Eucharistic Terms

I suspect, may be it would be better to say I hope, that I’m not the only Latin Catholic that’s confused by two terms. The terms are the Real Presence and Transubstantiation.

I would appreciate it if someone would explain them to me. I appreciate some theological terminology might be required in an answer but I’d prefer an answer to be in plain English as much as possible.

Please do not refer me to Internet links.

Somebody who really does understand these terms will be able to give their own good explanation in plain English and won’t need to refer me on.

To provide you with some basis to my current level of knowledge, my current understanding is:

Real Presence - the liquid/solid substances in/on the chalice, ciborium, monstrance, paten, pyx, tabernacle, etc. appear to all five human senses to be unleavened bread and wine while in fact they are the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Christ, the same body crucified and blood shed at the Crucifixion, and that both of the sacred species are the Body, Blood, Divinity, and Soul of Christ.

Transubstantiation - an unfathomable mystery that occurs during Mass, celebrated/concelebrated by a validly ordained bishop/priest who has the right intent, uses the proper matter, and says the correct form, by which God, through the Holy Spirit, converts the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

The terms are describing relatively different things. Real presence is a description of the way Christ is present in the Eucharist that distinguishes it from “God is everywhere, right?” and “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there.” Yes, God is everywhere, but he is not physically manifest everywhere. And yes, the faithful are the “body of Christ” in one sense, with Christ as the head, but not in the same real sense that the Eucharistic matter is the Body of Christ. Transubstantiation describes what happens when the Eucharist is confected. The “substance” (in this context, this is a term with a very specific metaphysical meaning in an Aristotelian sense) changes.

The short of it is, as Catholics we all should believe in the Real Presence. But belief in Transubstantiation is not required. The difference being Real Presence means Jesus is present body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine. The bread is His body and the wine is His blood.

Transubstantiation is just an effort to explain how what appears as bread is indeed the Body of Christ, and what appears as wine is indeed the Blood of Christ. Its a philosoplical explanation to satisfy the inquisitive mind but is not required belief. You can believe that the bread and wine has become the body and blood of Christ without believing or accepting Transubstantiation. Many Christians accept that what happens at Consecration is a mystery and needs no further explanation.

So, we are to believe that bread and wine turn in body and blood, yes? Obviously, that is a mystery. However, it is not readily explainable in a way the human mind can accept in a similar way that it is very difficult to explain the mystery of the Trinity.

We just have to content ourselves with the fact that our religion contains mysteries that only require belief not proof.

Therefore, transunstantiation is just a word we give to a particular mystery. In a sense then we do need to believe in transubstantiation we just don’t have to give it that name. We could (and no disrespect to the Holy Eucharist meant here) we could name the same mystery ‘jabberwocky’. Then we would say we believe in the mystery called jabberwocky but we just don’t have to give it that name.

Or we could avoid giving it any other name at all and just call it the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. In the East the Sacraments are not called Sacraments but Mysteries. Transubstantiation tries to answer the question “how” with regards to the Eucharist but I think its the most unimportant question. Understanding what the Eucharist means to us, our faith and our salvation is more important than finding out how it came to be. When you come into a restaurant to eat, do you commonly ask the question how the food was made? You have a simple understanding, it was prepared and cooked. Otherwise you normally don’t try to question the entire process specifically. Same with the Eucharist, we know Christ instituted it and through the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ during Consecration. After that we eat it the same way we would eat food in a restaurant to sustain our body, we eat the Bread of Life to sustain our soul for all eternity.

I think you may have misinterpreted my meaning slightly. I was trying to say we are required to believe in what we call transubstantiation even if we don’t have to call it transubstantiation or not give it any other name.

I don’t think your restaurant analogy works. Even though I don’t ask the waiter to go into detail about what happens to the preparation of my meal in the kitchen everything that happens has a name and it is a process that I am capable of understanding.

I did say in my previous post that ‘transubstantiation’ is a mystery and that we do not know exactly what happens.

I am not sure why we don’t give it a name. It appears to fall into some of the ideas philosophers come up with such as the question does a falling tree make a sound if no one hears it fall?

Like I said, we are not required to believe in Transubstantiation. Transubstantiation deals with philosophical terms like accidents and substance. We do not even have to deal with that. Believing and accepting that the bread and wine have become the body and blood of Christ does not need to have an accompanying explanation of the appearance vs. substance. We can believe because it is what Christ says it is, and that is the baseline for believing in the real presence.

I believe it works. See, in a restaurant like I said we know that food is prepared and cooked. In Mass we know our Divine Food, the Bread of Life, is offered, blessed and consecrated. Outside of that is further complicated details that often is not necessary for us to know. Cooking food can be as simple as throwing it over fire, or putting oil in a pan and frying it. Or it could involve spicing, marinating, curing. It can have sauces, dips, etc. So many other extra steps. Transubstantiation is similar. We try to understand the extra steps, we try to come up with an explanation for the entire process even though the detail is not that important.

You can actually use any process that makes something from something else. You can say its like electronics. We know parts go in a factory and out comes a product. Transubstantiation now becomes a crash course in electronics explaining how those transistors and boards and whatever became a cellphone or MP3 player or TV.

What I’m trying to say here is that the belief in understanding the process is not important. We do not have to understand it at all or even think of it. As long as we understand that at the end of this process is the Body and Blood of Christ, no ifs, not buts, then we believe what the Church has taught us.

The Western thought tries to analyze and explain. The Eastern thought is much more simple. Yesterday I attended a Catechisis with my UGCC parish. One thing that struck me most is this comparison between East and West, where it was said that West tends to analyze something a lot, while in the East the hows are not so much dealt with, but the implication it has to us, our faith and our salvation. With regards to the Eucharist, is understanding how it became the Body and Blood of Christ more important to asking the question what it means to us that the bread and wine has become Christ and now we are going to receive Him?

I am not sure about this, CTG. Transubstantiation is a church teaching. Believing and accepting that the bread and wine have become the body and blood of Christ often times accompanied by a question, how does it happen? In this case, the Church has an explanation of it, not that it hasn’t.

What about if we are asked about it? What is our answer gonna be? Shall I say, I dunno, it’s a mystery. There is a Church teaching about it but I don’t believe in it.

This subject has to be approached with faith, like in any other aspect of faith. The bottom line is, it can happen and nothing is impossible with God and therefore we believe in it. Transubstantiation is the biggest difference we have with Protestants in the subject of Holy Communion. Therefore it has to be believed no matter how difficult it may seem to be. It’s like saying, God give me faith when I am lack of it.

I think it would be better to say that we are not necessarily required to use the language of transubstantiation. That term is part of the tradition of the Western Church, but not of the Eastern Churches. However, just because we choose not to use the term “transubstantiation” or to Aristotelian metaphysics does not mean that our beliefs about the Eucharist are different. We all believe that the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.

No further comment on your analogies, other than to say I do not see how they work: you talk about processes that can a. be named (unlike the mystery we are discussing) and b. can be understood (unlike the mystery we are discussing).

I do have a vague, but increasing awareness, and admiration of, of the Eastern Christian philosophy of accepting the great mysteries of our Faith rather than having to get into the detailed in’s and out’s of them.

I am going to make one final attempt to get to the crux of my question:

*]During the Holy Mass unleavened wheat bread is changed into the Sacred Body of Christ;
*]During the Holy Mass wine is changed into the Precious Blood of Christ;
*]We are required to believe what is said in statements 1 and 2 above;
*]In the Latin Catholic Church there is a teaching by the Church that the events in statements 1 and 2 above occur at precise moments during the Eucharistic Prayer;
*]In the Eastern Christian Churches there is no definition of when the events in statements 1 and 2 above happen;
*]We are required to believe that the events in statements 1 and 2 happen - if they did not happen the Real Presence could not come about;
*]We do not know how the events in statements 1 and 2 come about, hence that is why we call it a mystery;
*]We do not have to give any name to the events that happen in statements 1 and 2 above, even though some people choose to call it ‘transubstantiation’ but, to emphasise, naming these events is unnecessary.
Which of the above eight statements, if any, are incorrect, and why?

Thanks, Matt.


[/INDENT]Transubstanriation is a doctrine of faith…not an optional belief…first declared at the Fourth Council Of Lateran (1215)…then…the Catechism quotes the Council of Trent (1560):

****1376 ****The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”

Transubstantiation is a doctrine that explains the Real Presence…not an option for the faithful. If you are asked how the Real Presence occurs…you have no option but Transubstantiation…agree?

Pax Christie

In the East, if we are asked how the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, we say that we don’t know. It is a great mystery of faith. We believe it happens because the Lord Himself tells us so.

Actually, “sacramentum” is the Latin word for the Greek “mysterion”. The word was also transliterated as “mysterium”, but “sacramentum” means the same thing.



From sacrō (“consecrate, dedicate, devote”), from sacer (“sacred, holy”).
[edit] Noun

sacrāmentum (genitive sacrāmentī); n, second declension

  1. A sum of money deposited in pledge by two individuals involved in a suit. The money of the loser in the suit was applied to religious purposes.
  2. (military) An oath of allegiance.
  3. (Ecclesiastical Latin) Sacrament.
  4. (Ecclesiastical Latin) A mystery, secret.

**Greek **


From μύστης “initiated one” < μυέω “I initiate” < μύω “I shut”
[edit] Pronunciation

* (Classical): IPA: [mʉstɛː́rion]

* (Koine): IPA: [mystˈeːrio̞n]

* (Byzantine): IPA: [mystˈirion]


μυστήριον (genitive μυστηρίου) n, second declension; (mustērion)

  1. revealed secret
  2. mystery, secret
  3. object used in mystery religions
  4. (Later Greek): matters of science which required teaching

Yes, this is what ConstantineTG was saying. You stop short of defining the process of the changes in the host. As a basic belief on the Eucharist, this is certainly not lacking in anything. However, transubstantiation is a specific understanding on how it happens. I supose many Catholics themselves are not even bothered by this since they already believe that the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.

I personally would think believing in Transubstantiation is necessary since inevitably I would be confronted with questions regarding this and I cannot say ‘I don’t know’ nor ‘I don’t believe in Transubstantiation’.

I could be wrong, but does the doctrine actually say “how” it happens? I know it says the substance changes, not the accidents, but is the “how” really defined?

Out of curiosity, how does “transubstantiationem” relate to Greek words, such as μεταβάλλειν (St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures 22, 4), μεταβέβληνται (St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures 23, 5, 7), μεταστοιχειώσας (St. Gregory of Nyssa’s The Great Catechism 37, 9-13), μεταρρυθμίζειν (St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Treachery of Judas 1, 6 ), etc.? Is it just the absence of Aristotelian terminology? If we look solely at etymology, it seems that all the words just mean “change of substance”. Even St. Ambrose’s “transfigerentur” seems to mean the same thing.

We do not believe it to be necessary to define the process of how the bread and wine are changed. As to being confronted with questions, we have no problem with responding that we do not know exactly how it happens. It is a great mystery. End of story.

Now I’m not telling you that I think that you should not use the language of transubstantiation. There are certain situations of an apologetic nature that are more easily addressed when one uses the terminology of transubstantation. Furthermore, if you are a Roman Catholic Christian, the terminology is part of your particular Church’s tradition. However, as an Eastern Catholic, I do not see the terminology of transubstantation as being essential to the faith.

No, not really.

Hi. I think the ‘how’ of Transubstiation in already described in your explanation. I am not very good at actual technical explanation but let put it this way. At the moment of consecration the bread and wine are changed into real body and real blood of the Lord. This is opposed to the Protestants understanding of the Real Presence. They think the Lord is there but the bread is still bread and the wine is still wine. Not in Transubstantiation (a spelling I need to get used to :wink: ) in all aspect they are now truly real body and real blood of the Lord. The chemical compositon and the appearance may be still the same but that’s about what only the same, the rest have been changed.

I think in a nutshell this is what I would think would be Transubstantiation. Anyone with better technical language can perhaps chip in where my understanding is insuficient.

I understand. It is not a problem with me, the Eastern Catholics handling of this subject. As I mentioned, you believe basically what the Holy Eucharist essentially is; you just don’t define ‘Transubstantiation’.

RyanBlack - if you could answer the OP’s questions perhaps it will help in clarity of our understanding respectively. Latin Rite Catholics would probably able to answer statement 7 and therefore would think statement 8 incorrect.

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