine Mass?

5. Isn't being "Christian" enough?

6. Isn't consuming blood strictly forbidden?

7. Kneeling for Holy Communion / Anointing in danger of death

8. A Dialogue with a Protestant on the Eucharist

9. What are we to think of “Communion in the Hand?”

10. “For many” versus “For all”

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1. Is the Eucharist just a symbol?

Marianne: I have a daughter that is set in the notion that all knowledge necessary to be a Christian is in the Bible. Yet she is set on believing that the Eucharist is only a symbol. I think that part is fairly easy to explain by tressing her literal reading of the bible passages concerning Jesus saying "This is my body." Today however she said that by believing that the "wafer" is actually Jesus, we then are making the wafer it self into God. In other word we are in fact worshiping a piece of bread. I could answer that as I once prepared adults for reception into the Church (RCIA),  However I was then using the doctrine not just expressed in the bible. How do I reply to this remark using scripture that she would understand?

J. Salza: Marianne, in John 6:45-59, Jesus says that He is the bread from heaven, and that the bread that He will give is His flesh for the life of the world.  Then He says that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we have no life in us.  The Jews understood literally and, like your daughter, questioned such a teaching.  Jesus became even more literal about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  Then in John 6:66, it says that many of Jesus' disciples left Jesus because they could not accept such a teaching.

Did Jesus say "Hey come back here, I was only speaking symbolically!"  No, He didn't.  That is because they understood Him correctly, and that was literally. 

In 1 Cor. 11:27, Saint Paul says if we partake of the bread unworthily, we are guilty of profaning (literally, murdering) the body and blood of Christ.  Ask your daughter, if the Eucharist is just a symbol, then how can we be guilty of profaning Christ's body and blood?  You can't murder a symbol.  This means that either the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ, or St. Paul (the divinely-inspired writer) is imposing an unjust penalty on us.

Please read in MY TOP TEN link about 1 Cor. 11:27 and the debate I had with a Protestant gentleman about this. 

Please have your daughter reflect on these Scriptures and then please feel free to get back to me.



2. Do Catholics have a "personal relationship with Jesus"?

Mark: Can you please send me a Catholic response to the Protestant question about 'do you have a personal relationship with Jesus'?

Thank you,


J. Salza: Mark, that's an easy one.  We have the MOST personal relationship with Jesus because we eat His flesh and drink His blood in the Eucharist, as Jesus commanded us to do in John 6:52-70.  Protestants who are outside the Church don't have this kind of relationship with Jesus.  They only have a spiritual relationship. Catholics have a spiritual and physical relationship with Him.  This is the greatest gift Jesus left with us - the gift of Himself.  That is why Jesus called His institution of the Eucharist the New Covenant.  A covenant is an exchange of persons (unlike a contract which is just an exchange of property or services).  A covenant is an interpersonal communion.  This is why Catholics have the most intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ more than any non-Catholic Christian could ever have while outside the Church.  We become one with Jesus in the Eucharist.  That is as "personal" as it gets.



3. Convincing someone of the Real Presence

Cynthia: Hi Mr. Salza, I too tried to convince a friend of the truth of the Eucharist being Christ's body and blood. I found the conversation becoming circular because this person is so full of vitriol for the "corrupt" CC, the "corrupt" Vulgate, the false god-loving pontiff now residing, and the whole anti-semitic church. He hates Luther also because he was an anti-semite (I know this is really true). I realize that no matter how well I present the faith in light of tradition and biblical truth, there is nothing I can say to leap past the erroneous images this individual has of our church. So this is a matter of prayer for we who know the truth and are called according to His purpose. So I understand the difficulty you had convincing your friend (perhaps you did!) of the truth, though he seemed more amenable than my friend. I thank you for your site, which I discovered through a reference on the EWTN website. It will surely help me with my Catholic apologetics.  Cynthia

J. Salza: Thank you for your message.  It is frustrating to deal with people who have already made up their mind. We can most effectively deal with these people behind the scenes, through prayer and fasting. When people make such audacious claims about the Church, they rarely back them up with evidence. For example, what Bible translation is more “pure” than the Vulgate? Why is the Church “anti-semitic”? We need to pin people down who make such ridiculous claims about Christ’s Church by demanding that they explain their positions.

We also must remember that faith in the Eucharist is the same faith we need to believe in the Incarnation.  Even though Scriptural passages prove beyond a doubt the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (and also see the early Church Fathers), it really takes faith to believe it.  That is why Jesus connects Judas' disbelief in the Eucharist to his betrayal.  Tell your Protestant friends (even before you get into the Scriptures) that if they can believe in the awesome mystery of the Incarnation (that the unseen God became one cell, then two cells, then four cells, then eight cells, etc. in the womb of the Virgin Mary), then the Eucharist is no problem!  The Eucharist is simply an extension of the Incarnation.  Those who disbelieve in the Eucharist are seriously underestimating the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, who is carrying on the work of Christ in the Church today.  Let us pray for all who have the faith of Judas, so that they can have the faith of Peter!



4. What do you think of the Tridentine Mass?

Patron: Hey John, I cannot pretend that the traditionalists don't bring up many great points regarding the Latin Mass. And let's be honest, whether they are right or wrong, the Latin Mass is a thousand times better and more reverent than the newer one.  Why the Latin Mass, Why not the New.    This is something that has frequently confused me. What are your opinions on that website?

J. Salza: I don’t like labels among Catholics, but I guess I am a “traditionalist” as well. I travel to attend the Traditional (Tridentine) Mass every Sunday (yes, approved by my bishop), even though my parish Mass is two miles away. While I attend the Novus Ordo Mass during the week, I find the Traditional Mass the most authentic expression of Catholic theology and piety. It is an immemorial rite of the Catholic Church. In fact, I personally attribute many of the Church’s problems to the decay in the liturgy and, specifically, to the loss of faith in the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice.

In the Tridentine Mass, there is a greater emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the Mass (although the Novus Ordo has retained this some of this). The prayers and the actions of the priest (facing the altar and tabernacle; reciting the words of consecration sotto voce) all point to the sublime nature of the sacrifice. Receiving communion on the tongue while kneeling is the most Catholic expression of our belief in the substantial presence of Christ. The Gregorian chant truly brings about the “sursum corda,” wafting us up into the heavenly. The use of the Latin tongue also emphasizes the catholicity of the Church more than the vernacular does.

But don’t get me wrong. The Novus Ordo is a valid Mass. That is, the Eucharist is confected. I attend the Novus Ordo Missae daily. Those who deny its validity are not “traditionalists.” They are not even Catholic, since they are saying that the Vicar of Christ has bound us to error. We know this is impossible (cf. Matt. 16:18-19).

Nevertheless, since we are talking about different liturgical disciplines, we are able to make judgments about which one is better. I don’t believe the Novus Ordo expresses Catholic theology in the concrete way that the Tridentine Rite does. In addition, I am confused by some of the changes that are reflected in the Novus Ordo rite.

For example, I am confused why the Church felt it necessary to turn the priest around to the people with his back to the tabernacle and the crucifix; why the Church now allows altar girls when previous popes called this an “evil practice”; why women are allowed to speak in the church when St. Paul preached against this, even saying the prohibition was “a command of the Lord”; why profane instruments are now allowed; why the entire Mass is said in the vernacular; why the Gregorian chant has been eliminated; among other things. In fact, none of these practices were ever mandated or even suggested by the Second Vatican Council. It is true that the pope is above even an ecumenical council, but there is certainly a disconnect between Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Conciliam (its document on the liturgy) and the Novus Ordo Missae.

These things notwithstanding, the canon of the Novus Ordo Mass, which brings about Christ’s eternal sacrifice and His substantial presence, is valid. That is really what is important. Because the Church gives us these two rites from which to choose, she is asking us to make a value judgment on which one better serves spiritual needs. For me and my family (my ecclesia domestica), I choose the centuries-old, Traditional (Tridentine) Mass.



5. Isn't being "Christian" enough?

Patron: I am a protestant and i am married to a catholic.  i guess i'm just tired of all of this in house fighting, and bickering amongst the two denominations.  i have done a great deal of studying on my own,  i have read the catholic catechism, i have tried as best i could to retrace church history, searched scriptures,  and the Lord spoke to me and said " I am more concerned that you love one another, than what denomination you are!"  before you jump to conclusions, let me reassure you, i am a FIRM believer on TRUTH being taught and not compromised!  and i know there are false doctrines out there that does matter (mormonism, jhw, masonry, etc...)  i believe catholics are true believers, but you have to understand from a protestants perspective, who has never had to go to anybody but Jesus, to expect me to become catholic and start doing the rosary and praying for saints to intercede, well that just seems like extra baggage.  it makes the Jesus, who has always been sufficient for me, seem like someone different!  He alone has answered all my prayers powerfully!  His presence has been a constant in my life from early childhood!  why can't catholics be ok with protestants and vice versa?   as far as i see it, as cs lewis described in his wonderful book "mere christianity"  we are part of the same household, maybe different rooms, but the same Lord!  all i can say is i can't wait to be in heaven with Jesus and there will be no more of this bickering!  i wanted to tell you, that some of the scriptures you are using, seem out of context when you interpret them.  it has not convinced me, because i don't agree with how you are interpreting, but i'm sure it makes alot of catholics feel better!  i guess that is your aim!  hey, God bless, this wasn't meant to offend, i don't think freemasonry is a fair protestant portrayal!  see you on the other side, if not in this life!

J. Salza: I am with you that we all need to recognize that we belong to Christ and we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord.  But please realize that Catholic spirituality is centered on Christ and Christ alone, and any honor we give to Mary or the saints is really honor that we give to God.  I really appreciate how you expressed your love for Jesus and that you go to him alone.  I now challenge you to study the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.  You see, when I go to Holy Mass every day, I am as close to Jesus as possible this side of heaven, because I receive His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  This is the greatest gift the Father has given to us.  This is the eternal covenant between God and man, partaking of the divine nature by consuming Jesus Christ, the true bread from heaven.  You can only receive this sacrament of the Lord's body and blood, in union with Peter and his successors, within the Catholic Church.  You cannot receive this sacrament in Protestant churches, because they do not have valid holy orders. 

If you really love Jesus, and I know you do, I believe it behooves you to investigate what the Church has taught and believed for 2,000 years (but what Martin Luther decided to reject in 1514).  Yes, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but the fullness of Christ and His truth subsists in the Catholic Church.  For Christ only has one Bride, not many.



6. Isn't consuming blood strictly forbidden?

Dane: Dear John, I have a question regarding the Mass. Specifically regarding the consummation of the host and cup. I am sure you are aware that consuming blood is strictly forbidden in the Old Testament and the New Testament (Deut. 12:16, Lev. 17:10, Acts 15: 20,29). In Acts 15: 20 and 29 the order of "and blood" are changed thus it is not saying that the blood is strictly from idols or strangled things. How are these verses to be interpreted?

Under the Old Covenant, God forbade the Jews from consuming blood because blood was considered a source of life: “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Gen 9:4); “Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people” (Lev 7:27). On the basis of these Old Covenant prohibitions, Protestants argue that Jesus could not have literally given His blood to drink as the source of life in the New Covenant. This argument is easily refuted.

Most obviously, the laws of the Old Covenant have been superseded by the laws of the New Covenant (2 Cor 3:14; Heb 7:18; 8:7; 10:9). All of the Jewish religious laws and rituals concerning festivals, diets, circumcision and consuming blood are obsolete. While the Church at the council of Jerusalem recommended that the Gentiles abstain from consuming blood and food strangled or offered to idols, this was a temporary, pastoral decision made to facilitate the Jews’ inclusion in the Church. Paul made it clear that this was not a dogmatic decision by permitting these practices if they didn’t harm the conscience of a fellow believer.

Moreover, the Old Covenant proscribed drinking literal blood from dead animals. It has nothing to do with drinking the living blood of Jesus Christ. There is not a one-to-one correspondence between the blood of the Old and New Covenants. We also remember that the Old Covenant was not designed to give life, only knowledge of sin. Because blood was the source of life, it could not be drunk. In the New Covenant, the very blood that removes the Old Covenant laws now actually gives life, and must be drunk.

Because God’s people are no longer under the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic law but live in the freedom of Christ, Paul can say: “the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). “Therefore,” Paul says, “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Col 2:16).



7. Kneeling for Holy Communion / Anointing in danger of death

Patron: Does the Church now teach that a person cannot kneel for Holy Communion? I have heard that some parish priests are actually denying the Eucharist to parishioners who kneel.

J. Salza: No, the Church has never stated that one cannot kneel for Holy Communion. In fact, I believe that kneeling may be considered an immemorial custom of the Church. This means that the pope would have to make an official declaration that kneeling is no longer permissible. But no pope has done this.

To the contrary, the Church has expressly stated that a communicant cannot be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. In so doing, the Church is presumably acknowledging that kneeling to receive our Lord is an immemorial custom that cannot be abrogated by liturgical or canon law without an express statement from the pope or Magisterium.

I will share with you a story. When I went to an evening Mass during the week at our Cathedral in Milwaukee, I knelt down to receive the Eucharist. While the priest did not deny me Communion, he audibly stated to me, in front of the congregation, “The bishops do not allow you to kneel.”

Such a statement was not only entirely inappropriate at such a sacred moment, but was patently false. After charitably confronting the priest after the Mass about his ridiculous behavior (as well as his illicit celebration of the Last Rites during the Mass) and getting nowhere, I wrote him the following letter:

Dear Father XXXX:

As you requested, below is a summary of the authority that allows communicants to kneel to receive Holy Communion in the United States.  In addition, I have attached information regarding the Sacrament of the Sick.  This information supports my concerns regarding the manner in which you celebrated this sacrament yesterday during the Holy Mass, namely, administering it to those who were not gravely ill.  I am providing you this information in the spirit of humility and charity.


Before I summarize the norms, I want to tell you that you upset me terribly yesterday.  Right after you gave me the Holy Eucharist, you said audibly in front of the congregation “The bishops do not allow you to kneel.”  It was extremely inappropriate for you to make such a statement to me in that situation, especially when your statement was erroneous.  

From a pastoral perspective, you should have approached me after Holy Mass to discuss.  As I told you after Mass and now demonstrate in this letter, your statement that the bishops require the faithful to kneel is not correct, as the following norms demonstrate:

  1. “The faithful may communicate either standing or kneeling, as established by the Conference of Bishops.”  (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, March 2002, Section 160.  See also Redemptionis Sacramentum, 25 March 2004, Chapter 4, section 2.)
  1. “Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel.” (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 17 April 2002, promulgated as particular law of the United States by Decree of the President of the USCCB, Bishop Wilton Gregory, 25 April 2002.) 


Regarding your celebration yesterday at Holy Mass of the anointing of the sick (in which you conferred the sacrament upon those who were not gravely ill):

  1. You said that the anointing of the sick could be administered to anyone who was “sick,” and that those who were sick did not have to be dangerously or gravely sick.  However:

- In the current Code of Canon Law, canon 998 says: “The anointing of the sick, by which the Church commends to the suffering and glorified Lord the faithful who are dangerously ill so that he may support and save them, is conferred by anointing them with oil and pronouncing the words prescribed in the liturgical books.

- canon 1004, sec. 1 says: “The anointing of the sick can be administered to any member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger of death by reason of illness or old age.”

- canon 1004, sec. 2 says: “This sacrament can be repeated if the sick person, having recovered, again becomes seriously ill or if, in the same illness, the danger becomes more serious.”

- The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), section 1513, cites the Apostolic Constitution Sacram Unctionem, following upon the Second Vatican Council, which provides:  “The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given to those who are seriously ill by anointing them on the forehead and hands with duly blessed oil…”

-CCC, section 1514, In case of grave illness…: Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already begun.”

-CCC, section 1515.  “If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. 

- The Catechism of Trent likewise states:  “The Subject Must Be in Danger of Death.  Now only the sick need a remedy, and therefore this Sacrament is to be administered to those only whose malady is such as to excite apprehension of approaching death.” 

- The Catechism of Trent also states: “Extreme Unction, then, can be administered to no one who is not dangerously sick; not even to those who are in danger of death, as when they undertake a perilous voyage, or enter into battle with the sure prospect of death, or have been condemned to death and are on the way to execution.”

  1. To justify conferring the sacrament of the sick on people who were not gravely ill, you said that there was a difference between the Sacrament of Anointing and Extreme Unction.  However:

- CCC, section 1512 says that Extreme Unction is simply another name for the  Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

- The Catechism of Trent, in its chapter on Extreme Unction, says in its section on “Names of this Sacrament”:  “For this reason, it [Extreme Unction] was also called by our predecessors in the faith, the Sacrament of the anointing of the sick, and also the Sacrament of the dying.” 

  1. You also said that the Sacrament of the dying was “Viaticum,” and that I had confused the Sacrament of Anointing with the sacrament of the dying.  However,

- as stated above, the Catechism of Trent says that the Sacrament of the dying is “the Sacrament of the anointing of the sick,” not “Viaticum.”

- in addition, the CCC distinguishes Viaticum from the sacrament of anointing in section 1524: “In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum.”

-CCC, section 1525 makes the same distinction:  “…so to can it be said that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist as viaticum constitute at the end of Christian life “the sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland.”

Father, I hope this information is helpful to you, and that in the future you administer the sacraments in accordance with the current teachings, laws and customs of the Church.  For your convenience, I have attached hard copies of all the sources cited in this letter, and have highlighted the relevant sections.   If you wish to discuss these matters, I have written my telephone number at the top of this letter.

God bless.

John Salza



8. A Dialogue with a Protestant on the Eucharist

Rey: Dear Mr. Salza,

I must answer your question in regards to John 6:63 in regards for Protestants. It deemed that you wanted to know where specifically does it mean on a "symbolic" level. I take this postition because the statements refer to a spritualistic type of thinking. Instead of thinking on a concrete level of truly eating Jesus' flesh and blood, he's making a comparison to his body being in the likeness of bread. Bread itself is a daily meal, so is the importance of Jesus, not on a literal level but indeed a spritual. If you're such an excellent scholar like you claim to be on your web ring, you should really give some credible explanations to why certain pieces of your scriptures should be deemed as good evidence and the significance of it.

For instance, if it was truly that Jesus really meant eat my flesh, then how would you ever explain John 6:27-29? In those verses, Jesus tells us not to strive for the physical bread. I am well aware that Catholicism teaches that this is "spiritual" flesh but there's no indication of that in the whole chapter. As for John 6:33-36, I might have to say that this would indicate better evidence for the claim that Jesus isn't the literal bread from heaven. The importance of the bread is meant to fill someones' stomach and by what Jesus meant of his importance as bread is to those who would be desiring to have him as their savior who does the will of his father. (John 6:37-40) As he kept saying through out the book of John, "he that believes on me shall have everalsting life", so why does this change, Mr. Salza? I am hardly amazed at your evidences for the papacy of Peter because some of it doesn't even explain or even show how each verse is important. That would be a different subject to debate but for now this is just enough. Please email me with your explanations to these claims.


J. Salza: Rey, your positon has a number of significant problems.

First, the early Church fathers were unanimous in their view that the bread and wine literally become the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Many of these Fathers lived during apostolic times (Ignatius, Polycarp). All the Fathers claimed to be handing on what they received from the apostles. The historical witness is more than compelling, and this poses a real problem for Protestant theology, 20 centuries removed.

Second, just because Jesus speaks symbolically at the beginning of John 6 doesn't mean that He is not speaking literally in John 6:51-66. In fact, the text mandates a literal interpretation for a number of reasons.

(1) If Jesus were demanding us to eat His flesh in a symbolic sense, He would be saying "He who reviles or assaults me has eternal life." Symbolically eating someone's body and blood means "destroying an enemy," not becoming intimately close with him (see Ps 27:2; Isa 9:20; 49:26; Mic 3:3; 2 Sam 23:17; Num 23:24; Ez 39:17-20; Apoc 16:6; 17:6,16).

Rey: That's not what I am claiming here. The importance of bread is that it's meant to be eaten for the sake of nourishment. When Jesus refers to himself as bread, his body would be broken up for the world. (sacrificed) Like bread, Jesus is the word which can be used as nourishment in a spiritual sense. Scripture itself is referred to as a spiritual nourishment, not literal but in knowledge and understanding. Who said that couldn't be possible.

J. Salza: We are not saying the Eucharist is not a "spiritual nourishment," for that is exactly what it is. The issue is WHY is this bread "spiritual nourisment"? Jesus answers by saying "the bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world." You must deal with the plain meaning of Jesus' words, as all the Church Fathers did. They all interpreted Jesus' words literally, and they all connected his doctrinal teaching on the Eucharist to the Last Supper, where Jesus took bread and said "this is my body."

(2) The Jews understood Jesus' literally when they said "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" (John 6:52). What did Jesus do? Did He say "No, you misunderstood me, I was only speaking symbolically." No. In fact, He responded by using an even more literal verb (Greek, trogo) which means to "gnaw, chew, nibble or munch." Trogo is NEVER used metaphorically in the Scriptures. It is used only two other times (Mt 24:38; Jn 13:18) and each time it means to "chew food."

Rey: Like Jesus said in John 6:26,"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled", if Jesus said later, "Eat my flesh and drink my blood", do you honestly think they'll understand the significance of what Jesus said when he made the comparison to bread? The crowd still was interested in the bread, not the significance of Jesus' teachings. You see when he said that, this only was used to get the crowd's attention because their interest was in bread.

J. Salza: Unfortunately for you, you cannot find one single witness in the early Church to support your interpretation. And more so, the entire patristic witness of the first ten centuries of the Church disagrees with you. I have found that, instead of honestly investigating what the early Church believed, many Protestants rather persevere in their erroneous opinions because of pride, ignorance or prejudice against the Catholic Church. I hope that is not the case with you.

I will also add that it is quite presumptuous of you to think that you know what Jesus intended to teach when everyone in the early Church disagrees with you. Do you know better than the Fathers? Do you know better than those who were taught directly by the apostles? Or where all these men who lived in apostolic times deceived? Was there a great apostasy in the early Church that we are only discovering today due to the scholarship of Protestant exegetes 20 centuries removed?

In your comments, you argue that the crowd was only interested in regular bread. But the crowds' interest is not the issue; the meaning of Jesus' words is the issue. The fact that the crowds misunderstood the spiritual significance of Jesus' words only helps the Catholic position, because Jesus doesn't correct their misunderstanding. Instead, as I previously said, Jesus increases the literalness of his teaching by using a Greek verb that is used exclusively for describing the literal mastication of food. Because Jesus would not relent in His teaching that we must literally eat His flesh and drink, many said "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it." When they left, Jesus let them go. You have addressed none of this in your rebuttal.

(3) Because the people understood Jesus literally, they left Him. They said "This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?" (Jn 6:60). Again, what did Jesus do? Did He say "Hey, come back here, I was only speaking symbolically." No. He let them go (Jn 6:66).

Rey: You're right. He doesn't do that through out the picture of each Bible because all of them didn't understand what he's referring to.

J. Salza: You are incorrect. The reason why they left is because they DID understand His words as literal, and did not accept them. Jesus would not have let them go if they had an incorrect understanding, for He came to save them and give them eternal life. Jesus would have let them go only if they understood Him correctly but did not accept His teaching.

Rey: He said he'd destroy the temple in three days but from a Jewish crowd, they took it as literal. The same situation applies. Fortunately, since this book was written after the fact that Jesus died and rose again, the author inserts "He was referring to his body". So where's the literal idea in that?

J. Salza: You are assuming that a sign or symbol cannot also be a reality. The Scriptures say just the opposite. For example, in Matthew 12:39 when Jesus says "no sign will be given except that of the prophet Jonah," He was speaking of the reality of His Resurrection (both sign and reality). In your example of destroying the Temple and raising it again, Jesus is referring to His bodily Resurrection (sign and reality). In regard to the Eucharist, it is a sign or symbol of Jesus (under the appearance of bread and wine), but also the reality of Jesus' body and blood.

When Paul asks the Corinthians, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?," is Paul asking these questions because he doesn't really know? Of course not. These questions are obviously rhetorical, as the divinely inspired writer was trying to convince the Corinthian church of the reality of what they were receiving under the symbols of bread and wine.

Why would the Savior of the world let the very people who He came to save go on their way in error, if they had an honest misunderstanding of His words? Why would Jesus, who came to give eternal life, let people go because of their misunderstanding of what it takes to have eternal life?

Rey: Jesus didn't come to Earth to fully explain to the crowd what he meant. Of course he did, there were a lot times that the apostles didn't understand what he fully meant. Jesus would let his disciples go because some of them weren't truly his. Since there were other disciples like Peter, John, Joseph etc., they left and understood what Jesus meant.

J. Salza: Are you saying that Jesus would let His disciples leave Him if they had an incorrect understanding of His teaching about how to get to heaven? Are you really going to accuse our blessed Lord of this? Please address this question directly. And while you are at it, please give me just one example in Scripture where someone misunderstands Jesus and He abandons them in their ignorance. There are many examples where people leave Jesus because they cannot accept His teaching (like the scribes and Pharisees), but Jesus never abandons people who honestly seek Him but misunderstand Him.

In fact, the Scriptures say that Jesus always explained the real meaning of His teachings to His disciples (Mark 4:34), and demonstrates this by giving examples of when Jesus did correct wrong impressions of His teaching (John 3:5,11; Matt. 16:11-12). Your symbolic position makes absolutely no sense.

Rey: It makes perfect sense. Jesus is the word, and like bread, the word gives us spiritual nourishment in a metaphorical sense. Even if the word that's used "to eat" is in a literary sense, I am quite certain that metaphors existed back then and has been used in the Bible. When someone says "bite me", "kiss my rear end" or "eat my shorts", are you going to say "That's a literal interpretation, Gasp! I must do what he says"? I hardly think so. The words that are used there are quite "literal" but used in a figurative sense. Likewise, it can mean the same with what Jesus said.

J. Salza: Your analysis fails to admit that sometimes Jesus speaks literally, and sometimes He speaks metaphorically. The glaring problem in your exegesis is that the crowds understood Jesus literally in John 6 and HE DID NOT CORRECT THEM. He let them remain with that understanding. This is distinguishable from situations where Jesus speaks metaphorically, and the disciples understand Him as such. For example, when Jesus calls Himself "the door" (John 10:7) or the "true vine" (John 15:1,5), the disciples understood Him metaphorically. They didn't ask Him, "Jesus, are you really a door? Or a vine?

In John 6, they don't understand Him metaphorically. They understand Him literally, and even question His teaching "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" Moreover, unlike the situations where Jesus speaks metaphorically about Himself, when Jesus speaks literally about Himself in John 6, there is other biblical precedents that back up the literal interpretation (such as the Last Supper accounts where Jesus calls the bread and wine His body and blood; St. Paul's teachings about eating Christ's body and blood, and profaning Christ if they receive the Eucharist unworthily).

When Jesus talks about the spirit giving life and the flesh being of no avail, He is talking about the need to have supernatural faith to understand His words. Paul also used the "spirit versus flesh" comparison when explaining the need to have faith in God's word (1 Cor 2:14; 3:3; Rom 8:5; Gal 5:17).

Rey: Yes, that's true. Why Paul makes these comparisons is to prove a point. That is to say, thinking outside the box. When Jesus said many things that sounded “blasphemous" as ever, Jesus spoke on a metaphorical & symbolic level. That doesn't change through out the picture of the book of John. Of course when Jesus spoke on saying of having eternal life, well that's more literal in the sense of "believe". (if you know what I am saying)

J. Salza: As I have said before, if Jesus were speaking only symbolically and metaphorically about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, He would have been asking the crowd to revile and assault Him. That is why your interpretation, and not the Catholic one, is "blasphemous." This is one of the many issues you have failed to address.

Notice also that Jesus doesn't say my flesh is spirit; He says my WORDS are spirit. And what are these words? That we must eat His flesh and drink His blood or we have no life in us.

Rey: Yes, that's right. But if Jesus said "Eat my shorts" six times in a row, used the word "to eat" in a literal sense, and said it in a "spiritual" fashion, are you going to buy a pair of shorts and eat it while pretending it's literally his shorts? I sure wouldn't.

J. Salza: You are really beginning to sink here. How can one speak in a literal "sense," but in a spiritual "fashion"? Granted, all the words Jesus spoke were "spiritual," because they came from the Incarnate Word of God. But sometimes these spiritual words were metaphorical/symbolic, and sometimes they were literal. You are trying to force all of Jesus' words in John 6 through the symbolic sieve, but the context won't allow it. Neither will the unanimity of the Church Fathers.

Rey: Since the Jewish crowd did take some things as literal, I am quite sure the crowd would never understand. After all, didn't Jesus say that the work on the father is to "believe on" him? I think that this phrase was the bigger picture through out the whole book and surprisingly it is.

J. Salza: First, the crowd DID understand Jesus' words literally, and they left because they wouldn't accept them. Second, "believing on" Jesus means accepting what He says with faith, including the "hard saying" that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life in us.

Believing in the Eucharist is much easier than believing in creation. If God can create everything out of nothing, then He can certainly change something into something else. Moreover, most people who accept Christianity accept the Eucharist. If the ineffable God can become a little, helpless infant, then He certainly can make Himself present under the appearance of bread and wine.

Rey: What Christianity? Catholic or Roman Catholic? I am quite surprised that there are many, many denominations within the Catholic circles that may not accept that.

J. Salza: There is only one Catholic Church; has been for 2,000 years, and will be until the end of time. The Church has always believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and always will.

Rey: I don't recall anywhere in scripture that the Eucharist was:

  • The Same Sacrfice as that on Calvary, (just replayed in a mass video camera)
  • Another means of salvation
  • The power to call Christ out of heaven by priests
  • Wafers being instantly turned into flesh and blood

J. Salza: Then you haven't read the Scriptures. If you read my book The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith, I go into all of these issues in detail.

Rey: I've had many people tell me that God could turn humans into angels, that's possible too right? Well I don't think, neither do scriptures mention that as possible either.

J. Salza: No, that is not possible, since it would be a lie, and God cannot lie. God doesn't change angelic beings into human beings, but He can change the substance of something into the substance of something else. THAT Scripture does “mention.”

If God created the world from nothing, He can change bread and wine into Christ's body and blood. Are you arguing that God cannot do this?

Rey: About the claims that I have from above, I am quite familiar with the evidence that you're going to present to me but I can assure you that the last supper doesn't equal the mass or give any reference to it either.

J. Salza: You have demonstrated that you are not "quite familiar" with either the Scriptures or the early Church Fathers.

Rey: I find hardly convincing that the Early Church fathers supported this claim because the quote you use on your site doesn't even match to what the apostles are speaking about. What makes you think that pulling verses out of context is going to get any Catholic convinced?

J. Salza: Let me ask you a simple question. Have you read the early Church Fathers? If you don't find their testimony "hardly convincing," I am "convinced" that you have not read them at all. Rey, if you want to have an honest dialogue, then you are going to have to do better than that. I won't let you blow off five centuries of patristic witness because you make a sweeping claim that you don't find the Fathers "hardly convincing." I will provide just a handful of quotes for you:

"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to Smyrnaeans, 7,1 (c. A.D. 110).

"For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh." Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66 (c. A.D. 110-165).

"[T]he bread over which thanks have been given is the body of their Lord, and the cup His blood..." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV:18,4 (c. A.D. 200).

"He acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as his own blood, from which he bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of creation) he affirmed to be his own body, from which he gives increase to our bodies." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V:2,2 (c. A.D. 200).

"But what consistency is there in those who hold that the bread over which thanks have been given is the Body of their Lord, and the cup His Blood, if they do not acknowledge that He is the Son of the Creator of the world..." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV:18, 2 (c. A.D. 200).

"Having learn these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that the seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ; and that of this David sung of old, saying, And bread strengtheneth man's heart, to make his face to shine with oil, 'strengthen thou thine heart,' by partaking thereof as spiritual, and

"make the face of thy soul to shine."" Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, XXII:8 (c. A.D. 350).

"It is good and beneficial to communicate every day, and to partake of the holy body and blood of Christ. For He distinctly says, 'He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life.' And who doubts that to share frequently in life, is the same thing as to have manifold life. I, indeed, communicate four times a week, on the Lord's day, on Wednesday, on Friday, and on the Sabbath, and on the other days if there is a commemoration of any Saint.” Basil, To Patrician Caesaria, Epistle 93 (A.D. 372).

"You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wonderous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ...When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body." Athanasius, Sermon to the Newly Baptized, PG 26, 1325 (ante A.D. 373).

There are scores of additional quotes, but it would be redundant to continue. If you don't find these quotes "hardly convincing," please find me a quote from a father who DENIES the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Please try to "convince" me of your position with your own evidence.

Rey: No, these quotes are not fatal to my position. The quotes don't even refer to it because that's not what either one of them are talking about. Like I said earlier, I am not appealing to this until we're through with scriptures first.

J. Salza: I find this response incredible. Protestants squirm when Catholics point out the Fathers. Rey, you are no exception. You say the quotes I provided "don't even refer to it because that's not what either one of them are talking about." Tell me, what is Ignatius talking about when He says the Eucharist "is the flesh of Jesus Christ"?

You have also said that I haven't provided you quotes that are "early" enough. These are the earliest quotes that we have available outside of the Scriptures themselves! Since no one ever accused Ignatius or Justin Martyr of heresy, the record demonstrates that they believed what the early Church believed. You have failed to address these quotes, and I believe that is because they are fatal to your position.

Second, this issue comes down to authority. Period. We have the very plain meaning of Jesus' words that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. We have the accounts of the Last Supper where Jesus says "take and eat, this is my body; this is my blood." For whatever reason, you refuse to take Jesus' words literally, even though the entire early Church did so.

Rey: You're right. I choose Biblical authority, not the Pope. I don't believe something because someone told me so because that would be arguing in a circle. If a miracles takes place during the eucharest where the bread truly turned into flesh, this moment of the last supper would record it. Ironically it doesn't.

J. Salza: Tell me where the Bible says that the Bible is the only authority for a Christian. Where does the Bible say we must use “Biblical authority” alone? This is where this debate will end for you. It is the crux of disagreement between me and you, and the burden is on you to prove that the Bible is the only authority, since that is the premise of your whole apologetic.

Nevertheless, I have used “biblical authority” in other posts with you demonstrating the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and you refuse to address them. For example, in 1 Cor. 11:27-30, Paul says if we partake of the body and blood of the Lord unworthily, we are guilty of profaning His body and blood (literally, of murdering Christ). Rey, if the Eucharist were just a symbol, then Paul would be imposing upon us an unjust penalty. The New Testament records no such instances where people were guilty of murdering Christ by profaning a symbol.

Rey: It would be fair. When people abuse symbols, then of course they'd be missing the point. What if I pissed on a crucifix? Does that contain any "spiritual" powers? I don't think so. It's got a symbolic meaning but nevertheless it doesn't mean I should do it. Are you getting my point?

J.Salza: You haven't addressed the real point - being guilty of profaning (murdering) Christ (that is what Paul says in 1 Cor 11:27-30). If you committed a sacrilege on a religious symbol, you would be guilty of the sin of sacrilege. But you would not be guilty of profaning the body and blood of Christ. In fact, Paul says that many of the Corinthians became sick and died because they were receiving the Eucharist unworthily.

In Hebrews 9:23, Paul refers to the New Testament sacrifice as "sacrifices," in the plural. He does so to underscore that Christ's ongoing sacrifice is sacramentally re-presented in the Mass from the rising of the sun to its setting throughout the world as was prophesied by Malachi 1:11. I could go on, but I will let you deal with 1 Cor 11:27 and Hebrews 9:23 first.

Rey: That verse has no such significances to it. Paul was referring to the OT being through that process. Where do you get that from? Like I tell you, I've read your "evidences" and they're not convincing.

J. Salza: Rey, I have been doing this for a long time, and I am not at all impressed with your habitual tendencies to blow off my points because they don't have "significances" to you. Please tell me why Paul referred to the New Testament sacrifice as "sacrifices," in the plural in Hebrews 9:23.

The bottom line is this: The Bible is not your only authority. The Church is the final authority (Mt 18:17-18; 1 Tim 3:15). After all, the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture. She determined which books were inspired and which books were not. She is the authentic interpreter of Scripture, not me or you.

Rey: You know, I think your theology is backwards. The Church didn't come up with these rules, someone gave it them. I call it the Bible. It was like that with moses, it doesn't change now. The Catholic didn't determine scripture. Was the Catholic Church around during the times of Moses? I don't think so. Are you sure that scripture couldn't determine it themselves?

J. Salza: Actually, Rey, your theology is backwards. The Bible could not have come first, because the Bible wasn't fully written until the end of the first century. Further, the canon of Scripture wasn't determined until the end of the fourth century. Since there was no Bible, how is it that the Bible is the only authority? The answer is that we had the Church first, not the Bible. The Bible doesn't even talk about a Bible; it talks about the Church.

Regarding Moses, you are just proving the Catholic point. First, the people did not know that Moses' writings were inspired because Moses' writings said they were inspired (which is your argument). The Jews believed that Moses' writings were inspired because of the tradition and the authority God put over them, who said that Moses' writings were inspired. It was therefore an authority outside of Moses' writings that determined Moses' writings were inspired.

That is the Catholic position. We need an authority outside of Scripture to tell us what Scriptures are inspired, and what they mean. Moses was the one who infallibly interpreted the Scriptures for the people. The people didn't go off (like you Protestants) and interpret the Scriptures on their own. They were under the authority of Moses. This was the function of Moses in the Old Covenant, and is the function of Peter (and his succesors) in the New Covenant.

Rey: Well, I beg to differ because your evidences fall flat on their faces.

J. Salza: Yeah, sure Rey. Instead of tackling my arguments and inquiries head-on, you rather stay in your comfort zone and argue that nothing convinces you. An honest opponent would actually address the Fathers, exegete Scripture and offer his own patristic and biblical evidences to support his own positions. You don't appear to have any interest in the truth

Rey: I think you've been ignoring a good chunk of history to actually believe that there was Church that told everyone what to do. God told Moses to write what he said in a book, in fact five books. The whole nation of Israel was guided by those books, God did just the same with everyone else. Was the Church there to tell these authors every thing, nope. Besides, all those Church fathers had the parts of the NT with them, so what makes you think it wasn't availiable?

J. Salza: Rey, it is you who are ignorant of history. In fact, if you really knew history or the Church Fathers, you would become Catholic. Regarding your claims that "the whole nation of Israel was guided by these books," that statement is misleading. In fact, it is simply wrong. Moses had those books read only every seven years (Deut 31:9-12). So the people weren't principally "guided by these books." They were "guided" by Moses, the authority that God appointed over them. God didn't change the program with the New Testament. While we still read the books, we are "guided" by those God appointed over us - the pope, bishops, priests and deacons. Rey, just curious, who is your bishop? Who is your priest?

Regarding Moses, let me ask you this. And don't blow my question off as "insignificant" just because you can't answer it while denying your Protestant position. When Moses was in authority, Korah and his followers rebelled against Moses. Because of their rebellion, God caused the earth to swallow them whole. In Jude 1:11, he warns New Testament Christians not to perish in Korah's rebellion. The question is this: Why would Jude give such a warning to New Testament Christians if we had no people in the Church in authority over us?

You cannot guarantee me that your interpretation of Scripture is correct. You are fooling yourself if you think so, and that is why there are 30,000 different Protestant denominations.

Rey: Do I hear a Scot Hahn claim here? I sure think so. Before you'd go one claiming that there is such a thing, you should really take a look within your one. So far the denominations actually shorten down to 21 while Catholics have 20. I think we can continue into this subject if you'd like, I would be more than glad to if you had the time.

J. Salza: I don't know what you mean by referring to Scott Hahn; I haven’t quoted Scott, I have quoted the Church and Her Scriptures and Traditions. You haven't answered my question: Are you infallibly certain that your interpretation of Scripture is correct?

The Bible itself says that it needs an infallible interpreter. The Bible doesn't interpret itself because it cannot think. It is not a living personality.

Rey: Yes, someone who's infallible in Judgment. The Pope's a man but the Holy Spirit is not. So I can chose the HS as an infallible interpreter. Yes it does. How do you think we determine what belongs in the canon? Scripture tells us themselves who belongs, not the Pope.

J. Salza: Tell me exactly where Scripture tells us what belongs in the Canon of Scripture. This time, answer the question directly. You said, "Scripture tells us themselves who belongs." Please offer me book, chapter and verse. I am going make you prove that assertion. If you cannot, then your argument that the Bible is the only authority falls apart at the seams. We need an authority outside of Scripture to understand what Scripture really means.

Rey: I don’t accept the teachings of a man, only God.

J. Salza: Then I suppose that when Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the authority to bind and loose, you probably wouldn't have "accepted" that either. When Peter rose to resolve the debate about circumcision in Acts 15, WITHOUT using Scripture, you probably wouldn't have followed Peter's decision. You would rather perish in Korah's rebellion. If you have an infallible Word but no way to infallibly interpret it, it is useless.

Rey: You're right. So then I don't need to follow the Pope because he's not infallible. He makes fallible judgments just like everyone else does. Telling me we need one is a fallible judgment, who told you needed one, God?

J. Salza: When the pope seeks to bind and loose something on earth on a matter of faith or morals, he is infallible. That is because Jesus promised that whatever Peter or His successors bound or loosed on earth would be bound or loosed in heaven. How could Jesus make such a sweeping promise? Because He protects His vicar from teaching error. God cannot lie, and God is the one confirming the binding and loosing of Peter. Granted, the pope is not infallible in his personal opinions. But when he speaks with the authority of Christ through his binding and loosing power, he is infallible, because Jesus says so. This point not only appeals to our reason as human beings, but has been demonstrated through Scripture, Tradition and history.

Rey: Like the rest of us humans, we make mistakes. If someone misreads a book, does that mean you can't follow the book itself or is it the fault of the person who misread it?

J. Salza: Of course we make mistakes. But God promised that Peter and his successors would NOT make mistakes when they decided to bind or loose a doctrinal or moral issue. This is how we are able to know definitively what the Scriptures mean, and why we are able to have worldwide Christian unity. God put one man in charge, just like He did in the Old Covenant.

We can go back and forth on biblical interpretation, but this comes down to authority. We won't get far if you do not recognize this central issue.



9. What are we to think of “Communion in the Hand?”

Patron: John, it is very depressing to see people receive communion in the hand as if the Eucharist were a common piece of bread. I believe it fosters a lack of faith in the Real Presence. I also know that it leads to many grave abuses. Yet I have been told that communion in the hand has always been practiced by the Church and that there is nothing inherently wrong with it. Please give me your thoughts

J. Salza: Communion in the hand depressed Mother Theresa as well. When asked what she thought the worst problem in the world was, the saint of a woman replied: “Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand." Not abortion or war, but communion in the hand.

First, let’s get one thing straight. Notwithstanding what we see in most Novus Ordo parishes, the current law of the Church actually forbids Communion in the hand except in very limited circumstances. According to Memoriale Domini (promulgated under the pontificate of Paul VI in 1969), the only time Communion in the hand is permissible is when the practice (which the pope calls a “contrary usage”) has already been established (usually through disobedience), and only then where the appropriate episcopal conference approves the usage by a secret 2/3 vote, which must then be reviewed and approved by the Holy See. Communion on the tongue (sub lingua) is still the universal law of the Church. Incidentally, even though Communion in the hand is now a pervasive practice throughout the United States in Novus Ordo parishes, the United States was not one of those places where Communion in the hand was an established practice before Memoriale Domini.

Memoriale Domini states that a “contrary usage” should not be allowed if it would lead to a lack of respect of the Eucharist, false or adulterated doctrinal opinions of the Eucharist, or profanation of the Eucharist. Thus, while Paul VI permitted a very narrow exception to the Church’s universal law of Communion on the tongue (in places where the abuse was already established, subject to Rome’s approval), the document made it clear that “the Holy Father has decided not to change the existing way of administering holy communion to the faithful” (which is “on the tongue”). This reflected the bishops desire – by a clear majority - not to implement Communion in the hand.

John Paul II affirmed the foregoing. In Dominicae Cenae, the pope said: "To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained” (No. 11). In Inaestimabile Donum, the pope said: “It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less that they should hand them from one to another” (No. 9). In 2004, John Paul II’s Congregation for Divine Worship issued Redemptionis Sacramentum which addressed certain matters concerning the celebration of the Eucharist. The document reiterated the warnings of Memoriale Domini by stating: “If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.”

At large Novus Ordo parish Masses, there is invariably a risk of profaning the Eucharist when our Lord is distributed in the hand. Hosts are found on the floor, underneath the pews and in Missalettes. They are being stolen by Satanists or being trafficked on Ebay. These are grave sacrileges that are beyond comprehension. Such sacrileges were unheard of before Vatican II. This does not take into consideration the more common effect of dulling the average Catholic’s attitude and awe toward this great mystery, by treating the consecrated species as mere “pane comune.” This is especially problematic in light of the current age of liturgical chaos. In light of the risks of profanation, adulteration of true doctrine, and irreverence – the very risks Paul VI and John Paul II stated must prevent giving Communion in the hand – the Church’s law forbids the practice.

Regarding the argument that Communion in the hand “was always practiced by the Church,” this is not true. First, the person making this argument evidently believes that longstanding ecclesiastical and liturgical traditions should be followed. I absolutely agree. Thus, if it can be demonstrated that Communion on the tongue (not in the hand) is such a longstanding tradition, then Communion on the tongue should remain the universal law of the Church and Communion in the hand should be abolished.

Many in favor of Communion in the hand point to the writings of St. Basil, Letter 93, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 23:21, the Quintsext Synod of Trullo, Canon CI; and St. John Damascus, De Fide Orthodoxa Book IV, ch. XIII. Not only do these writings fail to establish a consensus on the matter, they provide dubious and even conflicting information. For example, St. Basil (330-379) says clearly that to receive Communion by one's own hand is only permitted in times of persecution or, as was the case with monks in the desert, when no deacon or priest was available to give it: "It is not necessary to show that it does not constitute a grave fault for a person to communicate with his own hand in a time of persecution when there is no priest or deacon" (Letter 93). The text implies that to receive in the hand under other circumstances, outside of persecution, would be a grave fault. The saint based his opinion on the custom of the solitary monks, who reserved the Blessed Sacrament in their dwellings, and, in the absence of the priest or deacon, gave themselves Communion.

Many people point to Cyril of Jerusalem’s quote of making your hand like a “throne” to receive the Lord. However, Cyril lived in the same century (the 4th) as Basil, so this discounts Cyril’s “throne” quote and makes it an exception (during times of persecution), not the rule. Moreover, Cyril’s quote is of dubious origin; many scholars trace it to Patriarch John, who succeeded Cyril in Jerusalem. But this John was of suspect orthodoxy. This we know from the correspondence of St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine

In fact, the early witnesses actually demonstrate that Communion on the tongue was the normative practice of the Church. For example, Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461), already in the fifth century, is an early witness of the traditional practice of Communion on the tongue. In his comments on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, he speaks of Communion in the mouth as the current usage: "One receives in the mouth what one believes by faith." The Pope does not speak as if he were introducing a novelty, but as if this were a well-established fact.

A century and a half later, Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) is another witness to the established practice of Communion on the tongue. In his dialogues (Roman 3, c. 3) he relates how Pope St. Agapito performed a miracle during the Mass, after having placed the Body of the Lord onto the tongue of the communicant. We are also told by John the Deacon of this Pope's manner of giving Holy Communion. These witnesses are from the fifth and the sixth centuries. Thus, we have two great, sainted Popes who tell us communion sub lingua was the tradition of the Church, already in the fifth and sixth centuries.

The Council of Rouen, which met in 650, affirmed the tradition by declaring: "Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layman or laywomen but only in their mouths." The Council of Constantinople also prohibited the faithful from giving Communion to themselves (which is of course what happens when the Sacred Particle is placed in the hand of the communicant). It decreed an excommunication of one week's duration for those who would do so in the presence of a bishop, priest or deacon.

St. Thomas Aquinas also reminds us that reverence demands that only what has been consecrated should touch the Blessed Sacrament. By baptism, the Christian has been consecrated to receive the Lord in Holy Communion, but not to distribute the Sacred Host to others or unnecessarily to touch it. Some argue that our hands are just as worthy as our tongues, maybe even more so, and on that basis Communion in the hand should be normative. This is a silly argument. It is the priest’s hands, not his tongue (or our tongues) that are consecrated for the specific duty of distributing Communion. Others disagree with Aquinas by arguing that our stomachs are not consecrated to receive the Eucharist and yet receive, so the same should be true with our hands. Again, this is fallacious reasoning. The priest’s stomach is not consecrated either, only his hands. That is because his hands have been set aside for distributing Holy Communion to the non-ordained.

Even if the early Church did permit Communion in the hand (let’s assume she did even outside of situations of persecution), the Holy Spirit led the Church to adopt Communion sub lingua as her normative practice. We see this not only in the writings of Basil in the fourth century, but also from two sainted popes in the fifth and sixth century, and a regional council in the seventh century. St. Thomas affirms the same in the thirteenth century. We have not even addressed the fact that the Protestant Reformers strongly promoted Communion in the hand to deny the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Eucharist (e.g., the revisions to the Anglican’s prayer book published in 1552 included communion in the hand).

Therefore, Communion on the tongue is an ecclesiastical tradition which was developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit from very early on up to the present time. Yes, even current Church law forbids Communion in the hand except in cases where the abuse has been established so long as there is no risk of profanation or irreverence (but there always is that risk, so this effectively proscribes its usage). Moreover, I am sad to say that the fruits of Communion in the hand, in my experience, speak for themselves.

Having established that Communion in the hand is not a tradition of the Catholic Church does not mean that the practice is intrinsically evil. The few popes who have approved Communion in the hand (in cases where the risks we discussed are not present) could not foist a sacrilege upon the Church. The Holy Spirit would never allow it. Moreover, if Communion in the hand were intrinsically evil, there could never be exceptions that would allow it (and we would certainly have never seen it in the early Church).

Having said that, the Catechism defines sacrilege as “profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions” (CCC 2120). Certainly, in many cases, receiving Communion in the hand can result in “treating unworthily” this most Blessed Sacrament. In such cases, Communion in the hand could approach sacrilege or result in sacrilege, but we cannot say the practice is sacrilegious per se (unless we were to accuse the few popes who have approved the practice of unleashing sacrilege upon the Church, something a Catholic should never do). Nevertheless, given the known sacrileges that result from Communion in the hand and the degeneration of faith in the Real Presence, I believe that the universal law of Communion sub lingua should be enforced more vigorously, and Communion in the hand abolished, for the love of Christ and His Church.



10. “For many” versus “For all”

Gino: John, what is your position on the “for many” versus “for all” controversy? Some argue that the use of “for all” is heretical and invalidates the consecration formula. Others argue that “for many” and “for all” are interchangeable. I also heard that Pope Benedict is going to require the use of “for many.” What does all this mean?

J. Salza: Gino, I have been arguing “for many” years that the universal usage should be “for many” and not “for all,” while at the same time upholding the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass which I attend on weekdays.

The principal reason why “for many” should be used is because that is what Jesus said! At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Eucharist by saying “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28); “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mk 14:24).

This is why the Latin is translated “pro multis” (for many), not “pro omnibus” (for all). The English translation of the Novus Ordo Missae (“for many”) is technically incorrect, and I am happy that Pope Benedict is going to make the proper changes. I don’t know why bishops deviated from the original Latin translation (as well as from Christ’s own words), but this is not unique to the United States. In certain parts of Europe, the bishops have also deviated from the Latin translation. For example, in Italy the usage is “per tutti” (for all), not “per molti” (for many).

I know that some Catholic apologists argue that “for many” and “for all” are interchangeable in the Scriptures. This is true. For example, in Matthew 20:28, Jesus says that He came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” In 1 Tim 2:6, Paul says that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all.”

The problem with this argument is that Jesus did not use “for all” when He instituted the Eucharist. He used “for many.” While it is true that, biblically speaking, “for all” may mean the same thing as “for many” in certain cases, it does not mean that “for all” means “for many” in every case (and particularly in the case at hand, i.e., the Eucharist). Moreover, the Church has recognized this very distinction in the Last Supper accounts based on the plain meaning of Scripture. In Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew connects the “for many” with those who are going to receive the “forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). Because not all people will receive “forgiveness of sin,” Jesus said that His blood was being poured out “for many,” not “for all.”

To anticipate the objection, we of course acknowledge that Jesus shed His blood “for all,” and that “all” have a chance to receive the “forgiveness of sin.” That is not the issue. The issue is whether Jesus at the Last Supper said “for many” or “for all,” and whether He was referring to the availability of His atoning work to “all” or the application of His atoning work to “many.” It is true that the Church has not made an official pronouncement on this issue. However, that does not mean that we have no guidance on the question.

In addition to the plain meaning of Scripture (“for many” is connected to only those who will receive the “forgiveness of sin” as the Church has always believed), we also have guidance from St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope Saint Pius V. They both believed that Christ’s words were exclusive (regarding the actual application of the sacrifice) and not inclusive (regarding the potential application of the sacrifice). Pius V approved the following in the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

The additional words for you and for many, are taken, some from Matthew, some from Luke, but were joined together by the Catholic Church under the guidance of the Spirit of God. They serve to declare the fruit and advantage of His Passion. For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race. When therefore ('our Lord) said: For you, He meant either those who were present, or those chosen from among the Jewish people, such as were, with the exception of Judas, the disciples with whom He was speaking. When He added, And for many, He wished to be understood to mean the remainder of the elect from among the Jews or Gentiles.

With reason, therefore, were the words for all not used, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation. And this is the purport of the Apostle when he says: Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many; and also of the words of our Lord in John: I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me, because they are thine.

While this is not a dogmatic teaching of the Church, it comes from a sainted pope upon whom the entire Church has relied for over 400 years, and one of the most venerated catechisms the Church has ever issued. There is also no subsequent authority contrary to the Catechism’s teaching. In short, the Scriptures and our understanding of them on this issue (as well as the Church’s current Latin translation) demonstrate, quite strongly, that Christ was speaking of the fruits of His Passion at the Last Supper and thus “for many,” not “for all,” should be used.

That having been said, it is absolutely incorrect to conclude that using “for all” invalidates the consecration. Those who come to such a conclusion have not really studied this issue. This reason is that transubstantiation of the bread into Jesus’ body is brought about by the words “this is my body,” and transubstantiation of the wine into Jesus’ blood is brought about by the words “this is my blood.” Only those words that signify transubstantiation are necessary to bring about the miracle. The remaining words “of the new and everlasting covenant; shed for you and for all for the remission of sins; do this in memory of me” (i.e, the “long” form) are not necessary to confect the sacrament because they don’t signify the actual change of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood; they only provide additional information about the miracle that has already occurred.

Some “Catholic” apologists, particularly in the Sedevacantist camp, argue that St. Thomas Aquinas believed the long form was necessary for transubstantiation. They refer to Aquinas’ statement that, in regard to the long form in consecrating the wine, “these (additional) words (referring to the words coming after “blood”) pertain to the substance of the form.” Based on this statement, it is probably (but not certainly) true that Thomas believed in the necessity of the long form, and many theologians during the time of Aquinas agreed with him. But not all theologians agreed with Aquinas, most notably Aquinas’ mentor, St. Albert the Great, his contemporary, St. Bonaventure, and later on, the noteworthy Dominican Thomist, Cardinal Cajetan.

However, as influential as Aquinas was on the sacramental theology of the Church, the Church did not adopt his apparent view on the necessity of the long form. Instead, Pope Saint Pius V’s Catechism of Trent adopted the short form by providing: “The form to be used (in the consecration) of this element (the wine) evidently consists of those words which signify that the substance of the wine is changed into the blood of Our Lord.” That is, only those words which signify transubstantiation (“this is my body”; “this is my blood”) are required to transubstantiate the elements.

Michael F. Duddy has written an excellent article exegeting the Latin translation of the above-cited phrase which I am sure can be found on the web. Mr. Duddy demonstrates that the Latin literally means “these words are contained in,” or “discovered in,” or “surrounded by” those words which signify transubstantiation. In other words, the Catechism of Trent teaches that the words which signify transubstantiation (the short form of “this is my blood”) are contained within the longer form of “of the new and everlasting covenant, the mystery of faith, which is shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins; as often as you do these things you shall do them in remembrance of me.” This means that the other words in the long form do not signify transubstantiation and are thus not necessary to bring about the miracle.

After the teaching on the validity of the short form, the Catechism goes on to provide: “Since, therefore, these words openly declare this (transubstantiation) it is clear that no other form needs to be determined.” The Catechism clearly teaches that the essential form for the bread is “this is my body,” and for the wine, “this is my blood.” The essential form must signify and effect what the bread and wine become (i.e., the body and blood of Christ through transubstantiation), and thus no other form or words are necessary.

There are two other interesting points to note. First, after the Catechism of Trent was issued, almost every theologian who had previously held to the long form for validity abandoned that view in favor of the short form. This position has endured for centuries. Holding that the “short form” (only those words which signify transubstantiation) confects the sacrament is an authentic development of the doctrine of the Church and should be believed by all Catholics.

Second, those (like the Sedevacantists) who reject the Catechism of Trent’s teaching on the validity of the short form interestingly accept the Catechism’s teaching on “for many” versus “for all.” Why do they accept “many” of the teachings in the Catechism on the consecration formula but not “all” of it? This shows that their reliance upon the Catechism, and approach to Church teaching in general, is purely arbitrary.



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