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.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

ETERNAL SECURITY


As an evangelical Protestant, I often listened to my pastor--an ex-Catholic layman--and numerous radio preachers give assurances that heaven was absolutely guaranteed to all who are truly "born again" (Jn. 3:5). Contrary to this belief is the Catholic dogma of perseverance, which is that Christians must voluntarily persevere in the grace of God to the end of their earthly lives in order to see God "face to face" (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) nos. 162, 2016). [1] Inseparable from this dogma is the truth that Christians can freely choose to reject God's grace, and thus merit eternal condemnation (cf. CCC nos. 1036, 1861).

Protestants such as my former pastor reject these truths because of theological misconceptions. These are reflected in the following questions, often rhetorically posed as supposedly irrefutable objections to the possibility of "losing one's salvation":

• "How can the eternal life that Christians receive when they are born again ever end?"
• "How can a Christian be 'unborn' after being born again in the Spirit?"
• "How can God remain faithful if He can 'renege' on His promise of salvation to all who have believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior?"

These objections reflect misconceptions, which can be corrected through proper understanding of the Catholic doctrine of salvation as a relationship with God through the grace of participating in His eternal life. Examples of apologetics for this doctrine are given at the conclusion of this article. However, effectively sharing this truth requires insight into how the dogma of perseverance is related to the dogma of the Blessed Trinity, the foundation of "the hierarchy of truths" in the Catholic faith. This article attempts to help provide this insight.

Trinitarian Apologetics and the Hierarchy of Truths

Vatican II taught that while Catholics share their faith with separated brethren, they should recall "that in Catholic doctrine there exists a 'hierarchy' of truths . . ." (Decree on Ecumenism, no. 11). The truths in question are all and only the revealed truths contained in the deposit of faith (i.e., the dogmas), which as such must be equally believed with divine faith (cf. Mystery of the Church, no. 4). The hierarchy refers to, on one hand, the dependence of dogmas that are less foundational--but not less certain--upon more foundational dogmas; on the other hand, to the illumination of more foundational dogmas by the less foundational dogmas (cf. Mystery of the Church, no. 4).

The ultimate foundation of the hierarchy of dogmatic truths is the dogma concerning the central mystery of Christian faith, the Blessed Trinity (cf. Catechism no. 234). This foundation is the "common ground" of ecumenical dialogue, since profession of the triune God as revealed in Jesus Christ is the "common denominator" of all genuinely Christian confessions of faith (cf. Decree on Ecumenism, nos. 1, 12, 20). For this reason, ecumenical apologetics should refer to the hierarchy of truth in order to relate Catholic dogmas to the revelation of the triune God.

Obstacles to Trinitarian Apologetics

For the sake of genuine ecumenical progress, it is vitally important that Catholics effectively demonstrate the Trinitarian foundation of dogmas that are rejected by separated brethren, such as the dogma of perseverance. However, while believing Protestants fervently profess the fact of the Trinity, they are either unaware of Trinitarian dogma, or else hold these dogmas in theological isolation from other doctrines, especially in the area of soteriology (i.e., the nature and means of salvation). Non-creedal Protestant communities, in particular "non-denominational" fundamentalist and evangelical churches, are largely ignorant of the real relationships implied in Jesus' revelation of God's Trinitarian name (cf. Matt. 28:19). Indeed, Protestants in such communities are not likely to recognize denial of essential relationships between the divine Persons as heterodox. [2] In contrast, "classical" Protestant denominations, having retained the Nicene Creed, are at least aware of the real Trinitarian relationships. However, in keeping with Reformation "tradition," these denominations tend to isolate their understanding of salvation from their orthodox profession of the Trinity.

"Eternal Security"

The effect of the isolation of soteriology from Trinitarian dogma is most evident in the pervasive Protestant doctrine of "the eternal security of the believer," also known as "once saved, always saved." According to this doctrine, continual relationship with God is merely, albeit necessarily, symptomatic of salvation. This notion is contrary to the Catholic understanding of salvation as identical to perpetual relationship with God, through participation in His eternally relational life as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Eternal security proposes a radical separation of relationship with God from salvation by God, as is evident in the homily "sin cuts Christians off from fellowship with God, but never from the eternal gift of His salvation." This homily at least trivializes the essential message of the Gospel, which is salvation through reconciliation to God (cf. Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:17-20). For Protestants to whom the Gospel is the message of eternal security, salvation through reconciliation with God is strictly instantaneous, since the second birth itself is the unrepeatable initiation into the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Catholic faith also teaches the second birth to be the definitive and unrepeatable initiation into God's saving grace (cf. Catechism no. 1272). However, in Catholic soteriology the initiation of salvation is indistinct from the initiation of perpetual friendship with God (cf. Catechism no. 277). According to eternal security, the second birth is the sole moment in which salvation is irrevocably granted, distinct from the initiation of friendship with God. Thus, divine friendship is a "benefit" of salvation, not salvation itself.
Many Protestants who believe that salvation cannot be affected by the state of one's fellowship with God cite Rom. 8:1 as a biblical support: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . ." Yet, St. Paul designates "those who are in Christ" as those "who walk . . . according to the Spirit", not simply who are "born again" (Rom. 8:4). According to the Catholic faith, to "walk in the Spirit" is to persevere in grace.
The "Grace Connection" to the Divine Processions

The Catholic dogma of sanctifying grace "connects" Trinitarian dogma to soteriology in the hierarchy of truths. According to the Catholic faith, sanctifying grace is the divine gift that enables human beings to participate in the interior life of God (cf. Catechism no.1997). As Pope Paul VI affirmed in Credo of the People of God, the divine Processions constitute God's eternal Trinitarian life. Therefore mankind's share in the life of God through sanctifying grace is a participation in the divine Processions by which God is triune.

The divine Processions are implicit in the biblical revelation of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is "the only [begotten] Son who is in the bosom of the Father"; and the Holy Spirit is "the Lord" who "proceeds from the Father," and whom Jesus symbolically "breathed on" His Apostles (Jn. 1:18, 15:26, 20:22; 2 Cor. 3:17). The Magisterium has dogmatically interpreted these and similar passages as revealed analogies between God's interior life, and the basic biological activities of producing offspring and respiration (cf. Jn. 16:13; CCC nos. 249-250). Thus the divine Processions are the eternal activities of God's life: divine Generation is the eternal begetting of the Son by the Father; and divine Spiration is the eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son (cf. CCC nos. 242, 246).

2 comments:

Frank Blasi said...

Oh dear, here we go again...
As one who believes in Eternal Security, it is tempting to say,
"Please leave me alone to believe what I feel is right to believe."
After all, I am accountable to God only, and I will be answering to Him alone, not to the Roman Catholic Church, or for that matter any church, whether it be Protestant, Calvinist or Arminian.
My desire is to know the Lord Jesus more and more, to be closer to Him and to experience his love. But I'm also aware of my shortcomings and weaknesses - and that is why I, with all other believers, go through times of discipline from the Lord as detailed in Hebrews chapter 12. Here, God's discipline is likened to a father punishing his son. The punishment given is to correct his son from wrongdoing, not to torment him forever! And once the punishment is over, father and son continue to walk together again. Also it is worth noting that just as the father needs to discipline his son BECAUSE they are biological related and this is an eternal fact that cannot be reversed, so likewise God has adopted me as his son forever through faith in Jesus Christ, resulting in a rebirth of the spirit, making me a son of God.
Now, this sounds much more Biblical than the Catholic belief that one can be devoted to the faith for many years, but one mortal sin committed means Hell for all eternity. What kind of father would do such a thing to his own son???
I for one, am against heresy and false teaching. Therefore what I believe must be biblical. There are a number of verses in the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) which uphold eternal security, one passage being Romans 8:28-39 - especially verses 38 and 39.
I hope I have given an adequate answer. God bless,
Frank

Michael said...

After all, I am accountable to God only, and I will be answering to Him alone, not to the Roman Catholic Church,

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following historic Christian theology since the time of the early Church Fathers, refers to the Catholic Church as "the universal sacrament of salvation" (CCC 774–776), and states: "The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men" (CCC 780).

However, for those who knowingly and deliberately (that is, not out of innocent ignorance) commit the sins of heresy (rejecting divinely revealed doctrine) or schism (separating from the Catholic Church and/or joining a schismatic church), no salvation would be possible until they repented and returned to live in Catholic unity.