Transubstantiation "vs" Real Presence

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Katie-Scarlett

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I always thought these two phrases were pretty much interchangeable, meaning that at the Consecration during Mass, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. However, I was recently told by a very intellectual, very wise Catholic theologian at a meeting that many bishops do not even understand, or at least make the distinction between the two, but it is an important one. Episcopalians, for example, believe in the Real Presence, but not, apparently, in Transubstantiation, along with some other Protestants.

The key seems to be that, with the uniquely Catholic belief of Transubstantiation, there is absolutely no substance of bread nor wine left, merely the FORM. Hence “trans-substance”: the substance has been completely transformed, and is completely Divine.

Whereas, with the concept of Real Presence, one can believe that bread and wine are equally present, or present in some varying degree ALONG WITH Christ. What are the ramifications of these different beliefs?

This really intrigued me and I wished I could have got more elaboration from this man, but I hope you can explain in greater detail (in a way a layperson can comprehend). Also, I have a very good evangelical protestant friend who is quite critical of the Catholic faith, and I would truly like to be able to explain this to him accurately.

Thank you so much!
 
You are pretty much on the mark. Anglicans and Lutherans subscribe to COsubstantiation. This means that the divinity of Jesus co-exists with the bread and wine. The Catholic understanding of transubstantiation, the divity of our Lord in present in the Eucharist under the species of bread and wine. I.e, the bread and wine BECOME the body and blood of our Lord, under the appearance of bread and wine. In consubstantiation, Jesus comes into the bread and wine, but the bread and wine are still just that, bread and wine. Since the cosubstatiation formula does not rectify with Scripture “This IS my body…This IS my blood”, not “This contains my body” or “this contains my blood”, it is not a valid consecration. Additionally, Anglicans
and Lutheran clergy do not have valid ordinations, so their “consecrations” are merely ceremonial, nothing really happens, although they believe it does. Hope that helps.
 
I once saw it explained this way:
Symbolic understanding of the Lord’s Supper = Not real and not present
Consubstantiation = Present, but not real.
 
The practice of the Eucharist comes from two sources Luke 22:19-20 and the Didache manuscripts. In the Middle Ages Scholastic Philosophers started hypothesizing about the nature of the bread and wine. In the 13th century St. Thomas Aquinas gave it the name transubstantiation. The Council of Trent formally proclaimed that transubstantiation occurs.

Lutherans believe or follow the concept of Consubstantiation. This is the belief that the blood and body of Christ is in, with, and under the substance of the bread and wine.

It seems like there is a big difference between the two but when pressed on the matter there is not such a big gap. Of course some of the original qualities of the bread and wine remain after the transformation – (visual appearance, taste, smell, texture) but there are some other qualities that must also remain in the Eucharist that transubstantiation conflicts with… (people that have allergic reactions to some of the sugars in breads still have allergic reactions after the transformation – so something of the chemical makeup must remain the same – and I would be willing to guess that if you drank enough of the wine we could see a rise in blood alcohol levels.)
 
there are some other qualities that must also remain in the Eucharist that transubstantiation conflicts with
Not really. All of the properties that you describe (the various physical properties of the Eucharist) are known as “accidents,” and they are retained. The change in substance cannot be perceived by any physical method, but only by spiritual discernment.
 
I am going to state this personally, not as official Church teaching. This is how I not only came to deal with the doctrine, but rather found it far more complete than the others … It honestly makes more sense to me than the symbolic Eucharist or any “real presence” belief that is not the total and complete real deal.
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Shibboleth:
It seems like there is a big difference between the two but when pressed on the matter there is not such a big gap.
Actually the difference is monumental and the Catholic doctrine is not a stretch given the scope of what God can do. It is certainly a matter of faith. Catholics believe one can get drunk on the blood of Christ (that is biblical), or that one can have an allergic reaction to the body of Christ. That said, those facts alone do not refute transubstantiation because what you see feel and touch is every bit indistinguishable from wine and bread. Catholics simply believe, some way, somehow, it is ALL Jesus. Anything less, to me, is an admission that God can’t do something just because we might have a hard time believing it and figuring out the details. He certainly can make it what Catholics say it is and it would be wholly within the nature of an infinite God to give to us in the Eucharist the complete, resurrected Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I have a hard time fathoming that He would do any less based on my limited understanding of His love for us.

Also, when one looks at the historical writings on the matter, one can clearly see a level of reverence applied to the Eucharist which reveals that the early fathers believed it was the body of Christ in a VERY substantial way. It is quite possibly the most consistently present doctrine in ECF writings. They didn’t matter with the details all that much because there was no controversy. It was Jesus, and that was enough. This is what the Orthodox stop at, although, I think that the concept of co-mingling of bread and wine with the Body and Blood of Christ is offensive to those in the East (at least based on my experience with talking to them) … When pressed, they will side with Catholics because the Catholic view, in no way, compromises the totality of Christ’s presence. This is the historical view of the Church until transubstantiation was declared in 1215.

Also, keep in mind that Catholics can receive under one form or the other and be receiving the total Christ … That is why, when difficulty dictates reception under just one form, you are still receiving everything.

Transubstantiation is by no means a contradiction to the historical viewpoint, but rather a clarification of truth. Its Jesus – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

OK, Catholics, I write these long diatribes and usually mess up some minor theological detail … if you see any of that, please correct.
 
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Shibboleth:
The practice of the Eucharist comes from two sources Luke 22:19-20 and the Didache manuscripts.
True, but it becomes even more apparent when you read the letters of St. Polycarp and St. Ignatius of Antioch. I might get the order wrong, but I believe St. John the Apostle/Evangelist had a disciple, St. Polycarp who succeeded him to the See of Antioch, who in turn was succeeded by St. Ignatius of Antioch (Apostolic Succession?), anyway, reading their writings, one really sees the present teachings on the Real Presence and Transubstantiation of the Eucharist, just my two cents.
 
I think that from the witness of the ECF and the words in the Bible the most clear read is that the bread and wine become literally and completely the Body and Blood of Christ. There are some very minor detractors who are in the minority from this witness and these seem to largely disappear after a few centuries (some final conflict occurs much latter though). Gregory of Nyssa gets pretty clear when he call the sacrament the antidote for the poison of the world, but he is not much more literal in his read than Ignatius, Ireneaus, Tertullian, and others.

I believe that the Easter Orthodox churches believe in the real presence, not consubstantiated, but in totality, but they do not demand the word Transubstantiated. It is a mystery and they do not seek to explain it beyond the fact that the bread and water become the real presence (Transubstantiation is an acceptable way of viewing this for the EO).

I think Protestants exist in a spectrum from purely symbolic to Consubstantiated, but to my knowledge no protestant attempts to go as far as either the Catholic or EO churches.

Charity, TOm
 
The Eastern Orthodox Churches understand Real Presence exactly the same way that we do, and your right, they don’t go so far as to give it a term, they just leave it as a matter of faith. That, and the fact that they maintain valid ordination and apostolic succession, their Eucharistic celebrations are just as valid as ours, highlighted by the fact that the Pope and the Patriarch co-celebrated and serve each other the Eucharist a few years ago.
 
The Lutheran view is somewhat different than most other Protestant views of the Eucharist. We do believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist but the elemental nature of the bread and the wine do not change. Some if not most protestant faiths view communion as largely symbolic.

I agree that the differences on a theological level are paramount. I should have been more careful with my words. On a philosophical level, Substantiation and Consubstantiation are not very different.
 
Wow, I am new to this website and I have just learned so much valuable information in this one post! Thank you everyone. I have also heard a Lutheran explain, and this seems pretty strange, that Christ exists because of the BELIEF of the people in the congregation in the Real Presence. So there seemingly is no sacrament involved there, to them, it’s some sort of mystical expeirence that makes God dependent upon their own faith. This person could have been misstating his church’s views, but it shows how convuluted people can get over “real”.

To me, the Catholic view, Transubstantiation (and apparently that is also Eastern Orthodox) is really the simplest. If you read John, Chapter 6, and you look at all the other instances of Jesus wanting to convey nourishment in the Gospels (Cana, loaves and fishes, etc), and, as another poster eloquently said, we add the element of FAITH, then certainly Jesus can be there any way he wants, and it seems clear he means entirely, for our benefit and grace.

Communion transforms people in ways other prayers do not. The power of God is real, and so is the presence.
 
The Orthodox Church had no problems with the term “transubstantiation” itself or even the terms “accidents” and “substance” until very recently. A study from Darwell Stone (Anglo-Catholic historian) on the Eucharist and the East, at end are quotes from modern Orthodox theologians/scholars like Meyendorff:

Orthodoxy and Transubstantiation

Phil P
 
Consubstantiation is the assertion that Eucharist is the hypostatic union of divine nature, human nature and bread nature – i.e. the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is true God, true man, and true bread.

Catholics don’t believe that Jesus is true God and true bread, hence our belief in Transubstantiation.
 
Very few people would admit to believing in consubstantiation. Lutherans generally don’t like the term, though they do believe that the Body of Christ exists in, with, and under the bread and wine, which is what I would define as “consubstantiation.” Anglicans are all over the map from a Calvinist “real spiritual presence,” which is taught in the 16th-century 39 Articles but held by relatively few Anglicans today, all the way over to the Catholic/Orthodox view, though like some Orthodox most Anglicans would avoid the word “transubstantiation.” Most of us probably tend to say “it is the Body and Blood of Christ, and we don’t try to explain why.” This is similar to the Lutheran view, but if “consubstantiation” is problematic for the Lutherans it’s even more inadequate to describe our view.

PhilVaz, I don’t believe it’s true that the Orthodox only became nervous with the term “transubstantiation” recently. In the 17-18th centuries, Anglicans (who were at that time staunchly opposed to transubstantiation) worried that the Orthodox believed in transubstantiation, but many Orthodox denied this (the Anglicans were skeptical of these denials, because other Orthodox clearly did–but it seems to have been a disputed issue already). Many Orthodox would say the opposite of what you are saying–they’d claim that the identification of the Orthodox view with transubstantiation was a product of the 17-18th-century “Latin captivity” of Orthodox theology.

In Christ,

Edwin
 
Please bear with me as I try to think through some thoughts outloud. First, I can’t understand the reasoning behind those who say the terms spiritual or real are less true in essence than the word literal. The sacraments are outward signs signifying the inward grace, put briefly. But would you describe sacramental as not real or not spiritual but only literal? I don’t believe the definition of real=literal. In fact, the term literal is not usually used as a theological term I don’t believe. Because the terms real presence or spiritual presence are used, does not mean that the terms are interpreted to mean not true or not present. We as Christians individually and collectively as the church are temples of the Holy Spirit and indwelt with the fullness of the Holy Trinity. That is a real presence, a spiritual presence and a true presence----it is not to my knowledge defined usually as a literal presence.

The church went through centuries of correcting error regarding the understanding of Christ in the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit led the fullness of the church to define Christ as fully man/fully divine. Christ is the 2nd Person of the Trinity but now and forever is fully man also and will be through eternity in his resurrected body. We as the church, have Christ as our head/we the body. Our humanity and the divinity of Christ are united, in Him and in us, not confused or blurred individually, but the purpose of our creation in the Image of God—His son—and what is commonly referred to as divinization in the eastern church.

Back to the definition of transubstantiation. Jesus said, “This is My body, this is My blood” and to make the statements that the bread/wine became His body/blood, or His body/blood are bread and wine are not equal statements. The church condemned the heresy that said the incarnated Christ was only under the appearance of humanity. But stated that Jesus was fully human/divine and that did not lessen nor negate the fullness of the Incarnation. But in transubstantiation, it seems to me with the extreme need to define as it does, it really states that which pertaining to Christology was said to be in error. In other word stating that Jesus the Christ is present only under the appearances and the substance of the bread/wine must change to no longer be bread or wine. Please explain to my very sinful, weakened mind, why this is not saying the same errors condemned in the early church. If God as the 2nd Person of the Trinity was able to incarnate as fully man/fully divine (which was an offense to many) and keep His humanity, why could His presence not be fully there in the bread/wine without lessening the truth of His reality/real presence in any way, in the same way His presence is as fully human/fully/divine?

Sorry for the length, but has no other Catholic ever thought it out this way (and its not a sin of disobedience for us to think along with self-named theologians:))? We so emphatically (and with scholastic/aristotelian thought) state that this can be the only understanding of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I’m just not convinced, especially spiritually, that the philosophic basis that initially began with pagan thought, and was baptized, is equal to revelation. Thus, I believe, one of the reasons the eastern church refuses to define the workings of God through the Spirit this way.
 
Dolly, as an Anglican I naturally agree with most of what you say, but I do think we (non-Catholic believers in the Real Presence) often exaggerate the role of Aristotle in the development of the Catholic dogma. As has often been pointed out, Aquinas uses Aristotelean terminology in ways that would have made Aristotle turn blue and purple. The idea of accidents existing without a substance is sheer nonsense from an Aristotelean point of view. I do think that transubstantiation is a less than helpful concept because it’s so easy to misunderstand and it’s almost impossible to translate into the language ordinary modern people use. I don’t think that should be a serious problem for faithful Catholics–you can believe the dogma without thinking that the Church has necessarily found the best way to express it. I myself wouldn’t have any problems subscribing to transubstantiation as defined in the official teachings of the Catholic Church, although I’m just as happy with the less defined Anglo-Catholic/Orthodox approach.

In Christ,

Edwin
 
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Noella:
Wow, I am new to this website and I have just learned so much valuable information in this one post! Thank you everyone. I have also heard a Lutheran explain, and this seems pretty strange, that Christ exists because of the BELIEF of the people in the congregation in the Real Presence. So there seemingly is no sacrament involved there, to them, it’s some sort of mystical expeirence that makes God dependent upon their own faith. This person could have been misstating his church’s views, but it shows how convuluted people can get over “real”.
What you are saying about the congregation is true to a sense but not quite as simple as you are explaining it. Lutherans very much view the Eucharist as a Sacrament. It deals with the whole “priesthood of believers” which I do not have the time or want to get into.
I would have to talk about the whole “historic episcopate” issue and I have always thought that “historic episcopate” sounded more like a toothpaste ingredient than a theological term. :rolleyes:
 
I think that what we are dealing with here is a confusion of terms.Catholics use the term transubstantiation to explain their belief in the real presence of Christ in the bread. The term was used simply because they don’t have any other term back then to use that would describe the real presence of Christ in the unleavened bread. Being too Thomistic like dealing with accidents and substance has at times added to the confusion. To begin with, the presence of our Lord is not limited to the mystery of Transubstantiation. It is worth remembering that Christ is truly present in the congregation, in the reading of the Bible and in the Priest who presides over the Eucharistic celebration. However, I do insist that the authority to preside over a valid celebration of the Eucharistic Mystery belongs to the ordained priests of the Roman Catholic Church.
 
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semperservus:
I think that what we are dealing with here is a confusion of terms.Catholics use the term transubstantiation to explain their belief in the real presence of Christ in the bread. The term was used simply because they don’t have any other term back then to use that would describe the real presence of Christ in the unleavened bread. Being too Thomistic like dealing with accidents and substance has at times added to the confusion. To begin with, the presence of our Lord is not limited to the mystery of Transubstantiation. It is worth remembering that Christ is truly present in the congregation, in the reading of the Bible and in the Priest who presides over the Eucharistic celebration. However, I do insist that the authority to preside over a valid celebration of the Eucharistic Mystery belongs to the ordained priests of the Roman Catholic Church.
Tread carefully. You appear to imply that the bread and wine remain after the consecration. That is heresy.
Canons of the Council of Trent
Canons concerning the Most the Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Canon 2.If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema.
And, while the modes of Christ’s presence within the liturgy are many and varied, the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist is the presence par exellence, and holds an unquestionable pre-eminence.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”
1407 The Eucharist is the heart and the summit of the Church’s life, for in it Christ associates his Church and all her members with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving offered once for all on the cross to his Father; by this sacrifice he pours out the graces of salvation on his Body which is the Church.
1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”
1374 The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”
 
:Tread carefully. You appear to imply that the bread and wine remain after the consecration. That is heresy.:

No, it’s heresy to say that the substance of bread and wine remain. Can you explain in 20 words or less what the Council meant by substance? Do you really think that “substance” is what most of us mean when we talk about a physical object? When I say “that is bread” I mean “that appears to my senses as bread, and if analyzed scientifically one would come to the conclusion that it is bread.” I’m not talking about some metaphysical substance–that isn’t something I generally think about when speaking of physical objects.

In Christ,

Edwin
 
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