Bread/Body of Christ - accidents and substance



What is the Body of Christ in the host made of?

Clearly the taste and colour of the host are accidents - they remain after consecration. After consecration, the substance is changed - the host is no longer bread, it is the Body of Christ.

The Church teaches that the host is not the Body of Christ AND bread. So it is not the Body of Christ made of bread.

Is it still made of atoms? Is it still made of carbon and hydrogen and nitrogen atoms? Or are those atoms now a different substance, with the accidents of atoms?

If it is made of atoms, then is it still made of the proteins and carbohydrates that those atoms form? Or are those structures no longer carbohydrates and proteins, but rather the Body of Christ with the accidents of carbohydrates and proteins?

The DNA and cells that remain - are they still DNA and cells, or are they the Body of Christ with only the accidents of DNA and cells?

God bless,


The accidents encompass every physical aspect of an object: taste, color, smell, composition (including atoms), etc. So, a wooden chair.

The substance encompasses something much deeper than that, sort of an object’s essence, I suppose. So, “chairness.”

The substance of the host is the Body of Christ, put simply. The accidents are everything we can sense physically, even with the aid of scientific implements.

Now, you can take this substance-accidents thing down to its Aristotelian core, but I am not qualified to explain that. =p


That’s one analogy that made me ask this … is it the chairness or both the chairness and woodenness (or bread-equivalents of those) that is replaced with the Body of Christ?

Dr Taylor Marshall says the following on his blog:

Thomas Aquinas would say that the accidental properties of the gluten are still active. Hence, someone with an allergy to gluten will still react to the accidental property of this grain protein even though the substance of bread has changed.

So I wondered if the gluten is also transubstantiated and no longer gluten … and then down to the atoms that make up gluten.


The things we can measure empirically are the accidents and as such are still there, in a sense. the structural components remains unaltered in their accidents, wt, colour etc. and so one would assume right on down to the sub-atomic level. what has changed, as youngtradcath rightly points out, the the very substance of the thing its ‘whatness’ for want of a better word. The answer to the question ‘what is it?’ has changed but the externals have not. What you would be able to measure would for all appearances seem to be bread, when it is in fact The body,blood,soul and divinity of Christ. The Divine substance, St. Thomas tells us, does not inhere in the accidents of the bread even though the substance of bread is no longer there, rather it is a divine sustaining of the accidents.


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