Eucharist Ontology - Body, Blood Soul, Divinity

I have a very basic question regarding the Ontology of Christ in the Eucharist. As a Catholic I believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharistic, and realize this is a mater of Divine revelation, namely Jesus’ word, or simply The Word. Yet, I’m still looking to deepen my understanding wherever possible. I’m seeking help understanding the ontological nature of the statement that Christ is present “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity” in the Eucharist ,as I believe I heard several apologists re-iterate on Catholic Answers Live several times.

I’m approaching this philosophically from a Thomistic position where substances are made up of both essential, primary, properties, and secondary properties, accidents. As understood, secondary properties can change without changing the nature of the substance, but a change to an essential property results in a different substance. The classic example given to demonstrate the difference is starting with a red rubber ball, as documented here by Catholic Philosopher Edward Feser . The ball has certain essential properties such as the ability to bounce, roundness,etc, and some secondary characteristics, like its redness. Changes to secondary properties. e.g. painting it blue, do not change the ball’s nature so it is still a rubber ball. On the other hand, changes to any of the essential properties, e.g. melting the ball so it can’t bounce, destroy the substance and creates an entirely new substance. Simply put it is no longer a ball but a pile of melted rubber.

Using this lens, it seems contrary to reason to say that Christ is present “body and blood” in the Eucharistic because a human body and his blood have certain essential properties. For instance, blood has the ability to cary oxygen,etc…, and the essential properties of blood are not present in the blessed Eucharist. Therefore the logical argument that would seem to follow is:
(a) Blood has essential properties
(b) The essential properties of blood are not present in the Eucharistic
© Therefore Blood is not present in the Eucharistic

Can you please help see the error in my thinking?

For His Kingdom!

As the Church explains the Real Presence by way of transubstantiation, which is Aristotelian, there are two properties of physical existence: substance and accidents.

The Church uses this explanation, not because it is philosophically rational, but because it explains what the Church believes most efficiently and most intelligibly.

The Substance of the bread and wine are no longer present, although the accidents remain. The Substance of Our Lord’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity are present, but HIS accidents are NOT there.

Now, Aristotle in explaining Substance and Accidents NEVER considered the possibility of Accidents without substance, or visa versa.

However, it DOES explain HOW the Church BELIEVES in the REAL PRESENCE.

It was important for the Church to define this doctrine in this way in order to prevent the many errors that accompany not explaining it properly at all. Viz: the Lutherans.

AmbroseSJ, what you stated makes sense however I don’t think it really addresses my question. First the Church teaches that faith can not be in conflict with reason/logic. If there is an conflict, it is only an apparent conflict and there is error, such as a conflating of terms. My question is NOT if Christ is truly present, that is divinely revealed, rather the question is how to reconcile the following more specific claim I’ve repeatedly heard, in some form, via the wonderful guests on Catholic Answers Live. The summary statement goes something like: " Christ is present “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity” in the Eucharist. How can this be given the essential properties of human body and blood do not exist in the Eucharist?


Does this square with Catholic theology:

"The properties do exist, under the appearance (accidents) of the properties of bread and wine. " ?

Some properties may exist but it can’t seem to be the essential properties of blood, body. As I tried to articulate in my first post, from a Thomistic philosophical perspective, it isn’t sufficient to say we can’t see the properties that make up the blood and body because it is those very properties, e.g. caring white blood cells, for example, which is what makes it blood. If the substance lacks the essential properties of something it is said to be, it isn’t instance of that substance at all but rather some other substance.

Do not forget that it is Christ’s glorified body and blood in the Eucharist. This same glorified body appeared in the upper room to the apostles two different times, even though the doors were closed, and he had real substance that Thomas could stick his finger into his side (John 20:19-28).

If the essential properties of a human body and blood exist as you suggest, then this would indeed be cannibalism and his disciples would have been correct to leave him in John Chapter 6. As it is though, we receive his glorified body and blood, not his earthly body and blood. When we receive him in the Eucharist, we are not receiving a piece of a human arm or leg, but all of His supernatural life in his glorified body, blood, soul, and divinity.

You probably have already done this, but I suggest looking into some of the Eucharistic miracles, that do indeed transform into living blood and tissue such as this one which is scientifically documented from Lanciano, Italy.

Hope that helps

First you will want to read carefully " The Eucharistic Presence, " Summa Theologia, Part 3, Ques. 73-80 .

Then you should also read the Catechism on the Eucharist, linked below.

Finally, there are many threads on the Eucharist on the philosophy forum and the other forums. You can read them as well.

I am not going to go through all that again, you can do your own reading. I will just say boldly that the Whole Christ is present under both species. When I say " Whole, " I mean you are receiving the glorified Christ just as he appeared to the Apostles and friends after his resurrection. When I say " just as, " that is said with the understanding that His glorified body is not restricted by the limitations of time, place, or matter. That is why you don’t " see " him. He makes himself present in an invisible manner as is appropriate to the restrictive demands of the accidents of the bread and wine.


[quote=slashegotism]First the Church teaches that faith can not be in conflict with reason/logic.

reason/logic are not interchangeable. There is nothing logical about the Holy Trinity, and yet it IS reasonable in the sense that God transcends human understanding. Therefore, it is NOT unreasonable for God’s nature to be illogical based on human reasoning.

The Blessed Sacrament, being a Divine Sacrament, will similarly be illogical to human understanding, but reasonable when considering the transcendence of the Divine Nature within the Sacrament.

Linus2nd and Spiderweb,

Thank you for the links and thoughts. I’ve begun reading and will digest.

AmbroseSJ, Thank you as well for both your replies. I agree that logic and reason are not interchangeable, however, in this case I think they are close enough to be synonymous. As I understand it, the Catholic Church, and most Christian denominations, believe that God’s nature/essence/existence can not be illogical nor can he do illogical things. This is not a limitation on God but rather a comment on the nonsensical nature of the illogical statement. For instance, God can not create a married bachelor. This not because he is not powerful enough to do it, but rather the statement is simply incoherent.

I agree that logic and reason are not interchangeable, however, in this case I think they are close enough to be synonymous.

Actually, in this case SPECIFICALLY they are too far apart to be synonymous.

As I said earlier, Aristotle would never have imagined accidents without substance, or visa versa. The Church has appropriated these terms in order to explain its BELIEF in HOW the Real Presence exists in the Eucharist. It is NOT logical, it is miraculous. Therefore in THIS case, we don’t have a formal logical explanation, but we do have a REASONABLE explanation, given that this Divine Sacrament Transcends human logic.

I believe this is why you are having trouble with this doctrine.

To put it another way, there is no way to verify the logic of transubstantiation other than to say the Church says so. But again, it is not unreasonable, just beyond human understanding how this can be. It requires Divine Faith, not human logic.

I’ll just add to this that it doesn’t contradict logic, but rather it is beyond our human logic and understanding and that is why it had to be revealed and we believe by Divine Faith.

The doctrine is that the accidents–i.e., appearances–of bread and wine remain, but they do not inhere in any substance. Not in the bread and wine, which have become the body and blood of Jesus, and not in Jesus, because they are not his accidents.

Remember that all we can perceive through our senses are appearances. We can’t get the Eucharistic host, or the wine, or Jesus’ body, or the person sitting next to you, into your mind, or even into your brain, directly. All you get are appearances.

In the Eucharist, the appearances of bread and wine remain.

But Jesus is present in his entirety–all of him. We don’t perceive his appearances because they are hidden under the appearances of bread and wine.

Thank you. Short and sweet, all we need to know and believe.Sometimes we get into trouble by demanding to know too much.


Thank you for staying with me on this. This is getting at the heart of my confusion. Specifically it seems like the primary properties, not just the accidents, of bread and wine are still present and likewise the primary properties of body and blood are not present.

Does it make sense to say that perhaps the primary property of Christ’s body and blood are present because Jesus states “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”. Perhaps the food and drink are spiritual in nature, providing life giving sustenance, everlasting life. Am I reaching to to far?

The fact is, all of Jesus is present. We just don’t see his accidents that would normally be perceived by our senses, because all we perceive are the accidents of bread and wine.

Keep in mind that everything we know, the entire study of physics and chemistry and anything else, consists in a study of their accidents, not their substance. All we can perceive of anything is its accidents–for those are what is perceptible to the senses.

I think the question you need to ask is, what is the substance of the blood of Christ.The accidents are blood cells, plasma, serum. The blood (in Jewish though at the time of Christ) was that part of the human person that engendered the life principal. For all living parts of a person (that is alive) when cut, bleeds. When a person dies, blood no longer flows (and to be dead, you had to appear dead for a couple days).

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