Why Do Catholics believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus?

Image of The Last Supper by Albrecht BoutsThe short answer is that Catholics believe the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus because it was taught by Jesus, Himself, and recorded in the Bible.

On the night He was betrayed, He gathered with His Apostles to celebrate Passover, the ritualistic meal eaten by the Israelites (on the eve of their liberation from bondage in Egypt).

The Passover meal included the flesh of the sacrificial lamb (see Exodus, 12:8). The Last Supper, which took place on the eve of man’s liberation from sin, is the fulfillment of the Passover meal.

On that night, now known as Holy Thursday, Исо, Барраи Худо, gave His own Flesh and Blood to be eaten by the faithfulsacramentally, in the form of Bread and Wine.1

Jehovah’s Witnesses and other groups commonly object to Catholic teaching on the Eucharist on the grounds it violates the Old Testament prohibition against the eating of blood. In Mark’s Gospel 7:18-19, Аммо, Jesus removed the burden of the Mosaic dietary restrictions—including the eating of blood—from His followers. At the Council of Jerusalem the Apostles did forbid the eating of blood, though only in particular situations to avoid unnecessarily offending the Jews (нигаред ба Аъмоли ҳаввориён 15:29 ва 21:25).

Taking bread, blessing it, breaking it, and distributing it among the Apostles, jesus said, “Take, хӯрдан; this is my body” (Матто 26:26). Then He took a cup, which He also blessed, and gave to them, гуфт:, “Drink of it, ҳамаи шумо; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Матто 26:27-28). Although Jesus often spoke metaphorically during His ministry, at this crucial moment He spoke plainly. “This is my body,«Ӯ гуфт:, without explanation. “This is my blood.” It is hard to imagine how the Lord could have been more direct.

Image of Communion of the Apostles by Justus GhentJesus’ institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper fulfills His famous Bread of Life sermon, which is recorded in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. This sermon is prefaced by the multiplication of loaves and fish, by which thousands are miraculously fed from a tiny amount of food (see John 6:4 although that miracle appears in all four Gospels). This event is a Eucharistic metaphor, occurring as it does during Passover and having been effected by the same formula Jesus would later use at the Last Supper—taking the loaves, шукргузорӣ, and distributing them (Юҳанно 6:11). When the people return on the following day to demand a sign from Him, recalling how their ancestors had been given manna in the wilderness (as in Exodus 16:14), Jesus replies, «Ба ростӣ, дар ҳақиқат, Ман ба шумо мегӯям:, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world” (Юҳанно 6:32-33).

«Эй Парвардигори, give us this bread always,” they cry (Юҳанно 6:34).

«Ман нони ҳаёт ҳастам;,” He responds; “he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (6:35). Though His words make the Jews uneasy, Jesus continues unabated, His speech growing steadily more graphic:

47 «Ба ростӣ, дар ҳақиқат, Ман ба шумо мегӯям:, he who believes has eternal life.

48 Ман нони ҳаёт ҳастам;.

49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, ва онҳо мурд.

50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; ва the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (6:47-51; диќќати иловашуда).

Verse 51 contains indisputable proof that Jesus is not speaking figuratively, for He identifies the Bread which must be eaten as the same Flesh that would suffer and die on the Cross. To assert that in referring to His Flesh in this passage He is speaking symbolically is to say the Flesh that suffered and died on the Cross was merely a symbol, for they are one and the same!2

«Чӣ тавр Ин Шахс метавонад ба мо ва ҷисми Ӯ ато хӯрдани?” the people ask (6:52).

In spite of their consternation, Jesus proceeds all the more emphatically:

«Ба ростӣ, дар ҳақиқат, Ман ба шумо мегӯям:, агар Бадани Писари Одамро нахӯред ва Хуни Ӯро нанӯшед,, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, ва Ман дар Ӯ. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever” (6:53-58; диќќати иловашуда).

The celebration of the Eucharist was central in the lives of the early Christians, who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (See the Acts of the Apostles 2:42). Note that “The breaking of bread and the prayers” refers to the Liturgy.

Only a few years after the death of the last Apostle, Saint Ignatius Антиохия (г. мисли. 107) described the Liturgy the same way, denouncing heretics for abstaining “from the Eucharist and from prayer” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2). That the early Church, зиёда аз ин, took Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, as her Sabbath is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles 20:7, ки мегӯяд:, “On the first day of the week, … we were gathered together to break bread …” (CF. Didache 14; Justin the Martyr, Якум узр 67).

Saint Paul identifies both the manna and the rock that spew forth water for the Israelites as Eucharistic metaphors. “All ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink,” he writes. “For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (See his First Letter to the Corinthians10:3-4 as well as the Book of Revelations 2:17). He goes on to admonish the Corinthians for their lack of reverence in receiving the Eucharist, writing:

11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread

24 Ва ҳангоме ки Ӯ шукргузорӣ дода буд, ки онро пора, ва гуфт:, This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, гуфт:, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Оё ин, ҳар боре ки онро бинӯшам,, in remembrance of me.

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 касе, Пас,, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.

28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

29 For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.

30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (see Matthew 5:23-24, аз ҳад зиёд).

Per verse 27, to receive the Eucharist unworthily is to sin against the Body and Blood of the Lord. Ҳамин тавр, он ба маблағи пурсидани аст: how could the unworthy reception of ordinary bread and wine amount to a sin against the Body and Blood of Jesus? Paul says even that the impious reception of the Eucharist is the reason “why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (v. 30).

It is only fitting that the most famous early Patristic (Church Father) statements on the Real Presence come from Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who learned the Faith seated at the feet of the Evangelist John. In about the year A.D. 107, using the Church’s Eucharistic teaching to defend the Incarnation against the Docetists, who denied Jesus had truly come in the flesh, Ignatius wrote:

Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. … They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2; 7:1).

The same Body that suffered and died on the Cross for our sins and returned from the dead, as Ignatius explained, is present to us in the Holy Eucharist (see John 6:51).

Saint Justin the Martyr, writing around 150, said the Eucharistic Bread and Wine are received “not as common bread nor common drink,” for They are “the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus” (Якум узр 66).

Дар бораи 185, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, whose teacher Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (г. мисли. 156) also knew John, spoke of the Eucharist in defending the bodily resurrection against gnosticism. “If the body be not saved,” argued the Saint, “then, дар асл, neither did the Lord redeem us with His Blood; and neither is the cup of the Eucharist the partaking of His Blood nor is the Bread which we break the partaking of His Body (1 Cor. 10:16)" (зидди бидъатҳои 5:2:2).

Origen remarked of the Eucharist around the middle of the third century, “Formerly, in an obscure way, there was manna for food; now, Аммо, in full view, there is the True Food, the Flesh of the Word of God, as he himself says: ‘My Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink’ (Юҳанно 6:56)" (Homilies on Numbers 7:2).

Ба ҳамин монанд, Saint Cyprian of Carthage (г. 258) wrote:

We ask that this bread be given us daily (CF. Мат. 6:11), so that we who are in Christ and daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation, may not, by falling into some more grievous sin and then abstaining from communicating, be withheld from the heavenly Bread, and be separated from Christ’s Body. … He Himself warns us, гуфт:, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you” (Юҳанно 6:54) (The Lord’s Prayer 18).

  1. The blood of the Passover lamb was not consumed. Дар асл, it was forbidden for Israel to consume the blood of any animal, as blood represented the life force of the animal, which belonged to God alone (see Genesis, 9:4, and Leviticus, 7:26). Conversely, in the Eucharist, God wishes to share His Blood, His very Life, with us to nourish us sacramentally. In this ineffable Gift we become one flesh and blood, one spirit, with God (see the Gospel of John 6:56-57 and the Book of Revelations, 3:20).
  2. Jesus does use symbolic language in reference to Himself elsewhere in John’s Инҷил, calling Himself “the door” and “the vine,” for example (10:7 ва 15:5, respectively). In these other instances, Аммо, He does not apply nearly the same emphasis to His words that He does in Юҳанно 6, in which He repeats Himself again and again with increasing clarity. Nor do these other sayings engender controversy among the listeners the way His words in Юҳанно 6 do. Гузашта аз ин, the Evangelist John actually informs us Jesus is speaking figuratively in Юҳанно 10:6, something he does not do in the sixth chapter.