The Eucharist, Part 39: Catechism of the Catholic Church

Note: This is part of this series on the Eucharistic liturgy found in the patristics. The series is an expanded response to FishEaters’ “What the Earliest Christians Wrote About the Eucharist.”

The original liturgy:

The Roman liturgy:

Catechism of the Catholic Church

One of the big problems with Roman Catholics is that they are often mistaken about what their own church teaches. Though the Magisterium and the infallible pope are supposed to provide all of the correct beliefs, Roman Catholics are largely left to their personal efforts to try figure out what they are supposed to belief. This is demonstrated, in large part, by how readily they are to apply their personal opinions onto non-Catholics as if they were dead certain about what is orthodox or non-orthodox belief.

One of the strangest things I’ve found in online interactions with Roman Catholics is how they object to non-Roman Catholics citing what Roman Catholics actually believe.  They think, quite seriously, that I am lying about what I’m saying, even though most of what I argue comes from Roman Catholic sources directly. Indeed, a lot of what I say is acknowledged by the Roman Catholic Church itself. It’s not just the Catholic Encyclopedia…

The origin of the Mass
“The origin of the Roman Mass, on the other hand, is a most difficult question, We have here two fixed and certain data: the Liturgy in Greek described by St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165), which is that of the Church of Rome in the second century, and, at the other end of the development, the Liturgy of the first Roman Sacramentaries in Latin, in about the sixth century. The two are very different. Justin’s account represents a rite of what we should now call an Eastern type … The Leonine and Gelasian Sacramentaries show us what is practically our present Roman Mass. How did the service change from the one to the other? It is one of the chief difficulties in the history of liturgy.”

Citation: Adrian Fortescue, “The Origin of the Mass.” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol 9. (1910)

…that agrees with me that the Roman liturgy is not found early in the church, but it includes the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself. As we go over the section on the Eucharist, we’ll see a couple of cases that actually confirm a few things we saw in this series.


As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:

On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits. When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves . . .and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.

When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.

Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.

He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: ‘Amen.’

When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the “eucharisted” bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.

The CCC’s take on Justin Martyr is quite interesting. It acknowledges that what is offered are (2) prayers, praise, and thanks, which concludes with (3) a corporately spoken Amen. Many Roman Catholic apologists are completely unwilling to admit this! They might even call you a liar for pointing it out. Interestingly, the CCC acknowledges that the sacrificed bread is called the ‘eucharisted‘ bread.

Of course, the CCC doesn’t go far enough with this acknowledgment. What it fails to mention is that, in Justin Martyr’s work, the unconsecrated eucharisted—sacrificed—elements are only afterwards consecrated and not offered as a sacrifice. It just leaves this out, while acknowledging the rest of the important details.


The anaphora: with the Eucharistic Prayerthe prayer of thanksgiving and consecration – we come to the heart and summit of the celebration:

In the preface, the Church gives thanks to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, for all his works: creation, redemption, and sanctification. The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints, sing to the thrice-holy God.

In a stark comparison to the CCC’s acknowledgment of Justin Martyr’s thanksgiving—eucharist—this is a bald-faced lie. In terms of every thanksgiving described in the first 300 years of the church, this is a lie. The anaphora—which exists nowhere in scripture—combines the prayer of thanksgiving and the consecration into one. But in Justin Martyr (and many others), the sacrifice of thanksgiving was separate from the consecration. The already sacrificed “eucharisted” bread and wine were only thereafter consecrated. The “eucharistic” thanksgiving prayer was absolutely separate from the prayer of consecration (which included the words of institution) by the corporate “Amen.” The Oblation preceded—and was separate from—the epiclesis (or consecration).


From the very beginning Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need. This custom of the collection, ever appropriate, is inspired by the example of Christ who became poor to make us rich: [1 Cor 16:1; 2 Cor 8:9.]

Those who are well off, and who are also willing, give as each chooses. What is gathered is given to him who presides to assist orphans and widows, those whom illness or any other cause has deprived of resources, prisoners, immigrants and, in a word, all who are in need. [St. Justin, Apol. 1,67:PG 6,429.]

Now we go back to the CCC calmly noting that the original ‘eucharist‘ was a freewill thanksgiving offering of a tithe or gifts. Interestingly, it cites Justin Martyr as evidence. Even Roman Catholic apologists struggle to admit what the CCC just comes out and says.

Did you know that the Roman Catholic church admits that the ‘eucharist‘ is a thanksgiving offering of tithes? Sure, it argues that it is more than just that, but I’ve seen Roman Catholics completely lose their mind—spewing curses and insults—at the very suggestion that the thanksgiving includes tithes.

On the other hand, does any Roman Catholic church actually practice the collection of food for the poor as part of its thanksgiving? They certainly ask for money, but unlike food, money can be—and is—used for a whole lot of purposes other than helping the poor.

The crux of the issue is that in the first 300 years of the church, the thanksgiving was not a sacrifice of the body of Christ. There is a massive gap between Christ and the Apostles and the Roman Catholic Church.

The liturgy of the Eucharist unfolds according to a fundamental structure which has been preserved throughout the centuries down to our own day. It displays two great parts that form a fundamental unity:

  • the gathering, the liturgy of the Word, with readings, homily and general intercessions;
  • the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the presentation of the bread and wine, the consecratory thanksgiving, and communion.
If from the beginning Christians have celebrated the Eucharist and in a form whose substance has not changed despite the great diversity of times and liturgies, it is because we know ourselves to be bound by the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

This is the biggest lie the Roman Catholic Church has ever told its members. If this series has showed us anything at all, it is that the ancient liturgy of the first 300 years of the church is utterly incompatible with the Roman liturgy. The substance of the liturgy has indeed changed, and changed dramatically. In particular, the thanksgiving was not consecratory for 300 years.

Curiously, the CCC1356 says “If from the beginning…” as if there is some doubt that it really is from the beginning. I mean, sure, the evidence is overwhelming that it wasn’t that way from the beginning, but they clearly don’t want you to think that. This is such a deviously subtle lie. No Roman Catholic is going to read this and think “oh, the CCC isn’t sure if its Eucharist really is Apostolic.” And yet, there it is.

The presentation of the offerings (the Offertory). Then, sometimes in procession, the bread and wine are brought to the altar; they will be offered by the priest in the name of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice in which they will become his body and blood. It is the very action of Christ at the Last Supper – “taking the bread and a cup.” “The Church alone offers this pure oblation to the Creator, when she offers what comes forth from his creation with thanksgiving.” The presentation of the offerings at the altar takes up the gesture of Melchizedek and commits the Creator’s gifts into the hands of Christ who, in his sacrifice, brings to perfection all human attempts to offer sacrifices.

Many Roman Catholics claim that Melchizedek offered bread and wine, even though these were not sacrificed. Though the only thing that Melchizedek offered to God was praise:

Genesis 14:18-20
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Thus, many Roman Catholic apologists, including FishEaters in “The Eucharist” appear to be unaware that, according to the CCC, the gifts of bread and wine that Melchizedek presented were created things, that is, unconsecrated food offered to men. Logically, if Christ’s offering was of the same type as Melchizedek’s offering, then Christ had to be offering unconsecrated food—bread and wine—to men, not to God. In the face of transubstantiation, the analogy breaks down.

The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all “thanksgiving.”

The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ: he unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession, so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him, to be accepted in him.

Are you surprised to hear the CCC acknowledges the basic, essential nature of the thanksgiving?

The Roman Catholic error was adding onto this. Since the CCC already admits that during the first 300 years of the church, this was the thanksgiving, all we have to do is show that this was the only thanksgiving in that time. And we have done just that. The Roman liturgy is completely absent.

Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: “This is my body which is given for you” and “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.” In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

This is an invalid argument. It does not logically follow that being a memorial of a sacrifice makes it a sacrifice itself. Indeed, were this anywhere outside the CCC, such a statement would be understood for the absurdity that it is. Normal people, without ideological commitments, would see this for the irrational statement that it is: a memorial of a thing is obviously not the thing itself.

For the words of institution to carry a “sacrificial character” requires the prior acceptance that Christ’s offering of the bread and wine was a sacrifice. If, for example, we didn’t assume that Christ was offering the bread and wine as a sacrifice, then it wouldn’t follow that the words of institution had a “sacrificial character.” Thus, the CCC is obviously engaging in circular reasoning (i.e. begging the question).

The Roman Catholic response to this tends, in my experience, to say that it is a mystery, which is a massive cop-out.

The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:

[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.

That’s not what a sacrifice is. That isn’t how the Bible defines a sacrifice. That isn’t how the early church writers defined a sacrifice. Sacrifices do not make present other sacrifices by the fact of being a memorial of a sacrifice.

The CCC claims that the Eucharist is a sacrifice because it applies the fruit of a sacrifice. What this means is that the Eucharist is a propitiation for the remission of sin, something that no writer in the first 300 years of the church ever asserted. Such claims only emerged around 350AD. To defend its novelty, the CCC cites the Council of Trent from the 16th century.

Roman Catholic apologists like to say that even though the literal body and blood of Christ are being offered as a sacrifice to God, they do not actually re-sacrifice, they merely re-present. CCC#1366 is logically incoherent and an historical anachronism. The argument that Christ is being re-presented—which is the official belief—instead of re-sacrificed is based on a chain of invalid and incoherent reasoning. Labeling it something else—re-presentation—doesn’t keep it from being idolatry.


  1. Surfdumb

    Congratulations on your efforts.

    “The memorial of a sacrifice becomes a sacrifice. ”

    That’s an easily understood part of the flesh to do that. Examples are seen in scripture. I wish you could have had someone argue the Catholic side better. I didn’t see a response to my attempted counter argument on behalf of BtM. The “argument” was that since the ground Moses was standing on at the burning bush was made holy (and I think there are other similar examples), couldn’t the bread be made holy, and therefore treated the same as an actual sacrifice?

    OTOH, We are told to examine ourselves prior to partaking of it. If Paul thought it was an actual sacrifice, couldn’t he have spoken of it more plainly?

    1. Derek L. Ramsey

      “The “argument” was that since the ground Moses was standing on at the burning bush was made holy (and I think there are other similar examples), couldn’t the bread be made holy, and therefore treated the same as an actual sacrifice?”

      I am familiar with this argument, though it’s not a very good argument. Do you remember all the way back in Part 2: The Didache?

      “But let no one eat or drink of your thanksgiving [eucharistia], but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs.” Matthew 7:6 — The Didache

      Even the earliest of early writings identifies the thanksgiving offering as being holy. It’s not even a memorial at that point, it’s just a tithe. The tithe is holy.

      Remember how in Part 10: Origin, the unconsecrated bread represented a double-portion?

      Of course if the unconsecrated bread and wine are holy, so too must the consecrated bread and wine be holy. But how was it made holy? It was already holy when it was sacrificed. Indeed, it was holy before it was sacrificed. In Part 11: Cyprian, he described the holy gift of her tithe that a woman brought in a box, but she was turned away from actually offering the holy gift.

      The notion that only sacrificed things can be holy is…. not valid.

      “If Paul thought it was an actual sacrifice, couldn’t he have spoken of it more plainly?”

      I think what they want to say is that everything that is holy is, in some way, sacrificial (like praise, prayer, hymns, etc.). Sacrifice means “to make holy” so anything that is made holy is, by definition, a sacrifice.

      But that doesn’t make the bread and wine that Jesus served his disciples any more of a sacrifice than him washing their feet. Everything holy is a kind of sacrifice, but that doesn’t make the consecrated elements a special kind of sacrifice, that is, specifically a propitiatory sacrifice.

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