What exactly is the dogma of transubstantiation, and what is considered the explanation?

I’m asking specifically because of the substance/accident language that Trent uses. At the time the Council of Trent was held, Aristotelean substance theory was pretty much the accepted view of matter, although there were some variations within the theory. Nowadays the idea of “substances”, while not unheard of, isn’t a dominant philosophical view and is one that’s seen as having a lot of problems. It would seem somewhat odd if Trent dictated the substance/accident view, especially since that would have a lot of philosophical implications for ordinary bread and by extension other ordinary things like tables and rocks and cell phones (which really aren’t the purview of a Council). But Trent does clearly use the substance/accident distinction.

To begin.
The accident portion is your hair, your two arms instead of four arms, your singing voice --in other words, accidents are your physical characteristics. Accidents are also known as outward signs of something one is looking at. If we were watching Jesus on earth, we could see His broad shoulders. We would hear the sound of His voice. We knew with certainty, Who we were looking at because of the physical characteristics. After the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the normal characteristics of a blood and guts anatomy were transformed with wonderful powers. Locked doors did not prevent Jesus from entering a room. Doubting Thomas had to say “My Lord and my God.” John: 20:28. Philosophically, one can say that the substance of Jesus remained.

Philosophy is for the VERY WISE, and in no way a matter of being a dominant viewpoint. It is about what is actually real, not about whether the Philosopher can persuade the people who carry on in this forum to understand “substance” or that matter is passive of being through the act of its form.

As for transubstantiation - the description is for the wise to understand what is happening.
The actual problem faced by the Christian communing is when a host is being held up in front of you and you hear the words, “The body of Christ”, do you say, “Amen” and take and eat it, or do you shake your head and turn aside?

It is a matter of you being a liar if you take and eat what you do not believe; or the minister of communion being a liar so you turn away without eating; or (the best) if you see the minister giving you the body of Christ, and see yourself consuming Christ’s flesh, and know that the eternal reciprocal love of the Father for the Son will find the Father pouring his whole being into the Son eternally, including into his body and blood, which you have been given for consumption.

I have philosophy training enough, which is part of why I asked this question. My point is that the substance/accident view has widespread implications, far beyond anything concerned with the Eucharist or any other sacrament or act of the Church. It was the assumed view of matter at the time of the Council of Trent - it is not so now. Philosophy develops like any other field.

It seems difficult to interpret Trent without binding one to the substance/accident view, yet it would also seem odd that a Church council would issue something binding on such matters.

Why do so few understand a miracle requires no explanation.

It should be noted that the Latin term for “transubstantiated” was used to describe the change in the Eucharist at the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215, and this predated any favor the Church showed towards Aristotoean metaphysics.

While what goes on in Transubstantiation has been explained in terms of Aristotlean-Thomist metaphysics, I do not consider A-T metaphysics as part of the dogma, even if I am favorable to that metaphysical system.

The bread and wine undergo a change in what they are, but not in any physically perceivable way, such that they are truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and are no longer bread and wine, whatever physical properties remain. What it looks like is, in this instance, no longer indicative of what it is.

How? An act of Christ Jesus. A divine miracle. Any further explanation is a mystery. There may be true and insightful explanations of it which we are permitted to believe, but we don’t know more in terms of dogma.

The major Ecumenical Church Council Trent has the right to choose a particular use of substance/accident and subsequently rule out the other views or applications or implications.

I wonder – How would any assumed view of matter impact Transubstantiation when the
substance(s) exist before the action of Transubstantiation. The substance of bread is in existence. The Devine Person, as “substance”, exists.

What the Trent members also considered was the discipline of theology.

Years ago, I used Google to find out about Transubstantiation. One of the more interesting results was the description of the Scholastic Period. Did I remember the correct term? When it comes to Councils like Trent, the protocol of the visible Catholic Church on planet earth is to examine all explanations, good and bad, philosophically and theologically, regarding a pending doctrine. In that period, theories were everywhere. The Google sentence which delighted me was about the choice of the Thomas Aquinas Explanation as being the most reasonable or rational. I should add that the “rational” bit had to coincide with the theology of John, Chapter 6.

The main difficulty is that to talk about the substance and accidents of bread is to imply talk about the substance and accidents of tables, chairs, rocks, and so forth. It is a very difficult and a very complex theory with many problems that are quite unrelated to the Eucharist. The question is then does Trent bind one to this view of ordinary bread, and thus by extension to this particular view of all ordinary matter? Or does it intend simply to say that what is on the altar is the Body and Blood and not bread and wine, no matter the metaphysical theory behind the nature of bread?

I opt for the latter explanation. Transubstation just means “change of substance” meaning in this case “change in what it is.”

I would have to go back to one of the interesting heresies which may be known today as panentheism. If its date is earlier or about the same as Trent, then the single view of ordinary bread, with no extension to ordinary matter of tables, chairs, rocks, and so forth, would be necessary. This would be based on the fact that Jesus Christ is unique even though as God, He assumed human nature. This is the Incarnation and the Hypostatic Union of two natures, yet one Person. What I am describing is theology and not any metaphysical theories. Still, philosophical substance and accidents is proper. I bet that all this back and forth philosophy and theology is why Trent spanned the years 1545-1563.
Maybe what I am trying to express is this sentence of yours.
“Or does it intend simply to say that what is on the altar is the Body and Blood and not bread and wine, no matter the metaphysical theory behind the nature of bread?”

Yes, I definitely agree that there is a miracle at the Consecration during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the same time, I find Jesus so down to earth with every type of human, that I think there is also an earth-like explanation. He talks with everyone including us, regardless. The Body and Blood is possible according to the Aquinas substance and accidents. Even though this version could be technically ruled out because of problems of matter, it is still plausible.

Therefore, in answer to the thread’s question. The dogma of Transubstantiation is basically (I may not have the exact terminology) that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, is really present in the Eucharist.

You mean like Biology developed from Mendel and Darwin to Lysenko? :slight_smile:

After all, Mendel’s Laws and Darwinian evolution also have “widespread implications”. And “problems”. Namely, it was hard to make them fit Marxism-Leninism. Do you think that’s a sufficient reason to abandon them in favour of Lysenkiosm? :slight_smile:

If you want to show that there is something wrong with talk about substance and accidents, show it, instead of showing that someone has abandoned them.

For as long as the talk about substances and accidents is at least an approximation of reality, there is nothing wrong with the Church using that.

The simplest problem is that it’s astronomically hard to determine what’s a “thing” that gets a “substance” and what’s a conglomerate. Matter can be arranged into almost infinite forms and combinations - does every one of them have a unique substance? How combined do two things have to be to form a new thing with a different substance?

I don’t want to get into a big explanation of metaphysics here. I just want to say there are plenty of people, Christians and non-Christians alike, who have reasons to reject Aristotealeanism on simple philosophical grounds, quite aside from any views on religion or politics or anything of that sort.

My point with the abandonment was less that it isn’t believed now and more that at the time of Trent it was pretty much the dominant theory, for reasons that as far as I can tell had almost nothing to do with religion but were simply a product of the state of the philosophical community in the west at the time. It was assumed.

“As stated above (Article 2), since Christ’s true body is in this sacrament, and since it does not begin to be there by local motion, nor is it contained therein as in a place, as is evident from what was stated above (Article 1, Reply to Objection 2), it must be said then that it begins to be there by conversion of the substance of bread into itself.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas. newadvent.org/summa/4075.htm#article4

A species does not have being, except or unless there is an individual being of that species. That individual of a species is the substance, the individual of a species.
That said, “bread” does not exist until there is “this bread” or “this loaf” or “this piece”. Until there is substance, substantial individual,
“bread” is not extant.
Only “this loaf” and “that piece” and “this bread” are substantial (instantiated individuals of the species ‘bread’)
It is the same with “body” - it does not exist apart from “this body” - there is only substance when there is an actual individual of the species of “body”.

Transubstatiation is not the changing of “bread” (the species) into a species of “body”, but it is the usurping of the substance, the individuality of being of this particular individual loaf, by the individual Jesus, to serve as his body, so that it is no longer the being of this particular individual loaf, but now it is this particular individual body (“my body”). What you consume in the sacrament is material - elements and molecules unchanged. But what exactly they were that you ate and drank, is whatever makes them individual actuality. Jesus wants you to know yourself as having consumed his whole flesh and having sipped the fullness of his blood, and he will pour his Spirit into this self-same material within you and into you, animating what he knows as his body and blood in you, with his soul and divinity.

Aside:
Another decency of the doctrine taken seriously leads one to inquire what really is going on with the material order beyond what is encompassed with standard natural research. To question what the underlying nature of operations regarding the material order is with the added belief that God’s immanence is participating in such a profound way, with the religiously added notion that man himself participates more than just moving through it and re-arranging (as with a priest’s confection), that it results in an increase of humility. It also raises a flag regarding the existence of dysfunction/evil. In a sense, the doctrine forces some welcomed philosophy upon you :wink:

Point taken. Take this question perhaps as coming from one who was brought from philosophy into Catholicism rather than the other way around.

Seriously, I became Catholic in the middle of my MA in philosophy. Philosophy wasn’t the only factor but it sure helped.

I believe that Trent formulated its doctrine in that theological language to cut off the then current Eucharistic heresies. So the language it used was specifically targeted to them, not the general Faithful. However, today, theologians do ponder the difficulties presented by Trent’s definition, but are forced to concede that ultimately the overall meaning is correct.

Since you are deep into these Philosophical concepts, it might help to take a simpler view, and grant the overall meaning is intelligible and useful, if not exactly in step with current philosophical notions.

It is a Divine Mystery. Naturally trying to fathom its depths will not be easily described in humans terms or language.

But none of those things is a problem (in a relevant sense)!

They simply indicate that research is hard. Well, it is.

Not to mention that one should also look at the problems with alternatives. And the alternative here is the “Bundle theory” (or are you thinking about something else?). And if you think it is a problem if we do not know when exactly do the covalent bonds form (that, after all, is “How combined do two things have to be to form a new thing with a different substance?” restated for molecules), do you really think saying that atoms and molecules do not “really” exist (only “bundles” of their properties do) is a better solution?

I find that pretty hard to believe.

After all, a vast majority of people just do not know enough of Philosophy to have an opinion. Then there is a part that doesn’t care. And a part that cares for political and religious reasons.

And what is the problem with that, if they were right or “right enough”?

I was speaking here primarily of the philosophical community (both Christian and non-Christian) rather than of the populace at large - those that are generally interested in the study of metaphysics for its own sake. There really isn’t a lot of politics involved in those sorts of arguments; there’s just not enough that’s relevant within the discipline of metaphysics as considered by philosophy (which is often different from the popular conception). Religion sometimes, but largely from the Christian side, and even then generally largely unconcerned with the nature of inanimate objects from a religious standpoint.

I can hardly go into years of philosophy arguments on this message board, sadly.

And what is the problem with that, if they were right or “right enough”?

If nothing else, it seems odd that a Church council would dictate a view on tables and chairs and rocks. And it seems at least plausible that the council used the language they did because that was the assumed theory at the time of how you talked about matter, rather than out of any intent to dictate a philosophical theory (and from my research the language was formulated to be neutral between the philosophical theories that were popular at the time).

Please. The actual Catholic Church never dictated a view on tables and chairs and rocks. For general information, tables, chairs, and rocks are part of the material world because they do not have spiritual rational souls.

Transubstantiation as applied to the Catholic Sacrament of Eucharist belongs in the spiritual world which is not the same as the material world. The spiritual world includes the existence of the Most Holy Trinity. Anyone can deny that fact; nonetheless, changing God is beyond the capability of humans.

We all know that philosophy can lead to the understanding of a Divine Creator. This does not eliminate the spiritual world. Therefore, when studying Transubstantiation, it is the spiritual world which needs to be understood first.

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