Eucharist, Bread And Wine - Modern Thoughts

Jesus lived for about 33 years. He breathed like all the rest of us, which means that He exhaled about 12 times every minute. In those exhalations were millions of molecules of water vapor and carbon dioxide, which came from food molecules that His Body had processed in order to live. Both the water vapor and carbon dioxide molecules which He exhaled have been in the Earth's atmosphere for two thousand years! They have had plenty of time to become distributed very universally EVERYWHERE (which science can easily prove). They have EACH certainly become used in the common process of photosynthesis which creates all the plants which grow and become our food. The amazing result of this is that atoms which had been part of Jesus' Body are certainly in EVERY Eucharist Wafer and also in EVERY sip of Sacramental Wine!

In a very true sense, when you swallow a bit of Eucharist Wafer or a sip of Sacramental Wine, you ARE very INTIMATELY interacting with the ACTUAL PHYSICAL body of Jesus Christ!

Science had not discovered atoms and molecules until a little more than a hundred years ago, and so for much of the existence of Christianity, their existence was not known.

For hundreds of years, there has been disagreement and controversy over the significance of the bread and wine of the Sacrament of Christian churches. Zwingli's symbolic/memorialistic viewpoint, Calvin's spiritual interpretation, Luther's understanding of actual physical manifestations, and the Roman Catholic Church's belief that the Sacrament actually physically becomes the body and blood of Christ, represent the major views. Other positions also exist. In a sense, they may all be correct!

At the time this argument first emerged (about 1520), knowledge of atoms and molecules didn't yet exist. Much later (in the 1800s) science recognized that all matter is made up of the incredibly tiny atoms and molecules. There is a sense in which this modern knowledge might help resolve the long-standing dispute.

It is generally accepted that Jesus lived about 30-33 years before He was Crucified. During that time, His human body grew and operated as our human bodies do. Specifically, He breathed, His fingernails grew, His hair grew and fell out and got replaced every 4 years or so, His skin cells aged and sloughed off, He sweated, His red blood cells were replaced about every hundred days, the cells of His digestive tract were continually replaced. His body's metabolism also continually managed many bio-chemical digestive and respirative reactions. When He exhaled, the carbon dioxide molecules and water vapor molecules in His breath, which had actually been chemically part of His body (as glucose and complex carbohydrate molecules), were released into the earth's atmosphere.

These various by-products of human existence really add up over a 33-year period. Even just the red blood cells, which we each create (and lose) at a rate of 3 million per second, becomes a substantial total over that period! (Around 100 trillion every year!) The total mass of hair, fingernails, toenails over a lifetime adds up to a few pounds. The total mass of skin cells and epithelial digestive tract cells adds more pounds of cells that Jesus' body naturally discarded during His lifetime. Even if we do not consider the enormous total mass of all the food eaten by Jesus during His 33 years, this still totals at least 15 (identifiable) pounds of organic material (and many hundreds of pounds of less identifiable components) that had ACTUALLY been part of Jesus' body and later became part of the soil of the Earth. Please note that we are NOT discussing the constituents of the FINAL body of Christ that was Crucified, which quite probably Arose to Heaven. We are considering atoms and molecules that had earlier been components of His body and had been released to the environment.

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A substantial amount of carbon dioxide and water vapor is in exhaled breath. We normally breathe an average of 12 times per minute, each breath of which averages around half a liter. That's six liters of air every minute. That's 360 liters of air per hour, or nearly 9,000 liters of air every day. In a 33-year lifetime, Jesus exhaled approximately 200,000,000 times! That totals around 100 million liters of air that was exhaled (around 3.5 million cubic feet, or 250,000 pounds, of air)! Air that is inhaled generally has around 0.04% carbon dioxide in it, but the air that is exhaled generally carries around 4.4% of carbon dioxide (saturated) with it (as is known by Dalton's Law of partial pressures). We will not pursue these (simple) calculations here, but it must be clear that there is a huge total amount of carbon dioxide (at least 11,000 pounds) that had actually been chemically part of Jesus' Body which was exhaled during His life. And that carbon dioxide was immediately part of the atmosphere, so that the winds and weather could spread those molecules around the world very quickly and thoroughly. We are talking about around 1.8 * 1026 molecules of carbon dioxide, a lot! Plants all over the world have and still do take in some of those carbon dioxide molecules in their photosynthesis processes which gets the carbon atoms to actually become part of each of those plants. Statistically, it is pretty clear that EVERY living plant on Earth today includes at least one atom of carbon that had once been part of Jesus' actual Body! Actually, MILLIONS! Any Bread or wafers made from any such plants are therefore even more Blessed than we generally realize!

In a warm climate like that in which Jesus lived, about 8 pints of water per day is carried away in the breath. Add to that about 3 pints of water lost by sweating. Of course, during the early days of His 12,000 days on Earth, He was a small child with less respiration. Still, this totals approximately 10,000 gallons of moisture given up to the atmosphere during His life! This is all water that was physically and chemically part of His Body, and which had left It as evaporated sweat and respiration. As noted above, the figures regarding the carbon dioxide in His exhaled breath are equally substantial.

That amount of water which had earlier been part of His body, and had left it prior to the Crucifixion, involves about 1.2 x 1030 molecules. Even when His Spirit arose after the Crucifixion, these water molecules remained on Earth. They joined natural atmospheric, surface, and underground water. Those molecules eventually found their ways into streams, lakes, oceans, and atmospheric clouds. Those molecules became dispersed and soon were in rain falling all over the planet (soon meaning within 60-100 years.) After a 2000 year period of such mixing, statistical analysis based on reasonable assumptions clearly establishes a very uniform distribution of those molecules today over the entire Earth.

Totaling up all the water on, in and above the Earth, there are about 2.8 x 1020 gallons or 3.3 x 1046 molecules of water in existence. Dividing indicates that in every single ounce of modern water, there are about 35,000,000 molecules of water which had at one time been part of the Body or Blood of Jesus! That obviously includes Sacramental Wine. That is, EVERY ounce of Sacramental wine ACTUALLY contains many of the same molecules which had flowed through the veins of Jesus when He walked the Earth!

(The author, a Pastor, finds this a staggering statement, but scientifically absolutely true!)

A first response is to say that this is ridiculous! Millions of molecules of Jesus in every ounce of water on Earth!?? The resolution of this amazing concept is related to just how tiny atoms and molecules actually are. If all 35 million could be put together in one corner of that ounce of water, it would still be an invisibly small amount. Actually, even if it was a million times that size, it would still be smaller than the smallest speck that could be seen with the naked eye! Even though it might seem that 35 million molecules should be a third or a tenth of all the molecules in that ounce, it is actually far less than a millionth of a billionth of it!

We have been discussing water here, but since Sacramental wine and every other liquid we drink is virtually entirely water, this argument applies equally to wine, soda pop, and fruit juice. Rainwater has been absorbed by every plant as well, so the discussion shows that many water molecules from Jesus' earthly existence have been incorporated into every grain plant and therefore every piece of Bread as well.

A similar statistical argument regarding His organic and mineral remains in discarded skin cells, fingernails, red blood cells, applies. Weathering parameters indicate somewhat less efficient distribution than for the liquid water or gaseous carbon dioxide. However, during a 2000 year interval, rather uniform distribution over the temperate and tropical portions of the Earth are assured. Most of those molecules likely remained within a few feet of the Earth's surface and certainly have been incorporated into the many grain plants which later become bread. Each Wafer and piece of Bread in the Sacrament DOES contain many molecules (450,000 is a reasonable estimate) which actually were parts of the organic body of Jesus.

Obviously, the religious discussions and arguments regarding the significance of the Bread and Wine have deep religious and philosophical implications. We have been discussing 'cold' statistical matters here. When Jesus made reference to the Last Supper's Bread and Wine as being His Blood and Body, He clearly meant something much more significant than some scientific, statistical argument about molecules. The point here is not meant to over-shadow those spiritual implications. It is merely meant to suggest that the intense division within Christianity regarding the physical/ spiritual/ symbolic meaning may be inappropriate. The Bread and Wine may have Spiritual and/or symbolic significance (commonly accepted today among various Protestants) AND also include a physical reality of material which had been part of Jesus!

Of course, this argument also establishes that EVERY modern drink of water or soda includes the Blood of Christ and every bite of food, the Body. The Bread and Wine are therefore simultaneously symbolic, spiritual, AND actual physical representations of the body and blood of Christ. When you pray to bless the food at dinner, think about these things, and you will feel even closer to Him during the meal! He probably finds satisfaction that this is the case.

Modern Christians should give reflection as to how close Jesus actually is in their lives each time they eat or drink. Maybe this realization would help them lean toward a closer relationship with Him.

When a Priest or Minister Blesses the Bread and Wine for a Eucharist Sacrament, all of the Holy implications are totally valid. This discussion is not meant to dilute that significance. It is merely to suggest that science has a positive contribution for our Faith!

First Published on the Web: Jun 29, 1997

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C Johnson, Pastor
A Christ Walk Church

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