Is Transubstantiation Theology or Dogma? Is it necessary?

By “transubstantiation” I mean St. Thomas Aquinas’s description (I include the Latin only for those who may want to nitpick what St. Thomas meant, or what words he actually used):

“Et ideo cuiuslibet agentis creati actio fertur super aliquem determinatum actum. Determinatio autem cuiuslibet rei in esse actuali est per eius formam. Unde nullum agens naturale vel creatum potest agere nisi ad immutationem formae. Et propter hoc omnis conversio quae fit secundum leges naturae, est formalis. Sed Deus est infinitus actus, ut in prima parte habitum est. Unde eius actio se extendit ad totam naturam entis. Non igitur solum potest perficere conversionem formalem, ut scilicet diversae formae sibi in eodem subiecto succedant, sed conversionem totius entis, ut scilicet tota substantia huius convertatur in totam substantiam illius. Et hoc agitur divina virtute in hoc sacramento. Nam tota substantia panis convertitur in totam substantiam corporis Christi, et tota substantia vini in totam substantiam sanguinis Christi. Unde haec conversio non est formalis, sed substantialis. Nec continetur inter species motus naturalis, sed proprio nomine potest dici transubstantiatio.”

"For it is evident that every agent acts according as it is in act. But every created agent is limited in its act, as being of a determinate genus and species: and consequently the action of every created agent bears upon some determinate act. Now the determination of every thing in actual existence comes from its form. Consequently, no natural or created agent can act except by changing the form in something; and on this account every change made according to nature’s laws is a formal change. But God is infinite act, as stated in I, 7, 1; 26, 2; hence His action extends to the whole nature of being. Therefore He can work not only formal conversion, so that diverse forms succeed each other in the same subject; but also the change of all being, so that, to wit, the whole substance of one thing be changed into the whole substance of another. And this is done by Divine power in this sacrament; for the whole substance of the bread is changed into the whole substance of Christ’s body, and the whole substance of the wine into the whole substance of Christ’s blood. Hence this is not a formal, but a substantial conversion; nor is it a kind of natural movement: but, with a name of its own, it can be called ‘transubstantiation.’ " (Summa Theologica, Part 3, Q. 75, Art. 4)

Is it necessarily true, and what arguments are there for it being true?

Is it dogma, or theology (a not-necessarily-exclusive way to explain the dogma)?

Finally, why should we use the word, if Christ did not (and doesn’t clearly explain what is happening during communion)?

Thank you.

The Transubstantiation is dogma. It would be better to call it a transessence rather than a transubstance. The essence of the bread changes, ie. it’s interior reality. It’s like baking a cake and adding an essence of Christ to the cake. Some people believe the transubstantiated host contains Jesus’ genes which is his body in a concentrated form.

What? :confused:

So how many angels can fit on the head of a needle again? :stuck_out_tongue:

42

I knew that, I was just testing you. :nerd:

Wait, whats the question again?

So by the cake analogy (for which the cake would remain with Christ’s essence), is transubstantiation as a dogma identical consubstantiation? Also, I am concerned that we risk being careless with words like substance and essence that, within Thomistic philosophy, have specific Aristotelian definitions.

But that’s the whole point. If all this depends on Aristotle and on these fine distinctions not determined (it seems) by Tradition or in the Scriptures, but by Greek philosophy, can it really be said to be of dogmatic weight? Does that mean that Aristotle’s metaphysics must be accepted whole by all loyal Catholics?

Dude, what?

CCC Reference

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."206

It is nothing at all like adding the “essence of Christ” to a cake. and really, the Host now contains his genes? Who taught/teaches that?

FSC

Incorrect, the substance and the essence are tied together. When we consume the Eucharist, the substance we are consuming is the Body and Blood of Christ.

The essence of the bread changes, ie. it’s interior reality.

No, the essence is the total being of the host. It’s total reality is changed into the Body and Blood. The only thing that remains unchanged is it’s accident, which means it is chemically identical to bread. It is, however, totally and in fullness the Body and Blood of Christ

It’s like baking a cake and adding an essence of Christ to the cake.

Incorrect. That would be consubstantiation. That view is not allowed for faithful catholics to hold. It is not bread AND Body, it is totally the Body of Christ, which by accident is chemically similar to yeastless bread.

Some people believe the transubstantiated host contains Jesus’ genes which is his body in a concentrated form.

I have never met such a person, but with more than a billion members I’m sure there are more than a few who erroneously believe as such. The only case I could cite of the above would be the miracle of Lanciano, where not only the substance/essence was changed, but the molecular accident was changed as well… however, that is the exception rather than the general norm.

Being based upon Aristotle does not mean that his philosophy holds theological weight. He was one of the brightest minds ever to live and as such defined and explained things in an extraordinarily thorough fashion. St. Thomas based his approach on Aristotle and used some of what Aristotle taught (prime mover argument was one, I believe). That does not give Aristotle’s metaphysics theological virtue.

And yes, it is Dogma, as far as I know… which is about to the end of my nose, but oh well.

And do not use that cake analogy. Seriously, I am AWESOME at bad analogies, but that one is just… wrong. See the Catechism reference above.

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Here, start reading at this:

scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c1a3.htm

No. That was a mistake. The cake analogy used is nothing similar to transubstantiation.

Also, I am concerned that we risk being careless with words like substance and essence that, within Thomistic philosophy, have specific Aristotelian definitions.

But that’s the whole point. If all this depends on Aristotle and on these fine distinctions not determined (it seems) by Tradition or in the Scriptures, but by Greek philosophy, can it really be said to be of dogmatic weight? Does that mean that Aristotle’s metaphysics must be accepted whole by all loyal Catholics?

I’m always cautious of playing semantical games like that one. It seems so pharisaic. Bottom line: Aristotle defined a group of universally understood terms such as “accidents” and “essense” which have been used by philosophers around the world for millenia. Those words have convenient meaning behind them for ready use in appropriate theological discussions and context. What Aristotle said about the nature of essence is incorrect, yes, but WHAT an essence is is a very useful descriptor for the church to use without having to constantly invent new words for already existing terms.

I think that the Church has well pondered and prayed over this. I think the Holy Spirit has spoken through the Church. Are we obedient, or do we want constant changes to suit our modern age and our egos?

Jack Chick considers the Holy Eucharist to be the “death wafer”. When you play with settled doctrine, you open the door to Mr. Chick.

I know that Aquinas and Aristotle use a lot of the same language – Aristotle basically created the vocabulary of philosophy for centuries – but that **doesn’t **mean that Aquinas and Aristotle mean identical things by these terms.

What Catholics believe:
[LIST=1]
*]After the consecration, the bread and wine have become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
*]After the consecration, the bread and wine cease to exist. Where there had been bread and wine, there no longer is.
*]After the consecration, the Eucharist exists under the appearance of bread and wine. (The Eucharist has the appearance, shape, smell, color, and even molecular structure of the pre-existing bread and wine).
[/LIST]
These three points can be found in writings of the Early Church Fathers a millennium before Aquinas. Aquinas simply explained them in a way that succinctly captured the three points. The “accidents” (appearance, shape, smell, color, and we would now add molecular structure and DNA) remain the accidents of bread, while the “substance” or “essence” ceases to be bread, and becomes Christ.

The thing being described has no parallel in real life. The closest parallel (and I’m embarrassed to make this) that I can think of, even in fiction, is Freaky Friday. The mom and daughter wake up in each other’s bodies. They have each other’s physical form, DNA, etc., but are different people than the ones inhabiting those bodies earlier.

The doctrine of Transubstantiation must be accepted by all Catholics. This doctrine maintains only that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Church offers no doctrinal explanation of how this change takes place.

The philosophical framework that St. Thomas uses is interesting, but it is not part of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. So Catholics are required to accept Transubstantiation, but are free to ignore or disagree with the opinions of St. Thomas.

How so? Sorry, maybe I didn’t read it in context, but I didn’t see anything that contradicts transubstantiation?

What do you mean how so? Thomas Aquinas came up with a methodology of how transubstantiation occurs. The church does not dogmatically teach how it occurs, just that it occurs. As such, no catholic is bound to believe Thomas Aquinas’ theory, though from my experience most of the catholics who do affirm transubstantiation accept his explanation.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I am just wondering how DavidFilmer came up with the conclusion that Aquinas’ teaching “is not part of the doctrine of Transubstantiation”

Because, exactly as I said, the church ONLY defines THAT transubstantiation happens. It does NOT dogmatically define HOW. St Thomas’ teaching was on the HOW, so no matter how good of a description it is, and whether or not it is a true description of HOW, it is still not a dogmatically defined item. As it is not included in what has been doctrinally defined, it is not a teaching that all catholics MUST accept.

Jesus body is not present in concentrated form. He is present whole and entire, body and soul, his full humanity and his full divinity–all of him. No concentration needed.

The accidents of size, shape, color, taste, etc, formerly belonging to the bread, are accidents which do not inhere in his body. He is completely and entirely present under the accidents of bread and wine.

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