I don't understand the Eucharist

This will likely sound silly, but I have never really comprehended what exactly people mean when they say that the bread and wine offered during Eucharist become the literal blood and body of Jesus.

By literal, is it genuinely literal? Consuming actual flesh and blood? My understanding of it doesn’t seem complete. I tried reading about Transubstantiation but I still wasn’t fully able to glean understanding.

I read that “The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ.” So is it not meant to be fully understood?

Some denominations say that it does not literally become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. So why the distinction? Is it an important distinction for denominations to consider it symbolic vs. literal vs. nothing?

If this has been answered before, would you lead me to the answer? Sorry for the confusion I just don’t really understand.

Fair enough it is a hard teaching.
To a Catholic it is literal, and yes we do consume the very body, blood, and divinity of our Savior.
Yes it is hard to wrap our tiny minds around the doctrine of the Eucharist.But who can know the mind of God eh?
To a Catholic it is everything.
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From USCCB, The Real Presence Of Jesus Christ In The Sacrament Of The Eucharist: Basic Questions And Answers:

The whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine—the glorified Christ who rose from the dead after dying for our sins. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. This presence of Christ in the Eucharist is called “real” not to exclude other types of his presence as if they could not be understood as real (cf. Catechism, no. 1374). The risen Christ is present to his Church in many ways, but most especially through the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

What does it mean that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine? How does this happen? The presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist is an inexhaustible mystery that the Church can never fully explain in words.


1374 The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”


I would also like to share the following -

Sacred Heart of Jesus - St Margaret-Mary Alacoque


Jesus to St Margaret-Mary Alacoque

"Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in this Sacrament of Love. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to Me, that treat Me thus. Therefore, I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honor My Heart, by communicating on that day, and making reparation to It by a solemn act, in order to make amends for the indignities which It has received during the time It has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that My Heart shall expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its Divine Love upon those who shall thus honor It, and cause It to be honored."

Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano -

I hope this has helped

God Bless You

Thank you for reading

F. J. Sheed
Chapter 18—Eucharist And Mass
The Real Presence
The Blessed Eucharist is the Sacrament. Baptism exists for it, all the others are enriched by it. The whole being is nourished by it. It is precisely food, which explains why it is the one sacrament meant to be received daily. Without it, one petition in the Our Father—“Give us this day our daily bread”—lacks the fullness of its meaning.
Early in his ministry, as St. John tells us (ch 6), Our Lord gave the first promise of it. He had just worked what is probably the most famous of his miracles, the feeding of the five thousand. The next day, in the synagogue at Capernaum on the shore of the sea of Galilee, Our Lord made a speech which should be read and reread. Here we quote a few phrases: “I am the Bread of Life”; “I am the Living Bread, which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give, is my flesh for the life of the world”; “He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me, and I in him”; “He that eats me shall live by me.”
He saw that many of his own disciples were horrified at what he was saying. He went on: “It is the spirit that quickens: the flesh profits nothing.” We know what he meant: in saying they must eat his flesh, he did not mean dead flesh but his body with the life in it, with the living soul in it. In some way he himself, living, was to be the food of their soul’s life. Needless to say, all this meant nothing whatever to those who heard it first. For many, it was the end of discipleship. They simply left him, probably thinking that for a man to talk of giving them his flesh to eat was mere insanity. When he asked the Apostles if they would go too, Peter gave him one of the most moving answers in all man’s history: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” He had not the faintest idea of what it all meant; but he had a total belief in the Master he had chosen and simply hoped that some day it would be made plain.
There is no hint that Our Lord ever raised the matter again until the Last Supper. Then his meaning was most marvelously made plain. What he said and did then is told us by Matthew, Mark, and Luke; and St. Paul tells it to the Corinthians (1 Cor 10 and 11). St. John, who gives the longest account of the Last Supper, does not mention the institution of the Blessed Eucharist; his Gospel was written perhaps thirty years after the others, to be read in a church which had been receiving Our Lord’s body and blood for some sixty years. What he had provided is the account we have just been considering of Our Lord’s first promise.


You are asking, is the bread and the wine become the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist.

The accurate answer to this can be found in the Church documents like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If you are new to such documents they can be quite technical so it is easier just to allow somebody to tell you in a layman language (provided of course he will tell you correctly ).

I will preface my reply to tell you that the understanding of the Eucharist is different as how it is understood and believed in different Christian denominations. So if you come here and a Catholic poster tells you, it is about Catholic Eucharist.

So to your question, yes, the bread and the wine that are offered in the Eucharistic prayer in the mass do change literally, truly, into the Body and Blood of Jesus in a process called Transubstantiation.

The confusion is usually on the appearance of bread and wine, which are still the same. So how is that they become the Body and the Blood of the Lord? Or are they look like bread and wine?

The bread and the wine are called the accidents. These do not change. If they are changed, they would not perhaps appear as bread and wine though we do not know exactly what the body of the resurrected Jesus looks like .

What is changed is the substance of the accidents from the bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Jesus accordingly.

The key to understanding of all these is what is meant by ‘substance’.

You can look into dictionaries or listen to theologians explanation but put simply, substance is what make a person or thing is. Personally for me this is still the difficulty in the explanation but roughly I know what it is. I understand that the appearance is still bread and wine, but the substance is of Jesus Christ.

Thus when we partake of the bread and the wine in the Eucharistic celebration, they are true Body and Blood of Jesus - the Real Presence. Jesus is present bodily in his true form in them.

I always thought it was silly when people thought the Eucharist was purely symbolic that doesn’t make any sense if you know anything about early Christianity and it never looks that way in scripture. Of course, this is no offense to people who believe that I’m just giving you my point of view.

I think I’m understanding now; thank you all very much for the informative replies (in layman’s terms, too ;))

To add on, from what I have learnt, as I am starting to comprehend all this myself,

Jesus Christ is working through the priest in Mass, to change the substance of those Accidents Reuben j described, to His Body and Blood.

Jesus is offering these to His Father for the forgiveness of sin. I got confused for a while, as to whether Jesus being part of the Trinity, was offering this to Himself. My priest said that Jesus is offering this to His Father , God, as in the Crucifixion.

With the variety of denominations within my family, we have had some interesting conversations concerning the Lord’s Supper. With my sister marrying a Catholic, myself a Lutheran and the rest either Methodist, Pentecostal or non-Denominational, we do have some diverse understandings of both the Eucharist and baptism. Sticking with the Eucharist, my Lutheran teaching is that we do experience the “Real Presence” when we kneel at the altar and take communion but in a different understanding than Catholics. For the most part, the rest of my family do state that Scripture says, “Do this in memory of me.” They skip over the important words “This IS my body and this IS my blood.” My dad was the worst to egg us on because he knew he could set up a good “argument” when the family gathered. He was a stinker that way but I think it was good for us as we were forced into reevaluating what we actually believed and why.

I hesitate on the word literally, and for this reason: Jesus is not cutting off slabs of flesh from Himself for the host. The person in front of you isn’t getting a piece of flesh from Jesus’ forearm and you a piece from His thigh. The bread and wine, each particle of it, has truly become Jesus’ whole, glorified self: His body, blood, soul and divinity, and he gives that self to you, as part of His church, physically and wholely in every mass.

From St. Thomas Aquinas’s ADORE TE:

On the cross only the divinity was hidden,
But here the humanity is also hidden.

Full hymn:

I devoutly adore you, O hidden Deity,
Truly hidden beneath these appearances.
My whole heart submits to you,
And in contemplating you, It surrenders itself completely.
Sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of you,
But hearing suffices firmly to believe.
I believe all that the Son of God has spoken;
There is nothing truer than this word of truth.
On the cross only the divinity was hidden,
But here the humanity is also hidden.
Yet believing and confessing both,
I ask for what the repentant thief asked.
I do not see the wounds as Thomas did,
But I confess that you are my God.
Make me believe more and more in you,
Hope in you, and love you.
O memorial of our Lord’s death!
Living bread that gives life to man,
Grant my soul to live on you,
And always to savor your sweetness.
Lord Jesus, Good Pelican,
wash my filthiness and clean me with your blood,
One drop of which can free
the entire world of all its sins.
Jesus, whom now I see hidden,
I ask you to fulfill what I so desire:
That the sight of your face being unveiled
I may have the happiness of seeing your glory. Amen.

The best analogy I can come up with (pitiful analogy it is, too. I apologize for that) is a computer. There is no such thing as a Windows PC or a Mac PC. A PC is hardware…until you put an operating system on it. At that point it becomes a Mac or a PC. The substance of the hardware hasn’t changed, it still looks the same. You’d never know the difference until you USE it.

I hope this doesn’t sound trite or irreverent, but as a new convert, this is the only comparison that helped me understand the true presence in the Eucharist.

The tough part of understanding the Eucharist is that we typically experience a person in one mode only – that is, in the mode of physical appearance. So, it’s pretty easy to ask “is so-and-so really present?” All we have to do is think, “is he physically present? If so, then ‘yes’. If not, then ‘no’.”

The problem is that, if we quit realizing that we’re asking the question “is this person really present in physical mode?”, and instead think we’re asking “is this person really present?”, then we end up getting the wrong answer when we’re talking about something outside of the physical mode. (Now, it really is reasonable that we get confused – after all, the normal mode of being, here inside of the frame of reference of the created universe, is only the physical mode.)

And so, when we’re discussing this question, we have to ask whether there’s a different mode of presence that might be in play. And, in the context of the Eucharist, that answer is a resounding ‘yes’! We’re dealing with a sacramental mode of presence! A sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality. So, when we see the visible sign (the bread and the wine), the invisible reality that it points to is Christ, truly present in a sacramental mode.

So, is Christ “literally” present? Absolutely! Is he visible in physical appearance? Nope… the physical appearance is the appearance of bread and of wine. But, He is present in His substance (body, blood, soul, and divinity), in sacramental mode.

So, yeah: literally. Just not in the mode that we’re used to seeing in the world… :wink:

(Now… the next nut to crack is to ask whether that physical appearance is Christ, or just a container for Christ. That’s the distinction between “consubstantiation” and “transubstantiation”… and maybe that’s a question for another day…)

I am having a problem with your use of the term Sacramental in association with the Eucharist. The term Sacramental in the Catholic Church is not the same as the term Sacrament

There is a distinct difference between Sacramental and Sacrament.
The Eucharist is the ultimate miracle of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, celebrated and done by Jesus himself at every Mass.

A Sacramental is something like a Miraculous Medal or Set of Rosary Beads.

The learned Religious here can explain this more. But for now here is the Catechism for both.

It would be so easy to create confusion and thus diminish the Eucharist to something it definately is not, in minds eager to learn.

1667 "Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy."173

From vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c4a1.htm

Where the Eucharist is a Sacrament.
Descibed thus…
1322 The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.
1323 "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.’"135

From vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm

God Bless us on our Journey Home

Do you believe God can do all things? Then why not transubstantiation?

Look, without the Sacrifice, the altar becomes meaningless. God has always provided a Sacrifice upon his altar. From Adam to Christ. Abraham provided his one and only son. Animals have been provided from Israel.

Is it so hard to understand that God would require a sacrifice for the sanctity of His altar. It’s just that the animals that were sacrificed turned into the perfect sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son.

Do you think that Jesus would leave the altar without a sacrifice. It’s the very body and blood of Jesus that sanctifies that altar, just as the sacrifice of animals sanctified the altar of the OT. The body and blood of animals was placed upon the altar. The body and blood of Christ is placed upon the altar.

It is not a hard teaching to understand. There must be a sacrifice, upon the altar, for the forgiveness of sins. Just as there was a sacrifice of animals upon the altar to forgive sins. Jesus takes the place of the Passover lamb. His sacrifice is remembered upon the altar. And as his sacrifice is remembered upon the altar; so does the bread and wine become the Holy Spirit in truth. God can do all things, remember that; therefore, the sacrifice is valid, spiritually, for the reason of Sanctifying the altar.

If it was empty, a meaningless (symbolic) gesture, then the Lord would not be upon the altar; for it is the Lord that sanctifies the sacrifice; and the altar, upon which the sacrifice is offered.

Correct. But, I didn’t call the Eucharist “a sacramental” (i.e., as a noun); I called the mode of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist “sacramental” (i.e., as an adjective).

From the Catechism:
#1380: “Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence.”

#1390: “Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species.”

Hope this helps… :wink:

What is a sacramental presence? Any good resources that go into that specific phrase and meaning?

Modern Catholic Dictionary

SACRAMENTAL PRESENCE. The manner of presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. He is really, truly, and substantially “contained” under the appearances of bread and wine, in such a way that where they are and as long as they are, he is there in the fullness of his divinity and humanity. See also REAL PRESENCE.

Thanks, learn something every day :innocent:

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