Question about the different understanding of Eucharist

Good and blessed day to all, this is my first question here on CAF. I hope you’ll overlook my not so eloquent English and a bit of a lack of nuance. (English is not my first language :wink: )

I have been having discussions with my Catholic friend about the meaning of the Holy Eucharist in different churches. I am quite interdenominational, with some experience in the various churches in my country, and some visits in the Orthodox and Catholic ones.

What has always bothered me since my conversion is the disunity of our faith, but the most scandalous one for me is the disagreement about the Holy Sacrament of Communion. Not just that there are competing understandings of it, but also the fact that the thing that literally joins us to Our Lord is also the source of most poisonous words, hatred and the blind feeling of superiority.

So our last discussion include a little thought exercise: Could our understanding of the Eucharist be rethought, in humility and with caution, so that it is no longer the main factor dividing Christendom? When I see concepts like Transsubstantiation, Sacramental Union or the Orthodox mystery or even Reformed Spiritual presence, I see the need to explain, when I put it bluntly, that during the Communion, you consume the body and blood of Jesus, including his divinity, but the appearance of bread and wine remain. So that way we get the philosophical “models” of accidents, Consubstantiation or the simple refusal to try to fully explain it.

So I think. It’s the Most Holy Sacrament and it’s also the deepest mystery. I think no human explanation will suffice anyway, but the differing views may help us in the way we treat it in relation to other parts of our lives as Christians. We all also approach it with solemnity and faith, regardless of the understanding.

What are your thoughts? Could the different understandings actually be in a way compatible? And to what extent?

Jesus faced this very thing, when He gave the Bread of Life Discourse in the Gospel of John, chapter 6. His loyal followers were repulsed by the idea of His Flesh and Blood as real things to eat and drink, so much so that many of them left Him.

Notice that Christ did not say “Hey, come back, you misunderstand! I am speaking symbolically!!”.

No, He turned to those who remained and said “Will you also leave me?”


Ask the Anglicans. They’ve been refusing to take a stand on the nature of the Eucharist for a while now. Hey, it helped them put off a civil war. Of course it also contributes to a strange sense of inconsistency as you move between parishes or countries.

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I’m sorry I didn’t express myself clearly enough. I don’t include those who deny the presence of Christ in the Sacrament.

I understand from the Catholic perspective only an ordained priest can consecrate the elements. Here I talk only about the understanding of it.

I don’t have any problem not using the term transsubstantiation as long as we say we receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. You are right it is a mystery that we cannot understand. I think the Trinity is actually a greater mystery and the fact the God had no beginning.

Thank you. As far as I know, even the more distant Calvinist concept of Spiritual presence wouldn’t deny that Christ is present in His Blood, Body, Soul and Divinity, even though the exact wording would be different at first glance and would need elaboration. My knowledge on this subject is limited though and I welcome any correction.

And you’re right about the Trinity and God being infinite. I am truly happy that the belief in the Triune God unites all Christianity, regardless of division. However the Eucharist is then the act of grace, in which we can touch the infinite and Triune God, and as such is itself a part of this mystery and how it directly affects us.

Our different understandings could certainly be understood better. The Eucharist is an immense mystery. My hope is that we will all be converted to a deeper understanding of the Eucharist that will place all our understandings together, so that they will not block our unity in the Eucharist.

The best place to learn about the journey to unity is the many bilateral dialogues between the Holy See and other denominations. These can be found at:


The US dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics recently summarized their dialogue:


We not only believe Jesus is present; we believe it is Jesus. In the miracle of the loaves and fishes they gathered up the remnants! Such respect! I understand in Protestant churches they throw the left overs away after communion! Well why not, if you only believe Jesus is present? Jesus is present everywhere accept in hell!

I would recommend you try reading the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. Dr. Luther has a very compelling view of the Sacrament of Holy Communion that I feel does a good job emphasizing the sacramental nature of Communion (God providing his promise to us while we simply receive his gift) and maintains the traditional view that Christ is truly present in the Sacrament, without trying to explain what scripture does not attempt to explain.


This disagreement has been with us for many centuries. The Eucharist is a subject that theologians have been arguing about since the days of Ambrose and Augustine, if not earlier. You might find this book helpful: Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper, by a team of four authors, one Catholic, one Lutheran, one Reformed, and one Baptist.

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Looks like a good read. Thanks for the recommendation. Although, just from the cover it appears they get the Lutheran view wrong.

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Byzantine Catholic, we say this in the Divine Liturgy, before reception of the Mystery of Holy Communion:

O Lord, I also believe and profess that this, which I am about to receive, is truly your most precious body and you life giving blood, which I pray, make me worthy to receive for the remission of all my sins and for live everlasting. Amen.

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I agree that some protestant churches are acting disrespectfully. In my church, we would always consume all that is present. It’s this problem with the doctrine of Spiritual presence that would need to be resolved.

And I understand the Catholic view that the host is literally Christ. I also see adoration as a beautiful practice. And yes, even though Christ can be present anywhere, the Communion is when we are united to Him. I can accept other views, I think no one can really understand what is happening in front of their eyes, so we should all approach the Sacrament with humility and respect anyway, regardless of our human reasoning.

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David Scaer is the Lutheran among the four authors.

Yeah, the summary mentions consubstantiation. Definitely not the Lutheran view.

Motley, them Anglicans.

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Regarding doctrine and practice, use of the term “Protestant “ is folly.

What an odious and disrespectful practice! This not the way we should handle Christ’s body and blood.

A great blog article about proper handling of the reliquary, from a Confessional Lutheran position, including criticism “sloppy practices” resulting from the heterodox notion of receptionism.

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From the Catechism:

1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ. 207

207 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1641.

So as I understand it, the main difference is between receptionism and “consecrationalism”, am I right? We have a nice high church presence in this thread. Do you see a way how receptionism could be “corrected”? As I see it, it should not matter much when exactly the moment of change happens, if you approach the sacrament humbly and you if needed dispose of the remnants in a respectful manner. (Preferably there should be a way to always use only exact amount of bread and wine so you don’t even have to have this debate.)

What are your views on this?

I actually quite like the motleyism of Anglicans. I think there can be a multitude of views within a church, as long as the practical implications of worship remain the same. I don’t like the way the CofE is heading now, though.

And thank you all for your answers!! Now I have plenty of books to read through!

Of the eight identified issues, just one of them is receptionism, as it was expressed in the 16th century, at the Council of Trent, Session 13, Canon IV:

If any one saith, that, after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist, but (are there) only during the use, whilst it is being taken, and not either before or after; and that, in the hosts, or consecrated particles, which are reserved or which remain after communion, the true Body of the Lord remaineth not; let him be anathema.

But the full list is:

I Real Presence or Our Lord Jesus Christ
II Spiritual Food antidote to mortal sins and sign of communion of the Church
III Real Presence is from before reception (at consecration)
IV Transubstantiation
V Latria of the Eucharist is proper
VI Bearing the reserved Eucharist to the sick
VII The necessity of preparation for worthy reception
VIII Proper use of the Sacrament (e.g., frequent reception when without mortal sin and from clergy)

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