I am a Bible following Christian who follows more or less a baptist way of thinking. Recently my husband decided to make our family Catholic and I am really struggling with “mass”. I have a few questions. Can you guide me to some scriptures that support making the sign of the cross every time they pray? One thing my husband insists on is that when Jesus is talking to the disciples in Mathew he uses figurative examples and then explains the literal meaning every time except when talking about the body and blood. He claims this is the reason for the real presence in the Eucharist. Any advice?
This is tricky territory. Being married to a person of different faith will always be difficult. I believe that it can be harder for the wife than for the husband in many societies, as women are instructed, to the extent that they can, to be submissive to their husbands. Where does submission to Jesus and his Word end and submission to a husband begin? This is not an easy thing to work out.
There is no biblical evidence for anything even approaching the Catholic “mass.” The mass, as celebrated in Roman Catholic churches is a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Jesus. In Roman Catholicism, the “eucharist” is a sacrifice rather than what it is biblically, which is a remembrance (Jesus said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24). It is a celebration, a sharing, and an opportunity to declare together the saving work of Jesus on the cross, but the Lord’s Supper, as initiated by Jesus Christ is not a sacrifice, and it certainly is not performed by a priest (unless by this “priest” one means any believer, as, biblically, all Christians are priests 1 Peter 2:9).
Obviously, you know that there is no biblical evidence for making the sign of the cross. This is a kind of superstitious action, with no support whatsoever in the Bible. However, I would argue that this tradition is not a salvation issue, so I personally would refuse to take part in such a tradition which borders on superstition, but I would not make an issue of it with my husband if I were with you. I would simply gently remind him that this is a tradition of his church, but it is not found in the Bible, or even suggested in the Bible, which is why you do not indulge in this action. However, as you husband, you will support to the best that you can what he does.
So, the Catholic belief in needing a priest to sanctify the bread and wine is not biblical. In fact it is anti-biblical. The idea of sacrament—where the performance of a particular rite by a specialized priest has power in and of itself—is also not biblical. Also, the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation—that the wine and bread are literally transformed into Jesus flesh and blood is also not biblical.
However, the Roman Catholic teaching of the real presence—that Jesus, or perhaps the Holy Spirit is somehow “present” in the elements in the Lord’s Supper is probably better described as a doubtful teaching, but there are passages which can be used to support this teaching (“This is my body”). The traditional Protestant teaching is that this statement is completely metaphorical—that Jesus means ‘this is like my body’, but even some Protestants, such as Lutherans, take this to mean that at least in some way, Jesus is present in the articles in the Lord’s Supper. Personally, I believe that this is all metaphor, but a sincere Bible-believing Christian might believe in the “real presence,” and I would not engage in a debate on this topic, personally. Debating disputable matters is not something that Christians should be doing (Romans 14:1).
So, I would not participate in a Catholic mass if I were you. I would not do the sign of the cross thing, and I would not agree with the need for a consecrated priest to share the Lord’s Supper, but I would not try to disprove your husband’s belief in the real presence, because this is a debatable doctrine. The fact is that even in the very earliest church leaders we find some evidence of this belief in the Church—long before the Roman Catholic Church existed.
You have a long and treacherous road ahead of you, having a spouse of a different faii th. You will have to be humble and try to support your husband’s beliefs as much as you can–taking a strong stand only on those few things which are essentials of the faith. I suggest that you take some time to study Church History in order to begin to understand the source of Catholic practices. I have written two books on this topic, The Christian Story Part I and II. They are available at www.ipibooks.com