Blog Template Theology of the Body: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood:" Christian Cannibalism?

Monday, February 05, 2007

"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood:" Christian Cannibalism?

A beloved anthropology professor made the claim last week that on accounts of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, "Christians practice cannibalism." So I had to put the following together from various sources. With all due respect, it is astounding what we academics get away with. Anti-Christianity slurs are the New Colonialism...

Is the Christian Eucharist “Cannibalism?”

What is the Eucharist? 
In the Catholic Eucharistic celebrations Christ’s Body is truly and “substantially” present, not in a natural way but in supernatural, miraculous way. The Eucharist of the Mass is the same occurrence as that of the Last Supper, where Christ changed the substance of the bread and wine, but not its form, into His flesh and blood. So, the form of the Eucharist, which does not change, is bread and wine.; but the essential substance of these elements becomes Christ Himself.

What is cannibalism? 
Cannibalism is to eat human flesh as food. In the case of cannibalism, the form of the consumed food is the flesh and or blood of one’s own species. But since the form of the Eucharist is neither human flesh nor blood it cannot be cannibalism.

Catholics eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood in a sacramental way, not in a natural, physical way. It would have been cannibalism if a disciple two thousand years ago had tried literally to eat Jesus by sinking his teeth into his arm. This is not the account of the Last Supper. And Christians believe that our Lord is now in heaven, with a glorified body, which is “made present” under the appearance of bread and wine in the Eucharist. He is really and sacramentally present, but He is not physically present in the way that humans can be physically present to one another. Rather, Jesus is “substantially” and “miraculously” present in the bread and the wine. Furthermore, the action of eating and drinking effects only the properties of the bread and the wine, and not the properties of Christ’s humanity and divinity that are contained within them.