Friday, July 20, 2012

Why the Eucharist includes the Blood of Christ

I saw this question and the answer by an Eastern Orthodox apologetics site (we're in this together) and thought it was an excellent explanation:

I once asked a catholic priest how they could justify drinking Jesus's blood when the Law forbids it and Jesus Himself said that not one letter of the Law will pass away. He was unable to answer my question. I'm sure I'm misunderstanding something but I don't know what. Could you explain it to me?


In order to answer your question, we must look first at Jesus' teaching concerning the Old Law. The Lord said:
(Matthew 5:17-18)  "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Christ's "fulfillment" of the Law excludes both the idea that the Law is irrelevant, and also the idea that the Law remains exactly as is. Christ, through His incarnation, life, ministry, death, and resurrection, brings the Law to its complete purpose. In the broader context of this teaching, Jesus says things like this:
(Matthew 5:27-28)  "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
(Matthew 5:38-39)  "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
In other words, Christ is taking the underlying principle of the old Law and bringing it to a higher and more complete meaning. This is not abolition, but fulfillment. Indeed, the Gospel of St. Matthew is in many ways modeled after the Torah as set forth in the Book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy sets forth a series of conditional blessings (28:1-15) and curses (28:16-68) upon Israel based on their obedience or disobedience. It then ends with Moses ascending a mountain and being shown the inheritance of Israel. (34:1-4) Jesus' teachings in the Gospel of St. Matthew are arranged in a set of blessings and (the Beatitudes,  5:3-11) curses (his debate with the Pharisees, 23:13-32.) It then ends with Jesus ascending a Mountain and telling His Apostles to go and make the entire Earth the kingdom of God. (28:16-20)
My point in saying all of this is to drive home the idea that "fulfillment" is not equivalent to changelessness. It means that things change, but they change in the way that they were always intended to. The Torah of Moses only foreshadowed the Torah that the Messiah would bring. The principles which underlie the old Torah are made explicit and applied to the heart.
Having understood that the old Torah is not abolished, but brought to completion in the work of the Messiah, let us examine the relevant text:
(Leviticus 17:12-14)  Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood. "Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.
The reason that the ancient Israelites were not allowed to eat the blood of their sacrifices was because they were not to participate in the actual life-force of the animals, which is contained in the blood. As strange as it might first sound, the reason that Christians in the New Covenant partake of the blood of Jesus' sacrifice is the same reason that the Israelites were forbidden to eat the blood of their sacrifices. While it is not good to participate in animal life, we are supposed to participate in the life of Christ. Consider what St. Paul the Apostle writes in his first letter to the Corinthians:
(1 Corinthians 10:16-18)  The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?
St. Paul points to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant sacrificial system, He says that we "participate" in the blood of Christ, and significantly, He points to this as a fulfillment of the fact that the Israelites would eat their sacrifices. The "fulfillment" of the Old Law by Christ actually means that we must partake of Christ's blood, because where the Israelites did not want to participate in the life of their animal sacrifices, to participate in the life of Christ is the thing we want above all.
Hope this helps.

May God bless all who read my ramblings,

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