Note: The writer of this article Sri. George, introduces himself as a retired banker with 44 years’ service spanning three countries and who took to reading Bible post retirement to find out why he was being targeted by several bible carrying people to come over for this prayer or that prayer and ended up with unintended result!.
A whole lot of deeply religious Christians, honest and believing, are often forced to launch out into a bread-winning job just after their school or college, and get lost until they get retired, to find free time to think seriously of their personal religious beliefs and practices imbibed with their mothers milk. Many just tread on the beaten track until they are laid up waiting to cross death’s door to think of their after life, based on what they once believed and practiced.
Here George is in the select admirable group spending his time very constructively in the study of the Bible to find meaning for his beliefs, for which he has to be congratulated, what is more, imitated. How many believers in various religions do this could be a topic of research, for the benefit of those who never think of it.
Mass and Communion!
In the article below he is analyzing a Catholic’s central belief and religious practice of attending Sunday Worship where the faithful take communion which is considered to be actual consuming of the Body and Blood of Jesus by the action of the priest saying: ‘This is my body…this is my blood’ which transforms, the wafer thin wheet bread and wine. This transformation is liturgically called “trans substantiation” which can’t be proved by scientific analysis of the changed bread and wine.
What is the truth about this blind belief and religious practice? If there is no truth, it should be dumped in the dustbin of Superstitious practices which Swami Agnivesh, in the last post in CCV called: “Religion without truth.” There are ever so many such beliefs, rituals and practices in all churches and other organized religions.
So it would be most appropriate to hear from a whole lot of simple honest believers belonging to all religions or unbelievers who are readers of CCV to arrive at a general consensus. Voice of the people is said to be the voice of God and acceptable norm in any democracy. Besides, this is the only mini research CCV is able to conduct.
So may we request our readers to send in their views, without fear or favour, about what they believe and practice. For the moment what we are looking for are answers to many questions Sri George has raised. Readers are welcome to raise other related beliefs, ritual practices and questions. After all we are now in the midst of heated debate on Sabarimala-centric religious or superstitious practices.
We believe all are agreed on the principle that Religion with out TRUTH is trash called ‘superstition’. Human being is defined as “Rational animal. Animal always and rational sometimes.” None of us want to be acting like animals always, but rational most of the times, possibly always.
That is why CCV has been constantly batting for the practice of following one’s light of REASON, weather insignificant like that of a ‘fire-fly’ or of a noon-day Sun. No one is expected to do the impossible, even by GOD, if he exists. Even great minds like Einstain never believed in a God, we wrote recently. So not to believe in a God can be a positive trait, and to believe, also a positive trait when one is caught between the Devil and deep sea and doesn’t know where to turn.
Caught in Dead end!
Limited man is constantly caught in a ‘Cul-de-sac’, a dead end, with no escape route when he is forced to find solace in Faith, Belief or Organised religion. It could be seen both as a strength or weakness of Human nature. So welcome to your ‘Frankly speaking’ for the education and enlightenment of all, since here below we are all never-ending learners and searchers –TREASURE HUNTERS!
Sathyagraha and Snehagrapha
What is more, we are brothers and sisters bound together by “Sathyagraha and Snehagrapha” the driving energy, the petrol filled to the brim, in our tanks called ‘mind and heart’. Let those two energies, TRUTH that liberates and LOVE that unites, drive us forward in our MERRY-GO-ROUND, here below. james kottoor, editor ccv
Read below George Nedumparambil’s views on faith & practice!
First thing first; I am a born Catholic and remains one though not much of a practicing type at that.
As readers may have guessed this article is about Jesus’ body and blood which the faithful regularly consume at Mass service. Catholics are told that the wafer, that the priest distribute saying “Body of Christ” and that they eat replying “Amen” are no longer wafer made of wheat flour but the real body of Jesus and the wine his real blood.
This magical transformation happens when the presiding priest prays over the wafer and wine and asks God the Father to turn them into the body and blood of his son, Jesus Christ. And it turns, so they claim, and call the process “transubstantiation”. The magical transformation remains a concept not supported in Bible and by various other Christian groups but it remains the central point of a Catholic Mass service.
And it is believed that eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood are essential to gaining forgiveness of sins and eternal life after death. While performing this holiest of holy ritual the priest also asks God the Father “to accept this sacrifice”. One is left to wonder as to what is being sacrificed. Quite obviously the priest could not be deemed to be sacrificing himself as he remains well and truly alive to distribute the wafer and thereafter too.
So, it appears that he is either referring to his labor as the officiating priest as a sacrifice (he could as well be watching a movie or surfing the net instead and hence for him a sacrifice to be in the church} or he is sacrificing Jesus himself and distributing the body parts to the congregation. In either case, it is apparent that the officiating priest care to hoods Jesus’ commandment that he does not want sacrifice but compassion. Compassion and cutting someone into pieces and eating those pieces are strange bed fellows and therefore cannot co-exist, much less running into problems with the country’s laws that prohibit consumption of human flesh and blood.
There are some biblical problems with the above practice of the church and which I would like to look at. Firstly, Jesus is not around in human form for the priest to get hold of him and cut him into pieces.
Secondly there is a problem with Jesus being around in flesh and blood. We are told that Jesus ascended into heaven and will come once again but that coming is not a silent one. It will be an earthshaking event that sets off a chain of destruction that the mankind has not seen and only few living at that time will survive (all events courtesy of a loving and caring Father). Other than this coming, the Bible does not point to any possibility of a surreptitious coming by Jesus in between.
Thirdly the bible does not permit consumption of human flesh. As for blood the bible is categorical that bloods of any animals are not for human consumption. But the Catholic Church will have none of it as it insists that the wafer converts itself to flesh and what is being eaten is the actual flesh of Jesus. Those who consume it believe and vouch for it.
There was a time I too believed in it. But I know from my own experience of taking it in different churches in India and several countries abroad that I never felt flesh raw or cooked. Not that I am a cannibal with a discerning taste for human flesh. The problem would resolve itself if Catholic Church withdrew its magical wand called “transubstantiation” and say that the whole thing is to be taken symbolically. But they wouldn’t do it as it would amount to acknowledging that the Protestants were correct. It is a sacrilege to even think of it. Hence the concept remains a holy cow. I therefore wish to examine the Gospels in my own way to find what it says about ‘eating the body and drinking the blood’ of Jesus.
My understanding is that Jesus first suggested the requirement to eat his body and drink his blood during an assembly of followers in a synagogue at a place called Capernaum. He said “Truly, I say to you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives with eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day”. (John 6: 53-54).
This statement of Jesus begs the question – what is eternal life? Jesus himself answers it “For this is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and the One you sent, Jesus Christ”. (John 17: 3). John 17:3 comes in a private conversation of Jesus with his Father. To the assembly he taught, “This is the bread which came from heaven unlike that of your ancestors, who ate and later died. Those who eat this bread will live forever”. (John 6: 58).
He was comparing the manna that God provided as part of God’s plan to keep the rescued Jews from Egypt with food and the present salvation mission in the form of Jesus that has come down from heaven. But if Jesus’ body is food unlike manna, those who eat shouldn’t be dying but they are just like those who ate manna!! It therefore is not rocket science to discern that Jesus was not referring to eating him literally to gain eternal life, a life that comes after one dies and occurring at resurrection of the dead.
Logically therefore one is persuaded to ask: what did Jesus really mean by eating his body and drinking his blood. This leads to its logical conclusion that Jesus could not have meant a literal eating and dispatching his body part to the stomach of a recipient. One’s stomach is not the best of places to send Jesus to only to be excreted next morning. I cannot imagine a greater insult to Jesus than such a treatment meted out to him. Therefore it can be concluded that he never intended literal eating of his body and drinking of his blood and was talking metaphor!!
This line of thinking is not speculation on my part. We have confirmation of it directly from Jesus himself. In John 6:60 we see the reaction of the assembly when Jesus spoke of eating his body and drinking his blood. “After hearing this, many of Jesus’ followers said, “This language is very hard! Who can accept it?” Even his own disciples did not understand what Jesus meant and murmured about it. Knowing this, Jesus said to them “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh cannot help. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 7:63).
This verse confirms that literal eating was never intended. Ordinarily, this verse alone is sufficient to prove that the idea of transubstantiation is an unwanted stretch of theological imagination running wild. But the church will have nothing of it and insists that what they are doing is as per the covenant Jesus issued during Last Supper which takes me to the chapter on Last Supper. In the medieval times the church killed many a people who opposed this concept including the Franciscan Monk, Giordano Bruno who was ahead of his times as far as his scientific knowledge went (please search Wikipedia for details).
This chapter appears in the gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke. All three gospels are in agreement that Jesus had his last supper on the first day of the festival of unleavened bread (otherwise known as Passover). All three are in agreement of Jesus taking bread and saying “this is my body” and the wine “my blood”. But only Luke’s gospel say “Do this in remembrance of me”. Assuming Mathew’s gospel was written by the disciple Mathew himself (I suppose this has not been proved as yet), whose gospel do we take as more authentic – Mathew who was present at the Last Supper or Mark and Luke who were not?
So, I would imagine it was patently improper to have formed a ritual that has become the most sacrosanct aspect of Catholic worship on the basis of what Luke said who was not present at the Last Supper and that too ignoring what John said in his gospel. Remember that John attended Last Supper. Anyways, let us now consider one important factor. Do we notice any consternation or disdain on the part of the disciples when Jesus asked them to eat his body and drink his blood as did at Capernaum (John 6)?
All three gospels are in agreement in that none describes that the disciples showed any emotion. We might ask “Why”? The disciples did know that Jesus was not referring to his body and blood literally, thanks to the explanation Jesus already gave to them in John 7: 63. Another point on which all three gospels are in agreement is that Jesus’ statement that he will not drink the fruit of vine again until the day he drinks the new wine in the kingdom of God.
Viola, Jesus himself identifies that the drink that they just had was wine indeed and not his blood!! So it was metaphor for his dying violently. It could not have been otherwise as we would end up with a ridiculous conclusion that in the kingdom of heaven he would drink his own blood! That brings me to “Applied Christianity” by which I mean the faith in action after Jesus’ scension.
We have in the Bible “Acts of Apostles” and “ Letters” post Jesus’ ascension. W e do not see the ‘eating of the body and drinking of the blood’ being taught by St Peter. The earliest instance is in 1 Corinthian 11-23. St. Paul describes to the assembly of people the events that occurred during last supper. Thereafter, he concludes by saying “So, then whenever (some bible says ‘as often as’) you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes”. I am at loss to fathom how this verse from St. Paul was lost on Catholic Church. St. Paul did not perform the ceremony that we witness these days. He was blessing the food (full meal) that each of those present would bring from home before they consume it following Jewish tradition of “Breaking of Bread” where the head of the family say a thanks giving prayer over the food before everyone starts eating it. There is nothing in Bible to support ‘transubstantiation”.
We have it from Jesus that he was talking spiritually and from St Paul that the meal at the assembly is dedicated to Jesus’ memory that he came and died and he will come again. I regard St Paul was extrapolating (probably the first such extrapolation to occur) Last Supper. But going back into the three gospels I am tempted to conclude that when Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me”, he was actually asking his disciplines to observe the festival of Passover in his memory. Because the word “this” refers to the Passover bread that Jesus was eating.
Traditionally a lamb was killed by the Jews on the eve of Passover. But as St Paul says in 1 Corinthian 7-8.”Throw out, then, the old yeast and be new dough. If Christ became our Passover, you should be unleavened bread. Let us celebrate, therefore, the Passover, no longer with old yeast, which is sin and perversity, let us have unleavened bread, that is purity and sincerity”. Therefore, “Do this in remembrance of me” can be considered as a covenant from Jesus that henceforth the festival of Passover is observed in his memory.
This view is further strengthened by various verses in the chapter on Last Supper. Jesus in Luke 22:8 says, “So Jesus sent Peter and John saying, “Go and get everything ready for us to eat the Passover meal.” Then in Luke 22: 15 Jesus “I was eager to eat this Passover”. So we notice that more than once he refers to Passover. And it was a piece of the Passover bread that Jesus held in his hand when he said “Do this in remembrance of me”.
Logically therefore the word “this” refers to the eating of Passover Meal which Jesus wants observed in his memory. This makes eminent sense as otherwise we reach a ridiculous conclusion that unless we keep eating Jesus body and drink his blood day in and day out lest we should risk forgetting Jesus altogether! How can a Christian not remember Jesus when it is imbedded in his psyche so much so that even if he accepts some other faith or become an atheists, the name of Jesus will always be there with him.
It is in living by the teachings of Jesus’ that one qualifies for Eternal Life not by eating His body.
My guess is that the Catholic Church knows the falsehood that they have been teaching all these years but are afraid to change it. On the one hand, it would amount to huge coming down, loss of face and embarrassment for the church to acknowledge that they were wrong all these years. Secondly and most importantly it is unpredictable how will the believers take it. So one can only hope that someday a pope will come along courageous enough to bury the Eucharist once and for all.