Thursday, April 26, 2018
Many people are intrigued by the idea of time travel. If there could only be a machine that would be able to bring us back into the past and hear, personally, Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address, or to experience how things were in the days of Christopher Columbus, or to go back to the time of Moses when the Red Sea was parted! Or it could bring us into the future to marvel at the technological advances of mankind. This idea, of course, has been used in a number of science fiction movies and television shows.
Here Comes the Past
While time travel is not a reality, it seems that the Catholic Church claims to enjoy some sort of time travel concept. “How absurd,” you may respond, “to say that Catholics believe any such thing!” But consider the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Eucharist. According to the Catholic Catechism (CCC #1104, #1375, #1413, #1566), the past is not just brought to mind, but actually “made present” when the communion bread and wine are consecrated by the priest. That is, during the mass, the event of Jesus Christ giving His flesh and blood on the cross is “mysteriously” made present… today… now. According to the Catholic Church, Calvary (that event which happened 2000 years ago) is actually somehow transported across time, to this present moment for the one who partakes of Catholic communion. This is a foundational claim of the Catholic Church.
Catholics believe this mainly because they think that Jesus was speaking literally when He said, “This is My body… this is My blood” (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20) when breaking bread and pouring out wine at the Last Supper. He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). The Greek word Jesus used here for “remembrance” is “anamnesis,” and Catholics claim that anamnesis actually means “to make present,” to “re-present,” or “memorial sacrifice.”
The Catholic Church uses much flowery and philosophical language to describe this “time travel” event. Now, participating in communion is indeed a biblical concept, but rather than using a biblical explanation of what’s happening, they have to resort to the fancy, high-sounding philosophy of Aristotle (e.g., “substance” and “accidents”) to explain why there is a supposed change in the bread and wine.
But the truth is, this is not what the Greek word “anamnesis” really means. The “Online Etymology Dictionary” defines anamnesis this way:
“Recollection, remembrance, reminiscence,” 1650s, from Greek anamnesis “a calling to mind, remembrance,” noun of action from stem of anamimneskein “remember, remind (someone) of (something), make mention of,” from ana “back” (see ana-) + mimneskesthai “to recall, cause to remember,” related to mnemnon “mindful,” mneme “memory;” from PIE root “men-“ (1) “to think.” In Platonic philosophy, “recollection of a prior life.”
This source says absolutely nothing about “re-presenting” or “making present,” or that it is any kind of “sacrifice.” Other reliable sources tell us the same thing as the previous source:
“A recalling, remembrance, memory.”
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon:
“A remembering, recollection; to call Me (affectionately) to remembrance (Luke 22:19).”
NAS Exhaustive Concordance:
As for as we can tell, it is only Catholic, Orthodox, or quasi-Catholic groups that claim that anamnesis means “to make present.”
There are two Bible verses where Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of Me,” and they are Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:25. But even many Catholic Bible versions like the New American Bible, the Douay Rheims Bible, the Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition, and the New Jerusalem Bible, all translate the word anamnesis in these two verses as either “remembrance,” “memorial,” “memory,” or “commemoration.” None of these translate the term as “memorial sacrifice” or “Calvary made present,” or “re-presenting Christ.”
No doubt, they certainly would have been happy to translate it that way if they could have, but, in this particular case, these Catholic Bible versions proved to be true to the original Greek.
“One and the Same?”
According to the Catholic Church, the priest’s offering of the Eucharist supposedly “transcends time” (CCC #1085). It is not another offering of Jesus Christ to God, but is “one and the same” offering as Calvary (CCC #1367). Therefore, it is bringing the past into the “now.” Again, this is the stuff of which time machine stories are made. This is an incredibly bold claim… and it is also ridiculous and unscriptural. It is true that the effects of Jesus’ work on the cross are eternal, perhaps displayed permanently in a Heavenly scene to remind us forever (Revelation 5:6), but nowhere in the Bible is there an event that is literally brought forward on earth from the past.
The event of Calvary is no more actually “made present” today in communion than the death angel was once again “made present” every time the Jews celebrated the past event of Passover (Exodus 12:21-25). But it IS something “made present” mentally, something remembered. Once again, “Do this in remembrance of Me” speaks of using one’s mental faculties, not some supernatural time travel experience whereby a past event is literally made present.
Catholics may object and say that they never claimed that the event of Calvary is literally made present in the Eucharist. They seem to go out of their way to avoid using that specific term concerning Calvary’s “presence,” but at the same time, they will insist that the bread and wine turn into His literal body and blood. Furthermore, CCC #1104 says that this ritual supposedly does not just recall Calvary, but ACTUALIZES this event. So, there seem to be some mixed signals here.
More Than You Bargained For!
Furthermore, when describing the mass, they say things like, “the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” in the Eucharist. In that moment, Christ is present in the “fullest sense,” and He is “wholly and entirely present” (CCC #1374).
And of course, this is all a great mystery where He is somehow “sacramentally” made present (however that’s supposed to work). Once again, the Catholic Church is engaging in word games.
But no, being exposed to the “whole Christ” in the “fullest sense” would be describing our state in HEAVEN. That level of exposure to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, could only happen when we are in our glorified bodies and then able to endure His absolute fullness and glory! Otherwise, like the apostle John, we could not even stand before Him:
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me…
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead… (Revelation 1:12, 17)
This is what happens when a mere human sees “the whole Christ” in the “fullest sense.” Even John, probably His closest friend, fell as a dead man in Jesus’ “fullest” presence. John was utterly stunned and unable to even look at Jesus. He was overwhelmed by the majesty of the Son of God. If the Eucharist was all that Catholics say it is, no man would be able to stand before it.
A Dose of Reality
The Catholic concept of Calvary “made present” is a false teaching to make Catholics believe that they have more to offer than other churches do. But their “fullness of truth” is a lie. Their priesthood is false, and they cannot do what they claim to do in the mass. Their priests are not able to “bring Christ down” from His throne in Heaven, to be “offered up again,” where He must “bow His head in humble obedience to the priest’s command,” as one very popular Catholic book describes. This is utter blasphemy. And that source is quoted in this article:
According to the Catholic Catechism (CCC #1566), when celebrating the Eucharist, it is “From this unique sacrifice [that] their whole priestly ministry draws its strength.” Well, since the foundation of “this unique sacrifice” is based on time travel and other unbiblical concepts, it is therefore false and crumbles beneath the weight of its own outrageous claims.
But why is this ritual the ultimate experience for Catholics? Why do they think that physically eating and drinking “Jesus” is the greatest form of worship? Why the focus on the bread and wine, rather than on His actual work and suffering on the cross? There’s something fishy about this. Jesus said that He wanted believers to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), not by physically eating Him.
It’s Not About Time Travel
Jesus said nothing whatsoever about communion being anything more than a holy memorial. Sure, this is indeed a solemn and wonderful event, during which emotions may be high, and where a deeper appreciation for Calvary and a deeper love for God may be present, along with sorrow for one’s sins.
But getting the benefits of Calvary is not time travel. It does not require God to actually transfer an event from the past to the present time. God does not have to actually “make Calvary present” for us to have its benefits. Its benefits are simply received by faith. The only “mystery” involved is that He would still love us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). In communion, He is making Calvary real to the hearts of undeserving souls, and making us deeply aware of the magnitude of what happened at the cross.
Again, the Catholic version of the simple ritual of holy communion amounts to an actual claim of time travel. This is very important. Since it is not possible and not biblical to “time travel” and transport the past into the future, therefore, it is NOT POSSIBLE that the mass and Calvary are “one and the same,” or “one single sacrifice.”
Sometimes they are accused of sacrificing Jesus again, but the Catholic Church strongly insists that they are not, but rather, that they are re-presenting that one-time, once-for-all sacrifice of Calvary. Well, that might sound good, but that’s not what’s happening. Only Jesus, Himself, was able to make this offer (Calvary), and He will NOT do it again. No one can offer Him as a sacrifice. And no one can re-offer Him. No one can present Him as a sacrifice and no one can re-present Him. He cannot be “presented anew.”
One last time: It is impossible for Him to be offered up again, since 1) Only HE, HIMSELF, could make the offer, not man; and 2) He said it would be ONCE FOR ALL (Hebrews 7:26-27; 9:12, 26-28; 10:10-12). This “Eucharistic sacrifice” is not Jesus. It is a REPLACEMENT of Him. Catholics, please let that sink in.
The ritual of communion (partaking of the bread and wine) is to point to the gospel message and to emphasize what Jesus did on the cross, and not to point to the elements (bread and wine) themselves (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). That would be missing the point. If you want His “maximum presence” on earth, do what Jesus said to do:
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)
That’s how he is present on earth after His ascension to Heaven. He would be with us spiritually.
“But,” the Catholic may object, “don’t you think that God is certainly able to bring something back from the past? He has all power. He transcends time. Why would you Protestants think that this is impossible with God?”
But this is not about God’s power or ability. Yes, God transcends time, and yes, He could do this if He wanted to, but the question is not “CAN God do this?” The question is, “What is God really saying here concerning communion?” And Jesus gives us the answer all along, right there in the context:
“Do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19)
That’s it, folks. He simply wants us to ever be mindful of the incredible work that He did on the cross. The event of Calvary is the apex of all human history. He paid the penalty for OUR sins there. And for those people who embrace this truth, and trust in this work alone, and are humble enough to surrender to His will, He gives eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
See also these articles on the Eucharist: