Early Church Eucharist

I am a truth seeking Christian, attend mass weekly with my Catholic wife.

When we state a creed at mass, it is said that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father. Why is the Eucharist transubstantiated and not consubstantiated? Is it really necessary to differentiate, especially when no one can prove either way?

Hi Markie Boy,

Thanks for the questions and an honest openness to whatever Truth may be! We’re glad to have you here.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the words…

Consubstantial: con, “with,” substantial, “substance”
Transubstantial: trans, “change,” substantial, “substance”

The Son (and Holy Spirit) are consubstantial with the Father, since they are all “with the same substance,” that substance being God. Each Person of the Trinity is God, though we say they are distinguished “by relation,” which is a discussion perhaps for another day.

Lutherans, for example, believe in a consubstantial Eucharist… Jesus becomes one substance with the bread, so to speak, in that he is in, with, around that substance of bread, but there remains the actual substance of bread (and wine).

Catholics say that the substances of bread and wine are annihilated during the consecration, such that only the substance of the flesh and blood of Christ are present (together with the other elements of the Eucharist, which are His Soul and Divinity). In fact, we say the whole Christ (Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity) is under each form, or species (the bread/wine distinction, which we now call the “accidents” of bread and wine due to their retaining their shape, color, smell, taste, etc., as opposed to the “essence,” or fundamental being, OR SUBSTANCE of bread or wine).

And we say this not only because of this being the persistent tradition, but also because it is also the plain meaning of Christ’s words, “This is my body… This is my blood.” If God can truly become a man, certainly that man can truly become like food and drink.

Does this help?

Consubstantiated would mean that both bread and Jesus have the one same essence or substance. What Transubstantiation says is that after consecration, the essence or the substance of the bread, which was “bread”, changes to the essence or substance of Jesus, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. The bread and the Lord don’t have one singular essence or substance which they both happen to have; but rather the essence or substance of the bread and the wine are destroyed, it’s gone, and replaced with the essence or substance of the Lord.

The Catholic Encyclopedia has an article on Consubstantiation, the heretical doctrine that the substance of Christ’s body and blood coexist with the substance of the bread and wine, a belief that is apparently held by many Lutherans and Anglicans.

Actually we do not say the substance of the bread or wine is annihilated because that has profound philosophical implications as the terminus ad quem of annihilation is nothingness.

Aquinas well addresses this matter in the Summa Theologica, III, ques. 75. He also addresses this in the Quaestiones quodlibeta V, ques. 6, art. 1. The substance of bread and the substance of wine, respectively, is changed.

While we say that the whole Christ is present in each species it must be accounted for through the doctrine of Eucharistic concomitance. In other words, at the moment of consecration the bread is changed into the Body of Christ, because it is the living Christ where the Body is present then of necessity the Blood must be present as must the soul. The divinity is hypostatically united and therefore is also present. Similarly with the contents of the chalice which becomes the Blood of Christ and concomitantly is present the Body, Soul and Divinity.

Good to know. :thumbsup:

Well…it’s the lingering after effect of having taught courses in dogmatic theology.

The most challenging for my students was Christology, without doubt. The formulations must be very precise and it can be easy as a young student to wander down the wrong path inadvertently. They became accustomed to being in mid-sentence only to have me raise my right hand and say “Stop!” They knew what was going to follow. “One or two more steps in that direction and you will walk off a mountain and have nothing under your feet” – or some variant image thereof.

I don’ t understand how the statement in the Creed that Jesus is consubstantial with the Father has anything to do with bread and wine being transubstantial or cosubstantial in the Eucharist.

The former is talking about Jesus’ relationship to the Father. The latter is talking about confecting the Eucharist out of the species of bread and wine.

Other than sharing similar terminology they really have nothing to do with each other.


That is a very good point. I will make sure to learn these very subtle nuances. As a catechumen, I need to develop a strong understanding of what the Church teaches. :slight_smile:

Oh. You’re a catechumen. I had not noticed your status. God bless you.

I hope you have a chance to study Saint Thomas Aquinas. Philosophically and theologically, he will provide you with a wonderful foundation.

I recommend two books in English. A Tour of the Summa by Msgr. Paul Glenn and The Elements of Philosophy: A Compendium for Philosophers and Theologians by Father William Wallace, O.P.

The former is a distilled presentation of the Summa that is very readable and easily digested. If you need more from Aquinas, specifically in the Summa, it ably points you to where you need to go. It is not a summary. It presents each question and each article but distilling each of them to a few sentences.

The latter provides a self-study of the field of philosophy that one would have undertaken before studying theology. It is tied to the articles in the previous edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia and this provides you with a wealth of knowledge.

So much in theology rests upon concepts derived from philosophy. May you have a blessed journey in your life as a Catholic.

Thank you, Father. :slight_smile:

Yes, I’ve managed to track down material on the Summa by Dr. Peter Kreeft, a neo-Thomist philosopher. I need to get my hands dirty with it sometime. :smiley:

Peter is a wonderful academic…but personally I recommend Msgr. Glenn’s Tour of the Summa over Peter’s Summa of the Summa.

Thanks once again, Father.

I will attempt to track down Msgr. Glenn’s book. :thumbsup:

It is not possible to penetrate the meaning of ‘substance’ if you understand it from a modern physicalist point of view

The modern dictionary says:
Substance: a species of matter of definite chemical composition

You must go back to a time when we did not understand the periodic table and the atomic structure and understand what those people meant by the term ‘substance’.

We keep looking for substance at lower and lower and smaller levels that we can quantify, but we don’t see that the substance of something can be in the pattern, the arrangement, the organization, the form, the meaning and the purpose of how material things are arranged, and that these patterns and forms can exist in a world quite independent of their material example.

Is the ‘substance’ of a James Brown song the numbers in the mp3 file?

One needs to shake the modern philosophy of materials and think like an idealist as Plato, Socrates and the early Christians did.

Modern materialistic/physicalist philosophy is a new invention (1800’s +), and yes it is intended to shake away your belief in God. After all, God claims to be non-physical.

Fair enough. I just meant that it is completely gone after the change.

A substance, in Aristotelian terms, can be thought of as “that which is not predicated of another,” but rather exists “in itself,” as something subsistent. This would be as opposed to an “accident,” which is always metaphysically parasitic, meaning that they can’t exist on their own - like relation or quality or state. For instance, there is no such thing as quality on its own, but only some thing (a substance) with some quality (like hardness or smoothness).

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