“When Christians say the Christ-life is in them, they do not mean simply something mental or moral. When they speak of being “in Christ” or of Christ being “in them” this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him. They mean that Christ is actually operating through them: that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts –that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body. And perhaps that explains one or two things. It explains why this new life is spread not only by purely mental acts like belief, but by the bodily acts like baptism and Holy Communion…There is no good in trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.” C. S. Lewis
I will never understand why many Protestant churches teach that the communion wafer and grape juice are just remembrances of Christ’s sacrifice and not the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. It is these same churches that preach that Christ dwells within each believer. Why cannot that same Christ dwell within the bread and wine?
Here I am not talking about transubstantiation. Instead, I am talking about the Presence of the Bread of Life within the physical elements of bread and wine.
Prior earthly symbols of the divine Presence included the Holy Spirit coming down as a dove and later as a wind and tongues of fire; God directing His people with a cloud and pillar of fire; the burning bush; the Temple; the Ark of the Covenant; the show bread. These physical manifestations required the eyes of faith to rightly see that God was in them. The same applies to the bread and wine today.
When Jesus declared himself to be the Bread of Life he wasn’t declaring himself to be another type of temple showbread (the bread of the face or presence of God) that rotted if not eaten.
“I’m telling you the solemn truth,” Jesus replied. “If you don’t eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. Anyone who feasts upon my flesh and drinks my blood has the life of God’s coming age, and I will raise them up on the last day. My flesh is true food, you see, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I remain in them. Just as the living father sent me, and I live because of my father, so the one who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven; it isn’t like the bread which the ancestors ate, and died. The one who eats this bread will share the life of God’s new age.” John’s gospel, 6:53-58
As I read this passage and the specifically the words “…it isn’t like the bread which the ancestors ate, and died.” I am of the understanding that Jesus is saying the symbolic bread is being replaced the Real Bread of Life – the Eucharist. And, you still must partake of it if you want to be part of Christ and His new and coming age.
If we as Christians accept that the physical church is the spiritual-Real body of Christ, then we can also accept that the physical elements of bread and wine are the spiritual-Real body of Christ.
I attend an Anglican church whose Rector believes as I do: the bread and the wine are the True Presence of Jesus Christ. “Let faith afford assistance to the deficiency of the senses.” Tantum ergo Sacramentum, St. Thomas Aquinas
“Well, if [the Eucharist] is just a symbol, to hell with it.”—author Flannery O’Connor, when discussing Catholicism with writer and friend Mary McCarthy
(Regarding Flannery O’Connor, an author whose stories consider a moment of grace offered and then received (Wise Blood) or rejected (A Good Man is Hard To Find): “O’Connor was often critical of what she considered Protestant shortcomings. “A Protestant habit is to condemn the Church for being authoritarian and then blame her for not being authoritarian enough”. She had a healthy respect for fundamentalist Protestants, and she was alarmed at the liberal theology she heard coming from some Protestant camps. “One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so and that religion is our own sweet invention”. She understood the difference between cheap grace and costly grace. “What people don’t realize,” she wrote to Louise Abbot, “is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross”. ”From this web page.