“I.1. First let us see what estimate of their Lord’s power they must have formed by witnessing his actions. They had seen him cure every species of disease and deformity; such as restoring a withered limb to life and vigor. Three times, if not oftener, they had seen him raise the dead to life; in one instance, where decomposition must have taken place; consequently where a change of matter from one state to another must have been effected.
But there were some miracles still more calculated to make them very timid in drawing the line between absolute impossibility to their Lord, and power over the received laws of nature. For instance, gravitation is one of the properties universally attributed to bodies, and is closely allied, in reality and in conception, with our notion of extension. Yet the apostles had seen the body of Jesus, for a time, deprived of this property, and able to walk, without sinking, on the surface of the waters.
They had seen him, in another instance, actually change one substance into another. For at the marriage-feast at Cana, he completely transmuted, or, if you please, transubstantiated water into wine. It would require a very fine edge of intellect to distinguish in mind between the possibility of making water become wine, and the impossibility of making wine become blood. Such men as the apostles, at least, would not have made the distinction, if it existed, the basis of any interpretation of their Master’s words.
Upon two other occasions they had witnessed him controlling still more remarkably the laws of nature, and that in a way likely to influence their ideas of his omnipotence to such an extent as would not allow them to use the notion of impossibility or contradictoriness for interpreting any thing he might ever teach. I allude to the miracles whereby he fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes, and four thousand with seven loaves. For, according to the simple narrative of the Evangelists, it does not appear that the multiplication of the loaves took place by an addition to their number, whether through the creation of new matter, or by its being miraculously brought from some other place, but by actually causing the same substance, the very loaves, to be the nourishment of many individuals. The miracle is never described as consisting in an increase of number, but in a sufficiency of what existed; the fragments are not spoken of as additional pieces, but as part of that very bread, of those very loaves, which had been broken, distributed, and eaten by the multitude. Now you may explain the phenomenon as you please, so as to bring it into accordance with our supposed laws of nature regarding substance, extension, and matter’s being in more places than one at a time; but the witnessing of such acts as these must have gone a long way towards weakening the confidence of simple-minded men in any distinctions between one interference and another with the laws of nature, such as they might have ever imagined, and must have left them very little qualified, and still less disposed, to make them the basis of their reasoning, when trying to reach the sense of his doctrines who had performed these works.
Such, then, were the apostles; and such were the notions of their Master’s power, suggested by what they had seen him perform; will any one believe that they would have used, to interpret his simple words, ‘ This is my body,’ any idea of the impossibility of their literal import; — an idea of impossibility to be grounded necessarily on the conception of their being at variance with the laws of nature, in a totally different manner from the other miracles which I have described? Can we suppose that the apostles would think, ‘It is true that he once changed water into wine; it is true that he deprived his body of gravity; it is true that he multiplied a few loaves, so as to satisfy a crowd; but the change here proposed, the destruction of the essential qualities of the body, the multi-presence of one substance here designated, meets the laws of nature at a point so nicely different from the former cases, that here we must, for the first time, doubt whether his power can so far, and must understand him figuratively?’ And if the apostles, after his resurrection, reasoned on this matter, would this conclusion, supposing it to have been drawn, have received any confirmation from having seen and known that the body, on which all this learned reasoning had been made, was able to pass through closed doors, and even penetrate the stone vault of the sepulcher, to the utter discomfiture of all reasoning on the boasted incompenetrability, as it is called, of matter?”
– Nicholas Patrick Wiseman, The Real Presence* –
– Lucas G. Westman
Note: This passage is taken from the book, The Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Eucharist: Proved from Scripture, in Eight Lectures, Delivered in the English College, Rome, by Nicholas Patrick Wiseman, Pg. 232 – 235