The position of a priest in Catholic doctrine
According to Catholic doctrine, a priest is Jesus’ representative on earth. Each priest is a male (as females are not allowed) embodiment of Jesus and fulfils the role of the overseer of the sacrificial events known as sacraments, that form part of the daily rituals of the Catholic Church. The priests of Catholicism take on the same role as the Jewish priests who oversaw the animal sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem. Catholicism which of course has its roots in Judaism, extends the sacrificial ritual to the body of Jesus.
Jesus' representatives on earth?
Each day, the Catholic Priest celebrates the sacrifice of the lamb, who is Jesus. The body (bread) and blood (wine) of that lamb is eaten and drunk in the religious service known as the Eucharist. It is the declared doctrine and belief of all Catholics, that the eucharistic ingredients of bread and wine, literally represent the body and blood of Jesus and miraculously transform into such when consumed.
The sacrifice takes place in this way:
Having blessed the bread and wine, the priest is the first to eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood. He then offers the same opportunity to the congregation. The participants come before the alter and traditionally open their mouths while the priest places a piece of bread on the expectant tongue and then offers the chalice filed with wine for the recipient to drink – although the priest still hangs on to it. The priest then wipes the rim of the chalice and the process is repeated for each participant. Although the wine is always taken in this way, it has been possible for some time for the bread to be placed in the cupped hands of the recipient who can then feed themselves.
The Pope breaking bread at Mass...the body of Jesus?
The Doctrine of Transubstantiation
According to Catholic doctrine, the bread and wine are not symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, but the actual body and blood. Each is miraculously transformed at the moment of consumption. This is known as the doctrine of transubstantiation and is the defining difference between the doctrine of the Catholic Church and all other Christian denominations throughout the world, who declare that the bread and wine to be simply symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood. If you do not believe in the doctrine of substantiation, you are not a Catholic. Hundreds of thousands of people have been persecuted, tortured and murdered throughout history in the enforcement of the doctrine of transubstantiation. The eucharistic sacrament is at the very epicentre of Catholic Doctrine and faith.
The importance of saliva and physical contact
If we are to believe what is written in the Christians’ Gospels, an important feature of Jesus’ ministry was healing. To Christian fundamentalists, the miracle healing stories are actual historical events and to others simply metaphors. Nevertheless, the importance of physical contact and intimacy is crucial to the process:
“They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly”. (Mark 8:22-26)
The importance of physical contact and faith, therefore, is crucial to the healing process in the Christians’ Gospels. Here are some further examples:
“While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live” (Matthew 9:18) and (Mark 5:23).
“And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” (Mark 6:5)
A depiction of Jesus, again, healing a man by touch
“They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him.” (Mark 7:32)
“When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.” (Luke 13:13)
The woman who suffered from hemorrhages was healed by touch - Mark 5: 25-34
“Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5: 25-34)
The Synoptic Gospels are littered with miracles involving the restoration of health to those who are suffering from diverse ailments. In each instance where Jesus is involved, he attributes the cure not to himself, but to the faith of the person who is healed. I wonder what Jesus would think of the recent guidance issued by the Archdiocese of Chicago:
“On Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Chicago issued guidelines that it said were based on guidance from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Divine Worship. The guidelines include the requirement for priests, deacons, altar servers and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to wash their hands before Mass begins and to use an alcohol-based, anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion. In addition, priests must thoroughly wash with soap and hot water all vessels used at Mass, once they are purified ritually after Communion. The Precious Blood is not to be distributed, and reception of the Host in the hand is encouraged. “Given the frequency of direct contact with saliva in the distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue, every consideration should be given by each individual to receive Holy Communion reverently in open hands for the time being,” the guidelines say. In addition, parishioners are to refrain from physical contact during the Sign of Peace and during the Lord’s Prayer and to refrain from using holy water fonts. “Faithful who are sick or are experiencing symptoms of sickness are not obliged to attend Mass, and out of charity they ought not to attend,” the guidelines conclude”.
Here is what Jesus reportedly said about the religious establishment of his time:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence”... (Matthew 23:25)
What do you think?