Essentials of Catholic Theology - Lesson 5

The Roman Catholic Sacrament of the Eucharist

In Roman Catholic doctrine and practice, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. Why is this true? What are the elements of the Eucharist and what takes place with the elements when the Eucharist is celebrated? What effect does it have on the people that participate? How is the Protestant view of the Eucharist different? What difference does it make? Take some time to consider the meaning of the Lord's Supper and why it is important to you.

Gregg Allison
Essentials of Catholic Theology
Lesson 5
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The Roman Catholic Sacrament of the Eucharist



A. Names

B. “The source and summit of the Christian life”

C. Thanksgiving to the Father

D. Memorial

E. Sacrifice

F. Offering

G. Presence

H. Transubstantiation

I. Participants

J. Benefits


A. Two parts of the Mass

B. Common Liturgy


A. Transubstantiation

B. Re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice

C. The Church's participation in Christ's offering

D. The Eucharist as an infusion of grace

E. Ongoing worship of Christ


Class Resources
  • Have you stopped to consider what Protestants and Roman Catholics have in common theologically and in practice? Thre are quite a few areas of agreement that can create opportunities for dialogue and fellowship. There are also significant differences in core principles and even differences in the way theological terms are defined. Key theological terms like grace, mercy, justification and sacraments have different meanings for each group. Listening to this lecture is a great opportunity for you to see the main similarities and differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics. It will also provide context for the other lectures in this course. 

  • The relationship between nature and grace, and also the interconnection of Christ and the church are the two foundational axioms on which everything in the Roman Catholic Church is structured. Everything from the nature of God to how creation works to salvation to church services to what happens after you die depends on these two ideas. Everything in Roman Catholic theology and practice is consistent with and determined by these two principles. 

  • On what authority does the Roman Catholic Church base their teachings and beliefs? What do they mean by general revelation and divine revelation? How and by whom is revelation transmitted and interpreted? What role does the Bible play in this process? Who makes up the Magisterium and what is their role? Why is the Catholic Bible different from the Protestant Bible? Understanding what the sources of revelation for the Roman Catholic Church are and how they transmit and interpret them will give you insight into their theology and practice. 

  • What is a sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church? How are they celebrated? Why are there seven sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church? What is their significance? What does, "Christ's Pascal mystery" refer to? This course gives you the opportunity to understand more about what the sacraments are, how you celebrate them and why they are a central element of Roman Catholic theology.

  • In Roman Catholic doctrine and practice, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. Why is this true? What are the elements of the Eucharist and what takes place with the elements when the Eucharist is celebrated? What effect does it have on the people that participate? How is the Protestant view of the Eucharist different? What difference does it make? Take some time to consider the meaning of the Lord's Supper and why it is important to you.

  • In Roman Catholic theology, what is required for salvation and how do you accomplish it? Part of the answer lies in understanding the interface of law, grace, justification and merit. Also law, remission of sins, regeneration and sanctification are involved, all within the context of the Roman Catholic Churchas both mother and teacher. Listen further to understand how these parts are connected and intertwined. Then compare Protestant theology? Which position is Biblical? 

  • Why is Mary mentioned throughout Roman Catholic liturgy and theology? What is Dr. Allison referring to when he says that Mary is not just a tangent of Roman Catholic faith, but that Mariology epitomizes the core of their theological system? Why is this the case? How does this affect how people worship God and practice their faith? How does this compare with a Protestant view of Mary? As you listen, consider why Mary was important and what her role was in the life and ministry of Jesus. 

This course takes a systemic approach to explain the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and gives a comparative assessment to evangelical theology in the areas of salvation, Jesus, the church, eucharist, baptism, and Mariology.

The quotes that Dr. Allison is reading are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an official catechism approved by the Roman Catholic Church.

Recommended Books

Essentials of Catholic Theology - Student Guide

Essentials of Catholic Theology - Student Guide

This course takes a systemic approach to explain the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and gives a comparative assessment to evangelical theology in the areas of...

Essentials of Catholic Theology - Student Guide

Essentials of Catholic Theology

Dr. Gregg Allison


The Roman Catholic Sacrament of the Eucharist

Lesson Transcript


The Roman Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist. In Roman Catholic doctrine. In practice, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, meaning that the other six sacraments are oriented to it. The whole spiritual good of the church, namely Christ himself, is present in the Eucharist. Additionally, it is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the people of God by which the church is kept in being. It is the most important sacrament through which God's grace is administered, as well as the liturgical act that defines the Roman Catholic Church in the Eucharist or the Mass. The whole Roman doctrine is enshrined and made real. There is, in its satiric allergy and ecclesiology. As I have already rehearsed, I take a systemic approach to Roman Catholic theology being grounded on two axioms the nature, grace, interdependence and the Christ Church. Interconnection. The Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Catholic Mass can be seen as an outworking of these two principles. In terms of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Let's begin by looking at its names. It is called the Eucharist from the Greek Eucharist stain to give thanks because Jesus gave thanks to his father at the Last Supper. It's called the Lord's Supper, First Corinthians 1120, because at the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus instituted it as a sign of the New Covenant, as a supper. It also anticipates the wedding Feast of the LAMB. Revelation 19 nine. It's also referred to as the breaking of bread because of Jesus's action with the unleavened loaf. During the Last Supper, he broke it. Matthew 2626 and First Corinthians 1124. While these names are shared with various Protestant traditions, other names unique to the Roman Catholic sacrament include the Eucharistic Assembly, Holy Sacrifice, the Most Blessed Sacrament, and Holy Mass.


As already noted, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. The Eucharist is a sacrifice of Thanksgiving to God the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude for all his benefits. The sacrament celebrates the memorial of Christ's sacrifice with its participants offering to God the Father, his creation of gifts of bread and wine that by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present. Do you hear five themes Thanksgiving, memorial, sacrifice, offering and presence. Let's look at each of these five themes in order Thanksgiving to God, The Father in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and resurrection of Christ. This aspect of the Eucharist is seen when the bread and wine, fruits of creation, and thus the good gifts of God are offered back to Him with Thanksgiving in Praise Memorial. The Eucharist is a memorial of Christ's Passover. The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, not merely in the sense of a remembrance of Christ's sacrifice, but as a ceremonial commemoration of it. The Catholic faithful thus do not just subjectively recall his death as a memory. Rather, they objectively celebrate the memorial of Christ and his atoning work, the making present, and the sacrificial offering of his unique sacrifice. It is indeed a sacrifice. More specifically, a representation of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Let's think about a representation. The Eucharist is a memorial then in terms of a representation of Christ death. His death is made present. The sacrifice of Christ once offered for all, and the cross remains ever present. How can we explain this? How does the church explain this theologically? How can this event the cross of Christ, his atoning sacrifice, which occurred as a once and for all atonement nearly 2000 years ago? How can it be represented at a mass today like God's reality of being unlimited in time? Christ's crucifixion is not time bound, but is made present when a priest administers the sacrament of the Eucharist.


Jesus himself affirmed of the bread. This is my body, and he affirmed of the cup. This cup, which is poured out for you, is the New Covenant in my blood in the Eucharist. Christ gives us the very body which He gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Let's avoid a common misconception in terms of our first two themes. Then the Eucharist is a sacrifice because it represents makes present the sacrifice of the cross, because it is itself a memorial and because it applies its fruit. But to avoid a common misunderstanding. It is not it is not the Catholic position that every time the sacrament is celebrated, Christ is re crucified such that at a mass today Christ would be crucified for the 3,439,000,000th time. Rather, according to Roman Catholic theology, the once and for all sacrifice on the cross is represented as the sacrament. So it's an event in time 2000 years ago that participates in the temporality or its banality of God and thus can be made present where the mass is celebrated. Today, the cross of Jesus Christ is represented, and there is also a an element or an aspect of the Eucharist called the offering. And this has reference to the faithful, the Catholic faithful. The sacrifice is not only the sacrifice of Christ, but also the sacrifice of the church together with Christ's sacrifice. This sacrament includes the sacrifice of the church as it joins in his offering with Christ. She, the church herself, is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the father. For all human beings in the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his body.


So the church offers itself together with the sacrifice of Christ. This is seen in the mass. This collaborative offering of the church is seen during the mass when lay people at the start of the mass bring forward to the altar that created elements of bread and wine. They physically they literally bring these two elements, the bread and the wine. They walk forward from the back of the church to the altar and present these elements as gifts. Then when consecrated, these offerings become the represented offering of Christ on the cross. Moreover, during the mass, the priest offers the Eucharist in the name of the whole church in an unblocked and sacramental manner. Additionally, the sacrament is offered for the Catholic faithful so that their souls may be released from purgatory and go to heaven. This also is part of the mass. What about the presence of Christ? By transubstantiation to the Spirit, and the word Christ becomes present during the mass. While the Catholic Church acknowledges the many ways in which Christ is present with his church. It underscores the fact that He is present, most especially in the Eucharistic species of the bread and the wine, by the power of his word and his spirit. His Eucharistic presence is unique in this way. The body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus, and therefore the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained. The explanation for this unique presence of Christ in the Eucharist is called transubstantiation. What have the etymology of this term? Transubstantiation. Three Latin words are visible in this term. First trans, which refers to change. Second, substantial. Which refers to nature or essence. That which makes something what it is. And three shun t i. O.


N. Which indicates an action or a state. Trans substantiation then refers to the action of changing things nature or the state of change of something's essence with reference to the Eucharist. Transubstantiation is the change that is wrought in the substance of the bread. It becomes the body of Christ and the change in the substance of the wine. It becomes the blood of Christ. It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. What about the timing and the nature of this change? The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsists. That is, transubstantiation is effective when during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the second part of the mass, the priest engages in the epic classis. It's a prayer to God, to Father to send the Holy Spirit to change the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. And when the priest recites the narrative of Christ's institution of the sacrament, the priest says, For the bread, take this all of you and eat of it. For this is my body which will be given up for you and then for the cup. The priest says, Take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me. This is the moment of consecration. Thus the consecrated elements. Now no longer the substance of the bread and wine remain the substance of the body and blood of Christ until the wine, the bread and the wine are consumed.


The change, then, is not momentary, but lasting. Moreover, Christ is present, whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts. That is Christ. The God man is present, neither in his divine nature alone, nor in his human nature alone, but in the totality of both His divine and human natures. Additionally, in the totality of both his divine and human natures, Christ is present in the bread and each of its grains and in the totality of His divine and human natures. He is present in the wine and each of its drops. In terms of the administration of the sacrament, the faithful participating in the Eucharist do not receive more or less of Christ. If they take communion in one kind, that is, they receive the consecrated wafer only and not the wine, or if they take communion in two kinds, that is, they receive both the consecrated wafer and the consecrated wine by their participation in the Eucharistic celebration. Celebration. They receive all of Christ. Yes. Could you define the word species? Elements? Yes. So the species would be the elements of bread and wine. The Eucharistic species elements. The bread and wine? Yes. Thus, the Catholic Church believes that ongoing worship should occur, should occur because the presence of Christ is continuous, lasting until the consecrated elements are consumed. The elements that remain after the completion of the mass are placed in a tabernacle, which is a sacred container in the church building. The Catholic faithful then are encouraged to engage in the ongoing worship of Christ who is still present in those species, in those elements. These remaining elements are also used for variety.com. The technical term for the administration of the sacrament to the sick and dying.


How then are the Catholic faithful? How are they benefited by this? They understand transubstantiation. They believe that they are now enjoying the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. They understand this by faith. This doesn't seem reasonable, right? It doesn't make sense. Naturally. Indeed, it can occur. Naturally. It has to occur supernaturally. And the Catholic faithful's comprehension of it. Acceptance of it is by faith. Who are the Catholic faithful who may participate? The sacrament is for those who are in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. That is the Catholic faithful whose mortal sins have been canceled by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation because of disagreements over the nature of this sacrament. The Roman Catholic Church cannot administer this right to Protestants, and Protestants cannot participate in the Roman Catholic Eucharist. What about its benefits? The Catholic faithful who participate in this sacrament receive four benefits. First, it augments their union with Christ, which preserves, increases and renews the life of grace that was received at baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of this Eucharistic communion. To the Eucharist separates the faithful from sin by cleansing them from their past sins and preserving them from their future sins. Only the sacrament of penance and reconciliation absolves the Catholic faithful from their mortal, since the Eucharist is not designed for that purpose. Rather, the Eucharist strengthens their love, and this living charity wipes away venial sins. Additionally, by the same charity that it kindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. Third benefit the Eucharist makes the Church by uniting the faithful more closely to Christ, and thus to one another. And fourth, the sacrament commits the church to the poor as the church recognizes Christ in them. Like the other six sacraments, the validity and effectiveness of the Eucharist is X, Oprah, Oprah, Rado, buy.


The work worked when the priest celebrates the mass. The authenticity of this sacrament does not depend on his spiritual and moral condition, but it depends solely on his administration of it. However, its fruitfulness in the lives of the Catholic faithful who participate depends on the receptivity to God's gracious activity. Indeed, the Eucharist brings greater or lesser benefit in proportion to the devotion of the faithful. The sacrament of the Eucharist is celebrated during a Catholic mass. If you're not familiar with the Catholic mass, it consists of two parts. The first part is called the Liturgy of the Word, and it focuses on prayers and then Bible readings. There's always a reading of the Old Testament, a reading of the New Testament, a reading of one of the Gospels, followed by a short sermon called a homily. And then the second part of the mass is called the Liturgy of the Eucharist. And it is here that the sacrament is administered. The mass, in terms of its liturgy, is celebrated everywhere in the world. And it is one of the common elements, along with the creed and apostolic succession that unites the Roman Catholic Church all around the world. How would we, as Protestants or evangelicals, assess the Roman Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist? Let's begin by looking at transubstantiation. While Protestants disagree among themselves regarding this matter, all Protestants disagree with Roman Catholic transubstantiation. Going back to Martin Luther's criticisms of this doctrine. Protestant critiques include the following Number one transubstantiation is of late origin. The Catholic Church did not officially proclaim this doctrine until the fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and Thomas Aquinas did not offer its philosophical foundation until later in the 13th century. Two Protestants object that transubstantiation is philosophically grounded and lacks a clear biblical basis.


It was Thomas Aquinas relying on Aristotelian philosophy who proposed the distinction between substance and accidents as applied to the Eucharistic elements of the bread and the wine. Substance refers to an essence or nature existing in itself and not in something else. And accidents don't think of the peculiar disasters. Accidents refer to the characteristics or attributes not of its core, and thus that can be lost without losing the thing itself. Some of these accidents can be perceived by the senses. In keeping with this distinction. Aquinas proposed the following In the case of the Eucharistic bread and wine, though the accidents remain the same, the bread and wine still look like, smell like, feel like and taste like bread and wine. The substance of the bread is changed into the body of Christ, and the substance of the wine is changed into the blood of Christ. This change is called transubstantiation. Third, acquaintances appeal to divine power to explain this miracle in such a change of substance without change of accidents is completely unique to the Eucharist. Acquaintances appeal to divine power to explain the miracle is without biblical basis. Fourth and last, another Protestant criticism of the Catholic Sacrament focuses on the idea that the Eucharist is a representation of Christ's sacrifice. Again, this idea is without any biblical support. Appeal to Jesus's words. This is my body. This is my blood of the New Covenant. Depends on a misinterpretation of his institution of the Lord's Supper. So all Protestants disagree with transubstantiation. What about representation of Christ's sacrifice? Protestants object to the theological idea of Jesus's death on the cross 2000 years ago, participating in the temporality or eternal City of God, and thus being represented today at every Catholic celebration of this sacrament. There is no biblical basis for such an idea.


What about the church's participation in Christ's offering? Protestants also critique the Catholic notion of the Eucharist being a sacrificial offering not only of Christ, but of the Church as well. Certainly Scripture employs the language of offering and the language of sacrifice in urging believers to offer themselves to God. Romans 12 1 to 2 to make a sacrifice of praise to God. That is the fruit of lips that confess his name, Hebrews 1315, and to consider their good works to be sacrifices. Hebrews 1316. But Scripture never uses this language to refer to the Eucharist as the Church's sacrificial offering to God. Next, the Catholic Church views the Sacrament of the Eucharist as an infusion of grace. Another criticism focuses on the fact that the Catholic view of the Eucharist depends on the principle of the nature, grace, interdependence. We see this principle at work in the view that the sacrament infuses divine grace. In the case of the Eucharist, Christ himself, in the infuses divine grace into the Catholic faithful through the natural elements of bread and wine. Such infused grace transforms their very nature, their very character, so that they can engage in good works and thus merit eternal life. We've already critiqued the nature, grace, interdependence. Finally, what of this notion of the ongoing worship of Christ? A final criticism highlights the fact that this Catholic sacrament depends on this principle of the Christ Church interconnection. We see this principle operating in the practice of the Catholic faithful, worshiping the remaining Eucharistic elements that are stored in the Tabernacle Christ, in the totality of his divine and human natures remains present in the unused elements in the church, which is the prolongation of the incarnation of Christ. We've already critiqued the Christ Church interconnection.


Thus, we've examined in depth the source and summit of the Christian life that is the Roman Catholic Sacrament of the Eucharist. We've sought to explain what Roman Catholic theology in practice holds and does about this sacrament, and also offered an evangelical critique of it. Are there any questions? I have a couple. I've never heard the phrase represented before. Yeah. So I have a friend who's a deacon in the Catholic Church, and every morning he'll say, Well, I have to go to the sacrifice. Yeah, that's actually not what it is, isn't it? So the sacrifice is viewed as a temporal just without. And you're just you're seeing it. And it's not like it's you're seeing the past of it. You're seeing it outside of time, in a sense. You're seeing. Yeah. It can't be locked in space and time. 2000 years ago. So when the priest or bishop consecrate those elements. That sacrificial event, the atoning sacrifice is made present in a bloodless manner. It's the same sacrifice. There's only one. It's the same sacrifice made president in an unbuttoned manner. But it's not. I like we said, a 4,353,000,000th time, the crisis sacrifice. So they're not killing him every morning. They do not kill him at every mass. All right. That's a Protestant misconception. Yeah. Rather, he is represented or made present when the priest consecrate these elements. All right. The other question I had was you were talking about the offering of the faithful. Mm hmm. And you said the sacrament is offered for the Catholic faithful, so their souls may be released from purgatory and go to heaven. Is this a situation where, like, where a husband dies and the wife takes the sacraments, that somehow that is releasing him from purgatory or shortening his time? And is there a causal connection? So the idea is that the wife who has lost her husband.


In grief over his death. As the priests and there's a payment of money, asks the priests to dedicate a mass up for her husband such that there will be a particular orientation of that mass to help him to benefit him so that his soul is released from purgatory. So. So this would be like the idea of indulgences, right? Being able to. Purchase or work for obtain grace for the souls in in purgatory such that they yeah their the amount of time that the required to be in purgatory is lessened. So there the so the suffering that they are undergoing to purge their soul of stain of sin, that suffering is lessened through purchasing indulgences or through saying masses on behalf of those who have died. Okay, my memory is really faulty here. But I remember when when President Kennedy died. Uh huh. There was a big thing about his wife. Jacqueline Kennedy was doing things to shorten his time in purgatory. Do you remember? Was that was it a mass or It would have been a mass? It would have been a mass. Yes, it would have been. Obviously, he from a very strong, staunch Catholic family. Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah, there's this notion that the good works and the indulgences and the masses that take place here on Earth, these benefits are placed in what's called the Treasury of the Saints. Right. And then from this Treasury of the Saints, right. The benefits can be dispersed to the souls in purgatory, thereby releasing them earlier from their temporal punishment. Okay. So that's a mechanism by which the mass affects the person who has died. Exactly. Okay. Yeah.