What does the Eucharist actually do when we receive it?


So when we eat the Body/Drink the Blood of Jesus Christ does it (and how) do something to our soul?/spiritually? Because it will go through physical processes…Digestive system…I guess we can’t really understand HOW it happens…


I’ve heard it said that we are to become what we eat. To be conformed to the body of Christ. He lives in us. This is why it is so important to not receive Him unless you are in the state of grace. I’ve never thought of the process of digestion when receiving HIM, but apparetnly the Real Presence remains with us for about 15 minutes or so, so I guess that speaks to that part, I don’t really understand that part though.


When we receive Holy Communion we become totally united to Christ, one with Christ and because we are one with Christ we are also one with all other validly Baptized, including the Saints in Heaven.


When does it stop being the body of Christ? This raises several issues and I think its important to be able to answer what may be a facetious question such as “is it still the body of Christ when its left our bodies for the sewer along with everything else we’ve eaten that day?” Catholics have a clear idea of when the host becomes the Body of Christ, but what about when it becomes plain old bread again?


The Eucharist ceases to be the Body and Blood of Christ when it is no longer recognizable as food or drink.


In other words roughly fifteen minutes after we’ve eaten it. Takes that long to be broken down into an unrecognisable form in the stomach.


Isn’t the physical element merely representative and symbolic, that the spiritual element is what you actually are receiving instantly? You are in a sense, feeding your soul, and not necessarily the body.


I would also like to add that every miniscule particle IS the Real Body of Christ. Therefore, even the smallest most unrecognizable particle (practically invisible) IS Christ. (This fact demonstrates the importance of receiving the Eucharist on the Tongue instead of in the hand where particles can easily fall onto the ground and there is more handling and potential for sacrileges such as someone pretending to receive and then putting the Eucharist in their pocket for later.) The Eucharist ceases to be bread and is transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in every particle. We must always remind ourselves of this mystical fact and must show the respect that is due to the Almighty Creator of the Universe when we humbly approach the Holy of Holies. Let us fall to our knees and adore the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.


First of all, please let me get out of the way that I do not claim in any way to explain what the Church officially teaches on this but, rather, figured that I would share how I would reason it out.

Regardless of the specific interval of time, accepting that there is indeed a moment of time at which this transformation occurs and, hence, an interval of united and disunited does not need imply that it is merely a symbolic act. It implies only that that these two states exist, but do not co-exist.

In fact, I will grant you that, if one assumes that the biological/chemical reactions are causing/driving/defining the state of unity, several questions arise about transubstantiation and the ability of the True Presence (i.e., it’s a symbolic act only).

Yet if one assumes the opposite, that the state of (dis)unity is causing/driving/defining the biological/chemical reactions, then – regardless of what causes the state of unity to become a state of disunity – it is still the changing of this state that would then cause what we physically sense to be bread/wine are then processed, as it were. Thus, there is no logical implication of symbolism over achieving a state of true physical and spiritual unity. It can be that we are actually receiving a true physical manifestation and that its state of manifestation causes the physical, though this state is not necessarily entirely the same as the physical.

It seems similar to the priest’s actions bringing about the consecration in that his actions are clearly insufficient to BE the consecration. That is, what we recognize as Eucharist is substantially more than bread and the priest’s actions. It would follow that that if there can be substantially more than just bread and spiritual intent/state of the priest (and possibly believer/communicant during communion) in the state of unity, then there can be, and indeed must be, substantially less than just bread and spiritual intent/state of the believer. But, as we do not demand that merely because a spiritual mystery occurs, the physical cease to exist and are not still a part of what is happening. Clearly they are; it is only that there is an added spiritual element that begins as the moment of consecration.

As to when that interval of time ends, I suppose that it’s theoretically possible that, provided one could correctly identify the exact moment such a shift occurs, one could also quantify in some way exactly what physical process was occurring. As it would probably be impossible to identify that moment quantitatively, I’ll leave it at being theoretically possible to identify such a moment and leave the logistics of the process to the biologists. winks

Please let me know if there is a logic flaw in my argument. As I said, this is just how I would reason it out. I’d be very interested to see what the official answer is.

Also, this was a very good question. I seriously had to stop and think for a little bit on this. If you follow it through, it clearly begs questions regarding transubstantiation. As one planning on RCIA this fall, I seriously had a moment of “OK, I have faith that this does happen, start with that being true and then figure out how what’s happening is possible.” Those are challenging moments. But with each one of them, I’m even a little more certain that RCIA is the right next step. Thank you for raising the question.

God bless!


No - only recognisable particles are held to be the Body and Blood of Christ, not microscopic or invisible ones. As long as you make sure to examine your hands and perhaps your clothing if possible, after receiving, hand is fine.

In other words if you can see a particle/fragment on your hand or anywhere else and you know that it is the Host or the Precious Blood, consume it if possible, otherwise go through procedure for its handling (wash the cloth or place until no appearance of bread or wine remains and tip the rinsing water either into the sacrarium or into the ground where people won’t walk on it).

If not, then you need not worry.


There is no “physical” process which occurs, if by “physical” you mean some change in the elements which would be perceptible to the senses or to any scientific instruments.

After the consecration, no change can be “physically” noticed in any way whatsoever. What remains are the appearances of bread and wine. The appearances of bread and wine are to our senses and our instruments, indistinguishable from bread and wine.

But yet, after the consecration, Jesus is present in his totality: his body, all of it, his blood, his soul, his divinity, just as truly as if we were standing before him at the Last Supper. We do not perceive him because the appearances of bread and wine still remain, and he is present under, but not within, those appearances.

This presence means that for the period of time in which the presence of Jesus remains, we are united with him as well as with one another, (since we all receive the same–not a different–Jesus.)


Right, by physical, I mean only that there is something we sense as physical. It is not the state of a physical process, only what we would perceive as one. Thank you.


Let me clarify to say that the Church authorizes the reception of Communion in the hand, and I am therefore not opposed to such licit reception when done with due reverence. However, it is my theological opinion along with most saints of the Church that unarguably the best and most reverent way to receive our Lord is on the tongue. I do not want to get into a debate about the theological reasons and developments for which the Church had for much of her history only permitted reception on the tongue, as it is outside the scope of this immediate discussion.

I wish to respond with infallible declarations from the Council of Trent:
“CANON III.-If any one denieth, that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each [Page 83] species, and under every part of each species, when separated; let him be anathema.”
“CANON IV.-If any one saith, that, after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist, but (are there) only during the use, whilst it is being taken, and not either before or after; and that, in the hosts, or consecrated particles, which are reserved or which remain after communion, the true Body of the Lord remaineth not; let him be anathema.”

I am unaware of any official Church document, which limits the Eucharist to only those particles, which any given person can or cannot see. I would be interested if you can provide some official support of your position. You said, “only recognizable pieces ARE HELD to be…”, held by whom?

Trent says that “every part of the species” is really Christ. If you believe in Transubstantiation, then you acknowledge that the entire substance is changed, not only that substance, which man can easily observe as appearing as bread, but the entire matter itself is changed in a veiled manner. Thus, the size of the particle does not determine the presence. The fact it is a particle suffices that it is really Christ.


The Real Presence remains as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain as per par 1377 of the Catechism.

So a microscopic or nearly microscopic particle doesn’t retain the appearance of ANYTHING really, let alone being identifiable as bread or wine.

By saying microscopic particles you are holding to a truly untenable position, since such microscopic particles transfer and travel very easily, and would most certainly cover literally every single surface of the interior of a church regardless of method of distribution, until such time as they were :eek: sat on, stood on, vacuumed up or dusted off.

Not to mention the literal impossibility of avoiding transfer and mistreatment of such tiny particles - are we all expected to carry microscopes around with which to examine our hands, shoes and clothing, or the priest his, after Communion? Yet microscopic particles would be transferred to all of these even if the greatest care be used in distribution.

None of this was specified in Trent, since at the time of Trent microscopes didn’t exist - clearly Trent can only have been referring to visible particles.


Here is the reference you cited:
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

Unless you interpret “Eucharistic species” to mean “clearly visible particles,” then I’m afraid that this citation actually does more harm to your position than anything.

Let me be up front to say that I am not an expert pertaining to microscopic particles and their transfer. The transfer of microscopic particles is beyond the point. The point is how can we be as reverent as possible to avoid any particle no matter how insignificantly small to not be desecrated in any way. Christ does not expect us to do the impossible, but He does expect us to be as reverent as humanly possible when dealing with His most Real Presence. When we read the Old Testament, we can clearly see how the priests approached the Holy of Holies and how God instructed them that anyone but the priest who approached His presence would be struck dead! Christ has done the unthinkable and has given us access to receive Him, our Holy God, into our actual bodies. Let us both at least conclude that we must not take such a matter lightly as if we were receiving common bread.


No, we shouldn’t treat Our Lord as if he were common bread, absolutely agreed, and should treat Him with utmost respect. But we should acknowledge that we are frail humans and not be overly scrupulous to approach Him in our frail human way (as if we could ever do anything else) - where would the woman with the hemmorhage be if through overscrupulousness she had decided not to touch the hem of His cloak?

Receiving in the hand can be done as respectfully and with as much care for particles of the Host as receiving on the tongue.


By your standard, the centurion would have himself also been over-scrupulous when he said those those famous words, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.” What was Christ’s response? Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him: “Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel.” And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour.

I can see the arguments made now that God Himself was too scrupulous when someone touched the Ark of the Covenant and was struck dead as a result. Or when a man broke the Sabbath laws by gathering sticks, and God commanded that he be stoned to death. Or perhaps when God sent fire from heaven to destroy Nadab and Abiu when they offered incense to God in a way that was not permitted (Lev 10). Christ too would be accused of being scrupulous when he gave the analogy that it is better to cut off one’s hand or foot if they cause him to sin than to go into hell with them intact. The same could be said of His reaction to those not dressed properly at the wedding feast (Mat 22:11-14) or those who cause someone else to sin and it would be better that they tied a millstone around their neck and be drowned in the sea. I could continue, but the point is that God takes sin very seriously and demands proper worship, reverence, and honor. The problem present today is the sacrifice of the Mass has lost its sacrificial awe and reverence due to it and is becoming a common “banquet.” One need not travel far to see the disregard for the Real Presence as well as disbelief. Priests no longer preach that one cannot receive the Eucharist when conscious of grave sin without prior sacramental confession. Instead they preach on God’s mercy and love to the exclusion and ignoring of His holiness and Divine justice. They say, let’s ignore canon law and give the Eucharist to manifest sinners and heretics! I say, take God more seriously and pay Him the reverence that his holiness deserves.


In the Catholic Church, we believe that the host and wine is the true physical presence of God. It is not representative and symbolic. It is truly Jesus physically present. That is what transubstantiation is. Check this link for a much better definition than I can give en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation


Seems to me, the topic has become much a do about nothing, one arguing preferred receiving method rather than answer the question. To me, your respect for Christ when you receive Him is the bottom line not the actual method.

Anyway, first and foremost, I believe the Eucharist unites us intimately with Christ, both spiritually and physically.

The Body of Christ, as bread and the Blood of Christ, as wine begin to be absorbed by salivary action as soon as they enter the mouth, the beginning of the alimentary canal. This action is completed before or by the time the bread and wine reaches the beginning of the small intestine. The Body and Blood of Christ are now apart of our physiological make up.

(Btw, this all occurs ~long~ before the “sewer” portion of our alimentary canal, the large intestine.)



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.