Catholicism and other branches of Christianity seem to think that eating bread which is thought to be the body of Jesus and drinking wine that is thought to be his blood is a way of allowing Jesus to live vicariously through you.  Whether the bread and wine is thought to represent the body and blood or be them does not alter this intention.  But Catholicism takes it to a new level by saying that you really eat and drink Jesus to let him live in you so that you act for him and not yourself.

The Odes of Solomon is a parallel to John 6 which at first glance seems to be saying we can eat the flesh of God in the form of bread and drink his blood as spiritual food.  That appearance is misleading.  Nobody has suggested turning milk into God!

A cup of milk was offered to me:
and I drank it in the sweetness of
the delight of the Lord.

The Son is the cup, and He who
was milked is the Father:

And the Holy Spirit milked Him:
because His breasts were full, and it
was necessary for Him that His milk
should be sufficiently released;

And the Holy Spirit opened His
bosom and mingled the milk from
the two breasts of the Father; and
gave the mixture to the world
without their knowing:

Ode 20 clearly refutes any notion of sacrifice in the Church and defines a priest as an offerer of goodness nothing else.  There is no sacrifice of the Mass theology here.

1 I am a priest of the Lord, and to
Him I do priestly service: and to
Him I offer the sacrifice of His

2 For His thought is not like the
thought of the world nor the thought
of the flesh, nor like them that serve

3 The sacrifice of the Lord is right-
eousness, and purity of heart and

4 Present your reins before Him
blamelessly: and let not thy heart do
violence to heart, nor thy soul to

The Odes express ancient tradition for they are quoted about 100 AD in the works of St Ignatius of Antioch who significantly did not have the gospels.

The Infallible Council of Trent taught in Session 13, Canon viii, Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, "If any one shall say, that Christ, presented in the Eucharist, is eaten spiritually only, and not also sacramentally and really; let him be anathema."  This implies that the sacrament is physically but undetectably changed from bread or wine into the body and blood of Jesus. 

What does Jesus mean when he tells us to eat his flesh and drink his blood in John 6?

The Catholics think he meant bread and wine could become his body and blood without any trace of a physical change. Some philosophy says that is possible but not all. Jesus gave no clear hint of such a philosophy. And you need that hint before you can take him in the Catholic way. It is not enough for somebody to say eat my flesh - it is too big of a leap to conclude that he meant bread that turns into his flesh.
Let us look at the interpretations.
Jewish tradition says the Law of Moses, the Torah, is the bread of life. A non-literal interpretation of the bread of life as meaning something different from communion then would have made sense to Jesus and his hearers.

Jesus did call himself wheat in another passage which cannot be in any way considered to refer to communion.  "Truly, truly, I tell you, unless the grain of wheat (o kokkoj tou sitou) falls to the ground and dies, it remains only one seed” (John 12:24). He talks solemnly as if he means it literally but he does not.  The seed does not literally die either.  And the seed that dies does not and cannot clone into a number of new seeds.  Anyhow the seed that falls is Jesus himself.  If Catholics had a tradition of swallowing a grain of wheat as if it were Jesus the text would be taken as literal!
Jesus in John 6 is saying we must assimilate his death for our sins. Christians hold that his death unites us to God for it pays the price incurred by our sins. Jesus speaks of his body and blood as separate thus indicating death. Eat my flesh and drink my blood is a poetic way of saying, "Accept the atonement I will make by dying for your sins." This fits the chapters insistence that the only "work" God wants from you is for you to give him your heart. That is to say, to have faith. Transubstantiation and sacraments and similar ideas contradict the gospel.
Some unorthodox Catholics believed that Jesus’ flesh was multiplied when communion was consecrated and it was really Jesus’ meat you sank your teeth into when you ate the wafer and the wafer is an illusion. It was literal cannibalism. God tricks the senses to make you think you are not eating real flesh just to make it palatable. In transubstantiation, God doesn’t use any illusions. The appearance of bread and wine is real but the substance has been changed into the body and blood of Jesus. The bread and wine are exactly the same as before and only what makes them bread and wine is changed. Anybody who believes that John 6 teaches that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus will not be able to refute the full blown cannibalistic doctrine from it. They will have no business claiming that transubstantiation is meant.
Transubstantiation says that the substance of the bread and wine becomes that of Jesus but that there is no other physical change contrary to the previous theory. The cannibalistic theory is a more credible interpretation because the Bible does not teach that a substance can change without there being a physical change.
Even if it could be shown that Jesus literally intended to feed people with his body and his blood the whole of John 6 which seems, at first glance, to record this desire wouldn’t prove transubstantiation. The reformers, Luther and Bucer, held that God could feed us with them without using a material sign to do it, in an invisible way. Catholics object that a substance cannot exist without accidents the appearances of which can be sensed. But it could have imperceptible ones or ones that we just cannot sense like a ghost. And surely if the appearances of bread can do without the substance of bread and have the substance of Jesus instead which is the substance of what is not bread then surely substance can exist by itself without accidents? This is implied by transubstantiation and is universally rejected as absurd for it means you have material that is not material at all so transubstantiation is absurd.
Calvin believed that we eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus spiritually. In other words, we assimilate the graces and benefits that the body and blood of Jesus won for us. When Jesus rose again from the dead this grace was so much in him that it was a part of him so to eat the grace is to eat him. If I have salt as a part of me and that salt is extracted and somebody eats it then that person can be said to be eating me or my flesh though no organic matter is consumed. We eat and drink by faith or commitment to Christ. There is no contact between the soul and the body of Jesus at all but only between the soul and the grace. Jesus certainly believed that his body and blood could not feed without faith. Even those who believe in transubstantiation claim that what they receive is spiritual food. The body is nourished by the appearances of bread and wine but the body and blood feed the soul spiritually meaning they transfer their merits and virtues to the soul for the soul is a mind that is not made of matter and it cannot eat the body of Jesus and drink his blood. So Jesus meant that to eat him is to spiritually absorb the power to be like him in holiness.

According to Catholics, "Jesus says we have to eat his body for it to be able to pass on the resurrection to us. It causes us to rise again on the last day. Eternal life does not mean mere immortality of the soul. It means that Jesus through his resurrection gives us resurrection too so we live forever body and soul." But God could raise you up without needing communion to do it. The notion that the body and blood of Jesus can feed you when you only need grace is absurd.
It is thought that because Jesus said that anybody who hears him will live because of him like he lives because of the Father that eat stands for have faith in him for he lived by faith in the Father. When he said that he who eats him will live by him in the same way as he lives in the Father he meant living by faith because Jesus’ spiritual life came by faith and so does ours and this faith gives us the presence of God in our hearts. He did live in the Father another way if he was God – the Father and he would have been one being. He did not mean that those who eat him will live by him the way he lives by the Father as in both being divine. He recited Psalms of faith and said they applied to him so Jesus had to live by faith like everybody else even if Jesus was God for he was true man. So eat means believe and open yourself up to God. The result of the nourishing is living in God by faith so faith is the food.
Tradition always said that a sacrament is a symbol that gives what it symbolises.
It said that baptism forgives sins for it represents the forgiveness of sins. But the water does not become the power of God to remove sins. In the same way, the Eucharist may be the body and blood of Christ sacramentally but not actually. In other words, it gives the benefits as if it were the body and blood of Christ which it represents so it is sacramentally the body and blood of Christ but in reality it is just bread and wine. A television program with a personal message from the president for you is not the president himself but it represents the president and is his sacrament to you. It’s exactly the same thing. Even if Jesus said we have to eat his body and drink his blood we do not know if he meant actually or sacramentally. Catholics say it is both which is not necessarily true. And it is quite unlikely that both are meant for the Catholic Eucharist is not a real sacrament for the symbols of Christ are replaced by Christ. A real sacrament is not what it represents but gives what it represents. Catholics like the wily Paul Whitcomb (page 37, Confession of a Roman Catholic) say it is mad to maintain that ordinary bread and wine could give the life of God. That is true if there is no God to pour power into you for eating and drinking. Nobody is saying that ordinary bread and wine can do that. But bread and wine that are literally Jesus can’t do it either. Bread and wine that can do it would need to be the sacramental body and blood of Christ not really the body and blood of Christ.
We see that the Catholic Church insists that the eating and drinking in the Eucharist of the body and blood of Jesus is spiritual which we learn from page 11 of the Catholic booklet, Is Jesus Really Present in the Eucharist? After insisting that John 6 speaks of eating and drinking Jesus in strongly realistic and materialistic ways in calling him real food and saying we must eat his body and drink his blood like the fathers fed themselves on manna the booklet goes: “Without in any way undermining the realism of the Eucharistic reception of Jesus the Gospel emphasises that it is a spiritual eating of the glorified body and blood of Christ, no longer subject to the same conditions as his earthly body and blood. St John is keeping a careful balance between two extremes: on the one hand, he gives a strongly realistic teaching on the eating and drinking of the Lord against any merely symbolic interpretation and yet, on the other hand, he highlights the mysterious spiritual nature of the glorified Son of Man against any cannibalistic understanding”. This is rubbish. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say we eat and drink the glorified body and blood of Christ. That would make no sense – really! glorified blood! we don’t think so! - and destroy the symbolism which has body and blood separated in death, the bread is separated from the wine indicating that. Plus nothing in John 6 is incompatible with cannibalism. The fact that the Church is forced to lie about the chapter proves it does not teach what it wants it to teach. Finally, what do we need the physical change of transubstantiation for when it is a spiritual eating? You would need a spiritual change. Many Protestants believe the bread and wine are spiritually the body and blood of Jesus while rejecting any physical change. As far as the soul is concerned the bread and wine contain spiritual food and grace.
Jesus says in John 6 that people must eat his body and drink his blood to be saved. Now the problem with transubstantiation is this. Both the bread and wine turn into the body and blood and soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. So it is as accurate to call the wafer the blood of Christ as it is to call the wine the body of Christ. It makes no difference what you call them. But Christian tradition has always called the wafer or bread the body and the wine the blood. They meant this symbolically and many later came to mean it literally. You might be your body but it is ridiculous to say that you are your blood. You might as well say that you are your urine or you are the apple you are after eating. When Jesus spoke of himself being our food and then said that we must drink his blood it shows that he was using metaphors. To take them literally makes a farce of his discourse.
He said he was the living bread given to be food for us. The eat body and drink blood stuff indicates that he is dead not alive. This is a clear hint that John 6 does not mean what Roman Catholics say it means.
The chapter says Jesus will give his flesh and blood for the world to drink but it does not clearly say he will die. Most think it is implied but is it? The last supper was clearly about death but this sermon is not. Jesus speaks of his body and blood as if they have been separated by death but don't forget he uses the present tense and the blood was in his veins.
In Revelation 19:17, 18 we read how an angel summons all the birds of the earth to the great supper of God and calls on them to gather themselves together. The supper consists of human flesh. It is stated to be the flesh of all humanity both small and great and even the horses that armies ride on. This great communion supper is evil and repulsive despite being of God. Such Eucharistic motifs indicate that God abominates the Eucharist. It virtually makes a caricature of it with nauseating horror overtones. It does not say that the birds did that there and then. It says the people of the world on their horses went to war against Jesus and many of them were thrown down alive into the lake of fire while the survivors were then eaten by the birds.
In Amos 5 God tells his people that he hates their feasts in his honour and their worship and takes no pleasure at all in their sacrifices to him. He says he will not even look upon their peace offerings. He tells them to stop their hymns. People enjoyed the worship but God didn't. Catholics who think their worship is good because it makes them feel good are being simplistic. God could still hate their worship. The godly cannot attend worship that is an abomination to God. It would be a betrayal.

Jesus said, He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me and I in him (John 6:56). As Emmanuel Swedenborg observed: That this is conjunction with Him, He also teaches elsewhere in John:--

Abide in Me and I in you, He that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit (John 15:4, 5, Apoc. 3:20).
Jesus said that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood "abides in me and I abide in him." He distinguishes between his flesh and blood and himself here. If Jesus abides in you as you abide in him, does it follow that he eats your flesh and drinks your blood too? If it does then whatever John 6 refers to it is not the Catholic Mass.
He says later that he who eats him will live because of him. But you would say that if you merely meant that somebody would eat your corpse. It does not prove that eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood refer to eating and drinking him alive as in Catholic Masses.
Jesus told people to abide in him though he had not given them any communion. It is not true that John really refers to communion.

Suppose John really does mean you eat the body of Jesus and drink his blood. John never says that Jesus will still have a human form while people eat his body and drink his blood! That is very important.  Nobody wants to read John as saying Jesus will vanish and take the form only of food and drink.  It is because Catholics think Jesus doesn’t physically move or look any different or feel any different when bread becomes his body that they think they make some sense of the doctrine of bread and wine changing into Christ's flesh and blood.  John's silence should be taken as proof that the eating of the body of Jesus does not mean what Catholics say it means.  But it is clear that whatever eating Jesus means it is necessary for salvation so the Catholic Mass giving the wrong way of eating is an abomination and a block to salvation.

The Catholic Mass in which an attempt is made to eat and drink Jesus is a human creation. Nothing more.

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