I’ve been having the pleasure of working with Confirmation students at my Parish … it truly has been a blessing and a great opportunity!!
However, I’m stumped with something that I’m hoping someone can help me out with!
One of the Confirmandi … who is absolutely lovely and really cherishes her faith … was talking to me about her troubles with Transubstantiation. She understands what it is and why we believe the host is Jesus: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity … as opposed to it being just a symbol. However, as she explained it to me … she is a very logical, concrete thinker, and she just can’t “get it …” how can it actually be Jesus?.
I know it is truly a Mystery of our faith, but I was hoping to provide her with some resources to help her. One of the things we talked about is for her to pray about it … that perhaps her struggles with this is God calling her to search and pray more as a way to deepen her sense of faith.
We talked about John 6:51-69 … but I was wondering if there were other passages and/or resources as well.
Thank you, in advance, for your time and your help!
It talks about created substances ignoring the laws of physics and nature, animals ignoring their created nature, and elements changing places, all in the context of “heavenly food” and bread which “ministers to the desire” of the one who takes it.
Here are two excerpts.
Instead of these things thou didst give thy
people food of angels,
and without their toil thou didst supply them
from heaven with bread ready to eat,
providing every pleasure and suited to every taste.
For thy sustenance manifested thy sweetness
toward thy children;
and the bread, ministering to the desire of
the one who took it,
was changed to suit every one’s liking.
Snow and ice withstood fire without melting,
so that they might know that the crops of their enemies
were being destroyed by the fire that blazed in the hail
and flashed in the showers of rain;
whereas the fire, in order that the righteous might be fed,
even forgot its native power.
For the elements changed places with one another,
as on a harp the notes vary the nature of the rhythm,
while each note remains the same.
This may be clearly inferred from the sight of what took place.
For land animals were transformed into water creatures,
and creatures that swim moved over to the land.
Fire even in water retained its normal power,
and water forgot its fire-quenching nature.
Flames, on the contrary, failed to consume
the flesh of perishable creatures that walked among them,
nor did they melt the crystalline, easily melted
kind of heavenly food.
It might be more helpful if she was clearer about her difficulty. You said she just doesn’t “get it” and “how could it be Jesus?” The simple answer is that we don’t know, but we do know it’s possible. This is because all things are possible with God, and we have precedence for a) God, the infinite creator, becoming a finite creature (in the person of Jesus Christ), and b) Jesus Christ describing Himself as the bread of life, and His flesh as good food, and c) other substances in the Bible acting differently than their created natures.
Sometimes “all things are possible with God” or “it’s a mystery” are just not satisfying answers.
Sometimes our desire to seek the answer - our desire for satisfaction - is actually God leading us to where we will find him. Sometimes that desire is God taking us to a place where he will reveal himself to us in some small but spectacular way.
I would talk to the girl not about transubstantiation but about the virtue of faith. Faith is accepting everything God has revealed to us through his holy Church because “He is truth”. God says it is Jesus so it is Jesus. Everything else will work itself out.
I would ask her if she really would want the accidents (outward appearances) to change into what they are (flesh and blood) before she consumes them? Or does she appreciate that they stay looking, tasting, smelling like bread and wine?
I so appreciate what God has gave us. It is so logical.
Since you say she’s very reasonable, you may try just giving her a photocopy of the questions in which St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiæ deals with Transubstantiation. He lays it out very clear, and explains it in a very logical way.
Here is an idea to consider towards reconciling how does transubstantiation occur:
Focus on what the host looks like, says, and does. Since it…
-Looks like the Body of God: We can know the Body of God looks like something round in form because we, both male and female, are created in the image of God, and when we are first who we are, we exist as body that is round in form.
-“Talks like” God: “This is [God’s] Body and Blood, which will be given up for [your eternal life].”
-“Walks like” God: The Host is broken, Body and Blood is given up for [your eternal life] and shed for the forgiveness of sins.
There is far more detail which demonstrates the message and actions of God, which includes actions of the Priest and congregation, however, prior to consecration, the bread does not share a message, nor perform any action, therefore the Host has been transubstantiated.
And here is one idea to consider towards reconciling why does transubstantiation occur:
Biological science has demonstrated that a life must consume energy from another life in order to sustain living, and the amount of time gained in living is somewhat proportional to the amount of energy transferred.
Therefore, if a life wants to live forever, the life will have to consume an infinite amount of energy from another life.
Well, there is only one life with an infinite amount of energy, which is God’s life, and the only way to consume His Body is through the Eucharist!
Thanks for the interesting food for thought, and I look forward to further discussion!
Reminds me of myself!!! - altho I was a bit older than she before it became an issue for me. My mind couldn’t comprehend how it could truly be the real body & blood (physical things) of Jesus and yet not manifest the physical qualities of His body and blood… (Soul & Divinity didn’t pose a problem, since they are spirit and not physical.) I accepted it on faith because the Church taught it and Jesus’ words in Scripture clearly stated it.
If you have her in Confirmation class, she is still quite young, so not sure if she’s up to Aquinas. Unfortunately Aquinas is not that easy to understand without some knowledge of the Aristotelian terminology he uses.
But, it was only through Aquinas that I finally got some sort of intellectual grasp and understanding of “transubstantiation”. And it was a big relief. It isn’t that it gave me new inspiring thoughts that enhanced Eucharistic meditations and prayer time with Our Lord - rather, it was like it removed an annoyance that had previously sort of lurked in the background. An annoyance that would try to creep in and interject itself, disrupting a total relaxation and union with Our Lord in the Eucharist.
Like MrSnaith (Post #3), I’m wondering if you could be clearer about what particular area is a problem for your student. In my previous post I just presumed it had to do with the physical aspects since that is what usually causes a problem for people, including “many of His disciples” who left Him on account of it. cf. John 6:66.
(As I noted the the numbering of the above chapter and verse it caused me to pause and wonder if it is just a coincidence or not!!
2 John, verse 7
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.
Rev. 13:18 This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six.)
I would supplement John Ch. 6 v. 35 et. seq., and direct her to St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians–1, ch. 11, vs. 29 (see previous post), where St. Paul states that we ‘eat and drink judgment’ upon ourselves, ‘not discerning the Body [of Christ’’ . Then (rhetorically) ask *how can we ‘eat and drink’ judgment on ourselves, if it is not the Body & Blood of Christ?
Then I would point to the Church Fathers:
*“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour,having been made flesh and blood for our salvation,so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word,and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished,is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”
“He acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as his own blood,from which he bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of creation) he affirmed to be his own body,from which he gives increase to our bodies.”
“Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, ‘This is my body,’ that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body. …likewise, when mentioning the cup and making the new testament to be sealed ‘in His blood,’ affirms the reality of His body. For no blood can belong to a body which is not a body of flesh. …Thus did He now consecrate His blood in wine, who then (by the patriarch) used the figure of wine to describe His blood.”
“He once in Cana of Galilee, turned the water into wine, akin to blood, and ***is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood?***”
Cyril of Jerusalem,Catechetical Lectures,XXII:4(c.A.D. 350),in NPNF2,VII:152
"Having learn these things, and been fully assured that the seeming bread is not bread, though sensible to taste, but the Body of Christ; and that t***he seeming wine is not wine, though the taste will have it so, but the Blood of Christ***; and that of this David sung of old, saying, And bread strengtheneth man’s heart, to make his face to shine with oil, ‘strengthen thou thine heart,’ by partaking thereof as spiritual, and “make the face of thy soul to shine.” "
Cyril of Jerusalem,Catechetical Lectures,XXII:8(c.A.D. 350),in NPNF2,VII:152
“Then having sanctified ourselves by these spiritual Hymns, we beseech the merciful God to send forth His Holy Spirit upon the gifts lying before Him; that He may make the Bread the Body of Christ, and the Wine the Blood of Christ; for whatsoever the Holy Ghost has touched, is surely sanctified and changed.”
Cyril of Jerusalem,Catechetical Lectures,XXIII:7(c.A.D. 350),in NPNF2,VII:154
“Let us then in everything believe God, and gainsay Him in nothing, though what is said seem to be contrary to our thoughts and senses, but*** let His word be of higher authority than both reasonings and sight.*** Thus let us do in the mysteries also, not looking at the things set before us, but keeping in mind His sayings. For His word cannot deceive, but our senses are easily beguiled. That hath never failed, but this in most things goeth wrong. Since then the word saith, ‘This is my body,’ let us both be persuaded and believe, and look at it with the eyes of the mind. For Christ hath given nothing sensible, but though in things sensible yet all to be perceived by the mind. So also in baptism, the gift is bestowed by a sensible thing, that is, by water; but that which is done is perceived by the mind, the birth, I mean, and the renewal. For if thou hadst been incorporeal, He would have delivered thee the incorporeal gifts bare; but because the soul hath been locked up in a body, He delivers thee the things that the mind perceives, in things sensible. How many now say, I would wish to see His form, the mark, His clothes, His shoes. Lo! thou seest Him, Thou touchest Him, thou eatest Him. And thou indeed desirest to see His clothes, but He giveth Himself to thee not to see only, but also to touch and eat and receive within thee.”
John Chrysostom,Gospel of Matthew,Homily 82(A.D. 370),in NPNF1,X:495*
“You will see the Levites bringing the loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made,it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wonderous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ…When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body.”
Athanasius,Sermon to the Newly Baptized,PG 26,1325(ante A.D. 373),in ECD,442
“…Since, then, that God-containing flesh partook for its substance and support of this particular nourishment also, and since the God who was manifested infused Himself into perishable humanity for this purpose, viz. that by this communion with Deity mankind might at the same time be deified, for this end it is that, by dispensation of His grace, He disseminates Himself in every believer through that flesh, whose substance comes from bread and wine, blending Himself with the bodies of believers, to secure that, by this union with the immortal, man, too, may be a sharer in incorruption.** He gives these gifts by virtue of the benediction through which He transelements the natural quality of these visible things to that immortal thing**.”
Gregory of Nyssa,The Great Catechism,37(post A.D. 383),in NPNF2,V:505-506
"Then He added: ‘*For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink [indeed].’ Thou hearest Him speak of His Flesh and of His Blood, thou perceivest the sacred pledges, [conveying to us the merits and power] of the Lord’s death, and thou dishonourest His Godhead. Hear His own words: ‘A spirit hath not flesh and bones.’ Now we, as often as we receive the Sacramental Elements, which by the mysterous efficacy of holy prayer are transformed into the Flesh and the Blood, “do show the Lord’s Death.’”
Ambrose,On the Christian Faith,4,10:125(A.D. 380),in NPNF2,X:278
“Perhaps you will say, ‘I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ?***’ And this is the point which remains for us to prove. And what evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed…T***he Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: 'This is My Body.' Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.”
Ambrose,On the Mysteries,9:50(A.D. 390-391),in NPNF2,X:324-325
" ‘And was carried in His Own Hands:’ how ‘carried in His Own Hands’? Because when He commended His Own Body and Blood, He took into His Hands that which the faithful know; and in a manner carried Himself, when He said, 'This is My Body.’ "
Augustine,On the Psalms,33:1,10(A.D. 392-418),in NPNF1,VIII:73
“***He did not say,‘This is the symbol of My Body, and this, of My Blood,’ but, what is set before us, but that it is transformed by means of the Eucharistic action into Flesh and Blood.***”
Theodore of Mopsuestia,Commentary on Matthew 26:26(ante A.D. 428),in JUR,II:81
…and just point out–this is THE FAITH Christ handed down to His Apostles, who in turn, passed it on to their successors, who did the same…down to us.
Finally, I would conclude with St. Augustine’s famous quote:
“I believe that I may understand” (rather than seeking to understand, that he might believe).