Transubstantiation and the Early Fathers


#1

I would like someone to explain how these patristic quotes on the Eucharist, including one by a Pope, square with the Tridentine teaching that in the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine are entirely changed into Christ’s body and blood, and that no substance of the bread and wine remain. These quotes seem to indicate such was not the teaching of the Church up to the 11th-12th millenium (not coincidentally, the time of the schism with the Eastern Church). The emphases in the following quotes are mine.

St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66:
We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins annd for regeneration, and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread nor as common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our flesh and blood is nourished, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnated Jesus.

St. Irenaeus, -“Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely named Gnosis”. Book 4:18 4-5, circa 180 A.D:
“For just as the bread which comes from the earth, having received the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly, so our bodies, having received the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, because they have the hope of the resurrection.”

Pope St. Gelasius I, Tract on the two natures against Eutchyes & Nestorius:
“Sacred Scripture, testifying that this Mystery [ie. The Incarnation] began at the start of the blessed Conception, says; ‘Wisdom has built a house for itself’(Prov 9:1), rooted in the solidity of the sevenfold Spirit. This Wisdom ministers to us the food of the Incarnation of Christ through which we are made sharers of the divine nature. Certainly the sacraments of the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive are a divine reality, because of which and through which we ‘are made sharers of the divine nature’(1 Pt 1:4). Nevertheless the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to exist. And certainly the image and likeness of the Body and Blood of Christ are celebrated in the carrying out the Mysteries.”

St. John of Damascus – “…the bread of the communion is not plain bread but bread united with divinity.”

St. Symeon the New Theologian (1022 AD):
…participation in life are bestowed on us not only in the bread and wine of communion, but in the divinity which attends them and mysteriously mingles with them without confusion.

Note that Justin Martyr and St. Symeon expressly analogize the Eucharistic elements to the incarnation of Christ, wherein Christ is both God and Man. Joe


#2

As far as I understand it (i’m no theologian):

  • substance is a philosophical word, it shouldn’t be interpreted in the same way it is meant in common language (molecules of a certain composition, or something like that, is a physical meaning, not philosophical)

  • there is a distinction between “substance” and “accident”

  • Substance means what one thing “really” is, accident means how one thing “happens” to be

For example, I am a man (substance) and i happen to be 45, dark haired, sitting, typing on keyboard etc

So, with transubstantiation:

  • substance of bread and wine disappears, and substance of Christ takes place (it “really” is Jesus)
  • Christ happens to be present under the accidents of bread and wine. That happens accidentally, Jesus could have decided to make Himself present under the accident of milk, or of oil, or of anything else.

Bread, which formerly was substance (it was “really” bread) becomes a mere vehicle which carries the substance (it is “really” Jesus). The vehicle just happens to be there, it could be substituted by anything else

A common man explanation, I’m afraid, but I hope that may be of help


#3

Are you arguing that the Church believed in consubstantiation until the Schism?

Kinda hard to do, since the Eastern Orthodox don’t believe in consubstantiation either. In a recent post on these forums a Lutheran-turned-Orthodox said he had to explicitly renounce consubstantiation as part of his entry into the Orthodox Church.


#4

Trent described the nature of the conversion using the categories of Aristotelean metaphysics.

To make your case, you’d have to demonstrate that these writers used the same metaphysical framework that Trent used, even if similar language was employed (i.e. substance).


#5

Yes, it was one acceptable way of speaking of what took place.

Kinda hard to do, since the Eastern Orthodox don’t believe in consubstantiation either. In a recent post on these forums a Lutheran-turned-Orthodox said he had to explicitly renounce consubstantiation as part of his entry into the Orthodox Church.

Here is what is asked of a convert from Lutheranism:

“Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief that in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the bread is not transmuted into the Body of Christ, and doth not become the Body of Christ; and that the wine is not transmuted into the Blood of Christ, and doth not become the Blood of Christ; but that the presence of Christ’s Body only for a short time doth touch the bread, which remaineth simple bread?”

Later on he is asked to say:

“I believe and confess that, in this the Divine Liturgy, under the mystical forms of bread and wine, the faithful partake of the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

Since the 17th century and certainly under the influnce of a response to the Catholic-Protestant struggle in Europe the Orthodox have moved closer to a teaching of annihilation of the bread and wine and its replacement with the Body and Blood of Christ. You see this very much in the words from the Jerusalem Council of 1672. However this is not to say that the alternative beliefs-explanations of our Holy Fathers in earlier centuries have become heretical. The Fathers spoke of such things as impanation (Christ enters into the bread) and consubstantiation. These opinions may still be accepted as possible answers, just as transubstantiation can, in the face of a great and divine mystery which we shall never be able to grasp.


#6

Surely that is a renounciation of consubstantiation.


#7

I’ve always understood the Lutherans reject the doctrine of consubstantiation and it is falsely ascribed to them?

Here is something from Bishop Tikhon (recently retired Orthodox bishop of San Francisco.) He was a convert from Lutheranism and he too denies that they believe in consubstantiation. See

listserv.indiana.edu/cgi-bin/wa-iub.exe?A2=ind9807E&L=ORTHODOX&P=R2305


#8

Interesting, thanks for that. So what is this consubstantiation that the Orthodox may believe in, that is not transubstantiation and is also not whatever this is:
“Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief that in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the bread is not transmuted into the Body of Christ, and doth not become the Body of Christ; and that the wine is not transmuted into the Blood of Christ, and doth not become the Blood of Christ; but that the presence of Christ’s Body only for a short time doth touch the bread, which remaineth simple bread?”


#9

Dear brother Joe

Statements like “not common bread and wine” or “ordinary bread and wine,” “bread and wine united to divinity” etc. does NOT mean that bread and wine as bread and wine still remain. It means truly that the bread and mine are indeed transformed - by that union with divinity - into something incorruptible as food for immortality. It is like I stated in the thread in the Eastern Christianity Forum. Though Jesus Christ is both God and Man even to this day, the flesh of Jesus Christ is indeed different from the mere flesh of man - it has properties that defy the laws of physics. It is a different kind of flesh altogether. As I asked you in that other thread - do you believe that there is anything that is corruptible in the human nature of Christ, for if you analogize natural bread and wine to remain in the Eucharist, you would have to conclude that the analogy used by St. Justin means that there is something natural and corruptible in the human nature of Christ even now.

So the language used by the Fathers is utilized not to indicate that what makes bread and wine what they are still remains, they are saying that the bread and wine has INDEED been TRANSFORMED into something MORE than JUST what bread and wine normally is by its union with divinity. The “two realities” St. Irenaeus speaks of is simply the reality we percieve (earthly), and the reality we do NOT immediately percieve (heavenly). So no problem there either.

Now, what does Pope St. Gelasius’ mean when he says “the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to exist.” The statement itself should alert the reader that St. Gelasius means something more than the obvious by his equation of the words “substance” and “nature,” as the two words have distinct definitions in philosophy (the language of the Fathers) - “substance” is what makes a thing what it is; “nature” is what distinguishes a thing from anything else. Look at the context in which he writes - a book against classic Nestorianism, which could not conceive of a hypostatic union between God and man.
One of the paradoxes which led to a Nestorian paradigm is the notion that if the divine were somehow to merge with the human, the human would necessarily become absorbed. The human NATURE of Jesus was at question, and it is THIS which is the main focus of Pope St. Gelasius. The Pope was not attempting to define anything about the Eucharist, but simply giving an incomplete analogy of how something created can be united with the Uncreate. Hence, Gelasius’ attempt to equate “substance” and “NATURE.” But we all know that the idea of human or divine Nature is actually something different and goes beyond what “substance” means.

So Pope St. Gelasius was giving nothing more than an imperfect analogy, and should not be utilized to prove anything about the doctrine of the Eucharist.

Blessings,
Marduk


#10

It’s very simple.
The Early Fathers believed that after the Epiclesis and consecration, the bread and wine had become the body and blood of our Risen Lord Jesus.

“Transubstantiation” and “consubstantiation” etc. are
technical terms from later centuries which attempt to
explain how the change takes place.

The Catholic Church officially teaches transubstantiation.
To me, it is the most sensible way of explaining what
takes place during this holiest of mysteries.

Jaypeeto4
+JMJ+


#11

VociMike wrote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fr Ambrose
Yes, it was one acceptable way of speaking of what took place.Here is what is asked of a convert from Lutheranism:

"Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief that in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the bread is not transmuted into the Body of Christ, and doth not become the Body of Christ; and that the wine is not transmuted into the Blood of Christ, and doth not become the Blood of Christ; but that the presence of Christ’s Body only for a short time doth touch the bread, which remaineth simple bread?"
Surely that is a renounciation of consubstantiation.

No, it is not. Part of what is renounced is that presence “only for a short time doth touch the bread, which remaineth simple bread.” That is not the Patristic view of consubstantiation that I have been espousing. You are are confounding the Lutheran view with the Patristic view; they are not the same. Joe


#12

Statements like “not common bread and wine” or “ordinary bread and wine,” “bread and wine united to divinity” etc. does NOT mean that bread and wine as bread and wine still remain. It means truly that the bread and mine are indeed transformed - by that union with divinity - into something incorruptible as food for immortality. It is like I stated in the thread in the Eastern Christianity Forum. Though Jesus Christ is both God and Man even to this day, the flesh of Jesus Christ is indeed different from the mere flesh of man - it has properties that defy the laws of physics. It is a different kind of flesh altogether.

I have no problem with this, except that the bread and wine remain in a sense. But of course, being united to Divinity, the bread and wine are going to be transformed- they are going to be dvinized just as the flesh of Christ was divinized. It’s just that they don’t lose their nature of being physical bread and wine- if anything, they are more truly bread and wine than before, just as Christ’s union with God didn’t make Him less human, but fully human.
The problem in the west is that this idea of union, of commingling, is completley lost, supplanted by the idea of substitution.

As I asked you in that other thread - do you believe that there is anything that is corruptible in the human nature of Christ, for if you analogize natural bread and wine to remain in the Eucharist, you would have to conclude that the analogy used by St. Justin means that there is something natural and corruptible in the human nature of Christ even now.

I don’t see how that follows. No there is nothing corruptible in the nature of Christ. Are you saying that the bread and wine remain corruptible? Maybe, if the fact that the bread eventually physically deteriorates means it is still corruptible. I’m not sure what to do with that, but I don’t see that the western view of transubstantiation works any better in that regard.

The “two realities” St. Irenaeus speaks of is simply the reality we percieve (earthly), and the reality we do NOT immediately percieve (heavenly). So no problem there either.

Fine, as long as we’re clear that the bread and wine are not just perceived, but there in reality also. But, of course, that is just what later (and current) Catholic teaching denies.

The Pope was not attempting to define anything about the Eucharist, but simply giving an incomplete analogy of how something created can be united with the Uncreate.

This is the only part of your last paragraph that I disagree with. Sure he is making an analogy, but the analogy doesn’t work if it doesn’t say something substantive about the Eucharist- that the elements don’t lose their nature as bread and wine for their being untied with Christ’s Body and Blood. Granted his main purpose as you say is refuting Gnosticism and docetism, but by way of his analogy, he clearly does make a positive statement about the Eucharist.

I don’t think you and I are that far apart in our understandings. Joe


#13

The truth is that the substantial presence of the bread and wine are really changed and it doesn’t matter how real the accidents of the bread and wine are.

No matter how the accidents of the bread and wine would appear would make no difference about the substantial presence of the bread and wine changing into the substantial presence of Jesus.

The substance of anything does not touch the accidents of a thing or intersect them in a dimensional way.

People who think so do not know what substantiality means!


#14

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