How do the accidents remain without inhering?

I thought that accidents or the “species” could not exist without a substance. So if “white” only exists by means of a substance, how do any properties remain as in the species after transubstantiation. I thought by definition species/property/accident needed a substance to inhere to. Yet I was reading John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary under the word “species” and ran across this ending: the species “… lack any substance… in which they inhere”. This seems to belie the very definition of accident. Shouldn’t the accidents have something to inhere to?

My apologies if this has been answered before.

I can’t answer the question of “how” except to say that it is simply how transubstantiation works. I can’t say “how” transubstantiation works either, except that Christ wills it. But I can say that Father Hardon states this correctly. Transubstantiation is the only instance wherein accidents exist without inhering in a substance.

It is a part of the miracle of Transubstantiation. God, the creator of all has absolute power even over the accidents of the species.


Interesting. You may be right that you have to stop there and the mystery cannot be penetrated deeper. Yet the terms of accident and substance got us so far as to understand the very substance is changed which makes sense although it is miraculous. Yet, the accidents without substance follow a different pattern and I think defy the definition of accident. It seems what look like accidents must be real, but must be something other then what we ordinarily define as accidents. It seems far less elegant an explanation to say that the substance is changed by God’s command(elegant) yet the accidents remain as “substanceless-accidents” (not elegant and seemingly contradictory). Obviously there comes a point where you can no longer penetrate but you would think contradiction would not be the end. Help me see that this is only apparent contradiction or how it is not. (I submit myself entirely to the Church no matter what).

Perhaps its much like a soul with no body which belies the definition of soul. Yet I heard it said that a “spiritual body” is provided upon death for the human soul. I don’t know how much of that is speculative, however.

This is certainly true in the natural world. Although Catholic explanations of transubstantiation often echo the teaching of Aristotle (a Greek pagan who lived more than three centuries before Christ), nobody would dispute that Aristotle was describing the distinction between substance and accidents relative to our natural world.

If iron was somehow transmuted into helium, it is difficult to imagine any attributes of iron which would be preserved. Surely the helium would have all of the attributes of helium, and none of the contrary attributes of iron.

The only way that the substance could change and the accidents remain would be some sort of miracle.


My apologies if this has been answered before.

You, my friend, are a philosopher. I have been here a long time, and I’m pretty sure I have never seen this question. This Forum has many mechanics, but not so many engineers.

Is an inhering the kind of herring that is not a red herring? Or was this a spelling error common with anti science folk?

Its not clear to me if you are making a joke or being sarcastic.

Modern Catholic Dictionary:

INHERENCE. Dependence on another being for its existence. Accidents naturally inhere in the substances they modify. By divine power, in the Holy Eucharist the accidents of bread and wine exist without inhering in their substance, which has been changed through transubstantiation into the substance of Christ’s body and blood.

Great discussion and I really appreciate your replies! After reading them and sleeping on it all, I see what I think may be more elegance then I originally perceived.

The accidents of the bread and wine are somehow suspended and this is supernatural as several of you replied. This is not unlike the soul being separated from the body upon death (which you would think impossible by the very definition of the human soul). Also, I’ve heard that when transubstantiation occurs a sort of sacrifice occurs in that the bread and wine no longer exist. But perhaps the separation of the accidents from the previous substance is also an analogy of death. When I recently read that there is no destruction of anything upon transubstantiation, I looked for more and believe I seem more now. It seems in the bread and wine there is another aspect of separation of form and matter (like body and soul) than I knew about (i.e. the separation of the accidents from the bread and wine).

Very beautiful indeed! And by God’s word and will he brings about this sort of death reversing the will of Man with Original sin which brought upon human death and real destruction. In a sense too, there is a lack of will in that first death through the cowardice of sin. It seems like a sort of “Un”-will with God’s answer which was a perfect willing partly seen in transubstantiation. A perfect Yes to the no which was man’s break from God.

I may be getting ahead of myself here: by sin we were cut off from the life-giving spiritual sustenance meant to come from our Mother Eve as with all mothers who teach and give example to their children. With Mary, this is restored and even more so through the Eucharist. Not only is teaching and example given but we are provided from Mary’s “Yes” the ACTUAL food of the Body and Blood of Christ. This is another way of seeing the “happy fault” which by God’s mercy we are given what seems to me to be infinitely more. From the original beatitude (a unity between God and Man) to a communion in body and spirit in Holy Communion. And this is perfectly creative it seems to me as opposed to the imperfect PRO-creative element within man. My being only has some derivation there, yet with Holy Communion I am made anew in direct contact with God (with Eve, my contact is indirect).

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