Can someone tell me when and by whom this tradition began in the Church?

33 AD. Source: “This is my body.”

:rolleyes: Is this a trcik question?

super easy!

when: Holy Thursday (the first one) for the actual event (as recorded in Matthew, Mark & Luke). John 6 for the teaching.
by whom: Jesus Christ

I suppose, though, you mean our understanding of transubstantiation. That developed over time, starting with John 6. Various aspects have been clarified over time and likely will be until Jesus returns.

The other posters are correct in that the reality goes back to the beginning. If you’re looking for the first time the actual word “transubstantiation” was used to describe this reality, it seems the first occurrence was about 1079. It was used at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, which incorporated the word into our ecclesial vocabulary (as other words, such as “Trinity” have been incorporated).

If you’re looking for more of the historical backdrop, check the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Thanks for the replies and the references. No, it wasn’t a “trick” question - I could have been more clear as one of the posters pointed out - I meant when/whom in the Church after Jesus brought this to light. So it appears that 1,000 years later, it became part of the Catholic Church, based on Jesus’ teachings. So here’s a follow up question: why can’t gluten-intolerant individuals receive the host if it truly transformed from bread to Christ’s body? That seems to make a case for Luther’s concept of consubstantiation. I’m not trying to be contrarian - I’m just trying to understand the issue. :smiley:

by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper when he said “this is My Body” and “this is My Blood”

is this a trick question?

the actual word transubstantiation is the most accurate English translation of the Latin and that definition arose in the early years of the Church to most accurately describe what happens in the consecration of the Eucharist. Our early church fathers liked to be precise, and the development of doctrine is just that, refining the teaching to eliminate misunderstandings and misinterpretations, and to be completely precise and accurate in the ecclesial language.

the matter and form, wheaten bread and wine, also derive from Christ’s actions at the Last Supper and so they stand. Yes a low-gluten host can be used in case of medical necessity, but the matter must still be recognizable as bread, something non-wheaten may not be used, because Christ did not use it. He is our high priest and it is he whom we follow an emulate. No, Consubstantiation is not an accurate word to describe what happens in the Eucharist.

Although the bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood, they retain the appearance of bread and wine – in every way. Thus, one can become buzzed if one drinks too quickly or copiously from the Cup, or if one is gluten intolerant, one will still have a reaction to the Body of Christ.

I personally have gotten “swimmy wine head” when receiving from the Cup; the Eucharistic fast coupled with the fact that I don’t drink much or often gets me. :blush:


Transubstantiation refers to the essence of the bread and wine. The appearance, or the perceptible attributes of bread and wine remain. A scientific study of a consecrated host would show bread particles. Christ is present sacramentally, fully in essence, what the Church has called the “substance” of the thing. He is fully present in Mystery, in sacrament. Karl Keating just wrote about this in the current This Rock magazine on the last page. That archived issue isn’t online yet, but will be within a month or so at this page, Volume 21, number 3.

For gluten-intolerant individuals (and someone can correct me if I’m wrong here), the individual can either request a tiny crumb from the priest in advance if he is able to tolerate that small amount, or he can request a bit of the wine the priest can keep aside for such a case.

The problem you’re having with this is probably related to the word I bolded in the above. TransFORMation means something’s form has changed, and is therefore not the correct word to use. The bread and wine brought forward at the Offertory still have the same physical appearance and characteristics after the consecration as they had before the consecration. If the form of an object remains the same but the substance has changed, then we need a word which refers to a change of substance rather than a change of form. Hence the coining of the term transubstantiation.

Transubstantiation happened from the beginning. We just didn’t have a technical word for it until 1000 years later :slight_smile:

How the substance of a thing can change while retaining the same form is a mystery to us, the same kind of mystery as how one God can be three distinct persons. Our words and understanding are based on the natural universe, and fall short when we try to use them to explain things which are supernatural.

Even a tiny crumb can cause problems for a truly gluten-intolerant person. I know of at least two at my parish. Both of them receive only the Precious Blood.

Well, technically doctrines and formal definitions have only come as clarification in times when some bozo says, no, that’s not true, see, it’s not even in Church documents! So the Vatican says, yes, it is true, and issues a document so that the issue is final, and the arguing troublemaker has no grounds. rome has spoken :slight_smile:

It sort of sounds like you’re doubting (idk, that’s just what it comes off as.) I would get your nose out of a textbook and actually spend some time in adoration or in front of a tabernacle. Our Lord, working with your humility and love for Him, will lead you to the things He wants you to learn. So much self-directed study of Catholicism can be a way to feed our egos, ‘look at what I’ve taught myself!’ Let God nudge you where He wants you to be, and then afterwards you’ll have learned everything you needed to know AND grown closer to Him, and deeper in love, during the process :heaven:

somebody who used to ask pointed questions to prove my doubt to myself. It backfired :wink:

To be clear, the other poster told you when the word was first used. If you’re looking for a Church document in which the Eucharist is acknowledged as the flesh of Jesus Christ, the earliest I’m aware of is The Letter to the Smyrnaeans of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

This document was written around A.D. 110. He speaks of a group called the Docetists whom St. Ignatius brands as heretical. Among their errors, the saint observes that these heretics do not believe that the Eucharist (“Eucharistias”) is the flesh (“sarka”, from “sarx, sarkos”… indeed meaning flesh) of the savior (“soteros”) Jesus Christ.

So there’s the earliest non-Scriptural reference I know of in which the Church acknowledges the Eucharist as the flesh of Jesus Christ… A.D. 110. Saint Ignatius, bishop and Patriarch of Antioch, coined the term “Catholic” and was known to be a student of St. John the Apostle.

If you are interested to find early attestations of Catholic doctrine, I suggest you get a copy of The Teachings of the Church Fathers by Fr. John R. Willis (Ignatius Press). It collects sentences of the early Churchmen under topical headings and is a scholarly work (albeit exclusively in English) with excellent references.

WOW! Thank you to everyone who weighed in on this! I think for the first time, I now understand the issue! Yes - I am doubting my faith at this point and searching for answers and reasons to stay in the Church. I so appreciate the time everyone took to provide solid information on transubstantiation in a way that makes sense. The concept of the substance, vs. the form, makes it so much clearer. :slight_smile:

I’ll pray for you, my friend. All of us doubt at some point in our lives. I’ve been there myself more than once, as God knows all too well. When we have doubts, it’s all about what action we take. We can be humble, not assuming that the Church is wrong. That leads to sincerely asking questions in an attempt to find the truth. Or we can be prideful, assuming in advance that the Church is wrong before we even make the attempt to understand. That leads to determining truth based on feelings or incomplete information, which are more often than not likely to be false.

You do the right thing by asking questions and sincerely seeking answers.


I think it was perceptive of you to focus on that word “transform” and explain the difference between a substance and an appearance – and it was profitable as evidenced by EWN thanking you.

But, technically, I don’t think “transformation” is contrasted with change of substance – or that “transformation” is contrasted with substantial change. This is because “from” isn’t opposed to “substance”. And so your explanation of why we need a word “transubstantiation” to describe something where a substance changes and its form doesn’t might not be the fullest explanation of the reason for using the word “transubstantiation”.

You would have to distinguish what kind of “form” you are talking about. If you mean an accidental form, then changing the form isn’t a substantial change. But if you are talking about a substantial form, then changing the form is a substantial change.

Since material things are composed of matter and (substantial) form, and these two together describe the the substance of a thing, if you change the substantial form you change the substance of thing. In fact, this is quite common – if you burn a piece of paper you change the substantial form into a different one, paper into ashes. That would be a transformation, and it would be a substantial change – one substance changed into another.

I hope that what I’ve said above isn’t irrelevant or needlessly technical. If it was, I think I can redeem it.

Every natural change is a kind of transformation – a change of form, either a change of an accidental form or a substantial form. But in the Eucharistic change, this substantial change is unlike any other kind of transformation. This is because a natural transformation of one substance into the other (like wood into ashes) is a change of the form while retaining the matter. In fact, the matter acts as a kind of “hinge” around which the change of form revolves.

But in the Eucharistic change not only the form changes but *the matter changes as well. *Recall that a material substance is composed of matter and form, so when the Church says the entire substance of bread is changed it means both the matter and the form of bread are changed. Every other substantial change only changes the form.

I think that might be a fuller explanation of why we needed “transubstantiation” over “transformation” – because while both can describe a substantial change, only “transubstantiation” can describe a change of the entire substance, and not just a change of form.

That is my understanding of it. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable in the metaphysics of the School can refine or correct the above.

Hope it made sense, and that if it wasn’t helpful that it was at least interesting!


One other point regarding the depth of meaning of the word “transubstantiation”. My prior post was weedy and wordy enough, so I wanted to separate this out.

I mentioned above that “transubstantiation” admirably describes a change of the entire substance (form and matter) and so is more descriptive than “transformation” (just a change of form). In addition, “transubstantiation” being a entirely unique change unlike any other change found in nature, conveys that the entire change happens only on the level of substance.

That is, only the substance (matter of form) is changed, the accidents of bread or wine (the accidental forms) remain visibly unchanged. I say visibly unchanged because there is a kind of new relationship involved – whereas before the accidents of bread inhered in the substance of bread, now they inhere in nothing at all.

Normally when there is a substantial change, where the substantial form of material object changes (hence a kind of transformation), you have new accidental forms. This makes sense and is to be expected because the underlying substance which supports the accidents has changed into a different substance.

But in the Eucharistic change, the accidents of bread and wine have no underlying substance at all. I suppose you could conceive of this as a “reason” they don’t change, because they don’t inhere in anything.

This brings us to another aspect of what it means to say the entire change happens on the level of substance. Since the accidents of bread don’t inhere in anything, they exist in an almost substantial way – they become a kind of “psuedo-substance”. Unlike normal accidents that depend on substances for their existence, the accidents of bread are held directly in being by God, just like substances are.

So, to recap the depth of meaning of the word “transubstantiation”:1. It conveys a change of the entire substance and not just part of it (i.e. the form).

  1. It conveys that only the substance changes and the accidents of bread remain.

  2. It conveys that the accidents of bread that remain are, in a sense, “substantialized”

  3. I think is can convey a fourth idea, but that might be a subject for another thread (or a PM)
    Again, this is my rudimentary understanding and exposition. I welcome corrections and clarifications by those more knowledgeable in metaphysics.


The reason my explanation was not the fullest it probably could be is because it’s me giving it rather than a theologian :smiley:

By all means provide more details. My mind can only go so far before I give up.


Mine too! :wink:

But, maybe if you are interested in anything I wrote above you can mention it or ask for a clarification regarding what I meant? That might help me say it in a more digestible way.


Well, this is how I tend to look at things. If we can trust the Church to teach us the truth in matters of faith and morals, then it really doesn’t matter what specific doctrinal teaching we’re examining. If the Church speaks with authority in presenting official teachings, then those teachings have got to be true. The proper question to ask is always, as Mark Shea titled one of his books, By What Authority?

If we can answer that question, then very few of the others are an issue. It’s normally a matter of a lack of trust, not a lack of understanding.

I accept transubstantiation not because it makes sense to me. It doesn’t. I accept it because I trust the Church when she speaks officially on matters of faith and morals.

I’ve tried my hand at the hardcore philosophy, moral theology, apologetics, and other things. I rarely word things in a way that makes sense to anyone but me. So I tend to lurk and only post infrequently, usually when it looks like something simple may be called for.

Someone’s got to look after the inquiring or doubting simpletons. Who better to speak to them than a fellow simpleton :smiley:

Thanks alindawyl, well said.

God Bless,

The substance of the bread and wine ceases to be bread and wine at the moment of consecration; the substance becomes the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. Meanwhile, the accidents (physical characteristics, such as appearance, taste, smell, size, intoxicating properties, etc.) remain. This is the Lord’s way of making it possible for us to follow His command to eat His Body and drink His Blood without our deep-seated aversion to cannibalism – which He Himself implanted in us – getting in the way.

By the way, there are now low-gluten hosts for those who are extremely sensitive to gluten.