This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “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; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. – John 6:50-54
Many who heard this thought He was speaking of cannibalism. As a result many disciples left. His eleven apostles, while gravely concerned, urged Him to stop those from leaving. Christ said to let them go. And asked the eleven: “Will you leave also?” Peter relied: “Lord, you have promised eternal life. Where should we go?”
Transubstantiation explains how the species of bread and wine, while maintaining their natural characteristics, become, in reality, the divine body and blood of Christ. This is accomplished during the Mass at the Consecration. It is NOT a symbol. If so, He would have said this is a symbol of my body and blood, rather than, this IS my body and blood given up for the expiation of sins.
How can man understand God? That is why Christ spoke in parables. In the crux of the story is found the truth. God’s shows Himself to us in an unspoken way of communicating. Nature and natural law reveals to us who He is.
How is it that we attain eternal life by consuming His body and blood? How does this move us to a higher level of life? To answer this, again, let us look to nature. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen shows it clearly in the following hierarchy of nature. Minerals in soil are absorbed up into plants and therefore achieve that higher level of life in dying to their present level of life. Plants then are consumed by animals and likewise achieve that higher level of life in dying to their former selves. Animals in dying to their level and being consumed by man attains that higher level. Consumption here then leads to consummation. The lower and higher life become one. And the lower gets the better of it. For in dying to itself it is elevated.
So, too, man in consuming the divine body and blood of the Christ dies to his human mortal limitations and faults. And thereby is raised to that level which Christ spoke of that drove so many away who did not understand. They did not understand because many are not fundamentally in touch with natural law and therefore not in touch with God. Christ in reverse manner sacrifices Himself to come down to us. He allows us to consume Him in divinity to become that highest form of life, as the other hierarchies were consumed to become higher. Here consumption also results in consummation. We become one with Christ. And we get the better for it, as well. For we, too, in dying to ourselves are elevated to eternal life with Him who is everlasting.
Faith will set us free we are told. And faith will truly free us from our present level of hierarchy of life to attain the promise of Christ; if we can only cast doubt aside and join our hearts and wills to His. Yes, it will take a sacrifice. We only need to look to the cross to see that that sacrifice is worth it.
Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. John 14:19