I am merely making an observation here. I am not saying that this particular practice is wrong or anything like that.

Just stop and think about it. The Catholics believe that when blessed the host and wine become the body and blood of Christ. They mean it literally does, not symbolically. Is it just me or is that sort of creepy? That's right up there with sacrificing chickens and drinking snake venom. Please do not bother to explain the symbolic and holy meaning of this practice to me here unless you truly feel that someone else may benefit because I am already fully aware.

Now on the other hand, if you want to explain the holy and symbolic meaning behind sacrificing chickens to me, that would be kind of cool. :)

This is just a small thesis of mine, but I think the whole cannibalization deal was created to influence pagans to join the christian movement. At the time, sacrificial offerings were all the rage with the Roman belief system. Whether Jesus had the foresight to add this bit of persuation to his preachings or whether it was added later, I do not know, but it makes a bit of sense. Most religions(at the time) felt the need to please their gods by sacrificing something of worth. Is not their spiritual leader the highest offering possible? This bit of dogma made the transition from Paganism to Christianity simpler by adhering some similar traits.

Another example of the Christians's use of this persuasive tactic is Christmas, previously Saturnalia (where there was much "merriment") on the Winter Solstice(coincidentally close to Dec. 25'th? I think not). They had no clue when Jesus' birthday was, so they converted a Pagan holiday and included several of its practices:caroling, mistletoe,the candle procession(think Midnight Mass) and gift giving, to name a few(If anyone can think of anymore, I'd be happy to add them).

I will concede that it is more than possible that the pagans might have added some of these ideas/traditions after they had converted, and caused the current holiday amalgamation. Inevitably, we will never know the true origin and which came first, the practice or the pagans. Who is John Galt?.

The whole title of this writeup is off.

I have been made aware that edits and entries should be self-contained, but the original title and entry supposes a question and invites an answer.

To make an extraordinarily complicated and oft-argued flogged dead horse concept as simple as possible:

  • Nobody (well, nobody who belongs outside a padded room) believes that the bread and wine LITERALLY become human tissue and human blood.
  •  EDIT: After MULTIPLE complaints, allow me to clarify, I was shorthanding: the belief isn't that the material form (what you can objectively see/measure, etc) changes, but the "substance" or "essence" changes. From the Wikipedia entry on transubstantiation: When at his Last Supper, Jesus said: "This is my body",  what he held in his hands still had all the appearances of bread: the "species" remained unchanged. However, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that, when Jesus made that declaration, the underlying reality (the "substance") of the bread was changed into that of his body.
  • Monophysite (One nature) or Nestorian theology would imply that Godhead gains a fourth member of the Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Pastry. This is also absurd.
  • Those who believe in a Two nature/Chalcedonian theology would understand that the wine and bread are still wine and bread, but become infused/become also divine.

 

There is always more than one side/facet to a story, the whole "cannibalization of your savior" isn't one of them. Communion has, depending on tradition and personal preference, one or more aspects of the following:

  • A ritual of remembrance - some people take it as simply doing something to mark an occasion, like putting flowers on a grave, or sending a card on Valentine's Day.
  • A ritual of congregation - eating in the world in which this was instituted had an entire set of dimensions above and beyond simply consuming calories. If you ate with somebody, you were more than simply acquaintances with him or her. You were very good friends. This explains the horror the Pharisees had of Jesus going and eating with women and tax collectors - it wasn't just that he rated them as people or were courteous to them, but valued them by engaging in social customs with them that implied kinship and love. So in a church setting, where the highlight of the service was for everyone to approach the altar and literally eat together, was to erase all boundaries of social class, social custom, etc. It was an absolutely egalitarian move. The only ones excluded from eating at the table were the dogs held at bay by the altar rail (that was its original purpose).
  • A ritual to bring one closer to God - if God could become present in the bread and wine, and you could consume and share in the divinity, you would be accepted by and given a spark of that divinity.

 

The question isn't exactly that flippant. I know of entire congregations, in fact even entire churches who don't do communion, because they think of the ritual as morbid and vampiric and cannibalistic in intent.

But keep in mind the word "spirit" in the New Testament is πνευμα - "pneuma", "breath" - the idea of something active. Moving. Inspired by one, exhaled and shared with another. The Star Wars idea about "The Force" being all around us and shared with all sentient living creatures is a very very similar idea - even down to the religious mantra of the Jedi being "The Force be with you". Divinity isn't just something that lives on a throne "somewhere out there" called down into a wafer when ordered to by a priest.

The whole thing takes on a different meaning when you look at it as "God, if you can inhabit things and give them your nature, let me partake, along with my friends and family, of your nature, and please, come and dwell in me and change me, too." The point is not to gobble up the physical body like a hyena attacking the carcass of an animal someone else has killed, but to partake in the same spirit, the same promise, the same hope.

TheAnglican has pointed out lots of interesting history, although I'd like to contribute two more points.

  • Catholics actually do believe that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ during the consecration. The official teaching by the Vatican is the essence of the bread and wine change while the physical appearance remain the same. However, there have been several occasions where the physical appearance change as well, the most famous of which is probably Lanciano.
  • The Catholic teaching about eating of the flesh and blood is not to appeal to cannibalistic pagans in past times as serendipitous13 suggested, but it is actually because Catholics view Jesus' sacrifice as the new Covenant between God and Man. The Old Covenant, which can be found in the book of Exodus, was handed down during Jewish slavery in Egypt. The Jewish people were freed by the intervention of God through the slaying of every first born Egyptian child and animal. The night of the slaying, the Jews were instructed by God to take an unblemished male lamb and kill it. They were then to take the blood and put it on their door, and for every member of the household to eat the lamb. They were then to repeat this practice every year and it came to be known as the Passover. Those were the terms of the Covenant. Catholics view Jesus' sacrifice as the one that frees humanity not from the slavery of the Egyptians, but this time from the slavery of sin and death. Jesus takes the place of the lamb and that is the reason Catholics believe they are eating of his flesh and blood. It is for this reason Jesus is also frequently referred to as "the lamb that was slain". 

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