Sagar wrote:

Hi, guys —

Hi, I have a lot of questions, but I will attempt to keep this as brief as possible.

I am a person who is pretty familiar with the Catholic Church because I've attended a Catholic university and have many close, Catholic friends. I used to consider myself a Protestant before but now I am finding many aspects of the Roman Catholic faith appealing and this is making me question my beliefs. As such, I have a number of questions (mostly stemming from the differences between the Protestant and Catholic faiths) that I want to address.

  1. Why is transubstantiation necessary in the Communion Rite for Catholics?

I feel that if it were not so, the symbolism and the message would still be the same.

  1. What is the role of Mary and why is she venerated so prominently?
  2. Also, why is the Immaculate Conception necessary and where does this concept come from?

It seems to me that Christ's perfection should not be affected by this.

  1. Also, did Mary eventually sin or do Catholics believe that she was without sin for her life?

I have many more questions but these four are at the top of the list.

Thanks for taking the time to read them. I truly appreciate this service and think that you all are doing a wonderful job.

Sagar

  { Why is transubstantiation vital, what is Mary's role, why is she venerated, and did Mary ever sin? }

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Sagar,

You are right that without the Transubstantiation, the symbolism would be the same, but something very important would not be the same. Jesus would not be sacramentally present under the form of bread and wine.

  • In the Protestant Eucharist, the bread and the wine are symbolic of Jesus' desire to be with us spiritually.

  • In the Catholic Eucharist, the appearances of bread and wine signify that Christ is truly present with us, and in us when we commune with Him by receiving Him as food.

As for Mary, she is the Mother of the human nature of the Son of God, so she is the Mother of God (not of His divinity, but of the humanity of the Person of the Son). We say a person is a mother of a Who, not of a What, so she is the Mother of God. Was not Jesus God?

The Immaculate Conception flows from this as a privilege, because Christ's flesh was taken from her flesh, therefore it is fitting that sin never existed in her nor touched her in any way.

Catholics believe that she was without sin for her whole life because she cooperated perfectly with God's Will, by His Grace. This does not mean that she was not weak and meek and lowly, as she herself says in her Magnificat, but she was given the grace to perfectly rely on God, and cooperated with that grace, so that she could fulfill her mission of offering God's Son to us in the Incarnation, and of offering her son to the Father and us, in the Redemption.

Afterward, she received the first fruits of His Resurrection by being taken bodily into Heaven.

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Hi, Sagar —

You said:

  1. Why is transubstantiation necessary in the Communion Rite for Catholics?

I feel that if it were not so, the symbolism and the message would still be the same.

That may be so, but the reality would not be the same. Scripture says we are made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4); either this is imaginary or real. There is a saying, You are what you eat. St. Athanasius had another saying,

God became man so that man might become God.

By partaking of the divine nature, we are deified. We become one with God in a manner that would not be possible by closing our eyes and conjuring it up in our minds. There is yet another saying, The flesh is the hinge of salvation. This aptly describes the difference between Catholicism (and Orthodox) and Protestantism. While this saying is not biblical, it flows from the Incarnation; again, God became man so that man might become God. The flesh is how God chooses to communicate to us salvation. Grace comes through the senses just as God became visible to us in the form of Christ. We see this as Jesus used spittle to heal, water to baptize, rivers to cure, and so forth.

Sometimes I meditate on the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where they are looking for the Holy Grail. When I go to Communion, what I am receiving is more holy than that Holy Grail, and it's as close as my local church. Not only am I given this object, being God, more holy than the Holy Grail, more holy than anything else on the face of the earth, but it is edible; not only is it edible, but it goes into all my joints, my veins, and transforms my body and soul into God.

  • How cool is that?

St. Ignatius of Antioch in 107 calls it the medicine of immortality. Early Christians also called it the antidote to death. We also call it the cup of salvation. (Psalm 116:13, Jerusalem Catecheses, St. Cyril of Jerusalem [d. 386])

It is the Christian Passover, which means that since Jesus is the Passover Lamb, it was necessary both for Him to be sacrificed and for His Flesh to be eaten by the faithful. The Eucharist is the means by which we eat the flesh of the sacrifice on Calvary. We also believe it is the fruit of the tree of life in the garden of Eden, and the new manna prophesied by Moses. None of these things fit with a symbolic view of the Eucharist.

Here are a couple of Early Church quotes on the Eucharist. While not infallible, they do testify to the early point at which our Eucharistic doctrine was believed:

Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 6, 110 A.D. (Jurgens):

"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God ... 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 that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes."

Justin Martyr, Apology, I.66-67, 2nd century:

Communion in the Body and Blood of Christ

It is allowed to no one else to participate in that food which we call Eucharist except the one who believes that the things taught by us are true, who has been cleansed in the washing unto rebirth and the forgiveness of sins and who is living according to the way Christ handed on to us. For we do not take these things as ordinary bread or ordinary drink.

Just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made through the word of prayer instituted by him, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh.

You said:

  1. What is the role of Mary and why is she venerated so prominently?
  2. Also, why is the Immaculate Conception necessary and where does this concept come from?

It seems to me that Christ's perfection should not be affected by this.

  1. Also, did Mary eventually sin or do Catholics believe that she was without sin for her life?

Oh, the roles of Mary would take too long to enumerate — let's just say that she is the chief saint, greater than any other creature (this excludes Christ, of course), and we regard her as, in a sense, the secondary cause of our salvation since, if she did not say Yes to God, who knows what He would have done?

I suspect she is venerated so prominently because, being sinless, the greatest saint, and the Mother of the Redeemer, people think she has a lot of pull. The Immaculate Conception is not necessary, but it is fitting. In Romans and 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks of Christ being the New Adam.

  • This begs the question, if there are two Adams, are there two Eves?

We believe there are. Both Eve and Mary were created sinless.

One believed the word of the serpent and became the cause of death for the human race; the other believed the Word of God and became the Cause of Life for the human race. Mary undid what Eve wrought. This principle was first articulated by St. Justin Martyr (c. 150).

Death through Eve, life through Mary. (St. Jerome)

If Mary was fallen like us, it would not have been possible for her to be the New Eve. There is also the conviction that it was fitting for Mary to be a pure vessel to bear God, just as the Ark of the Covenant (often a type of Mary) had to be constructed perfectly according to God's instructions.

This is obviously not to imply that Christ had a subordinate role in our redemption. He, of course, is Our Redeemer, whose sacrifice ultimately won our salvation but he chose to come through Mary, and her fiat was very important to Messiah's coming.

We believe that Mary was wholly without sin throughout her life.

Hope this helps,

Eric

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