A Continuing Discussion on Interpretation

There has been a continuing debate between myself (aka: BigSCOTT and CathApol on IRC), C. Ryan Jenkins (Gotschalk), Timothy Enloe (aka: TGENLOE and NSAStudnt) regarding "interpretation" and what it means to "interpret everything." Hereafter I will refer to Ryan and Tim as "Gots" and "NSA."

In my original posting, http://www.a2z.org/acts/nsagots.htm, I posted the logfile with commentary. One side of the screen is the log, the other is my commentary. Well, Gots and NSA didn't like that and complained about it. NSA posted "part 2" of this discussion without commentary at all. I am also making an uncommented logfile of "part 2" available here (see bottom of page). The "original" discussion was one that took place on #CathApol and parts 2 and 3 transpired on #prosapologian.

My contention was that we "learn" things, like the basic meanings of words. I used the word "dog" in my initial responses, I thought it "fit" since we were discussing "dog"ma. I stated that there is a lingustic level of interpretation, where we see the word "dog" and then "know" what that word means. Gots kept focusing on "you must even interpret the word "dog." My reply was reiterated, yes on a "linguistic" level, some interpretation takes place, (the mind sees the letters d-o-g and instantly assimilates them into the word "dog"), but on a meaningful level - one sees the word "dog" and can picture a canine (as opposed to a feline or "cat"). The picture of the canine pops into the educated person's mind without any prompting or further "interpretation" of the word "dog." I say "educated" because an unlearned, illiterate or mentally challenged individual may have to be shown a picture of a dog next to the word "dog" until this person has "learned" what a "dog" is.

The "dog" discussion has popped up a bit in all three sections of this "discussion" so far, however Gots did challenge me to apply it to a "dogma." I selected the most central dogma to all Catholics, and that of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I explained that this is something that I do not "interpret" rather, it is something I "accept" just as much as I accept "all dogs are mammals." Do I "interpret" this everytime I see a dog or do I just "know" that dogs are mammals, have four legs, etc.? Can you show me one dog that isn't a mammal? 1 Somewhere along this point Gots starts bringing up "purple elephants on the moon" and "bebblegoobs" and askes me to prove they don't exist. Well, that was easily put down by the fact that I can show him hundreds, thousands - if we had time, millions of dogs, and all of them would be mammals! Now, can Gots even demonstrate that there is even ONE "purple elephant on the moon" or ONE "bebblegoob?" No, he can't. His argument is utterly squashed at this point, but he continues, and I have digressed. Back to the Eucharist.

What is my understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Do I "interpret" this, or have I accepted the teaching authority that Jesus Christ left us? I claimed that I base my belief on the consistent teaching of the Church from the time of the Apostles till now. Yes, I conceded, that SOME may "privately interpret" this, but if that "interpretation" varies from the "definition" that the Church has dogmatically declared, then this person is not a Catholic.2.

For my response to Gotschalk (and NSAStudnt - who has also posted a webpage on this), I will demonstrate here (which is not really possible in an IRC Chat) the consistent teaching of the Church from the Apostles to the present age. I base my understanding of the Eucharist, not on my own private interpretation, but on these definitions of the Eucharist:

Let us start with the Early Fathers:
Eucharist & the Early Church

Paul writing in 1 Cor 10:15-16

"I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?"

Paul writing in 1 Cor 11:23-30

"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself."

Ignatius of Antioch, 110 AD

"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again... Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." (Epistle to the Smyreans)

"Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God." (Epistle to the Philadelphians)

Justin Martyr, 150 AD

"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus." (First Apology of Justin)

Irenaeus of Lyons, 190 AD

"Christ has declared the cup... to be His own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, He has established as His own Body, from which He gives increase to our bodies. If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could He rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be His Body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is His Blood?" (Against Heresies Book V) 3

The Baltimore Catechism
253. Q. What is Holy Communion?

A. Holy Communion is the receiving of the body and blood of Christ.

262. Q. When and where are the bread and wine changed into the body and blood of Christ?

A. The bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ at the Consecration in the Mass.

265. Q. Is the Mass the same sacrifice as that of the Cross?

A. The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Cross.

266. Q. How is the Mass the same sacrifice as that of the Cross?

A. The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Cross because the offering and the priest are the same-Christ our Blessed Lord; and the ends for which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered are the same as those of the sacrifice of the Cross. 4

Catholic Encyclopedia reference on the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
(This entire reference is great and taking excerpt from it would not do it justice, I therefore recommend it in its entirety).

Code of Canon Law


Can. 897 The most venerable sacrament is the blessed Eucharist, in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered and received, and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The eucharistic Sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the Sacrifice of the cross is forever perpetuated, is the summit and the source of all worship and christian life. By means of it the unity of God's people is signified and brought about, and the building up of the body of Christ is perfected. The other sacraments and all the apostolic works of Christ are bound up with, and directed to, the blessed Eucharist.


Can. 899 1 The celebration of the Eucharist is an action of Christ Himself and of the Church. In it Christ the Lord, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself, substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine, to God the Father, and gives Himself as spiritual nourishment to the faithful who are associated with Him in His offering.5

Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1374 The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."[199] In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes Himself wholly and entirely present."

1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's Body and Blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares: It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.
And St. Ambrose says about this conversion:
Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed.... Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.6

Clearly I have shown that this is a common teaching throughout the history of the Church and is consistent with the Scriptures as well. THIS is how a Catholic "understands" his Faith and accepts the Authority passed down from Christ and the Apostles. I reiterate, it is not a matter of "interpretation" but "acceptance."

(aka: BigSCOTT and CathApol on IRC)

  1. One could get silly here and say there are "hot dogs" and "waterdogs" that are not mammals, but for the sake of this argument, "dog" worked, in that both NSA and Gots obviously understood "all dogs are mammals" the way it was used in this argument.
  2. James White, of Alpha and Omega Ministries (aka Ortho, NA27, NAWrites, NA_away, etc.) interjects that he knows of a priest in New York who does NOT believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. This priest remains nameless and unverifiable (hence and invalid argument) but I responded and said, "then this 'priest' is no longer a Catholic (if he ever was one)." [A friend in email responded and offered better wording of this reply: "this priest is a dissenter and even a heretic to the faith and therefore not representative of authentic catholicity."] Then they start arguing over "who are you to judge..." etc. And I respond as I did above: Based on the unchanged teaching of the Catholic Church throughout her entire history, and as she has infallibly declared on many occaisions, the matter of the Real Presence is "de fide" a "matter of the the Faith" (or an Article of Faith) and CANNOT be denied by any TRUE Catholic. Certain things that are "defined" are not open for discussion or interpretation - other things are NOT defined infallibly and as such ARE open to discussion, debate and private interpretation (so long as that interpretation does not conflict with something else that IS "de fide." I could just as easily counter this "claim" with, "I know a Calvinist minister who believes that the the bread and wine actually become Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass." With no name or proof, my claim is just as valid as James' claim.
  3. Early Father's source: http://www.infpage.com/concordance/eucharist.htm.
  4. The Baltimore Catechism http://www.catholic.net/RCC/Catechism/2/bk2ls23.html#RTFToC4
  5. Code of Canon Law http://www.prairienet.org/nrpcatholic/e8341165.html#4
  6. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, 1994). http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/euch2.html#presence
  7. Original Discussion (with commentary)
  8. Second Discussion (no editing or commentary)
  9. Third Discussion (no editing or commentary)

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