Transubstantion question

I have a friend who has been debating religion with me lately. His belief system revolves around the scripture only concept, not sure what religion (if any) he claims.
I was raised as a Roman Catholic and although I’m not particularly active in the church I consider myself a Roman Catholic.
His view on transubstantiation is that Catholics believe we eat a physical piece of Christ and drink his actual blood through the process of transubstantiation.
I told him we believe that in the same way that the apostles thought they were chewing on a piece if Christ’s arm when they accepted a piece of his body.
I realize this may be a pretty oversimplified answer, but is the information I gave him in line with the teachings of the church?

Actualy… it is not. We do not believe we eat a physical piece of Jesus. We believe we eat the real body, blood souls and divinity. You see, during transubstantiation something very mysterious happens. What was the substance of bread and wine become the substance of the second person of the Blessed Trinity, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. His whole being is in this piece of bread and in the sip of wine.

Viva Cristo Rey!!

The Catechism (#1376) says:

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.”

How this works has not been revealed. Some (including myself) use Aristotle’s substance/accidents philosophy to try to wrap our minds around it, but the Church has never adopted this as a philosophical explanation.

But, BTW, there is a Eucharistic heresy called “carnalism” that maintains the bread/wine become, in every way, actual flesh/blood, but we are miraculously prevented from perceiving it. If this is what your friend is thinking of, then he is mistaken about what the Church believes.

I think I’m facing both this heresy and something different I can’t quite explain.

It was my belief that the apostles ate and drank of Christ. Not in the sense that they were literally eating a piece of him. Rather what began as symbolic (bread and wine) becomes so much more through the sacrament.

Of course I still may be off base, my catechism days were all too long ago. (Something I intend to re-learn.) If nothing else, my friends debates have me re-reading the bible and trying to learn more about my religion. Always a good thing.


the Catholicism Answer Book, the 300 most frequently asked questions is a great source to re-learn. The answer to your question and a bunch more are clearly explained by Rev John Trigilio Jr. and Rev Kenneth Brighenti. It has helped me. Take care.

It’s also important to recall that it is the immortal, resurrected, body and blood of Our Lord in the Eucharist. Your friend is probably imagining it as eating mortal flesh - which is not the case.

Thank you all for the assistance.
My friend, is now an avowed anti-catholic. This apparently happened in the 20 odd years we were out of touch. I won’t go into all the things he has told me lately, but I may be coming back for more help! :slight_smile:

I’m also ordering a copy of the catechism and the 300 answer book!

The part that is different and that you can’t quite explain is probably the doctrine of the Eucharist itself. Nobody has (or could) explain it in a manner that everyone can understand.

The Eucharist is Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. Christ is present in His glorified human nature, as well as in His Divnity. So His body and blood are glorified, and it is not like eating a piece of unglorified flesh, nor is it like drinking unglorified blood. Christ is entirely present in each part of the Eucharist, so that if you eat the smallest part of a host, you have all of Christ, not merely a piece of Him.

At the consecration, the substance of the bread and wine change into the substance of the physical part of the glorified human nature of Christ. His soul and Divinity are also present, since these are united to His body. The substance of the bread and wine do not change into His soul or into His Divinity, but only into His glorified body and blood. But His soul is united with His body and blood, since He is alive. And His Divinity (unceasingly since the Incarnation) is always united to His body and blood, so His Divinity is present also. Even when Christ died and His soul separated from His body, His Divinity remained united to His body, and to His soul.

Just a word of advice on dealing with vehement anti-Catholics. I have not found long point-by-point discussions fruitful. I think you’ll learn quickly how open this person is to reason. I recommend keeping your answers as concise as you can. But of course, use your own discretion on what you know about this person.

Also do not allow your Friend to LIMIT your Ability to debate your / Our RCC Positions & Teachings. WE have Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and 2000 Yrs of a Sacred Teaching Magisterium.

Also if he is a Sola Scriptura Person ( scriptures only ) many are Literalistic. If so that can be used against them in many instances when they try & deny the actual words ( quotes attributed ) to Christ. They often try to weasel around those hard points by claiming Christ ( Peter or Paul ) is speaking Figuratively. If they are hardcore Literal interpretationists ( ie: Genesis - world created in 7 days type) it works against them, when they try this tactic. However they have been well inculcated with their own MAN-MADE Traditions & Biblicial Interpreatations so expect them to be Obstinate even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Bottom-line for these types is that they Must Raise up their Brand of Christianity on the Ruins & Bones of those that preceded them. It takes a lot of work to turn these folks around. Good Luck! :slight_smile:

Regards, Vivat Jesus!

Even though it sounds like surrogate canibalism, I respect your faith.

When I take morning bath, I invoke Ganga, Godavary and Saraswati, our most sacred rivers, and believe that my bath water is from these three rivers. Hope you apopreciate this.

If your friend is a Christian, you might find it easier to start off with some very basic ideas. I might suggest the question of Authority? Which church does your friend attend and by what authority does the minister intepret the Bible? The answer will probably be the minister uses the Holy Spirit to get his intepretation of the Bible…at that point it is relatively easy to make that same comparison to many of the Protestant demominations who’s ministers use the same authority (Holy Spirit) but don’t come to the same conclusions (abortion, gay marriage, etc…). So…how many Holy Spirits are there??? You can see where this is going… right to the True Church! If your friend is the least bit open-minded, a quick reading of some of the early Church Fathers might help to explain the “history” of our beliefs!

God’s Peace

This is a critical point, which is often misunderstood. I have heard someone speak of the Eucharistic host as a piece of Christ’s flesh. But it is not a piece of Jesus–it is all of Jesus–Jesus in his entirety, body and blood, soul and divinity, his entire person.

Can someone explain to me how the doctrine of transubstantiation can be a product of “apostolic succession” when there were no priests in the apostolic Church, and there was a gap of more than 1200 years separating it from the Apostles? And, would God feed His flock mere bread and wine prior to AD 1215; then begin feeding them His actual body and blood after that date?

The Twelve were priests and themselves ordained priests to serve the Church. We see this priesthood in action in the early church:

The Didache:

“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

Pope Clement I

“Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release” (Letter to the Corinthians 44:4–5 [A.D. 80]).

Ignatius of Antioch:

“Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice—even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God” (Letter to the Philadelphians 4 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr:

“God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [minor prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the Gentiles . . . [Mal. 1:10–11]. He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians] who in every place offer sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist” (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 41 [A.D. 155]).


“He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body.’ The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his blood. He taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachi, one of the twelve [minor] prophets, had signified beforehand: ‘You do not do my will, says the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is my name among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty’ [Mal. 1:10–11]. By these words he makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; but that in every place sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure one, for his name is glorified among the Gentiles” (Against Heresies 4:17:5 [A.D. 189]).

See also:

Regarding the nature of the Eucharist, likewise we have the testimony of the early Church:

St. Ignatius of Antioch:

“I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible” (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . 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” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).

St. Justin Martyr:

“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 and for regeneration * and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor 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 blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]). St. Justin Martyr

“If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?” (Against Heresies 4:33–32 [A.D. 189]).

St. Irenaeus:

“He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?” (ibid., 5:2). St. Irenaeus*

I don’t know why you think A.D. 1215 is of significance aside from the Lateran Council IV and the signing of the Magna Carta, but nothing changed regarding the priesthood and the Eucharist from their institution by Christ. I’m afraid your understanding us a-historical, Jacob.

You will notice that the Church tries to avoid the use of the word “physical” when talking about the sacramental presence of our Lord. The primary reason for this is because the Greek root of the word “physical” implies “natural” and as we all know the Eucharist is a supernatural reality so we avoid using this word to avoid confusion.

Viva Cristo Rey

Catholic Deacon

St. Justin Martyr:

"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 and for regeneration ] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined…

This is off topic, but how can baptism wash our sins when the Holy Scriptures says there can be no remission of sin without the shedding of blood?

Also, why is Christ sacrificed over and over at Mass when His sacrifice on the cross was a once for all sacrifice and Hebrews ch. 9 and 10 tells us He is no more offered in sacrifice?

What has God given us in place of the earthly sanctuary with its Levitical Priesthood and their animal sacrifice?

Did Christ establish His church with a priesthood of mortal men and earthly sanctuaries in which to offer the sacrifice of the Mass?

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