Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, Sacramental Union

I was raised Southern Baptist but attended a Presbyterian church for a while and am now a member of Lutheran church. I’m pretty sure that all three view the Eucharist and the bread and the wine somewhat differently and that all of them view them differently from Catholics. I’ve always been a little fuzzy about what different Christian groups believe the bread and wine represent in the Eucharist and would like to discuss this issue.

The following paragraphs are from the Catechism. You can read the relevant section in more detail at the following link -

vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm

1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."206

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

1378 Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession."208

We believe that when the priest asks the Holy Spirit to come upon these gifts (the bread and wine), and make them holy, that somehow they become the body and blood of Christ. But untill that time they’re just ordinary bread and wine.

After consecration, and when the mass is over, we don’t throw them out unused wafers but store them in a ciborium, for use at the next mass. Protestants in most cases would probably just throw any excess cubes of bread into the bin after the service, since they see it as merely symbolic.

The ministers of communion drink any remaining wine left in the cups so that it too is not wasted. This is not usually very much, and quite often the cups are empty anyway before the last parishioners have completed the communion service.

When I was at the small Presbyterian fellowship I attended for a while , I was surprised after the Eucharist when the minister swept up the bread crumbs and maybe some excess bread (they used a loaf of bread) and threw them into the trash.

This question gets asked quite a bit. The first place you should check for each of those groups is their respective catechisms.

Here’s a thread that explains the Lutheran position clearly: forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=12086277&postcount=1

We Lutherans take the Lord’s Supper very seriously; after all, the Sacraments are the means through which God administers His Grace. You won’t (or at least shouldn’t!) find Lutherans unceremoniously throwing away remnants of the Sacrament. Here are two other posts about how Lutherans revere the Eucharist: Post 1, Post 2.

To add to my post above I might point out both the Holy Spirit and personal (Catholic) faith are involved in our belief in “transubstantiation”.

Transubstantiation (in Latin, transsubstantiatio, in Greek μετουσίωσις metousiosis) is the change whereby, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the bread and the wine used in the sacrament of the Eucharist become, not merely as by a sign or a figure, but also in actual reality the body and blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Before Protestants choke on their Corn Flakes, might we consider a parallel to their rule of law, Sola Scriptura? Aka, the Bible.

The Bible is a book. For atheists and non-believers, that is all it is. If you subjected the covers, paper and ink to laboratory tests, you’d find no difference whatever to another book comprising the same materials, other than that the paper is unusually thin, for reasons of compactness.

But to Christians, including Catholics, the Bible is the Word of God.

So why is it just a “book” to non- Christians, and the “Word of God” to Christians?

The Holy Spirit and Faith.

Incidentally if outsiders wonder why we use wafers instead of bread, there are three reasons, two simply pragmatic, and the other traditional, in keeping with the Jewish Passover.

The first is compactness, a bit like the thin paper in the Bible. A thousand wafers can be stored in a small plastic bag. That’s enough to serve 1000 people.

The second is durability. They last for some time. So when they’re put away in the ciborium to be kept for the next mass, they’ll be just as edible as in a week’s time as they are today.

You couldn’t do that with the Protestant version of sliced bread cut into cubes. They’d be little bricks by next week.

They’re also unleavened, as far as I know, which is how the bread would have been at the Last Supper.

But it boils down to the action of the Holy Spirit, and our faith.

Bob, surely your parallel with the Bible is not actually very parallel at all.

Whether you are a believer or not, each Bible is a book. Both physically and metaphysically it’s a book. Paper, ink, covers. The difference between believers and non-believers is a difference in belief as to the ultimate origin of the words in the book. There’s nothing holy about the book itself.

With the Eucharist, Catholics believe that each consecrated wafer is not just a wafer. The difference is a physical and/or metaphysical one.

I’m afraid I disagree.

The Bible has a transcendent quality about it for Christians. It does not have a transcendent quality for non-Christians.

The Eucharist has a transcendent quality for Catholics. It does not have a transcendent quality for non-Catholics.

1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

If we look at what many claim about non-liturgical protestants and what we believe, there are too many umbrella statements, as different churches and individuals mean different things. That is indeed why is makes it a bit confusing to walk into a church and try to tell what that particular denomination is teaching about the Eucharist. Most of Christendom does not accept “Transubstantiation” as the explanation, as others that believe in the real presence don’t label it as transubstantiation specifically.

As for me and mine (who don’t believe in a literal physical transformation called “transubstantiation”), we consider it a misunderstanding (or in rare cases an insult) when others talk about “mere” symbols or “just” symbols, as symbols and types are not powerless nor meaningless. We believe in using what Jesus used during the Last Supper, and we know what He used because it was a Passover feast; Matzoh (unleavened bread that is pierced and striped) and Wine. We can read the Jewish blessings of thanks-giving and know how He blessed the bread and wine. All of these things are clearly a representation of Him, His body and His blood. Partaking of them as the Body of Christ (that’s us) is a mandate and a showing forth of His death til He returns. It isn’t “merely symbolic” in the sense of being meaningless.

In my yearly read through of the Bible, I just came to the bit in the OT where David and his mighty men were unifying the kingdom. Read the account again of what David asks for, and the subsequently does when he gets it;

2 Samuel 23: 14 David was then in the stronghold, while the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. 15 David had a craving and said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!” 16 So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord; 17 and he said, “Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did.

Notice that if we were to take David literally, we’d have to say that there was blood in the cup. But it was water. Was it silly for David to do what he did? Was it “mere” symbol without meaning? By no means. Wrapped up in all of this symbol language was a profound and literal truth that had layers of meaning. We would insult David and his mighty men, and the Lord, by downplaying the importance and power of what transpired. All of this to say, if you run into protestants like me who believe in a symbolic Eucharist, it doesn’t mean it is has no power, that it has no meaning, quite the opposite, it has deep power and meaning. Just as all Passovers from the time of the original brought the original to mind and made it present, in that way, we too believe the Eucharist does the same. Just as David knew the water was “more than water” because of everything that had happened and represented, and he poured it out as an offering to the Lord, we too know that the bread and cup are “more than bread and wine.”

Sorry, but most of Christendom does indeed accept Transubstantiation, in fact by an incredible majority when you consider that there are 1.3 billion Catholics.

That is all fine and good. But have you ever asked yourself why the entire Church, since the beginning, believed in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, both Catholic and EO for 1500 years before the Protestants became so enlightened and rejected it? Do you believe the entire Christian Church was guilty of idolatry from the beginning?

Well, no, since Protestants, Orthodox, other Christian groups, and a number of Catholics (anywhere from 10 to 70 percent) don’t believe in transubstantiation, making those that believe in transubstantiation a minority.

That is all fine and good. But have you ever asked yourself why the entire Church, since the beginning, believed in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, both Catholic and EO for 1500 years before the Protestants became so enlightened and rejected it? Do you believe the entire Christian Church was guilty of idolatry from the beginning?

They didn’t believe in transubstantiation from the beginning. But of course I’m going to see it that way, and you are not… that wasn’t my point. My point was; someone proclaiming something as symbolic is not the same as calling it meaningless, ineffectual, and lacking power or truth. David and the Lord surely knew that the water in the cup of David was water, not blood, yet David called it blood and treated it as such in a way that was utterly meaningful, pouring it out as a sacrifice. That is for anyone that calls the Eucharist a “mere” symbol or “just” a symbol, or try to downplay what many of us Protestants believe about the Eucharist.

The Orthodox do not call it transubstantiation, the call it a mystery. But guess what? They believe that what happens in that mystery, is EXACTLY what the RC defines as transubstantiation. The Orthodox just refuse to define what they call a mystery in exact terms. There are Protestant denominations that believe in some form of Real Presence. And there are some, what I would call individual rogue Protestants, who believe in the Real Presence. So a majority of Christendom does believe in some form of the Real Presence.

I wonder why polls that ask these questions of Catholics don’t ask the most basic follow-up question: If you don’t believe the most important dogma of your faith, why do you bother to call yourself Catholic?

In a study in 2011 of adult Catholics, less than 10% who knew what the Church taught about transubstantiation, did not believe in transubstantiation.

Again, as you rightly say, that is not defining it via Aristotelian philosophy the way that the Catholic church does via “transubstantiation.” Even Lutherans are quick to correct someone when a person says they believe in “consubstantiation.” There is a reason the Orthodox do not define it. So, again, a majority of Christians don’t accept transubstantiation.

I wonder why polls that ask these questions of Catholics don’t ask the most basic follow-up question: If you don’t believe the most important dogma of your faith, why do you bother to call yourself Catholic?

In a study in 2011 of adult Catholics, less than 10% who knew what the Church taught about transubstantiation, did not believe in transubstantiation.

It’s the same when one looks at something like contraception. There is widespread evidence that many who call themselves Catholic are not actually practicing Catholics as the heads of the church would desire them to be. That’s the reason I point out that saying that “Catholics believe thus and so” has to factor in that no, not all Catholics actually believe and/or practice church teaching.

I don’t normally address what protestants might affirm leaving that to them, but certainly you can find Anglicans who affirm Trent, Session XIII. Canon 1.

GKC

As you are always saying, it varies by Anglican what is stated, but from what I have read, the push-back from Anglicans about the Catholic definition of transubstantiation was the act of making it a dogma and tying the belief in transubstantiation specifically to that dogma… would that be accurate for some?

Exactly so. It is a logical approach, if one is looking for an explanation of how the wheels go around, but not something that all Anglicans, even those affirming the essence of Canon 1, would consider as appropriately de fide.

GKC

Anywhere from 10%-70% is quite the stretch. I have never, ever been in a parish where even 10% of the parishioners did not believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Regardless, this is not a matter of majority vote. It is either true or it is not, no matter how many believe or disbelieve. The fact is that the entire Church believed it since the beginning, both the CC and EO. As a Protestant, I would think that this would be something important for you to ponder.

Well, of course it was not defined as such unit Trent. The Church was forced to define what it had held from the beginning, however, because of the very same heretical position you now hold. This wasn’t just made up on the spot. The question is whether or not you would even accept the EO position, or even the Lutheran position, which I believe you do not.

Yes, there is some meaning to every symbol and it is always good to “remember” what Jesus has done for us. But would you rather look at a photograph of someone you love or actually embrace them? That is the difference.

Peace.

Steve

It is the data collected via different means. Most discussions cite the study done where only 30% of Catholics believe in Transubstantiation. Out of respect and knowledge of statistics, I also included the lowest stat I could find.

The fact is that the entire Church believed it since the beginning, both the CC and EO. As a Protestant, I would think that this would be something important for you to ponder.

Again, I’m talking about the dogma of transubstantiation, so no, that is not what was believed since the beginning. As others have said, just being a Protestant does not mean denying a real presence. There are several ECF’s, and the Didache that I do indeed agree with. I don’t, however, agree with transubstantiation as an Aristotelian concept, nor of the dogmatization of it.

Well, of course it was not defined as such unit Trent. The Church was forced to define what it had held from the beginning, however, because of the very same heretical position you now hold. This wasn’t just made up on the spot. The question is whether or not you would even accept the EO position, or even the Lutheran position, which I believe you do not.

I would be closer to the EO position than the Lutheran position, but haven’t studied up enough to converse about the EO position with any confidence and debate about it.

Yes, there is some meaning to every symbol. But would you rather look at a picture of someone you love or actually embrace them. That is the difference.

Again, that is limiting the meaning of symbol. Would anyone tell David that the water in the cup was mere water and he was stupid for calling it blood and treating it as such? No, because it wasn’t just the water that he was referring to. Symbols such as that don’t just have “meaning” they have reality.

Grace and Peace,
K

Well I, and a lot of others believe the study was bogus because it did not consider many factors. When broken down, there are only 4% of knowledgeable Catholics (those who know and understand Church teaching on the matter) that reject the teaching, which begs the question as to why they even stay in the Church since this is the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith. This study also included “Catholics” who probably haven’t seen the inside of a Church since their Baptism. I can tell you that those Catholics who are active members of the Church, even those who have not had any formal instruction, believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist almost across the board.

Transubstantiation is not an Aristotelian concept. It is a Catholic concept explained in philosophical language. And, as I have said, since this is the source and summit of the Catholic faith, of course it is dogma. How could it not be? The divinely revealed truth (dogma) is that Christ is substantially present in the Eucharist; body, blood, soul and divinity. Transubstantiation (doctrine) is only the explanation of how this happens.

Well, then, you should believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist (not symbolic) even if you choose not to define it precisely. Are you ready to at least go that far?

That is all a moot point in trying to support that a majority of Christians believe in transubstantiation… or rather, that shows that a majority does not, based on statistics. You and I both know that the numbers that are collected on “Catholics” include both cultural Catholics, and “cafeteria” Catholics, and anyone that claims to be “Catholic” whether they are or not. Again, that means a majority of Christians do not believe in transubstantiation. I’m well aware that a majority opinion proves nothing, even on “my” side.

Transubstantiation is not an Aristotelian concept.

:confused: It most certainly is. Form, substance, accidents, etc… we have to go back to Plato and Aristotle to get the groundwork in the application. For those of us who know of Forms, substance, accidents, etc… that the philosophers debated about, it does indeed impact how we either agree or disagree with certain teachings based on their arguments.

Transubstantiation (doctrine) is only the explanation of how this happens.

And there you go; one of the many reasons that EO, and Protestant groups don’t agree with every Catholic that explains it this way. Many don’t see a need of an “explanation” and feel it takes away from the actual reality and mystery of the situation. Applying a man-made culturally tied concept to a supernatural event (unless given by God) is doomed to failure, IMO. And it was the dogmatization of that man-made view that has turned many people off from it, as it would no longer be enough to accept the truth in a different sense, one would have to espouse transubstantiation. In short, dogmatizing something in a way that fractures the Body of Christ doesn’t seem to be an idea steeped in unity. Don’t misunderstand, I understand the reason given by Catholics, I just don’t agree with it.

Well, then, you should believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist (not symbolic) even if you choose not to define it precisely. Are you ready to at least go that far?

By you putting “not symbolic” in parenthesis after true presence, you are showing you aren’t “getting” what I’m saying. I’m sure that fault lies with me, as explaining a particular theological perspective isn’t always easy (such as the Trinity). Again, would anyone say to David that the water in the cup was “just symbolic” and his attitude and action had no reality, power, or meaning? I don’t think they would.

One of my thoughts in response to this is, I don’t limit the true presence of Christ to the Eucharist, nor do I think that the best way of talking about the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist is done by defining it via Aristotelian means. However, the whole purpose of my initial replies and my specific example of David is to show that 1) we have example of calling water, blood and the huge significance of that, and 2) through that to show it is somewhat insulting to downplay what many protestants think and feel about the Eucharist by labeling it for them (in straw man fashion) “just symbol” or “merely symbolic.” (And, no I’m not saying that happens often on CAF, but I have seen it.)

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