Do you feel that you have to go to a church to visit Jesus? From a Catholic perspective, the church is the ONLY place where you can actually visit Jesus, present in the Eucharist. This article Why "visiting" Jesus is a great Catholic tradition by Larry Pteterson, explains it. While we see no harm in this belief or fault in those who embrace it (because in the end, it is our intentions that matter most), we are so very grateful for the teachings of The Urantia Book, that assure us that Jesus is present within us ALWAYS - no matter where we go; not only that, but celebrating communion with others has less to do with notions of consuming Jesus' body and blood, and everything to do with the fellowship of believers who remember and celebrate the Master. We'll blog further on these topics, but here are a few snips from the article:
"Growing up and going to Catholic school, we had religion class every day. One thing we all learned about was the "Real Presence." There was no doubt in our minds that inside the church, Jesus was truly present "body and blood, soul and divinity." He was inside the tabernacle, and He was waiting for us to "visit" Him. The phrase, "I'm going to pay a visit," needed no explanation.
"[This is] a natural expression of our faith that the Eucharist is Jesus, and that within the tabernacle, we find His Real Presence.
"If that is what we believe, then it is natural that we should want to pop in to visit with Him now and again … in fact, as often as possible."
Click to read the article
I, too, was raised in the Catholic faith, and so this article brings back some sweet memories...and because I consider the Church as a part of the "cocoon" that The Urantia Book talks about in regards to the future of the kingdom, I have no desire to ridicule or denigrate the customs and age-old rituals upon which it is based. Nevertheless, this is the age in which much of the so-called sacred is being examined and questioned by truthseekers. When I read an article such as the one above, it seems a good opportunity to invite any who are willing to embark upon that examination, too.
For those who are perfectly happy with the notions expressed in the article, this blog may not appeal...but for those who seek for more, this examination may be a healthy enterprise whose end result will be a closer walk with God.
I left the church in my twenties and it was a difficult separation, largely due to teachings just like this one outlined in the article above. I still believed in Jesus, but from a distance, because I had no way then to bridge the gap that I now assumed existed between me and God - and Jesus.
It was not until I discovered The Urantia Book that these issues were corrected and that I was able to establish a whole new relationship with the Divine. Part IV of The Urantia Book - the Life and Teachings of Jesus is a lifeline to Jesus, especially to those who feel disenfranchised.
The Church teaches that it is the one true church; challenging that assertion an be fraught with angst and requires an unwavering faith in the ultimate goodness and mercy of God, and that faith was rewarded richly. I wanted to find the "small c" catholicism (catholic meaning "universal"), an idea that to me, honors what Jesus taught. I believed then and know now, that his was not a mission for only a chosen few, but for all.
(NOTE: For this blog I will only write about Jesus, as Jesus plainly said more than once "He who has seen me has seen the Father." When we talk about one, we talk about both.)
When the faithful go to a church to visit Jesus, is that what the Master intended? Did he teach that his followers would only find him in a church building?
Is Jesus pressent in the tabernacle?
In order to explore this idea, we have to have a discussion of exactly what it is that the faithful are visiting when they visit Jesus in church. For those who may not know Catholic argot, I will try and enlighten you about some of it.
In short, it is through the consecration process during Mass (called transubstantiation) that the change from bread and wine to Jesus' body and blood is said to happen, and then any extra wafers are placed in a chalice, or cup, and locked away in the tabernacle, in case some are needed for emergencies, like for a sick or dying person. But there they sit, in the dark, waiting to be needed again.
The "monstrance" (mentioned in the article above) on the other hand, is a large, usually ornate stand with a flat center cavity into which is placed one large wafer that has been thus consecrated so that it can be displayed. It is this monstrance that the faithful may come and worship (or "visit") at special times. Of course, it is thought that Jesus is present in the wafer.
This idea of Jesus being trapped 1) within numerous baked bread wafers, 2) in a chalice, 3) inside the closed doors of a tabernacle (in reality a small, ornately decorated box often covered by a cloth, on top of an altar), 4) set apart from the congregation, and 5) inside of a church building, seems strange to me now, as does the idea of his actual body and blood being present.
The idea of the Mass being a sacred ritual in which the body and blood of Jesus is somehow miraculously produced, to be consumed into a physical body, is an idea that was not originated by Jesus at the Last Supper; this concept was grafted onto the gospels decades after Jesus left the earth. In the very early days after Jesus left the earth, services were held in peoples' homes, and remembrance suppers were common then:
194:4.8 In these days they celebrated the Lord's Supper after the manner of its establishment; that is, they assembled for a social meal of good fellowship and partook of the sacrament at the end of the meal.
The NT gospels as we have them today "were affected by their subsequent espousal of Paul's theology of Christianity." And for Paul, the atonement was a key element of belief. Thus, the "sacrificial" nature of Jesus - or, the atonement doctrine - was added to this simple celebratory supper to reflect that belief.
The events of the Last Supper and the reenactment of that momentous supper throughout the ages has become a ritual that is healing to many, but it is also a ritual that is exclusive to the faithful of the church, and denied to certain others who are deemed unworthy according to church teachings.
How did it get to be that way? Is that what Jesus intended?
The Urantia Book explains:
The following passages are taken from Paper 179: The Last Supper
179:5.4 In instituting this remembrance supper, the Master, as was always his habit, resorted to parables and symbols. He employed symbols because he wanted to teach certain great spiritual truths in such a manner as to make it difficult for his successors to attach precise interpretations and definite meanings to his words. In this way he sought to prevent successive generations from crystallizing his teaching and binding down his spiritual meanings by the dead chains of tradition and dogma. In the establishment of the only ceremony or sacrament associated with his whole life mission, Jesus took great pains to suggest his meanings rather than to commit himself to precise definitions. He did not wish to destroy the individual's concept of divine communion by establishing a precise form; neither did he desire to limit the believer's spiritual imagination by formally cramping it. He rather sought to set man's reborn soul free upon the joyous wings of a new and living spiritual liberty.
179:5.5 Notwithstanding the Master's effort thus to establish this new sacrament of the remembrance, those who followed after him in the intervening centuries saw to it that his express desire was effectively thwarted in that his simple spiritual symbolism of that last night in the flesh has been reduced to precise interpretations and subjected to the almost mathematical precision of a set formula. Of all Jesus' teachings none have become more tradition-standardized.
179:5.8 And this mighty occasion took place in the upper chamber of a friend. There was nothing of sacred form or of ceremonial consecration about either the supper or the building. The remembrance supper was established without ecclesiastical sanction.
When one lays bare the age-old "almost mathematical" and precise ritual of the Mass and then reads the actual events that inspired it, preserved by angelic eyewitnesses, and given to us in The Urantia Book...then one is delighted to discover that Jesus is present at ANY remembrance supper, regardless of where it's performed, regardless of who partakes...
The narrative of Jesus' life in The Urantia Book presents the events of the last supper as a familial, traditional Passover supper, minus the lamb and with bread and wine. But Jesus made it into a touching occasion that could be repeated by the apostles after he left them - a simple remembrance of him that might cheer them in the days to come. And he left it for those of us who also want to share in that poignant and touching communion with our Master. In the Urantia Book teachings about it, we understand the real significance and power of its simple, inclusive procedure:
179:5.6 This supper of remembrance, when it is partaken of by those who are Son-believing and God-knowing, does not need to have associated with its symbolism any of man's puerile misinterpretations regarding the meaning of the divine presence, for upon all such occasions the Master is really present. The remembrance supper is the believer's symbolic rendezvous with Michael. When you become thus spirit-conscious, the Son is actually present, and his spirit fraternizes with the indwelling fragment of his Father.
And so we see that all of us mortals - even those of us who are un-churched - have the prifvilege of the Master's presence with us when we thus remember him in communion.
If we wish to inaugurate a remembrance supper alone, or with others, we are assured that Jesus is really present, if we are "Son-believing and God-knowing." We don't have to go into a special building, or consult priests or other intercessors. We can do this communion with Jesus any day, if we wish, and enjoy the real presence of God, through Jesus.
Where IS Jesus, anyway?
Again, the teachings of Jesus in this reagrd and the inspiring restatement of the Master's life in The Urantia Book show the reader the true nature of the Remembrance Supper, among many other events. Also through its teachings one discovers that Jesus was not speaking metaphorically when he promised to send a new Teacher after his death and resurrection. As he was truly, physically present on the earth in his day and time, on the day of Pentecost he became truly, but SPIRITUALLY present in the minds of all humanity.
Pentecost made the real presence of Jesus a universal fact for every individual for all time. And Pentecost was the very day that Jesus ascended to the Father. The Urantia Book tells us that he vanished from the earth about 7am and at 1PM, the Spirit of Truth was bestowed on all mankind - the Comforter that Jesus promised at the last supper:
179:5.9 When Jesus had thus established the supper of the remembrance, he said to the eleven: "And as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me. And when you do remember me, first look back upon my life in the flesh, recall that I was once with you, and then, by faith, discern that you shall all sometime sup with me in the Father's eternal kingdom. This is the new Passover which I leave with you, even the memory of my bestowal life, the word of eternal truth; and of my love for you, the outpouring of my Spirit of Truth upon all flesh."
More about Pentecost
The following passages come from Paper 194: Bestowal of the Spirit of Truth (I have added some bolding)
194:3.5 On the day of Pentecost the religion of Jesus broke all national restrictions and racial fetters. It is forever true, "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." On this day the Spirit of Truth became the personal gift from the Master to every mortal.
194:3.6 Do not overlook the fact that the Spirit of Truth was bestowed upon all sincere believers; this gift of the spirit did not come only to the apostles. The one hundred and twenty men and women assembled in the upper chamber all received the new teacher, as did all the honest of heart throughout the whole world. This new teacher was bestowed upon mankind, and every soul received him in accordance with the love for truth and the capacity to grasp and comprehend spiritual realities. At last, true religion is delivered from the custody of priests and all sacred classes and finds its real manifestation in the individual souls of men.
194:3.10 The bestowal of the Spirit of Truth was independent of all forms, ceremonies, sacred places, and special behavior by those who received the fullness of its manifestation. When the spirit came upon those assembled in the upper chamber, they were simply sitting there, having just been engaged in silent prayer. The spirit was bestowed in the country as well as in the city. It was not necessary for the apostles to go apart to a lonely place for years of solitary meditation in order to receive the spirit. For all time, Pentecost disassociates the idea of spiritual experience from the notion of especially favorable environments.
94:3.18 Pentecost was designed to lessen the self-assertiveness of individuals, groups, nations, and races. It is this spirit of self-assertiveness which so increases in tension that it periodically breaks loose in destructive wars. Mankind can be unified only by the spiritual approach, and the Spirit of Truth is a world influence which is universal.
Jesus often spoke in parables, he suggested things and meanings, but he did not ever indicate that this remembrance supper was to in some way be a substitute for his presence, or in some way elevated through ritualistic movements and prayers to a miraculous "transubstantiation" (or changing) of bread and wine into his body and blood. Rather, he promised a true spiritual representatiion of himself which was delivered on Pentecost - the Spirit of Truth. This good spirit is truly a democratic presence, present with ALL sincere of heart throughout the world.
And so, when we want to visit Jesus, we need go no further than a thought. As the spirit of the Father indwells our minds, so Jesus' Spirit of Truth works with that good spirit; and together with the presence of the Holy Spirit we are blessed by all three of these Divine presences in our minds and hearts working for our good at all times, no matter where we are. They are ALWAYS available.
194:2.11 Since the bestowal of the Spirit of Truth, man is subject to the teaching and guidance of a threefold spirit endowment: the spirit of the Father, the Thought Adjuster; the spirit of the Son, the Spirit of Truth; the spirit of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit.
If you have gotten this far, dear reader, thank you. Having been raised a Catholic, I understand the pull of the Church; I still feel wistful at times about losing it, as it was a huge part of my early, formative life. And there is a mysterious grandeur in its rituals, but those rituals are shrouded in exclusivity, man-made rules, and crystallized theology in which a truly dynamic and personal relationship with Jesus was not taught, except through conformity with church law. In my view, Jesus fought throughout his ministry to overcome just such ecclesiastical tyranny in HIS church - the Jewish religion.
After leaving the church, I found myself in a strange, Godless wilderness for a time, only to be rescued by the enlightened teachings of The Urantia Book, which returned me to Jesus, and Jesus to me...but on a whole new and beautiful foundation of understanding and love. I do not wish to bash the Church; my only intent is to inform and share with those who search for more of Jesus some new and thrilling ways to do that, using the matchless teachings of The Urantia Book as a guide. Not everyone is minded to make this search, but if you are, you have found a treasure in the teachings of The Urantia Book.
In an age to come I have hopes that the Catholic church may be able to attract ever more followers by adapting the Master's simple remembrance supper to include everyone at the Lord's table - thus becoming truly "small c" catholic, which, in the true definition of the word means "universal."
Please visit the links (in blue) that I have sprinkled through this blog for more information about these ideas, and for the best read of your life, see THIS LINK.