Transubstantiation - Accidents with no subject


A somewhat advanced question on transubstantiation.

According to the teaching of the Church and of St. Thomas Aquinas, in transubstantiation, the substance of bread and wine becomes the substance of the body of Christ, while the accidents of bread and wine remain “without a subject.” In other words, the body of Christ does not take on the accidents of bread and wine, but the accidents in some completely miraculous way remain without any substance to inhere to.

Now we relate to things by their accidents. When I want to pick up a pencil, I know the pencil is there because I can see its accidents. When I lift the pencil, the accidents remain inhering to its substance, and so I am certain that I am in fact holding the pencil.

Therefore, how is it that we relate to the Eucharist? After the consecration, the priest picks up the host by grabbing for the accidents of bread and wine. Yet they are not inhering in the substance of the body of Christ, so how does he pick up the body of Christ? When he elevates the host, the accidents of bread are not inhering in the substance of Christ’s body, so how is it that he knows where the substance of Christ’s body really is? All he can see are accidents which are not connected to the substance of the body.

Peace and God bless


I think you’re making too big a separation between the substance and the accidents. The accidents may not “inhere in” the substance but they nevertheless signify its presence.


Hi Lazer__,

It’s a miracle, you know!



Keep in mind that “location” is also an accident. The point you have made is a critical one. Many people think that when we eat the host or drink from the chalice, we are somehow cannibalizing the body of Christ, but we are not. We cannot touch his substance, but only the accidents of bread and wine.

Further, we each receive the whole Christ, and I receive the very same Christ as you, in his totality. He has but one body. Since we each receive the same, we are drawn together in a unity.


Sister Mary Margaret said it’s a mystery! I guess that’s something God understands and we don’t.


So ‘eat My flesh and drink My blood’ means ‘what you are eating are only the accidents and I’m not even in that location’? Is there such a thing as explaining something out of existence?


Not explaining it out of existence. You really receive Jesus body, but only the accidents of bread and wine can be perceived by you. Your ‘location’ becomes the same location as Jesus. It might help to think of a wormhole, although that’s not something Aquinas considered.


Yeah!.. what HE said! :smiley:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit