Transubstantiation -- Is it really more than symbolism?

I searched thru some posts on my phone a week after listening to some CD by a guy named Patrick Madrid. He made a claim that transubstantiation is an “indisputable truth”, which caused me to go to his Contact page on his website, and I have yet to receive a response.

Perhaps you guys can help me out. But when I was searching on my phone, the majority of comments that I remembered all strayed toward “symbolism”. Is there more to it than just symbolism??

For the Apostle Paul it was:

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

14 Therefore, my beloved, shun the worship of idols. 15 I speak as to sensible men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the practice of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

To add to that:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Corinthians 11: 27-30 (RSVCE)

It’s not to be taken lightly. We approach Our Lord/ the Blessed Sacrament with reverence and awe!

John 6:35-40, or better still right to the end of the chapter, links to the above.

Patrick Madrid writes;
In 1st Corinthians chapter 11 you’ll notice that Saint Paul talks about the last supper and he talks about how he received from the Lord what he also passed on to you in verse 23. And he gives the whole break down of what Jesus said at the last supper. And then he says this… in verse 27… whoever therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself and eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body…eats and drinks judgement upon himself. So my question for you to ponder would be this. If it’s just a symbol of Jesus. If the eucharist is just a wafer of bread and nothing more then how in the world can you be guilty of the body and blood of Jesus? Or how can you be drinking and eating judgement upon yourself? … How could that possibly be if it’s just a symbol? …"

Jesus said, my flesh is real food & my blood real drink.

When a properly ordained priest consecrates the bread and wine, yes, they then become the Body and Blood of Our Lord.

Protestant ministers are not able to do this, so in a Protestant service, the change, which is called Transubstantiation, does not occur, and it remains merely a symbol.

Hey Brother,

In light of Mark 4:34
“He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.”

read John Chapter 6.

the disciples say this is a hard teaching who can accept it, and
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.(john 6:66)

if it were just a symbol then the disciples wouldn’t have left him… Because Jesus always clarified his teaching to his disciples according to Mark 4:34. More importantly why would jesus let his deciples falsely believe he was being literal.

you can also look at what the church fathers had to say about the subject.

" They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes"

  • Ignatius of Antioch 110 AD

Ignatius of Antioch knew the deciple Peter and it would be another 200+ years before the bible canon would be set…

Yes. IMO, here is the best way to find out: Contact your local Catholic parish and ask when they offer adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Budget some time and then go, and sit in silence in His presence. He already knows your thoughts and beliefs, but ask Him to reveal to you whether or not He is there. Since this is an infinite gift, with eternal promise, be as patient with Him as He has been with you. When you are aware that He is there, you will be changed.

The word transubstantiation explains the presence of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ Who assumed human nature in order to not leave us orphans. Check out chapter 14, Gospel of John and please let me know your thoughts.

Patrick Madrid is pretty busy guy. Started out working with Karl Keating in the earliest days of the formation of Catholic Answers and did many seminars with Karl.

If you have questions about The Real Presence, then read the book “Eucharistic Miracles” by Joan Carroll Cruz.

The early Church always held that Christ was present in some way in the Eucharist; but the doctrine developed as do all doctrines, until, after controversy in the early Middle Ages, Transubstantiation formally explicated how, precisely, He is present therein. Mere symbolism is effectively ruled out, although symbolism and realism can coexist, as they did in St. Augustine’s thought.

The early Protestants were themselves divided once again on this issue, and can loosely be broken up into the camps of Luther and of Calvin and of Zwingli.

Many of the US Protestants have accepted the merely symbolic views of Zwingli as a tradition, but his thought echoes not the early Church, but heretics such as the Cathari and Albigensians. Of the above reformers, only Luther comes the closest to enunciating a doctrine that the first centuries of the Church could have accepted, and he was roundly attacked by the others for his views.

Here is a citation of nine Protestant historians who substantiate most of these claims:

Check out the Didache … the first Catholic catechism:

Also, go here:

To quote a certain former president, “It all depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”

1 Corinthians 11:24-25 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood."

Jesus used the word ‘is’, never the word ‘represents’ or ‘symbolizes’. Who will you believe; men, or Christ?

Patrick is correct. This blog article of mine may help you out. The Eucharist IS Scriptural

These links will back up what Patrick said. There is no symbolism here.

Here’s a 20 minute presentation that is well worth the time

I gave this link in the previous post. It obviously didn’t work.

Here it is again. This link works

Catholic Transubstantiation

If we were watching Jesus at the Last Supper, we would see His physical characteristics: how tall He is, the color of His hair, His broad shoulders. We would hear the sound of His voice. These are the appearances or outward signs of Christ’s earthly presence. After His Resurrection, those appearances changed. Jesus’ body was now transformed with wonderful powers. Locked doors did not prevent Jesus from entering a room.

In the marvelous account of the two disciples walking to Emmaus, Luke describes Jesus looking like a stranger as He approaches the two. Even though they did not recognize Him, they later recalled that their hearts were burning within them. There was something about the stranger’s “inner being” which was very familiar. When the stranger sat down with these two disciples, He took bread, said the blessings, broke it, and gave it to them. At that moment, Jesus, Lord and Savior, was recognized. (Luke 24: 13-35) Today, we recognize Jesus in the same way – in the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion.

After His Ascension, Christ continues to be with us. Again, His appearance, the outward signs of His earthly body are gone. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ chose to be substantially present under the new and different outward appearances of bread and wine. The inner being, the substance, has been changed into the sacramentally substantial Body and Blood of Jesus. The outward characteristics of bread and wine remain so that we can truly receive Jesus Christ. This is the meaning of Transubstantiation.

I think you are right, each individual defines their own ‘is’.

Some years ago, there was a bird flu scare in the UK, and our Bishop sadly gave orders to withdraw the cup, for fear of contamination. I was very saddened by this, I wanted to continue taking the cup regardless of any possible contamination.

Never mind the Catholic Church. Ask any Orthodox Christian.

This question was not seriously asked until 1,500+ years after our Lord established the Sacrament. That “alone” speaks volumes.

I haven’t gotten a chance to look at the links that you all have provided me – yet. But based on the words alone, I’m still seeing SYMBOLISM.

There’s a frequent reference to John 6, but how about John 4? When he speaks of Living Water, which is later revealed to be the Holy Spirit… we easily see the symbolism.

If we say that the Body and Blood of Christ is the Word and Spirit of Christ, we also see the symbolism. Actually, I think all Christians would see the symbolism… but Catholics see something MORE. They see ACTUAL, PHYSICAL flesh and blood… even tho the consecrated Eucharist would not be considered flesh and blood by ANY scientific definition, understanding, etc.

I just don’t understand what the point is. Consuming the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus is just as effective to me as claiming that the PHYSICAL bread and wine has CHANGED PHYSICALLY (which, again, has/can not be scientifically proven as far as I’m aware). If the physical form of something is the substance, then there the consecration provides no transubstantiation. If the metaphysical / spirital form of something is the substance, then perhaps the consecration works.

I think this is one of the last stumbling blocks to me fully accepting Roman Catholicism as the ABSOLUTE Truth. I was going to say, “… last stumbling blocks to me fully accepting the Catholic faith”, but that wouldn’t be accurate as I have required logic and reasoning to believe in the Divine Creator, the Holy Spirit, and the existence of a man named Jesus (or Yeshua, rather?). So clearly there are answers out there for the Doubting Thomases, and I’d like to find those answers. In no way can I accept “just believe on faith” as an answer for my religion… because when the time comes to relay my understanding of the Truth to those around me, FAITH is a surefire way to uproot any seeds I was attempting to plant. Truth and faith do not deserve to be in the same thought process(es).

I will definitely be reviewing the links that you all have provided in this thread, either tonight or tomorrow. I hope it’s the concrete stuff that I can see or feel.

Perhaps I should’ve changed the thread title to “Can you prove transubstantiation to a scientist / atheist / agnostic / Jew / Muslim / etc.?”

Sola scripture only works for Protestants, right?

Question: “What did Jesus mean when He spoke of living water?”

Answer: Jesus uses the phrase “living water” in two instances in the Bible. The first instance is found in John chapter 4. Jesus was tired and sat at a well while His disciples went into town to buy food. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus asked her for a drink. The Samaritan woman was quite shocked because Jesus was a Jew, and Jews simply hated the Samaritans. Of course, she had no idea who Jesus was and asked Him how He could ask her for water since He was a Jew.

Jesus ignored the question and went right to the point, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Notice that He does not say that He is the living water, but that He would give living water to her, and when she received it, she would never thirst again. Of course, that does not tell us what the living water is! For that, we must go to another passage of Scripture. In this case, Jesus is in the temple surrounded by a throng of worshippers. He suddenly cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37–39, emphasis added).

Here Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the living water. External influence of the Spirit had always been given in the conversion and sanctification of the Old Testament saints and prophets, but the gift of the Spirit who would indwell believers had not yet been received (Acts 10:44–45). So, though many people say that Jesus is the living water, Jesus Himself intended the phrase to mean the Holy Spirit who dwells in believers and seals them for salvation (Ephesians 1:13–14). It is the ministry of the Spirit, flowing out of a heart redeemed by God, that blesses believers and, through them, brings life and light to the world.

Recommended Resource: Jesus: The Greatest Life of All by Charles Swindoll

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