Orthodox Christians and the Real Presence:

Do Orthodox Christians believe in the Real Presence the same way Roman Catholics do? Do they differ on the matter of transubstansiation? Do they have open or closed Eucharist? Help is apreciated, God bless…

Yes, Orthodox Christians believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They do not typically think in terms of transubstantiation, because transubstantiation uses Aristotelian metaphysical concepts which are not too frequently used in Orthodoxy theology (the talk about essences and accidents).

The Eucharist in the Orthodox Church is only given to members of the Orthodox Church. Special cases may be made (at the discretion of the bishop) for Oriental Orthodox Christians and Catholics who have no access to a Church of their own, but allowances for intercommunion are (and should be) the exception rather than the rule.

This is more appropriate for the non-Catholic religions forum.


Orthodox Christians believe in the Real Presence of Christ; that is to say, they are truly and really receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. They do not, however, believe in transubstantiation. To my understanding this is simply because they see it as postulating a formula for how the Real Presence happens, which to them is simply a mystery.

Orthodoxy maintains a closed altar, at least on the official level.

How do you believe in the Real Presence without transubstansiation? What do you mean by “Aristotelian metaphysical concepts” and “talk about essences and accidents”?

Do Lutherans believe in the Real Presence? My reason for comming to the Real Presence is 1 Cor. 11:27-29. “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” -This is also why I’ve accepted closed communion. :shrug:

Transubstantiation is a description of the Real Presence using Aristotle’s philosophical language and formulas. If one doesn’t use Aristotle then they won’t describe the Real Presence using his terms.

The Eastern Orthodox believe that the bread and wine really and truly become the Body and Blood of Christ completely, though the experience of bread and wine remain. Their view is what you would call Transubstantiation, but they don’t use the same language to describe it simply because they don’t use Aristotle’s terms of substance and accident.

Peace and God bless!

Thanks. So it’s basically tomato-tomoto? :slight_smile:

If you do not understand this, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in transubstantiation or not.

Read your Aristotle. Study his theories on Forms and Substances, that is what the theory and doctrine of Transubstantiation is rooted in.

Transubstantiation is based on a very specific metaphysical view of the world. In this metaphysical view, things have an underlying substance which is unknown to us, and accidents which are how we perceive the object. For example, a cat is in reality an underlying substance which makes it ‘be’, but on top of that substance (that thing which makes it a cat), it has different traits or accidents which we can detect (remember, we cannot detect or interact with substances, in this worldview). This cat for example, may have hair, or it may be hairless; it might have orange fur, gray fur, black fur, white fur, or a combination of these colors; it might have a tabby coat, a calico coat or a tortoise shell coat; its fur might be soft to the touch, or coarse; it may have a loud pur or a soft pur; it might have green eyes or blue eyes; etc… All of those aforementioned traits, which we are able to perceive and detect with our senses are the accidents of the cat, but the accidents are not actually reflective of the underlying being of the cat which we are examining, for that alone is proper only to the substance.

The mystery of the Eucharist is, to put it in simple language, that the bread and wine somehow become Christ, but that they somehow remain looking, feeling, tasting, sounding and smelling like ordinary bread and wine. Transubstantiation attempts to explain the mystery of the Eucharist using this particular metaphysical understanding of reality with substances and accidents. Therefore, transubstantiation states that the bread and the wine have their substance turned into (hence the Latin prefix trans-) the substance of Christ’s Body and Blood, but that the accidents of the bread and wine (what makes it feel, taste, look, smell and sound like bread and wine) remain, so that even though the substance of the Eucharist has been transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist still detectable by our senses as just ordinary bread and wine (that is, you cannot tell just by look or taste whether a communion wafer has been consecrated).

The Orthodox do not traditionally use this Aristotelian framework in their philosophy, so they therefore do not state the mystery of the Eucharist in this precise terminology. They typically would prefer to use the simple language description I wrote in the paragraph above, and not speculate on how the mystery actually happens, being content to know that it does happen and to know that what is in the chalice is truly the body and blood of Christ.

Incorrect. What the West calls “Consubstantiation” is also acceptable among those who are Orthodox.

Both go into the means of how it happens.

We simply accept that it is the real body and blood and leave it at that. We don’t care about the metaphysical properties. As my boss’s wife said “Who cares?”

The faith of Orthodoxy comes from the Apostles…witnesses to Jesus Christ.

Definitely they have the sacraments. We can go there if there is no Catholic Church around, but you have to first identify yourself to the Orthodox priest. IF he says you can’t receive there, don’t.

They are in schism with the Holy Father.

Over one thousand years ago, there was just one apostolic, Catholic church.

The Roman Catholic Church gets carried away some times defining and making formulas for just about everything, whereas the Orthodox just hand it over to the mystery of God…I am thinking particular of limbo, less of whether the Spirit proceeds or not, filique…or if Mary actually died or just simply was assumed into heaven.

When you look at these differences and compare them to Protestantism, well in my opinion, it is a tempest in a teapot.

I have to watch out for saying that and don’t intend to start any bickering.

I do not come to CAF anymore to learn about Orthodoxy here on the non-Catholic forum. Not really the right place, but your question certainly is valid.

And God’s blessings to you Mr. Zetterlund; I have been watching your questioning and searching for some time now…welcome!

Have a question: With many Orthodox Catholic converts from a variety of non-Catholic Christian backgrounds in the United States, I have noted that it sometimes happens when either a layman or a priest describes what they believe real presence to mean and it is not at all the “true” body and blood of Christ unless one tortures “true” to mean something other than substantially.

In those cases, what would be an Orthodox Catholic bishop’s response, an Orthodox bishop who has sustained the true meaning of real presence…:)…?

Dear Kathleen,

Thanks for saying this. By odd coincidence I have written to the forum administration and suggested that we try something slightly different. I don’t know that they will be receptive.

In any event one of the things we can do is, when grammatically appropriate, to refer to Orthodox believers as Orthodox Catholics. That would be more in keeping with the general attitudes of the Vatican concerning Orthodox particular Churches.

To explicitly and regularly recognize Orthodox believers as Orthodox Catholics, also serves the purpose of keeping us from putting eastern Catholics in a “discussion ghetto” by disassociating them from their Orthodox brothers and sisters and their theological and spiritual and liturgical roots.

In Christ,


Well, sort of, except that the synod of Jerusalem condemns the idea of ‘impanation’ (literally the idea that Christ becomes incarnate in the bread), which is likely a reference to consubstantiation. We also have to look at what is said in the Liturgy, like what the priest says during the epiclesis: “Make this bread the Precious Body of Thy Christ, And that which is in this Cup, the Precious Blood of Thy Christ, Changing by Thy Holy Spirit.” Certainly, I would say that it leans closer to the idea that the gifts are becoming something that they were not, rather than the idea that Christ is coming to dwell in the bread and wine (as Consubstantiation would imply).

Well, I think the bishop would say that the bread and wine are literally the body and blood of Christ. I don’t really think there’s any need to philosophically justify the statement. After all, how many of those laymen would understand substance and accidents (how many people even understand correctly what it means when we say that Christ is consubstantial or homoousion with the Father in the creed?), and how many of them would benefit from learning it? Surely it is simpler (when explaining it to the laity) to say that they are the real, physical body and blood of Christ, and leave it at that.

Yes the Orthodox believe in the Real Presence. They have Apostolic Succession, the only other church that does. They believe the Eucharist is fully Christ, however they leave it as a mystery and dont talk about transubstantiation. (of course for us too it’s a mystery, even with this doctrine :)). They have closed Communion. I was told that Catholics can receive their Communion in emergency situations (not casually), with the permission of a priest perhaps, but - the Orthodox generally don’t allow Catholics to share Communion with them, since the churches are not united. (and if the Catholic does attempt this, it should only be for a very grave reason, like being in danger of death with no Catholic churches around. Normally we should receive Communion in Catholic churches only).

Only the Catholic and the Orthodox churches have valid Eucharist.

Lutherans, and other more traditional Protestants, - tend to believe in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist but they tend to believe in consubstantiation rather than transubstantiation… consubstantiation means that Christ is present there but so is the bread. We believe there is no more bread after the Consecration. Also, Protestants tend to believe in Christ’s spiritual presence, not substantial - it depends though, they have different beliefs. Some believe it’s more substantial, but still not transubstantiation or the Orthodox belief. In any case, Protestants don’t have Apostolic Succession or priests, and don’t believe the Mass being a sacrifice, and don’t intend to do what the Church does, - so theologians say that they don’t have the Eucharist. And even if they have open Communion (many do), Catholics still can’t share Communion with them or receive Communion in their churches (not only because the churches are not in union, but also the beliefs are different, and the Communion is symbolic).

God bless

According the Book of Concord, which contains our various Confessions and doctrinal statements, Lutherans believe in the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion, and that we truly receive His Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.

That being said, we too do not employ the term transubstantiation. Not necessarily because it teaches anything wrong per se, but because Lutherans see it as an attempt to explain what cannot be explained.

Transubstantiation never attempts to explain the mystical true presence of Jesus body, blood, soul and divinity.

Transubstantiation defends the apostolic faith against those who try and defame our faith or discredit the revelation of Jesus Christ in His Eucharist, escpecially the intellectual, who tries to scientifically discredit the True presence.

Transubstantiation is grounded in Truth and it defeats all those past, present and future intellectuals who come against this revelation of Jesus Christ with new scientific discoveries.

Transubstantiation helps the intellectual to begin a faith in Jesus Christ. The definition of Transubstantiation introduces the mystery so that one can begin faith. Trans. never defines or suspends the mystery of the Eucharist, Trans. lifts one into the mystery.

The Church used her divine apostolic authority to “bind” science to transubstantiation, when science tries to deny or discredit the true presence of Jesus in His Eucharist.

Those who hold to a true presence in the Eucharist cannot deny transubstantiation but are really denying the Church defending the True presence of Jesus in His Eucharist.

How can a Lutheran or Orthodox defend the True presence against science today without using Transubstantiation?

Science will refute and belittle any Lutheran or Orthodox true presence to superstition without transubstantiation.

Thank God for the magisterium who protects and defends the revelations of Jesus Christ and has defended the apostolic faith in the true presence so that you don’t have too.

The doctrine of Trinity did not fall from the sky, The Church defined Trinity to defeat heresy. Trinity never defines God. Neither does transubstantiation, the definition defeats heresy.

Peace be with you

Precisely the reason we don’t employ the term consubstantiation either.



Good point…Orthodox Catholics…

Now how do they accept this???

Hi Gabe,
You don’t think that science (at least those scientists who already dispute religion) doesn’t also view Catholic real presence in the same way? Do you really think they are impressed by the claim of a change in substance while the accidents remain?

We defend the real presence in the only way we know how: Christ’s promise to us in His own words, “this is my body…”.
and BTW, I give thanks to God that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and the Bishops of Holy Orthodoxy, and the leaders of Lutheranism, and all others who discern His words, for their defense of the truth of the real presence.

Those who hold to a true presence in the Eucharist cannot deny transubstantiation but are really denying the Church defending the True presence of Jesus in His Eucharist.

It isn’t a matter of denying Transub., Gabe. It is the view of a lack of need for it, as if Christ’s words on the matter were not sufficient. I stand with Luther when he says that drinking mere wine with the Swiss is not an option, but Transubstantiation with the pope is.

A blessed Advent,

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