Monthly Archives: July 2015

Is the Eucharist Cannibalism?

Miriam-Webster defines cannibalism as:

1. The usually ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being.
2. The eating of the flesh of an animal by another animal of the same kind.

Cannibalism implies the actual chewing, swallowing, and metabolizing of flesh and blood either after or during the killing of an animal of the same species; or, if we stick to definition #1, the killing and eating of a  human being by another human being.

Catholics do not do any of this in the Eucharist. Though Christ is substantially present—body, blood, soul and divinity—in the Eucharist, the accidents of bread and wine remain. Here it becomes essential to define terms. When the Church teaches the bread and wine at Mass are transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, we have to understand what this means. The word, transubstantiation, literally means “transformation of the substance.” “Substance” refers to that which makes a thing essentially what it is. Thus, “substance” and “essence” are synonyms. For example, man is essentially comprised of body, soul, intellect, and will. If you remove any one of these, he is no longer a human person. The accidents or accidentals would be things like hair color, eye color, size, weight, etc. One can change any of these and there would be no change in the essence or substance of the person.

In the Eucharist, after the priest consecrates the bread and wine and they are, in fact, transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord, our Lord is then entirely present. Neither bread nor wine remains. However, the accidents of bread and wine (size, weight, taste, texture) do remain. Hence, the essential reason why Catholics are not guilty of cannibalism is the fact that we do not receive our Lord in a cannibalistic form. We receive him in the form of bread and wine. The two are essentially different.

To dive a bit deeper into this, I would suggest there are at least six reasons why the Eucharist and cannibalism are difference as a matter of essence.

1. In cannibalism, the person consumed is, generally speaking, killed. Jesus is not killed. We receive him in his resurrected body and we do not affect him in the least. In fact, he is not changed in the slightest. He changes us! This is far from cannibalism.
2. In cannibalism, only part of the victim is consumed. One does not eat the bones, sinews, etc. In the Eucharist, we consume every bit of the Lord, eyes, hair, blood, bones, etc. But again, I emphasize that we do so under the appearances of bread and wine. This is essentially different than cannibalism, which leads to our next point:
3. In cannibalism, the accidents of blood and flesh are consumed. One must tear flesh, drink blood, etc. In the Eucharist, we only consume the accidents of bread and wine. This is not cannibalism.
4. In cannibalism, one only consumes a body, not a person. The person and the soul of the victim would have departed. In the Eucharist, we consume the entire person of Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity. One cannot separate Christ’s body from his Divine Person. Thus, this is a spiritual communion as well as a physical consuming. We become one with Christ on a mystical level in this sacrament. This is far from cannibalism.
5. In cannibalism, one only receives temporal nourishment that is fleeting. In the Eucharist, we receive the divine life of God through faith and receiving our Lord well-disposed, i.e. we receive everlasting life (cf. John 6:52-55). This is essentially different than cannibalism.
6. In cannibalism, once one eats the flesh of the victim, it is gone forever. In the Eucharist, we can consume him every day and, as mentioned in #1, we do not change him one bit. He remains the same.

Final Thoughts

One always has to be careful when applying terms and concepts to God. Many people miss the mark with regard to the faith because they make the mistake of applying terms in a human way to God who is infinite. We could speak of Mormons who claim God, the Father, has a physical body because the Scriptures speak of God’s “back parts,” in Exodus, or “the hand of Lord,” the “eyes of the Lord,” etc. You’ve probably heard the classic rejoinder to these Mormon claims: “Psalm 91 refers to God’s ‘feathers and wings’. Does this mean God is some sort of bird?”

The error here, of course, is rooted in interpreting texts that were not intended to be used in a strict, literal sense, as if they were. “Back parts” have to mean “back parts,” right?

When it comes to the Trinity, some who deny this essential teaching will claim Christians are teaching God to be “three beings” because we say God is “three persons.” However, person, as it relates to God, does not mean there are three beings. There is an essential difference between “person” as it relates to God, and “person” as it relates to men and angels.

We could cite a litany of examples containing similar problems.

When it gets down to brass tacks, the nay-sayers who reject the Eucharist, and most specifically, those who accuse us Catholics of cannibalism because we say we “consume” the Lord in the Eucharist, body, blood, soul, and divinity, fail to understand what we actually mean by consuming the Lord. They end up objecting just as the unbelieving “Jews” of John 6:52, who said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

If you are thinking about a cannibalistic blood-meal, he can’t. But if you understand, as Jesus said, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail, the words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life,” then you understand. The Eucharist represents a miracle confected by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God can do that.

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Is Hell Fictional or Real?

In an earlier blog post, I talked about whether or not there are souls in Hell right now. And the answer is, yes! This post sparked a lot of questions that I very commonly get from Catholics as well as from atheists and agnostics concerning the nature of Hell. “What is Hell?” “Is it really ‘eternal’?” “Could a truly loving God allow for such a place to exist?” And more…

These questions were and are asked by Catholics, most often, so they can understand the dogma of Hell better and help friends and family members, but for atheists and agnostics, it is often a key reason why they cannot believe in God at all.

Below find my answers to some of the key questions asked about Hell.

By definition, according to CCC 1033, hell is “[the] state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed.” Some people cannot fathom how Hell could be a reality if God is truly an “all-loving” and “merciful God.” Yet, Hell could be said to be both the definitive expression of God’s justice and of the lofty calling and dignity of man. What do I mean by this?

Let’s look at the latter statement first.

In his infinite wisdom, God deigned to create man with the immeasurable dignity of a free, rational, spiritual, and therefore, immortal soul. He did not create us as robots that can only “choose” the good. Man has been gifted with the incredible gift of being free to either accept or reject God and God’s plan for him.

The ultimate reason for this is love. CCC 1861 says it well: “Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself.” Without freedom there is no real love as we understand it. The Catechism goes on:

[Mortal sin] results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back.

God has given to man his entire lifetime on earth to make that irrevocable decision of which the Catechism speaks. Thus, the “time” for choosing is now in this life, but the choice we make will have eternal consequences. Indeed, not only is this the “time” for choosing, but this is the only “time” there will be “time” at all. “Time” will be no more after we die, at least, not as we understand it. There will be some sense of sequentiality, some sort of “time,” if you will, but very different from “time” as we understand it now. Our “eternity” is thus sealed at the time of our death! But think about this: our choices affect not only us, but others as well and quite possibly for all eternity! Consider these two texts: one from the Old Testament, and one from the New Testament:

If I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life (Ez. 3:18-19).

In I Tim. 4:16, St. Paul says to Timothy:

Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Ezekiel seems to indicate that if we choose not to evangelize someone God places in our life, it may well be that this will have been the last opportunity that person will ever have to choose God! This is daunting in one sense to be sure, but it also speaks of an incredibly lofty calling we all have as God’s faithful on earth. Some people, Calvinists in particular, simply cannot believe God would give to man this kind of responsibility. Yet, according to Scripture, this is the dignity and calling of man.

Now, I should also note that it may well be, and I would think it would most often be the case, that if we choose not to evangelize someone, he will be given any number of other opportunities to come to God, but both Ezekiel and St. Paul remind us of another reason why we need to evangelize: we save our own souls as well. “Educating the ignorant,” and “admonishing the sinner” are corporal works of mercy by which we will be judged on the Last Day. It is precisely because of this spiritual and free component in man that he has the ability to ascend the heights of a Mother Theresa or to descend to the depths of an Adolf Hitler. German shepherds have neither ability.

God considered this gift of freedom, and the ultimate fruit of that freedom–eternal life–as being worth all the evils that would eventually be brought about by the abuse of that freedom. As St. Paul said it, “… the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” in full at the end of time (Romans 8:18).

To chase a rabbit here for a moment: when considering the massive amount of evil that exists in the world we should also remember that God only even permits this inasmuch as he knows that he will bring ultimate good out of that evil. The crucifix is the ultimate example of this. The greatest evil ever perpetrated in the history of creation—the crucifix where we killed God—results in the greatest good… the redemption of the world by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Answering Objections and Questions

1. The Bible Does Not Teach “Hell” – At Least, Not as an Eternal Hell

The truth is: Most of what we know of Hell and its eternity comes from the very lips of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And he uses terms that are unequivocal. Pope St. John Paul II, in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pg. 185, says it succinctly:

… the words of Christ are unequivocal. In Matthew’s gospel [Christ] speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Matt. 25:46).

The CCC 1035 concurs:

The teaching of the Church affims the existence of Hell and its eternity.

Most importantly, Scripture itself could hardly be clearer:

In Revelation 20:10, St. John describes Hell (“the lake of fire,” more specifically) in relation to the Devil and the False Prophet of the end times in terms difficult to misunderstand:

And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where  the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Then, in Revelation 20:14-15, St. John again mentions this same “lake of fire” and explicitly and specifically declares that humans will go to the same place—and that means “for ever and ever.”

This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown in the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:8 says it as well and includes all those who die in mortal sin:

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

In Matthew 25:41 and 46, Jesus says just as heaven represents eternal life, Hell represents eternal punishment:

Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, in to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…
And they [the unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Matthew 13:41-42, 47-50:

The son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth…

So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

2. Catholic “Dogma” Misuses Biblical Terms for “Hell”

The truth is, the word Hell, or I should say the “words” translated as “Hell” [Hebrew-sheol, Greek-Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna-which is a Greek word of Hebrew origin], have various meanings and usages in the different books of the Bible and extra-biblical sources, yet this does not justify a failure to use the term “Hell” as understood in Catholic dogmatic teaching, in certain contexts, for these terms. In fact, and by way of example, “Gehenna” is always used for the “Hell” of “Catholic dogma” in Scripture. Let me explain what I mean:

Sheol generally represents “the place of the dead” in the Old Testament. Both the righteous and the unrighteous go there. In ancient Hebrew thought, this “place of the dead” was divided into two sections: a place of suffering and a holding place for the righteous. We find this idea in the teaching of Jesus in Luke 16:19-31, where Jesus speaks of a wicked rich man and a righteous poor man named Lazarus who had been a poor beggar. The wicked man who had “everything in life” goes to the place of torment, Hades, which is the closest thing to a Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “sheol,” while the poor man, Lazarus, goes to paradise. They are both in the same “place of the dead,” but separated by a “great chasm” as verse 26 calls it. The place of the righteous is called “the bosom of Abraham,” while the place of torment is called “Hades.”

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom (verses 22-23).

“Hades,” though here used for Hell, can, again, be used as “the place of the dead” as is “Sheol” in Hebrew. We see this in texts like Acts 2:27, 31 and Rev. 20:13-14. But the point is, it is, at times, used for the place of eternal torment we call “Hell.”

Gehenna is a different story. As I mentioned above, it is always used for eternal “Hell” as we see, for example, in Mark 9:43:

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna: into the unquenchable fire.

Of the 12 times “gehenna” is used in the New Testament, 11 of the 12 come from our Lord and unequivocally refer to Hell (see Matt. 5:22; Matt. 5:29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 33; Mark 9:43-47; Luke 12:5, etc.). James 3:6 is the only other place we find “gehenna” used and it clearly refers to “the fire of gehenna” in referring to the danger of an unruly tongue.

Perhaps more importantly, what we find in the New Testament are multiple terms and multiple ways in which the inspired text teaches about Hell. We find phrases like “the lake of fire” (you find this used in Revelation 19:20; 20:10), or “furnace of fire” (Matthew 13:42) used to represent Hell. So it’s really not about misusing particular terms; the truth is, the biblical text is remarkably clear when it comes to the reality of an eternal Hell.

Perhaps the plainest text of all concerning Hell’s reality and eternity is found in Revelation 14:10-11. This text uses none of the above-mentioned terms; rather, it describes Hell in such stark terms that there is no way of parsing words and claiming a different usage for “hades” or “gehenna.” This is not a matter of semantics:

If any one worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also shall drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image and whoever receives the mark of the beast.

These words speak for themselves!

Tartarus“is yet another term used in Scripture for the “Hell of Catholic Dogma.” In II Peter 2:4, we find:

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell (Gr.-tartarosas)and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment.

3. Are the “Flames” of Hell Literal?

It should be understood that both the joy of heaven and the pains of Hell are indescribable this side of eternity. And just as the Church warns against seeing heaven as a “worldly” sort of extension of life on this earth, so it is with Hell. The inspired authors cannot describe Hell adequately using human language; thus, the “flames of fire” are simply the most painful things we can imagine on this earth used to attempt to describe the indescribable to some degree.

So, are the “flames of fire” of Hell literal? No, they are not. In fact, it should be obvious that they are not literal right now because the souls in Hell do not presently have bodies. You can’t “light up” a soul with a match.

But even after the resurrection, the Catholic Church does not teach the “flames” of Hell to be literal. CCC 1472 answers this question succinctly:

These two punishments [the Catechism is here speaking of both Purgatory and Hell] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes the fact that Hell is primarily eternal separation from God. To quote CCC 1033 again, it defines Hell as, “The state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed.” It is absolute emptiness and isolation beyond anything we can fathom. The “pains” that are quite real, quite literal, and consist of both the pain of loss, and the pain of sense, i.e., they involve the body after the resurrection of the body, “follow from the very nature of sin,” or, they arise from the inside out, not from the outside in.

To bring this concept down to earth, think about this: What is mortal sin but the rejection of the love of God and neighbor? It is ultimate selfishness. Ultimately, the damned will simply get what they wanted—themselves for all eternity!

It is said that a man will go insane if he is kept in isolation for too long because human beings are so ordered toward communion with other persons. Hell will be that isolation that would lead anyone to insanity, but the condemned will never be able to lose their faculties. They will be fully cognizant of the pain of their isolation.

Some may ask as a follow-up, “What about, for example, the private revelation of St. Faustina that speaks of ‘the company of the devil’ as being part of the pains of Hell? How does that square with this ‘isolation’ that we are talking about?”

Answer: the “isolation” we are talking about here does not mean necessarily that there will be no other persons present. Think of it this way. Have you ever seen a person who is “all alone” in the middle of a party with people all around? For example, a person who is angry or having a “pity party” and wants nothing to do with anyone? In fact, the presence of people having fun can be an occasion for increased rage for someone like that!

That is an imperfect glimpse of Hell.

4. Is Hell a “Place” or a “State of Being?”

Hell is primarily a state of being, but inasmuch as the souls there will have bodies after the resurrection of the dead, they will have location as well. So, in that sense, we can say Hell is a “place.” In fact, we could say the same of heaven. But both heaven and hell are not “places” in the sense that the people there could “leave” and “return.” Inasmuch as these are states of being, “heaven” and “hell” are present wherever the saints and damned are.

5. How could it be possible that the just in heaven will be able to rejoice for all eternity in God, when they know that loved ones, for example, are in Hell for all eternity?

In other words, it has been asked of me, how could the angels and saints rejoice in heaven, for example, in Rev. 21, knowing the damned are suffering terribly as we see in Rev. 20? Or even more, we see in Rev. 14:11, the damned, “shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the lamb.”


Perhaps an analogy would work best in explaining this: Imagine you are in a court room and a man whom you know is guilty of murder is standing before the Judge and jurors where his fate is about to be determined. The foreman of the jury stands up and says, “Your honor, we find Tom Smith (insert your own name here) ‘not guilty’ of all charges.”

Your immediate reaction would most likely be to say, “That’s unjust!” At least, it should be! This would be an injustice because this man was, in fact, guilty. You should feel outraged at an injustice like this. Yet, on the flip side, if that same juror were to say, “We find Tom Smith guilty,” there would be a sense in which you could rejoice in this that is just. We should not rejoice in the suffering that awaits this man. We should not allow ourselves to fall into a sense of vengeance for vengeance’s sake, but we can, and indeed we should, rejoice in the good that is justice. You could say in a joyful way, “Justice was served today! And that is a good thing!”

On Judgment Day, all will know that every person will have been judged rightly and we will be able to see this with “God’s eyes,” so to speak. The blessed will be able to rejoice in God’s justice and mercy. In fact, only heaven will reveal in full the reality that Justice and Mercy are actually absolutely one in our infinitely just and infinitely merciful God!

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Planned Parenthood Gone Wild!

If you have not seen this yet, you must! In this secretly filmed segment, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, describes in gruesome detail how she and other doctors can and do carefully mutilate and kill pre-born babies in the womb while protecting certain desired body parts in order to sell them. We are talking about the harvesting of body parts of children, for financial gain, folks!

I must say I got physically ill watching this so-called “doctor” heartlessly describe how she and other “doctors” can strategically dismember babies while she is gorging herself with forkful after forkful of what appears to be a very hearty lunch at a nice restaurant. She doesn’t bat an eye at describing the killing of these innocent human beings to have their “parts” sold like so many pieces of chicken.

I warn you: this video is disturbing. But I further warn you: it is time to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves. We have to stand up for these little babies who are the most vulnerable members of our society.

One final point: Be sure to watch until the end when Cecile Richards, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood, tips her hand and tacitly admits that she has full knowledge of what is going on and that she approves. You watch and tell me what you think

And remember this as well: The sale of body parts is still a felony punishable by imprisonment in this country. But one has to wonder how long that will last. Our culture continues to slide further and further down into a very dark place, folks. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only hope for our survival.

Folks, we need to equip ourselves for the battle of and for our very lives and the lives of millions. If you want to be so equipped, click here.

The Lord’s Day or the Sabbath?

One of the most attractive teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination is their insistence that Christians must obey the Ten Commandments… all ten of them. They rightly expose the errant thinking among many Protestant Christian sects that claims, “We don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments anymore.”

One large problem here, of course, is Jesus does not concur:

And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” And [Jesus] said to him… “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:16-17).

The Catholic Church actually agrees with our Seventh-day Adventist friends on this particular point. In fact, we believe we must not only keep the Ten Commandments, but the commandments of Jesus, the Apostles, and the Church as well. Jesus gave us “a new commandment” when he said, “Love one another as I have loved you” in John 13:34. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus repeatedly said, “You have heard it said…but I say unto you…” (cf. Matthew 5:21ff). Of the apostles and by allusion the Church, Jesus said, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (Mt. 10:40; cf. Luke 10:16). And he said of the Church in particular, “If [anyone] refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you [the church] bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you [the church] loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:17-18).

Why Not Saturday?

While the Catholic Church agrees with Seventh-day Adventists that Christians are obliged to keep the third commandment—we do not agree the obligatory day of worship is on the seventh day for New Covenant followers of Christ. According to the New Testament, the Holy Day Christians are bound to keep cannot be the Sabbath because Colossians 2:16-17 says:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in regard to food or drink or in respect to festival, or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow (Gr.—skia) of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

St. Paul here indicates that the Sabbath is no longer binding on Christians. He calls it “a mere shadow.” It is interesting to note that the inspired author of Hebrews uses the same Greek word—skia, or, “shadow”—for the law and sacrifices of the Old Covenant that are no longer binding on Christians either. Hebrews 10:1 says,

For the law, having but a shadow (Gr.—skian) of the good things to come, and not the exact image of the objects, is never able by the sacrifices which they offer continually, year after year the same, to perfect those who draw near.

All Christians agree that the sacrifices of the Old Covenant were shadows of the one and true sacrifice of Christ. But many do not make the similar connection and see that the Sabbath was a shadow of its New Covenant fulfillment as well. A shadow presupposes the existence of that which is substantial in order for there to be a shadow.

Does this mean that the third commandment itself is a mere shadow? By no means! The Church teaches in agreement with Scripture that we must keep the Ten Commandments as I have said. The key is to distinguish the essential from the accidental concerning the third commandment. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in paragraph 2072:

Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human heart.

The third commandment is “fundamentally immutable” because it’s one of the Ten Commandments which Jesus said we must follow to attain everlasting life. However, the Scripture also tells us that the Sabbath is not binding. At this juncture we need to ask the question: What is it about the third commandment that is immutable and what is it that is accidental and therefore changeable?

The answer is found in the text I cited before from Colossians 2:16-17. Take note that St. Paul used the same division of “festivals” (yearly holydays), “New Moons” (monthly holydays) and “Sabbaths” (the Saturday obligation) that the Old Testament uses in I Chr. 23:31, II Chr. 2:4, 8:12-13, 31:3, and elsewhere, when referencing the Jewish holydays and Sabbath. Clearly, along with the yearly and monthly holydays, the Sabbath is included in what St. Paul calls a mere shadow. I’ll quote one of these examples here—I Chr. 23:31:

And the Levites are to stand in the morning to give thanks, and to sing praises to the Lord; and in like manner in the evening. As well in the oblation of the holocausts of the Lord, as in the Sabbaths and in the new moons, and the rest of the solemnities, according to the number and ceremonies prescribed for everything, continually kept before the Lord.

When St. Paul teaches Christians do not have to keep the Sabbath, he speaks of the days that were specific to the Jews. He is not saying—and does not say—that we do not have to keep any holydays at all. If we look at the context, St. Paul is dealing with Judaizers who were telling Gentile Christians they had to be circumcised, and keep the Old Covenant law that has passed away, which would include the Sabbath and other holy days, in order to be saved. Some Christians make the mistake of overlooking this fact when they use St.   Paul’s epistle to the Romans against keeping the third commandment.

As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables… One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord (Romans 14:1-6).

During the first few decades of Church history, the question of Jewish and Gentile relations to the Church and the law was a hot topic. As long as the Temple was standing, the Church gave much freedom in the area of attending the Temple and keeping aspects of the Old Covenant Law if you were of Jewish descent. You were permitted to do so as long as you did not hold that keeping the Sabbath and other holydays was essential for salvation. This text has nothing to do with the New Covenant Lord’s Day that we will speak of in a moment. It merely gives permission for Jewish Christians to observe the Sabbaths and dietary laws in their own private devotions.

Jesus is the Fulfillment of the Sabbath Rest

The bottom line is this: the Church agrees with Seventh-day Adventists, as Scripture itself indicates in Hebrews 4:9, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” However, the Bible clearly tells us that this “rest” being spoken of is not the Seventh Day. The “Seventh Day” was a mere shadow of a rest that only Christ could actualize. Let’s look at Hebrews 4:4-10:

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this place he said, “they shall never enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later of another day. So, then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for whoever enters God’s rest ceases also from his labors as God did from his (emphasis added).

This text seems to indicate that the Jewish “seventh day” has been superceded, or more properly, fulfilled, in “another day,” “a certain day,” that is a new “Sabbath rest for the people of God.” What day is this? Well, it certainly is not Saturday. But in Hebrews, it is not so much a day at all as it is in a person—Jesus Christ. In fact, the entire discussion of “the Sabbath rest” disappears into the discussion of our “great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God” (4:14ff).

The Church Connection

Many of my Protestant friends would leave the discussion right now saying, “There is no longer any such thing as a day that binds Christians in the New Covenant. See? Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath, not some day we have to go to church.” And they would be partially correct. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath rest in the sense that only he can give what the Sabbath symbolized. Only he can fulfill it. However, continuing on reading Hebrews we get some clues to indicate that it is not that simple.

In Hebrews 10:1-26 we see movement in a definitive way toward tagging on the Church as fulfillment of all which was merely shadow in the Old Covenant and not just Jesus Christ in the abstract. And this only makes sense when we understand that “the Church” is the body of Christ as Eph. 1:22-23 says. We begin in Heb. 10:1 and move down through 19 to 22 and then to verses 25 and 26:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come, instead of the true form of those realities, it can never… make perfect those who draw near…

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in the full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water…

not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

As Christians, we “enter into the sanctuary” through baptism—bodies washed with pure water—and the Eucharist—his flesh—but notice also the inspired author’s emphasis on meeting together in order to experience this life of the New Covenant. This most grave and “deliberate sin” he mentions in verse 26 most likely refers back to verse 25 as neglecting to meet together. In the context of Hebrews, the inspired author is speaking of those who were leaving the Church and attempting to be saved through the Levitical Priesthood and Temple sacrifices that in reality have no power to save. This was the central purpose of Hebrews. In fact, in 13:10 he comes out plainly and tells them, “We have an altar from which those who serve the [tabernacle] have no right to eat.” Those going back to the temple and mere “shadows” have no right to the substance which is Christ in the Eucharist.

But the important point for us right now is to see the essential nature of our “meeting together” as Christians. This is not an option according to Hebrews. This is mandatory.

Deduction, My Dear Watson, Simple Deduction

To summarize, we have these certain facts. First, Jesus commands us to keep the commandments. All ten of them! Second, we see that the Church, and gathering together as a church, is essential for Christians in order to be able to receive the sacraments that are essential for salvation. And third, the Sabbath is not mandatory for Christians.

Would it not seem to follow that there would be a day that is essential for Christians in order to keep the essence of the third commandment?

Granted, we know from Tradition the answer is yes. The day is Sunday, which we call “the Lord’s Day” (cf. Rev. 1:10). But we see this confirmed in many texts of the New Testament as well.

What day is this?

Whenever we see Christians meeting to worship the Lord, receive communion and/or to take up collections as Christians and apart from the Synagogue, it is either “daily,” or especially, it’s “on the first day of the week.” It is true that you often see St. Paul entering into the Synagogue on the Sabbath (cf. Acts 13:14-44; 16:13; 18:4). However, in each instance his purpose was to proclaim the truth about Christ to the Jews. These are not specifically Christian gatherings. But notice what we find in Acts 2:46:

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.

St. Paul and his companions attended the temple, but “the breaking of bread” occurred in the house “churches” of Christians. “The breaking of bread,” by the way, is a Eucharistic phrase in St. Luke’s writings. For example, when St. Paul was in Troas in Acts 20:7, we read: “On the first day of the week, when we gathered together to break bread…” Luke 24:30-31 records Cleopas and an unnamed disciples’ “eyes were opened” and they recognized Jesus “in the breaking of the bread.” And according to Luke 24:1, 13, this encounter just happened to be on the first day of the week! St. Paul never says, “On the Sabbath, when we gathered to break bread…” “The breaking of bread” in Luke 24 and in Acts 20 occurs on the first day of the week…

You’ll notice as well, that though there were no church buildings yet being built in the first century, Christians had already designated homes for “church” gatherings. In I Corinthians 11:18-23, we read:

For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you… When you meet together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God…For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it…

“The breaking of bread” was the focal point of the “church” gathering, just as it is for Catholics today. And, again, this was done especially on the first day of the week (cf. Acts 20:7).

The Sunday Collection

In I Cor. 16:1-2, we read:

 Now concerning the collections that are made for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, so do ye also. On the first day of the week let every one of you put apart with himself, laying up what it shall well please him…

St. Paul informs us that first-century Christians were meeting on Sunday for the collections. You know that’s church! It ain’t church without the collection! When you consider St. Paul had just spent the majority of six chapters correcting abuses in the church (see I Cor. 10:14-33; 11:1-22; 27-34; 12:1-31; 14:1-40), specifically, teaching about the proper ordering of authority “when you assemble as a church” (I Cor. 11:1-17), correcting more abuses in church gatherings, specifically with reference to the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:17-34), and teaching about the proper ordering and use of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ (I Cor. 12-13), specifically with reference to their usage in church (I Cor. 14).

It fits the context that St. Paul would be talking about the central gathering of Christians when he then teaches about “the collections” at church in chapter 16. Over these six chapters, St. Paul glaringly emphasizes the church and the church gathering except for chapter 15 where he teaches on the bodily resurrection of Christ and Christians. Considering the fact that Sunday is the feast of the resurrection, this is hardly a surprise! In all these chapters on the church and church gathering, the specific day that is given for the gathering is the first day of the week.

So, What about the Sabbath?

In saying “the Sabbath… has been replaced by Sunday” (CCC 2190), the Church does not dismiss the significance of the Sabbath. CCC 2175 reminds us, “Sunday is expressly distinguished from the Sabbath which it follows chronologically every week.” The Sabbath is acknowledged and respected for what it is… the Sabbath given to the Jewish people in the Old Testament. However, the Church distinguishes between the essential and immutable aspect of the Third Commandment as “the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship” (CCC 2176) and the “ceremonial observance” of that commandment which would be the day on which that commandment is observed (cf. CCC 2175).

The essence of the moral law cannot change. For example, God himself could not say, “Starting tomorrow thou shalt not commit adultery is going to read thou shalt commit adultery!” However, as Daniel 2:21 says, “[God] changes times and seasons.” God can certainly change a ceremonial law or an aspect of a law that is ceremonial. And that he did through the Church. “This practice of the Christian assembly [of the Sunday fulfillment of the essential truth of the Third Commandment] dates from the beginnings of the apostolic age” (CCC 2178). The apostles established this practice with divine authority.

Going Deeper—The “Eighth Day”

The Sabbath was given to man in the context of the consummation of the six days of creation. After the sixth day, man was then commanded to “rest” as God “rested.” The idea here is not that God was tired—He’s God! The Sabbath is an opportunity for man to both rest from the toil of labor and enter into God’s rest and peace.

In the New Covenant, “the Lord’s Day” is also given in the context of the consummation of creation. However, it is a new creation and a New Covenant that has fulfilled what the Old Covenant typified. Christ came to enable us to realize what we could not through the Old Covenant. In Christ and through the Eucharist—his flesh—(cf. Heb. 10:20) we truly “cease from our labors as God did from his” (Heb. 4:10).

It is no accident that John 1:1 parallels Gen. 1:1. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. All things were made through him” is a parallel to, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” When John 1:14 says, “And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” Christ becomes the beginning of a new creation. II Cor. 5:17 reads, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” It is precisely because of our participation in the death and subsequent resurrected life of Christ—“Awake O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light” (Eph. 5:14)—that Christians become participants in the “first resurrection” as Rev. 20:5-6 has it. We experience the power of “a new heaven and a new earth” (cf. Rev. 21:1), and we become partakers in “the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5) through Christ who is the beginning of the new creation. It is only right and fitting that we would have “another day” of rest to complete the new creation (cf. Heb. 4:8).

The earliest extra-biblical Christian writings extant present this truth of Christ being resurrected on what they called the “eighth day;” and thereby, he gave us “the Lord’s Day” as the fulfillment of the immutable commandment that is the Third Commandment. These earliest of the Church fathers taught that after the seven days of the first creation, Christ completed and fulfilled all that the first creation merely foreshadowed.  And when did this occur? Again, this would be on “the eighth day,” or Sunday.

To give you a sense of the antiquity of what we are talking about here, let us take a look at The Epistle of Barnabas, chapter 15 (written in the late first or early second century), says:

Finally [God] says to them: “I cannot bear your new moons and Sabbaths.” You see what he means: It is not the present Sabbaths that are acceptable to me, but the one that I have made; on that Sabbath day, which is the beginning of another world. This is why we spend the eighth day in celebration, the day on which Jesus both arose from the dead and, after appearing again, ascended into heaven.

This ancient Christian document is referring to Luke 24:1; 13; 29; 33; 50-51, and John 20:19, which present Jesus as himself being resurrected, ascending into heaven, and appearing to the apostles to empower them to forgive sins “on the first day of the week.” This first-century Christian writer is presenting what becomes a pattern in the New Testament.

Anyway, the Fathers of the Church understood this to be so from the very beginning of the Christian era. In his Epistle to the Magnesians 9, St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in AD 107, adds:

And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, “To the end, for the eighth day” on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ.

St. Ignatius here refers to a heading added by the ancient translators of the LXX before Psalm 6 and Psalm 12, each of which reads: “the Eighth Day.” It is not in the inspired text, but Ignatius’ use of it helps us to see the earliest Christian understanding of “the eighth day.”

St. Justin Martyr also makes clear that Christians worship one day after “the day of Saturn,” in his “First Apology,” chapter 67, written in AD 150:

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other  cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

Once we understand Christ’s resurrection on Sunday was truly the beginning of the new creation, “the eighth day,” we can understand what Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 106 taught:

By a tradition handed down from the apostles, which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day… appropriately called the Lord’s Day or Sunday.

Catholics actually keep the seventh day, in a sense, but from a different reference point—the reference point of the new creation that occurred on “the eighth day” or “the first day of the week” from the reference point of the first creation. As CCC 2176 says:

Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.

 Sunday, for Christians, is both “the first day” in that it is the first of the seven days of the first creation. And it is the “eighth day” in its being the inaugural of the new creation. Moreover, it becomes the “seventh day” from the perspective of that new creation. And all of this is so because it is the day Christ entered into his rest and the day the salvation of the world was secured—we could then become a new creation in Christ and enter in to the rest and peace of Christ.

The first creation and Sabbath comprised seven days. The new creation and Lord’s Day were consummated in one day. Sunday is then our day of rest. It is the day that we enter into the rest of God through our resurrected Lord. We then keep this, “the Lord’s Day” (see Rev. 1:10), holy every “seventh” day.

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