History of Eucharistic Adoration Up to 1264

Among Protestant and secular historians alike, there is a tendency to assert that the practice of Eucharistic Adoration is of high medieval origin. The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 is often targeted as the moment when belief in Transubstantiation was "invented", with all the Eucharistic devotions following afterward. While Lateran IV certainly defined Transubstantiation, we should not view this moment as a kind of external irruption of a concept foreign to Christianity. Rather, Eucharistic Adoration and all related devotions are grounded in principles that go right back to the Scriptures and the apostolic Church. In this article, we will examine the history of Eucharistic Adoration prior to the year 1264, which is the year the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted by Pope Urban IV. Far from being some sort of wild medieval novelty, it is a classic example of the Catholic idea of development of doctrine.

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Does Christ Die Again at Mass?

One of the most unfortunate misunderstandings about the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist is that it consists of sacrificing Jesus Christ again - that at every Mass Christ is continually killed, continually suffering, continually dying, day in and day out. This misconception is partially due to the malice of certain detractors, and partially to an honest confusion over the relation of the Mass to the Sacrifice of the Cross. The Catholic Church does teach that the Eucharist is truly a sacrifice, and that it is truly our Lord Jesus Christ; therefore it is not too much of a stretch for those unfamiliar with Catholic teaching to wrongly assume that we believe our Lord is being killed at every Mass. While it is beyond the scope of this article to give a comprehensive treatment of the theology of the Eucharist, let us at least lay this bugbear to rest by showing that the Church does not and has never taught that Christ is sacrificed again in the Mass, as well as elucidate the true Catholic teaching on this particular point.

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The Propriety of Eucharistic Devotions

In the history of sacramental theology, those who dissent against the Catholic Church's teaching on the question of transubstantiation but do not want to give up the idea of a Real Presence entirely have sometimes defaulted to a middle position that acknowledges a Real Presence but denies the logical consequences of affirming that Presence.  Sometimes the Presence affirmed is even described as a physical or bodily Presence, in order to find conformity with the Scriptural tradition of referring to the sacrament as the "Body of Christ", yet the ramifications of what the Presence of Our Lord's Body in the sacrament means are denied, especially the devotions that are proper to the sacramental presence of Our Lord's Body, such as reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, Eucharistic Adoration, and Corpus Christi processions. Many Christian denominations teach a "Real Presence" of Christ in the sacrament, but only the Catholic Church retains the aforementioned devotions.

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Nicola Aubrey: The Apologetical Exorcism

In the Book of Acts, we read that some Jewish scribes, in attempting to exorcise a powerful demon in the name of Jesus, found that their attempts to use the name of Christ were futile, because they themselves had not embraced the Gospel and were not part of the Church. The Bible states: "And certain of the Jewish exorcists also, who went about, took in hand to call upon those who had wicked spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, I adjure you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches. And there were certain [men], seven sons of Sceva, Jewish high priest, who were doing this. But the wicked spirit answering said to them, Jesus I know, and Paul I am acquainted with; but you, who are ye?" And the man in whom the wicked spirit was leaped upon them, and having mastered both, prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded" (Acts 9:13-17). It is not enough to confess the Name of Jesus; one has to be incorporated into Christ, and to the Church, which is His Mystical Body. In more recent times, this truth has been exemplified in the marvelous case of Nicola Aubrey, a possessed girl in Vervins, Picardy in France. The events narrated below took place on the eighth of November, 1565, and lasted until the eighth of February, 1566 and were witnessed by thousands.

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Stercoranist Objections

It is one of the more crude objections to the doctrine of the Real Presence, but it remains an objection nonetheless and as such must be answered. The crude objection I am referring to is the assertion that if the bread and wine of the Eucharist truly become the real Body of Christ, then this would subject our Lord's Body to the humiliation of being subject to the full rigors of the digestive process, meaning eventually that parts of our Lord's sacred Body would inevitably be passed through the bowels and ejected as bodily waste through the process of defecation. This belief was called Stercoranism. A difficult thought for a believer to entertain, but it was a real objection some lodged against Transubstantiation, and once you think about it, it does have a certain internal logic. If we confess that what we put into our mouth is in fact the real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, then it seems to be logical that the sacramental Body would undergo the same processes as all other food that goes into the mouth, including final ejection of parts of it into the toilet about eight hours later. Fortunately this gruesome speculation has no truth to it, as we will see in this article examining the origin and answers to the objections posed by the Stercoranists.

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"Flesh" and "Eating" in John 6

If you have ever dialogued with Protestants about the comments the Lord makes about Himself in John 6, you have probably come across the objection that when Christ says "eat My flesh" He is using figurative language, similar to when He says "I am the Door" or "I am the True Vine." There certainly are times when our Lord speaks figuratively, but is John 6 one of those places? Much hinges on this question, since upon it depends our interpretation of the place of the Eucharist in Christian theology. Fortunately, we do not need to rely solely on our own opinions or interpretive traditions for the answer. The Greek itself gives us some very interesting insights into what our Lord meant when He said, "My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink."

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Does transubstantiation happen in time?

The perennial teaching of the Catholic Church on the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass (transubstantiation) is that, after the consecration, the substance of the bread and wine have truly been replaced by the substance of the Body of Christ - His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The change is full and complete; no part of bread or wine remains after the change has been effected. This is contrary to the doctrine of consubstantiation affirmed by the Lollards and later by Luther, whereby the substance of the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine, which remain present.

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Is the Eucharist cannibalism?

It does not happen to often, but once in a great while I run into the cannibalism argument against the Eucharist. It is an interesting argument, but if the person you are talking with actually accuses Catholics of practicing cannibalism, then it demonstrates that he at least understands the seriousness with which we say that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, even if he does get the particulars wrong; at least he understands that we take the phrase "Body and Blood" seriously.

So, what do we respond when somebody attacks the Holy Eucharist on the ground that to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus would be cannibalism?

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