Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 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, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Friday, September 3, 2010

SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION

Protestants claim the Bible is the only rule of faith, meaning that it contains all of the material one needs for theology and that this material is sufficiently clear that one does not need apostolic tradition or the Church’s magisterium (teaching authority) to help one understand it. In the Protestant view, the whole of Christian truth is found within the Bible’s pages. Anything extraneous to the Bible is simply non-authoritative, unnecessary, or wrong—and may well hinder one in coming to God.

Catholics, on the other hand, recognize that the Bible does not endorse this view and that, in fact, it is repudiated in Scripture. The true "rule of faith" — as expressed in the Bible itself—is Scripture plus apostolic tradition, as manifested in the living teaching authority of the Catholic Church, to which were entrusted the oral teachings of Jesus and the apostles, along with the authority to interpret Scripture correctly.

In the Second Vatican Council’s document on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (Latin: "The Word of God"), the relationship between Tradition and Scripture is explained: "Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end.

For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.

"Thus, by the light of the Spirit of truth, these successors can in their preaching preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same devotion and reverence."


But Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants, who place their confidence in Martin Luther’s theory of sola scriptura (Latin: "Scripture alone"), will usually argue for their position by citing a couple of key verses. The first is this: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31).

The other is this: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be equipped, prepared for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17). According to these Protestants, these verses demonstrate the reality of sola scriptura (the "Bible only" theory).

Not so, reply Catholics. First, the verse from John refers to the things written in that book (read it with John 20:30, the verse immediately before it to see the context of the statement in question). If this verse proved anything, it would not prove the theory of sola scriptura but that the Gospel of John is sufficient.

Second, the verse from John’s Gospel tells us only that the Bible was composed so we can be helped to believe Jesus is the Messiah. It does not say the Bible is all we need for salvation, much less that the Bible is all we need for theology; nor does it say the Bible is even necessary to believe in Christ.

After all, the earliest Christians had no New Testament to which they could appeal; they learned from oral, rather than written, instruction. Until relatively recent times, the Bible was inaccessible to most people, either because they could not read or because the printing press had not been invented. All these people learned from oral instruction, passed down, generation to generation, by the Church.

Much the same can be said about 2 Timothy 3:16-17. To say that all inspired writing "has its uses" is one thing; to say that only inspired writing need be followed is something else. Besides, there is a telling argument against claims of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants. John Henry Newman explained it in an 1884 essay entitled "Inspiration in its Relation to Revelation."

Newman’s argument

He wrote: "It is quite evident that this passage furnishes no argument whatever that the sacred Scripture, without Tradition, is the sole rule of faith; for, although sacred Scripture is profitable for these four ends, still it is not said to be sufficient. The Apostle [Paul] requires the aid of Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Moreover, the Apostle here refers to the scriptures which Timothy was taught in his infancy.

"Now, a good part of the New Testament was not written in his boyhood: Some of the Catholic epistles were not written even when Paul wrote this, and none of the books of the New Testament were then placed on the canon of the Scripture books. He refers, then, to the scriptures of the Old Testament, and, if the argument from this passage proved anything, it would prove too much, viz., that the scriptures of the New Testament were not necessary for a rule of faith."


Furthermore, Protestants typically read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 out of context. When read in the context of the surrounding passages, one discovers that Paul’s reference to Scripture is only part of his exhortation that Timothy take as his guide Tradition and Scripture. The two verses immediately before it state: "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14–15).

Paul tells Timothy to continue in what he has learned for two reasons: first, because he knows from whom he has learned it — Paul himself—and second, because he has been educated in the scriptures. The first of these is a direct appeal to apostolic tradition, the oral teaching which the apostle Paul had given Timothy. So Protestants must take 2 Timothy 3:16-17 out of context to arrive at the theory of sola scriptura. But when the passage is read in context, it becomes clear that it is teaching the importance of apostolic tradition!
The Bible denies that it is sufficient as the complete rule of faith. Paul says that much Christian teaching is to be found in the tradition which is handed down by word of mouth (2 Timothy 2:2). He instructs us to "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

This oral teaching was accepted by Christians, just as they accepted the written teaching that came to them later. Jesus told his disciples: "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me" (Luke 10:16). The Church, in the persons of the apostles, was given the authority to teach by Christ; the Church would be his representative. He commissioned them, saying, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19).

And how was this to be done? By preaching, by oral instruction: "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Romans 10:17). The Church would always be the living teacher. It is a mistake to limit "Christ’s word"to the written word only or to suggest that all his teachings were reduced to writing. The Bible nowhere supports either notion.

Further, it is clear that the oral teaching of Christ would last until the end of time. "’But the word of the Lord abides for ever.’ That word is the good news which was preached to you" (1 Peter 1:25). Note that the word has been "preached" — that is, communicated orally. This would endure. It would not be supplanted by a written record like the Bible (supplemented, yes, but not supplanted), and would continue to have its own authority.

This is made clear when the apostle Paul tells Timothy: "[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). Here we see the first few links in the chain of apostolic tradition that has been passed down intact from the apostles to our own day. Paul instructed Timothy to pass on the oral teachings (traditions) that he had received from the apostle. He was to give these to men who would be able to teach others, thus perpetuating the chain. Paul gave this instruction not long before his death (2 Timothy 4:6–8), as a reminder to Timothy of how he should conduct his ministry.

What is Tradition?

In this discussion it is important to keep in mind what the Catholic Church means by tradition. The term does not refer to legends or mythological accounts, nor does it encompass transitory customs or practices which may change, as circumstances warrant, such as styles of priestly dress, particular forms of devotion to saints, or even liturgical rubrics. Sacred or apostolic tradition consists of the teachings that the apostles passed on orally through their preaching. These teachings largely (perhaps entirely) overlap with those contained in Scripture, but the mode of their transmission is different.

They have been handed down and entrusted to the Churchs. It is necessary that Christians believe in and follow this tradition as well as the Bible (Luke 10:16). The truth of the faith has been given primarily to the leaders of the Church (Ephesians 3:5), who, with Christ, form the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:20). The Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit, who protects this teaching from corruption (John 14:25-26, 16:13).

Handing on the faith

Paul illustrated what tradition is: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. . . . Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (1 Corinthians 15:3,11). The apostle praised those who followed Tradition: "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (1 Corinthians 11:2).

The first Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching" (Acts 2:42) long before there was a New Testament. From the very beginning, the fullness of Christian teaching was found in the Church as the living embodiment of Christ, not in a book. The teaching Church, with its oral, apostolic tradition, was authoritative. Paul himself gives a quotation from Jesus that was handed down orally to him: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

This saying is not recorded in the Gospels and must have been passed on to Paul. Indeed, even the Gospels themselves are oral tradition which has been written down (Luke 1:1–4). What’s more, Paul does not quote Jesus only. He also quotes from early Christian hymns, as in Ephesians 5:14. These and other things have been given to Christians "through the Lord Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 4:2).

Fundamentalists say Jesus condemned tradition. They note that Jesus said, "And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" (Matt. 15:3). Paul warned, "See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ" (Col. 2:8). But these verses merely condemn erroneous human traditions, not truths which were handed down orally and entrusted to the Church by the apostles. These latter truths are part of what is known as apostolic tradition, which is to be distinguished from human traditions or customs.

"Commandments of men"

Consider Matthew 15:6–9, which Fundamentalists and Evangelicals often use to defend their position: "So by these traditions of yours you have made God’s laws ineffectual. You hypocrites, it was a true prophecy that Isaiah made of you, when he said, ‘This people does me honor with its lips, but its heart is far from me. Their worship is in vain, for the doctrines they teach are the commandments of men.’" Look closely at what Jesus said.

He was not condemning all traditions. He condemned only those that made God’s word void. In this case, it was a matter of the Pharisees feigning the dedication of their goods to the Temple so they could avoid using them to support their aged parents. By doing this, they dodged the commandment to "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12).

Elsewhere, Jesus instructed his followers to abide by traditions that are not contrary to God’s commandments. "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice" (Matthew 23:2–3).

What Fundamentalists and Evangelicals often do, unfortunately, is see the word "tradition" in Matthew 15:3 or Colossians 2:8 or elsewhere and conclude that anything termed a "tradition" is to be rejected. They forget that the term is used in a different sense, as in 1 Corinthians 11:2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:15, to describe what should be believed. Jesus did not condemn all traditions; he condemned only erroneous traditions, whether doctrines or practices, that undermined Christian truths. The rest, as the apostles taught, were to be obeyed. Paul commanded the Thessalonians to adhere to all the traditions he had given them, whether oral or written.

The indefectible Church

The task is to determine what constitutes authentic tradition. How can we know which traditions are apostolic and which are merely human? The answer is the same as how we know which scriptures are apostolic and which are merely human — by listening to the magisterium or teaching authority of Christ’s Church.

Without the Catholic Church’s teaching authority, we would not know with certainty which purported books of Scripture are authentic. If the Church revealed to us the canon of Scripture, it can also reveal to us the "canon of Tradition" by establishing which traditions have been passed down from the apostles. After all, Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18) and the New Testament itself declares the Church to be "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

8 comments:

Tortoise said...

Because the Old and New Testament Scriptures are the divinely-revealed, written Word of God, Catholics venerate the Scriptures as they venerate the Lord's body.

But Catholics do not believe that God has given us His divine Revelation in Christ exclusively through Scripture.

Catholics also believe that God's Revelation comes to us through the Apostolic Tradition and teaching authority of the Church.

daveg4g said...

By virtue of this divinely-appointed authority, the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture (what books belong in the Bible) at the end of the fourth century.

We therefore believe in the Scriptures on the authority of the Catholic Church. After all, nothing in Scripture tells us what Scriptures are inspired, what books belong in the Bible, or that Scripture is the final authority on questions concerning the Christian faith.

Instead, the Bible says that the Church, not the Scriptures, is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15) and the final arbiter on questions of the Christian faith (Matt. 18:17).

It is through the teaching authority and Apostolic Tradition (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2) of this Church, who is guided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26; 16:13), that we know of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and the manifold wisdom of God. (cf. Ephesians 3:10).

Scooter said...

Michael, On the lighter side.
The information scrolling across the top of the page ends by saying, "You are what you eat" in reference to the eucharist.I once saw a sign in a health food restaurant that read, “You are what you eat.” So I pointed out to the waitress that this was true only if you are identical to (the same thing as) your body.

Further, if you are what you eat, then you couldn’t be something until you’ve eaten something. But you can’t eat something until you are something. So you must be something before you eat something. Therefore, it’s not true that you are what you eat.

The waitress looked a me and said, “You’ll have to talk to the manager.” :-)

Michael Gormley said...

Dear Scooter,
Did you talk to the manager ? :-)

Scooter said...

So Michael, do I understand that Rome can infallibly define the extent of Scripture and the meaning of Scripture, and is it not likewise true that Rome claims the infallible ability to define both the extent of ‘tradition’ as well as the meaning of ‘tradition’?”

Michael Gormley said...

Dear Scooter,

Proof of the Church's infallibility:

That the Church is infallible in her definitions on faith and morals is itself a Catholic dogma, which, although it was formulated ecumenically for the first time in the Vatican Council, had been explicitly taught long before and had been assumed from the very beginning without question down to the time of the Protestant Reformation.

The Pope is not the only entity that has the charism of infallibility in the Church.

The college of bishops who acknowledge the pope and are in union with him also acts infallibility when they come to a deliberate consensus on matters of faith and morals.

It MUST be a matter of faith and morals! This consensus also must be demonstrated to exist, which is usually done through an Ecumenical (world-wide) Council.

A counciliar consensus must not be simply a majority vote. It must be an actual consensus, with two thirds or more in agreement.

Almost all teachings Catholics consider truly infallible were defined through Councils, rather than by a Pope acting alone.

Indeed, even when the popes have defined a doctrine alone, in all cases that I am aware of, he consulted the college of bishops prior to making his definition and found near universal agreement.

As with the papacy, an Ecumenical Council and an individual bishop are NEVER to consider themselves above the Scripture, but are to act as its servants.

More>>>

Scooter said...

Michael, Yes, I see what you mean. I guess my question then is if Rome determines the extent of both Scripture and ‘tradition,’ and the meaning of both Scripture and ‘tradition,’ how can she logically be subservient to two things that she in fact defines and interprets?

And if I'm reading the various posts correctly that is what sola ecclesia is all about: the Church as the final authority in all things. That is the position you hold, if you are a faithful defender of the orthodox Roman Catholic claims to infallible teaching authority. And the citations from Scripture such as Matthew 23:2-3 show me that you attack sola scriptura so as to establish sola ecclesia. It is vital that everyone see that there are two positions being presented, and that the standard of proof demanded for one side be demanded of the other as well.

With reference to the 'seat of Moses' Newman's problem is this: even if we were to assume, against the best evidence, that the idea of ‘Moses’ seat’ came from, say, Moses, you now have to explain how it is that theJewish ‘magisterium’ could infallibly pass on that tradition, but fallibly pass on the Corban rule Jesus attacked in Mark 7:1-13? They claimed divine authority for that tradition as well--a tradition the Lord Jesus subjected to Scriptural correction. But even beyond this problem the implicit assertion being made on Newman's part is that if there existed an external authority that could pass on such a binding tradition then, there must be one today as well, and almost magically, that authority is assumed to be held by the modern Roman Catholic hierarchy. That’s a bit of a tortured path, but that is the argument, is it not?”

Michael Gormley said...

... the Church as the final authority in all things.

Dear Scooter,
Catholics have various sources of authority: Bible, Tradition, the Creeds, the Bishops, and the Pope, among others.

Ultimately, Christ is our authority, but this authority has been passed from Christ to His Apostles.

The Bible and Tradition come from the same Apostolic Deposit, and we do not pit them against each other.

Thus the Church understands that the Bible must be interpreted, and the Church does so using the Tradition of the Apostles.

The Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Church) has retained this Apostolic authority through Apostolic Succession, which is the passing down of authority from the apostles to their successors, our modern-day bishops.

The pope, the bishop of Rome, has a first place among the successors to the apostles as the successor to Peter, the "Rock," and prince of the apostles, and under certain circumstances, has the grace to speak infallibly on issues of faith and morality.

However, this does not mean everything the pope says is error free, or that the pope is sinless.

While Catholics (and the Orthodox, many Anglicans, and the early Church) do not embrace sola scriptura, the 16th century belief that the Bible alone is our final authority, Catholics hold the Bible in high regard as the word of God, and cannot teach contrary to the Bible's Teachings.

For information about interpreting the Bible, please see There is no Plain Meaning of Scripture.