Does the Roman Catholic church correctly interpret the nature of the eucharist [the Lord's Supper]? Is Christ's body sacrificed in this ceremony? My friend told me that's not what they teach. What do you say?
Good question. Yet I'm not sure your friend is sufficiently informed.
Typically Protestants and independents view the eucharist as wholly symbolic (although Lutherans speak of Christ's "real presence" in the ceremony). That is, Christ is not sacrificed in the Lord's Supper.
Catholics and Orthodox, on the other hand, describe the mass as a sort of sacrifice—which is not surprising, since that's what priests do. They offer sacrifices in order to bridge the gap between God and us. Yet the New Testament teaches that all of us are priests (1 Peter 2:4-10). There is no separate "priesthood."
Christ is sacrificed again because of the offering of bread and wine—which isn't mere bread and wine. In the eucharist they are changed into the actual body and blood of Jesus. This is "transubstantiation"—the outer appearance, or species (Latin) does not change, but the substantia (Latin for essence) does.
While it is possible that independent groups (like my own) under-appreciate the mystery and power of communion, I believe the Catholics, with their doctrine of transubstantiation, err in the opposite direction. They are overreaching, not only going beyond Scripture, but contradicting it.
Consider the following quote from former pope John Paul II (pope 1978-2005). It's from his bestselling Crossing the Threshold of Hope. I read it soon after its publication in 1994, and although it was well written, I noticed that it was slanted to support church dogma.
“The church is the instrument of man’s salvation. It both contains and continually draws upon the mystery of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. Through the shedding of His own blood, Jesus Christ constantly ‘enters into God’s sanctuary thus obtaining eternal redemption’” (Pope John Paul II).
But wait a minute. John Paul was quoting Hebrews 9:12—although not very carefully. Let's back up and see what the Hebrew writer actually said:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, he entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands, that is, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, he entered the holy place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb 9:11-12 NASB).
Notice the changes the supreme pontiff has made:
- Entered has been changed to enters.
- Constantly has been inserted before enters — the pope has omitted “once for all.”
- Having obtained has been altered to thus obtaining."
And those are exactly the sorts of alterations that would have to be made to force Hebrews (or anything other NT book) to support the doctrine of transubstantiation. Christ's sacrifice was, as Hebrews 7:10, 9:12, and 10:10 remind us, "once for all." Although in the communion we remember and proclaim the sacrifice (1 Cor 11:26), we do not imagine that it is repeatedly offered. This is priestcraft and human tradition.
So let me respond to your query with the crucial question: Who has the authority to change Scripture?