Transubstantiation Questions

I have been Catholic for many years but for some reason this week have been thinking extensively about transubstantiation which compelled me to do much reading on it, including the recent posts in this forum. I read three long articles: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation, carm.org/transubstantiation, catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=1340, the last of which also found that 30% of Catholics believe in the true meaning of transubstantiation. I read John chapter 6 and the relevant sections in the Catechism.

In addition to the above articles, some passages that caught my attention were:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

Later, the disciples say

“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

In direct response to their question, Jesus later says

“It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

I do not doubt that at the Last Supper, Jesus was giving the disciples His body and His blood, which He states. I also do not doubt that God can transubstantiate the bread and wine during the Eucharist. It is also not a question of faith for me, because there are things that we know are not true as Catholics that others have faith in; the important thing is what is true or not. And I will believe what science has no explanation for if it is correct.

But what gives me pause is that the above quotation uses the same word “flesh” as He used above, and then states that the flesh is not important, when the spirit is, and in addition He says He was speaking in spiritual terms, and this was in direct response to the questions of the disciples about eating His flesh. So the earlier passage could be interpreted to mean that we must eat His “spirit” and drink His “spirit.” And during the Last Supper, when He says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” His choice of the word “remembrance” is very unusual within the Catholic doctrine, because it really suggests that what we do in the Eucharist is not what He did, but something that we do “in remembrance” of that moment.

I believe that God is present in the Eucharist, but based on the Bible I don’t see the reason/explanation for the transubstantiation. When I look at the Catechism and the Catholic teaching on the subject, the best I could find from the above reading I linked to, was that transubstantiation was believed in by early Christians to the present day, with some challenges, and there was no reason to question it. This is already bad reasoning. But I find no explanation for how the Catholic Church arrived at this position. So what I am questioning is not God, but humans, and the early human interpretation that led to this position. In fact, even looking at the passages in the Bible of some of the early saints that persons are using now as evidence for transubstantiation, they do not seem to be referring to transubstantiation beyond God being present in the Eucharist.

Part of me thinks that this is semantics, because if God is present in the Eucharist, then I am eating the Body and Blood of Christ, and it is written in John: 6:54, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” But the catechism is very clear that God is not only present in the Eucharist, but the bread and wine become the body and blood. In any case, as I stated before I feel that I am questioning humans and not God. But would appreciate if anyone can clarify how we know that the Catholics who tried to interpret this are correct, and that transubstantiation does occur beyond God’s presence in the Eucharist. I will be praying for understanding on this issue.

Jesus begins the Bread of Life discourse by discussing HIS own flesh (the “flesh of the son of Man,” or “MY flesh.” He later responds to the worldly questions of the disciples by saying “THE flesh counts for nothing.” He was not referring to his own Body (if he was, he would be saying that his own flesh accounts for nothing - which is, ahem, heresy for both Catholics and protestants). The term “THE flesh” is a common term for earthly matters - a person is afflicted with a disease in “the flesh” (but not in his spirit).

It is one of the hardest teachings of the Church as it requires a miracle every time Mass is celebrated. Your problem of Faith is the same the Protestants resolved in their beliefs from co-substantiation, to some ill-defined concept of presence to just something you do as a memory of something a long time ago.
It is up to you to determine your own position however you have to ask why Jesus was so insistent on repeating His demand that His followers should eat His flesh as so many walked away that He had to turn to His disciples.
I believe we have to respond as Peter did, for where else are we to go but to Jesus through the Church He founded, and hold on to its belief that was defined and held as dogma throughout its history.
Pray to the Holy Spirit for His gifts of wisdom and knowledge.Don’t discard doubt as it is the seed of Faith. Faith is, as we know, a gift. Wait for it.

[quote=zeloc] And during the Last Supper, when He says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” His choice of the word “remembrance” is very unusual within the Catholic doctrine, because it really suggests that what we do in the Eucharist is not what He did, but something that we do “in remembrance” of that moment.
[/quote]

The most interesting thing about Mass is this “remembrance.” Because it is True Remembrance, if I may call it that. We are actually, literally there. Its a miracle and a mystery that we don’t understand. The pascal mystery does not only include the Lord’s Supper but also the Passion, death and Resurrection.
Time in heaven does not exist. When Mass is celebrated, it is heaven on earth. It is not a re-doing of what was done, but it was done once and we are there witnessing it everytime we go to Mass. With a communion of the entire Church, angels and saints, on earth, purgatory and heaven.

[quote=zeloc]I find no explanation for how the Catholic Church arrived at this position. So what I am questioning is not God, but humans, and the early human interpretation that led to this position
[/quote]

It is not that the Church reads the Bible and interprets the passage to mean this but that Church always believed this and taught this.

Also don’t read CARM. That guy (Matt Slick) doesn’t even believe Catholics are Christians.
the book 7 Secrets of the Eucharist is really good

The interesting thing, though, is that in direct response to Jesus’ words, we see the disciples’ reaction is “As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” In other words, if Jesus were really intending to respond, “oh, don’t worry about what I said about eating my flesh: it’s not important… only my spirit is important”, then why would the disciples react by leaving?

during the Last Supper, when He says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” His choice of the word “remembrance” is very unusual within the Catholic doctrine, because it really suggests that what we do in the Eucharist is not what He did, but something that we do “in remembrance” of that moment.

The thing, though, is that ‘remembrance’ means something different in a western context than in a Jewish context. Take a look at the Passover ‘remembrance’; it’s not just that Jews sit around and ‘remember’ the Passover – they re-enact it. It’s so important that they do so, that God tells them that they’ll be “cut off” from the community if they don’t participate in the memorial annually! (See Exodus 12.)

In western culture, a memorial is an intellectual thing – we ‘remember’. But, in the context in which Jesus lived, a memorial is a means of entering again into a past event – of sharing in that event by means of one’s actions!

In fact, even looking at the passages in the Bible of some of the early saints that persons are using now as evidence for transubstantiation, they do not seem to be referring to transubstantiation beyond God being present in the Eucharist.

Hmm… “as evidence for transubstantiation”? That doesn’t seem right. The understanding of transubstantiation as such is something that the Church eventually came to, so I wouldn’t expect that early saints understood transubstantiation per se. However, they did understand that the Eucharist is truly Christ’s Body & Blood… and it’s this understanding that we can point to as evidence of consistent belief in the Eucharist. After all, the teaching of transubstantiation doesn’t tell us what the Eucharist is – as a Church, we’ve always known that it is the Body & Blood of Christ – but instead, it just tells us how it is what it is. So, we wouldn’t expect to find evidence of transubstantiation, would we?

In any case, as I stated before I feel that I am questioning humans and not God. But would appreciate if anyone can clarify how we know that the Catholics who tried to interpret this are correct, and that transubstantiation does occur beyond God’s presence in the Eucharist. I will be praying for understanding on this issue.

Here’s the thing, though: Jesus promised that He would send the Spirit to guide His Church. The understanding of how the Eucharist is what it is, which we call transubstantiation, has come from the Church; would the Holy Spirit guide the Church down the wrong path? Or, on the other hand, wouldn’t we expect that the guidance given the Church by the Spirit be true?

I fell away from the Catholic church for over 30 years, though I was born a cradle Catholic and even went to parochial school for 9 years. Before I came back, I did a full year’s worth of DEEP, HEAVY DUTY research and reading as I am like you–I’ll believe anything so long as it’s true. What I didn’t want to do was to just slide back into Catholicism because it was familiar to me. I didn’t want to believe in fairy tales or all powerful imaginary friends or any such stuff. It was either true, or not for me–even if I had to face life as an atheist–which is a somewhat scary thought you must admit! Briefly, without expounding specifically on how I came to accept everything, I’ll explain what convinced meof transubstantiation.

I started at the VERY beginning::Is there even really a God? I finally decided that there was a God. Then I looked at different faiths, including hindu, islam, judaism and many other religions and ultimately decided that Jesus did exist and was indeed the Son of God as He claimed.

About then is when I hit the issue of transubstantiation–because if it’s really true, then I don’t see how anyone can be “Christian” without being “Catholic” as the two are so closely tied together. Again, I won’t go through my entire mental process.on this as I’d have to write a book, but one thing that struck me are the 2 hosts—one in Europe from the 1600’s and one more recently in Buenes Aires which Pope Francis was actually involved with—that were desecrated and found, and both turned out to be actual myocardial tissue from the left ventricle of the same human heart with the same blood type and DNA. The older of these hosts has been repetitively rechecked over the years as about every new generation or so, someone is just sure it’s a hoax. It never turns out to be other than human tissue and, by the way, it hasn’t decayed in what–nearly 500 years—as one would expect. When the second one happened in Argentina is when they typed the 2 hosts–and the Shroud by the way–and all were the same blood type! There are other things that convinced me that transubstantation truly occurs–but this is already too long and these 2 hosts alone are fairly specific proof to me.

I think when Jesus said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life everlasting He meant precisely what He said. He told the apostles that He was going to the Father but would not leave us as orphans. Certainly, he was also referring to Pentecost and the Holy Spirit, but I think that He also meant that by leaving us the Sacrament of the Eucharist that we would be able— quite literally–to receive Him body and blood, soul and divinity into our own human bodies and our own sinful souls by receiving communion, until such time as He returned to us on the Last Day! He was NOT in my opinion telling us that we should do this in remembrance of Him in the same sense as we might have a celebration of life for a grandparent who died many years ago and cook granny’s favorite cake recipe in remembrance of her. He wasn’t speaking figuratively–which is why so many of His followers left Him at that point. AND if you remember, Jesus didn’t go after those who left to try to explain or bring them back–which I think He would have done if He felt that what He meant was different than what His followers understood. No, Jesus meant just what He said–that we are to receive the consecrated bread and wine–which has been transubstantiated into His blood and His body—as to do so would allow us to bring Jesus actually into ourselves and would allow us to be as close as we’ll ever be to God until we die. Doing so routinely–but with the correct attitude and without mortal sin on our souls of course-- will give us the spiritual strength to keep on fighting the good fight during our lives.:thumbsup:

John 6:48-51 clearly indicates that Jesus is offering his flesh, which is reinforced in verses 53 - 58. John 6:63 does not refer to Jesus’s flesh. In Paul’s 1 Cor 11:27-29, he clearly didn’t think he could eat the bread/drink the cup in an unworthy manner if he didn’t believe he is partaking in Jesus body and blood. If what you said in John “flesh is of no avail” is true, then Paul must have been a very misguided fellow. Remember that Paul’s epistles are very early writings, earlier than the John’s Gospel. So at a very stage, this is already a firm belief about the Eucharist, not a late invention.

Why would the Apostles have left and been repugnated by Jesus’ statement when they could clearly see Jesus’ flesh felt, looked, smelled, and tasted just like bread and wine? What is so repulsive about that?

Transubstantiation is in the Bible.

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
.
(Wisdom 16:20-21)

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.
(Wisdom 19:18-21)

The ancients understood what was happening with the manna in the desert - its very substance was changed. They understood what was happening with God’s miracles in Egypt - the laws of nature and physics did not apply. Bread ministered to people and was changed. Elements changed places. That’s transubstantiation right there in the Bible. What does everyone think will happen at the end of time?

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (Revelation 21:1)

That’s transubstantiation of all of creation right there, changed just like that at the end of time. What do people think happened on the road to Emmaus?

*When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:35)*

The ancients knew it was Jesus. He had walked on water. He had commanded the sky and the waves. He walked through locked doors in the upper room. He appeared and disappeared at will. It was crystal clear to them. There was no doubt. The bread was Jesus. They may not have used the technical term transubstantiation but it was clear - it is the Lord.

-Tim-

This is happening in the book of John, not in one of the other Gospels. It isn’t the Last Supper, but takes place during Jesus’ ministry. Therefore, when He talks about His body & blood, they can only assume He’s talking about really eating flesh and drinking blood; in other words, not only repulsive, but counter to the Mosaic covenant…! :wink:

So in other words, they’re bothered by the words and statement that Jesus made initially (not knowing what he was talking about or what exactly He meant) and not necessarily because they thought the bread and wine was literally flesh and blood?

I’m sure at first they were like “We have to eat you!? :eek:”

but then were like

“Oh it’s bread and wine that you were talking about. Not that bad :cool:

Is it possible that the apostles simply misinterpreted Jesus at first and thought He was speaking literally and that’s why they perceive His words as being contrary to the Moasaic covenant and were repulsed in John?

Well… that depends. If you mean that, strictly within the context of the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, then no, that’s not possible. On the other hand, if you’re thinking historically, and talking about the apostles on the night of the Last Supper, then maybe so.

Let me explain, in case that answer sounds confusing. The Last Supper appears only in three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but not in John. The Bread of Life discourse (which we’re discussing here) appears only in John. So, if we’re picturing the scene that the Gospel of John puts before us, then we see that Jesus’ followers interpreted him as speaking literally – that is, they thought that Jesus was saying that they would have to gnaw on human flesh and go all vampire and drink human blood. That’s why they had such a hard time with Jesus’ teaching. But, there’s no Last Supper in John’s Gospel, so there’s no facepalm moment where the apostles say, “oh! That’s what you meant!!!”

On the other hand, we don’t see this discourse in the other three Gospels, so that’s why, when the Last Supper comes around, the apostles aren’t seen saying, “oh… you meant bread and wine as body and blood!”

Does that help? There’s no question of “bread and wine as body and blood” in John… 'cause there’s no Last Supper there!

Is it possible that the apostles simply misinterpreted Jesus at first and thought He was speaking literally and that’s why they perceive His words as being contrary to the Moasaic covenant and were repulsed in John?

That’s exactly it: in John 6, the disciples (not apostles!) of Jesus heard him talking about eating flesh and drinking blood, and were thinking “wha…??? Blood? Flesh? Are you completely mental?!?!?!?”

Doesn’t the fact that we/they don’t gnaw on bones mean that the description in John wasn’t literal? They only* thought *that.

But doesn’t them *misinterpreting *Jesus’ words mean that Jesus wasn’t speaking literally?

Jesus didn’t say “you need to gnaw on my bones”. How does what-Jesus-didn’t-say imply that what He did say isn’t literal?

But doesn’t them *misinterpreting *Jesus’ words mean that Jesus wasn’t speaking literally?

Why would it? If I say something literal, and you misinterpret my words, how would that mean that my words aren’t literal? For example, Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus’ literal statement “you must be born from above”; he thought Jesus meant “you must be born again.” Yet, how does Nicodemus’ misunderstanding imply that Jesus wasn’t talking literally? :confused:

The disciples that were present misunderstood Jesus and imagined He had meant that they needed to gnaw His bones, but Jesus did not mean this literally. How then, can we use what is said in John as justification for Jesus intending for those to eat His flesh literally?

Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus’ words and thought Jesus meant one had to be born through his mother’s womb again but as a grown man, literally. Obviously this is not what Jesus wanted to convey. Jesus meant that the spirit must be born again through water.

Are you implying that the Eucharist is not physically the flesh of Christ but only bread that contains His spirit?

Your assertion the Jesus was misunderstood is without evidence in Scripture. Seems like a clear case of begging the question.

Are you implying that the Eucharist is not physically the flesh of Christ but only bread that contains His spirit?

No that is not implied.

Because we understand it more fully than they did? I’m still not seeing your problem with this – the fact that someone misunderstood Jesus at that point in time does not imply that everyone misunderstands Him in the time following His passion, death, and resurrection.

Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus’ words and thought Jesus meant one had to be born through his mother’s womb again but as a grown man, literally. Obviously this is not what Jesus wanted to convey. Jesus meant that the spirit must be born again through water.

Agreed; but, if I understand the case you’re making, it’s that, if the apostles misunderstood Jesus in John 6, why do we think we understand him now? This is the hypothetical I’m raising here: if Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus at that point in time, you’re suggesting that we misunderstand Him now. That logic just doesn’t hold.

Are you implying that the Eucharist is not physically the flesh of Christ but only bread that contains His spirit?

Odd question. I don’t think I’ve said anything that suggests this. However, since you asked… :wink:

The Eucharist is the True Presence of Christ. That is, the Eucharist is truly Christ; it is not bread. Moreover, the Eucharist isn’t some sort of ‘container’, such that it might be said that it only “contains His spirit”, any more that we might say that your body is a container that contains your spirit… :wink:

We’ll leave the question of physicality aside, since it’d only derail the present question…

Thank you for all the thoughtful response. Starrsmother, I would like to read the book about your thought process because I think we are similar in the way we think! Can you a provide a link where I can read more about these miracles, I was not aware of them.

If this is the interpretation of flesh, I do not understand the meaning of what Jesus is saying in this passage. I’ve been amazed when reading the Bible because often when I have a question, a person has the exact same question to Jesus, who answers it. I haven’t come across examples where He evades questions. So I know that in this passage, He is answering the disciples who are asking how they can eat His flesh. But what does it mean to say that those words are spirit and life? How does this answer their question?

DavidFilmer is correct. “My” flesh is the flesh of risen Jesus. “The flesh” is the worldly existence. I believe if I remember correctly the greek meaning of the wording will bear this out.

In any case, God is consistent. In all the covenants, each one was a perfection of the preceding one. An eye for an eye is perfected in the law of love. The ten commandments are perfected in the sermon on the mount. The Mosaic sacrifices are perfected in the sacrifice of the mass. A new covenant needs a perfected sacrifice and therefore a new priesthood. The new sacrifice is the Lamb of God, Jesus Himself. The new priesthood is not the Aaronic but Jesus as the one High Priest. These are the perfections of the new covenant. This agrees with the words of Jesus in that the flesh is of no avail (like in the old animal sacrifices) but the spirit is what counts which is the resurrected presence.

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