I recently began reading the New Testament again and noticed a verse that had not previously caught my attention. The verse is from the last chapter of Mark after Jesus’ Resurrection and appearance to Mary Magdalene but before His Ascension. The verse states, “After this, He appeared in another form to two [disciples] as they were walking into the country” (Mark 16:12, emphasis added).
When I saw that Jesus appeared to two disciples in “another form”, I immediately thought of the Eucharist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting the Council of Trent, teaches:
Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood (CCC 1376).
Accordingly, the Church teaches that at the consecration of the bread and wine offered at Mass, Jesus appears to us in another form.
God in Different Forms
Many non-Catholics criticize Catholics for their belief that Jesus is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist because the elements of bread and wine continue to look, taste, and have the effects of bread and wine after the consecration; namely, drinking too much of the Precious Blood can actually make someone drunk. However, while the effects of bread and wine remain, the critics fail to understand that Jesus is merely presenting Himself to us under another form.
In the Old Testament, God presented Himself numerous times under the form of fire (Exodus 3:2, 13:21), and the Holy Spirit descended from heaven “in bodily form” as a dove at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:22). Yet, the substance (that is, the essence) of these forms was God. Also, these forms behaved like the things they appeared to be in the natural world.
In Exodus 3, for example, the fire (God) burned the bush. In Exodus 13, the pillar of fire (God) gave the Israelites light during the night. In Luke 3, the dove (Holy Spirit) descended through the air on wings. Therefore, the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist can make one drunk because the outward form (wine) continues to function as the attributes of wine would naturally function, but like the previously mentioned forms, the substance is God (the Son).
The Form of the Resurrected Christ
Returning to Mark 16, on the day of Jesus’ Resurrection, He appeared in another form to His disciples. He looked different, but His substance was the same. Similarly, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus was “transfigured” (Matthew 17, Mark 9). The Greek word for “form” in Mark 16:12 is morphē, and the Greek word for “transfigured” is metamorphoō, which means to change form. Thus, in both incidents, Jesus changed form, but His substance remained the same.
In the more detailed account of Mark’s story, known as The Walk to Emmaus, Jesus appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, but they do not recognize Him. They have dinner together, and Jesus elucidates the Old Covenant law and prophets concerning Himself. He then takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them. “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24:32).
In the subsequent verses, the two disciples report what they experienced to the apostles and “how [Jesus] was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” The Lucan account makes clear the unmistakable association between the breaking of the bread, and Jesus’ change from His unrecognizable form to His being made “known” to His disciples.
Therefore, we can draw a few conclusions from these occurrences.
- God can appear in other forms without compromising His actual substance.
- The forms behave like the natural substances they appear to be.
- God the Son makes Himself known to His disciples and opens our eyes in the breaking of bread.
Further Biblical Witnesses
Although these occurrences only provide evidence for Jesus’ transformation of bread and wine into Himself, when we combine them with the following verses (and many others), we have unmistakable proof that Jesus not only can appear in other forms, but also that He does so.
- Jesus’ words (paraphrased) at the Last Supper, “This is my body/blood of the covenant.”
- His words in John 6, “Truly, truly, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood you have no life in you.”
- Paul’s words (paraphrased) in 1 Corinthians 10, “the cup of blessing which we bless and the bread we break, is it not a participation in the blood/body of Christ?”
Instead of denying what Scripture plainly teaches and the true Church of God consistently passes down, we must look past appearances and submit to the everlasting truth that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.