Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Biblical Evidence for the Distribution of One Species in Holy Communion

By Dave Armstrong (3-11-08)

Catholics have the option to often partake of the cup, but it is not always offered and not required (my own parish rarely offers it, if at all). The reason is that God (being God) cannot ever be divided. The "division" is only symbolic or conceptual (with the cup representing blood). The reality of transubstantiation, however, is that God is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in both what was formerly bread and formerly wine.

There is biblical indication of this:
1 Corinthians 11:27 Whoever, therefore, 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.
Note the bolded "or" and "and." The way that Paul phrases this proves that he believes that the Body and Blood are present in both species. It's all in the word "or". The logic and grammar require it, so that the above can also be expressed in the following two propositions:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.

Whoever, therefore, drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.
Traditionally, the cup was withheld out of legitimate concerns for both hygiene and possible spilling. 

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Further biblical evidence for (seeming) partaking of one species only:
Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread,. . . 

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Does the title of this post ("Biblical Evidence for the Distribution of One Species in Holy Communion") necessarily imply that I was arguing that this was the practice and norm in the early Church? No.

What I intended by the title and the post was to show that there is biblical rationale and indication of distribution of one species only, by virtue of the premise of Jesus being entirely present in either species having been taught by St. Paul.

Doctrines develop. We shouldn't expect to see absolutely every jot and tittle of every doctrine and practice in Scripture. There is very little about, e.g., original sin or the Virgin Birth. Original sin isn't even included in the Nicene Creed, and the Fathers talk far more about purgatory than original sin.

Other doctrines are only taught by deduction and indirect indication (such as the Two Natures of Christ). They aren't laid out explicitly in Scripture. Infant baptism would be another example. It is the majority position of Christianity, but it isn't explicitly laid out in Holy Scripture (though there is much implicit indication).

As one example of many that could be produced of implicit Scripture indication, how about Church buildings? As far as I know, these aren't mentioned in the New Testament. The early Christians continued to worship at the Temple, and in their own homes. So why do we have our own church buildings when it is not a NT concept? Well (as in the present case) it is a straightforward deduction from what we know. One could argue it as follows:
Biblical Evidence for Church Buildings

1) The Jews, from whom Christianity derived, worshiped in synagogues.

2) The Jews, from whom Christianity derived, worshiped in the Temple.

3) The early Christians worshiped in their homes, and clandestinely in caves or catacombs, as the case may be.

4) These are not buildings expressly constructed for Christian worship.

5) However, it stands to reason (by analogy) that Christians, whose belief-system developed from Judaism, would also eventually (especially after official persecution ceased) have buildings of worship, just as the Jews did.

6) Therefore, deductively and analogically, the Bible sanctions Christian church buildings, and the "biblical evidence" for same is the above.
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Also (replying to some comments in the lengthy discussion thread), if [many] Protestants are so big on a symbolic Eucharist only (a la Zwingli and the Anabaptists), and a bare remembrance, then they get that at every Mass, since the priest always consecrates both bread and wine.

In other words, if the thing is simply to meditate and remember (an abstract concept in one's head), then anyone at Mass can do that during the consecration (when the priest raises the bread and the cup and they transform by the miracle of transubstantiation into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ).

Follow the (erroneous) reasoning for a second: it's only symbolic. We're remembering only. It's merely an abstract, non-physical thing, not concrete and real. Therefore, why does it matter if we partake of only one species? Why does it particularly matter at all if we receive anything, since it is only symbolic?

The mere ritual of drinking some grape juice (itself implemented only due to the temperance movement of the 19th century and not biblical at all, since wine was used in the biblical Eucharist) and taking some leavened bread (in the Bible it was unleavened in the Passover: the precursor to the Eucharist) does not make a thing any more real if it is only symbolic in the first place. One can just as well think about Jesus in their heads and receive the same spiritual benefit.

If a Protestant receives because he is commanded to, yet Jesus is not there, is this not an empty ritual, as opposed to Protestant spirituality as much as any of the many rituals of Catholicism that are so despised? What good is it if Jesus isn't there? A sacrament conveys something real.

Perhaps this explains why the Eucharist is obviously of only secondary importance in much of Protestant worship (in Reformed circles it is often performed only once a month, or even quarterly). If it were so supremely important, then why wouldn't it be every week? Instead, Protestants will place a mere sermon by a man in the place of central importance in their worship.

If they were so extremely concerned about being "biblical," then they would have the Eucharist every time they met to worship, since that is what the Bible teaches us about what the early Christians did (Acts 20:7 and implied in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22).

So we see that [many] Protestants are quite unbiblical in many respects, with regard to the Eucharist:
1) They don't receive the Eucharist every Sunday, as the Bible says early Christians did.

2) They don't use wine, which is the biblical norm.

3) Many don't use unleavened bread, which was the norm in the Passover, in the context of which Jesus instituted the Eucharist.

4) They don't believe Jesus is substantially, physically present, as Jesus and Paul repeatedly taught (and the fathers, unanimously).

5) Thus, receiving Holy Communion becomes an empty ritual of the sort that is routinely condemned in Catholicism, since Jesus isn't there in the first place, and the ritual has become devoid of all meaning and power. If someone wants to meditate on Jesus' death, they can do it anywhere and at any time. Why go to church to do it?

6) Protestants (in non-eucharistic services) place the mere homilies of a man (often centered on unbiblical traditions of men, to the extent that various false doctrines of Protestantism are promulgated) in the central place in the worship service, rather than Jesus Christ coming to us in the Holy Eucharist. And they claim that we are so man-centered?

7) Some Protestants are so unsacramental and unbiblical that they do not believe in either the Eucharist or baptism (e.g., Salvation Army and Quakers).
I hasten to note that there are also Protestants who celebrate the Eucharist every week: e.g., Lutherans and Anglicans.

See also the follow-up post:

"More Biblical Evidence for One Species in Holy Communion"

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