What is the proper understanding of Transubstantiation?

Everything in the universe and the universe itself exists because God ideates them. Thomist theologian Fr. Austracio Nicanor says that the moment God stops ideating (thinking of) us, we would immediately disappear back into the nothingness from which he called us. We also read in the Catechism [CCC301] that God upholds and sustains the universe (by his thought).

What is a “being”?
In my view every coherent entity (material or spiritual) that exists constitutes a “being” [Coherent: forming a unified whole]. Even a cartoon character is a being, albeit an imaginary one. There could be beings within beings (think of a Russian nesting doll).

What is “substance”?
Substance and being are intimately related. Every “being” has a “substance”, where “substance” is the CONCEPT in the mind of the author/creator of that being.
“Accidents” refer to the physical/visible/tangible features of material beings. Beings can exist without accidents but they cannot exist without substance.

Now come to the Transubstantiation:
Consider the bread and wine beings lying on the altar just moments before the consecration. Up till then God also considers them as just bread and wine. When the priest pronounces the Words of Institution over them, God stops thinking of them as bread and wine. He removes those ideas/concepts from His mind. In keeping with the Thomist logic explained earlier, they now ought to collapse into nothingness as they have become devoid of substance. But they do not, because instantly God begins to see them as the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ respectively. He basically switches one concept in his mind into another. By virtue of the switch, the Body of Christ (idea) and the Blood of Christ (idea) become the new substances of the beings which were hitherto bread and wine. This is what prevents them from collapsing. Thus, Transubstantiation exactly means a concept shift in the mind of God in relation to the Eucharistic species. As far as the human observer is concerned, he doesn’t detect any change in the accidents/species because their original atomic structure is preserved.

Next what happens is that the Eucharistic species is consumed by the recipient and gets acted on by the saliva in his mouth and the digestive juices in his stomach. In the process, the species lose their original form. Or take the case where the species becomes mouldy or fungus infested. God simply stops conceptualising them as the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ and reverts to the original ideas of them, viz. as bread and wine. Instantaneously, their substances also change back accordingly. This is in keeping with Church doctrine which says that the Real Presence remains only as long as the species retain their original form.

God is sovereign. He does what He pleases. If so, what’s to prevent him from conceptualising a wafer of bread and a vial of wine as the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ respectively? Can anybody argue with him?
When the celebrant holds up the consecrated host and says “Behold the Lamb of God…”, he’s inviting us to look at it through the eyes of the Father, who sees His Son and only His Son over there.

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I believe that the bread and wine are important aspects to transubstantiation. If God removed the concept of bread and wine from His mind after transubstantiation then the appearance of bread and wine would no longer be seen. There would be a Eucharistic miracle.

When the consecrated bread and wine are no longer recognizable as bread and wine, the substance, body and blood, ceases to be because the bread and wine has ceased to be.

On the other hand, if God DID NOT REMOVE the concepts of bread and wine from his mind after Transubstantiation, then we would be tending towards a situation of “Consubstantiation”, would we not?

Transubstantiation is not just a conceptual change in the mind of God with nothing changing in the created substantial realities or natures of the bread and wine. The created substantial realities or natures of the bread and wine are converted into the created and pre-existing substantial realities or natures of the living body and blood of Jesus. Transubstantiation means a change of substance, the whole substance, i.e., not just a substantial formal change or transformation.

Well, the terms that are used to describe transubstantiation are ‘substance’ and ‘accidents’. Those are the philosophical terms. So, while the substance of the bread and wine changes to body and blood, the accidents of bread and wine remain.

According to the Church, once the accidents of the confected bread and wine are no longer recognizable, the substance of the body and blood are also no longer present.

I really wasn’t trying to convey consubstantiation with my other post. But maybe it came across that way. At any rate, I’m not terribly interested in teasing out the philosophically nuanced differences between transubstantiation and consubstantiation. It’s above my pay grade anyway.

I was having a hard time assenting to the entirety of your argument up to this point, but this was the point where it stopped me cold. I can’t agree with this take on things. Once the physical accidents stop being the accidents of bread and wine… they don’t become bread and wine again. They are, no longer, not only not the Eucharist, but they’re not bread and wine as well. They’re not “changed back.”

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Please try to understand where I’m coming from. I believe that every being (viz. everything that exists) needs to have a “substance”. We can have a being without accidents but we cannot have a being without substance. In the case of the bread and wine beings, they had their own substances before the transubstantiation. At the Transubstantiation, their original substances got replaced by the divine substances. The dogmatic teaching is that the Real Presence continues only as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain. Now, under the action of the saliva in the mouth and the acids in the stomach, the species of course lose their original appearances. It must mean that its time for the Real Presence to depart, right? If the Real Presence has departed (i.e. the phenomenon of Transubstantiation has ended), it means that the species are once again devoid of substance, right? If so, how can the accidents continue to exist unless they have somehow got some sort of ‘replacement’ substances? It is a logical question. To keep matters simple, I presume that they get their original (viz. bread and wine) substances back. I’m not exactly sure what the new substances are, but something is definitely there, for without substance, the accidents should go poof (disappear)!?

The words “by his thought” are your addition, as you duly indicate by placing them within parentheses. Are you simply clarifying what you believe to be Catholic doctrine? Or are you adding to Catholic doctrine something that is not actually there?

The former, of course. I also take support from Psalm 8:4 “What is man that you are MINDFUL of him, the son of man that you care for him?”
and also Psalm 33:9 “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (I see “stood firm” as indicating a sustained command/thought on God’s part).

Have you given due consideration to the possibility that it’s the second alternative that is actually the case? This interpretation of CCC 301 is new to me. Perhaps the Church has opted not to define the precise manner in which God sustains and upholds his creatures.

My understanding of the position is that in matters where the Church has not ruled definitively, the faithful are allowed to have differing opinions one way or the other. For example, there are differing opinions even among the Doctors of the Church about whether the souls in purgatory are able to pray for us or not?
My conjectures in this thread fall into that category.

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The accidents of the bread and wine which remain after the consecration do not inhere in the substances of the body and blood of Christ. They remain in being or existence miraculously by divine power without a substance to inhere in since the substances of the bread and wine are no longer present but they have been converted into the substances of the body and blood of Christ. So, the accidents of the bread and wine are sustained in being without a substance to inhere in miraculously by divine power as soon as the consecration or transubstantiation of the bread and wine even before we consume the eucharist. It’s kind of like the roof of a house remaining in the air without walls to support it.

The eucharistic species can potentially nourish the body but St Thomas Aquinas is against the idea for various reasons that the substances of the bread and wine return when the body and blood of Christ is no longer present after the breakdown of the eucharistic species or appearances or accidents of the bread and wine by the body. In short, Aquinas’ opinion is that at the consecration God miraculously bestows on the dimensive quantities of the bread and wine which remain after the consecration that they can pass or turn into both substance and dimension when the eucharistic species (the accidents of the bread and wine) are consumed by the body and transformed into the substance of the body.

Richca,
The Church has not defined what she means by “substance”, so I believe that I have freedom to formulate my own views. By “substance” of a being I understand the term to mean the concept/idea that God has of it. Eg. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5. So God conceived Jeremiah, the man, the mission, in his mind first. This concept of Jeremiah constitutes Jeremiah’s substance.
In like manner, every being, real or imaginary, exists because it occupies a place in God’s mind. In other words, as Fr. Austracio Nicanor says, if God stopped thinking of us, it would deprive us of our very existence - we’d go poof! This implies that it is a logical necessity for every being to have a substance.

A being may or may not have “accidents” (body). Spiritual beings and imaginary beings do not have accidents. Every accident absolutely needs to have a substance (God’s concept), otherwise it cannot exist.

The bread and wine of course do not retain their original substances post consecration. If they did, it would be equivalent to consubstantiation, which the dogma denies. By an act of will, God chooses to see the body and blood of Jesus in those accidents whilst still permitting them to retain the molecular structures of bread and wine. At one level in his mind, God is aware that the faithful still perceive them as bread and wine.
Once the miracle/phenomenon of Transubstantiation ends (at the point of change in the appearances of the bread and the wine due to digestion or corruption), the Real Presence departs and we are left with the shell, viz. the accidents of the species. Since they physically exist, logic demands that some sort of a substance inhere in them (a logic that was temporarily suspended for the duration of the Transubstantiation). It is a logical absurdity to say that they exist without substances, because lack of substance is equivalent to God wiping them off from his mind and that would tantamount to annihilation. To my way of thinking, for something to be both its substance and its accidents is an incongruity/impossibility. For Thomas Aquinas (TA) to say that they are their own substances also looks to me a roundabout way of admitting that the original substances of bread and wine have returned. Maybe I’d have greater clarity if you threw some light on the reasons why TA thinks that the original substances of bread and wine do not return post departure of the Real Presence?

Why does the substance of body and blood have to depart? They are Incorporated into our bodies and we become one with them.

Yes. At that point, the Real Presence is no longer … well, ‘present’.

No.
Think of it this way: you eat a piece of bread. You digest it (i.e., “the action of the saliva in the mouth and the acids in the stomach”). At that point, you no longer have a piece of bread in your system. You wouldn’t say “oh no! My bread has lost its substance!”, would you? Rather, you’d conclude that what you now have is a variety of other things, with their own ‘substance’ and ‘accidents’.

Same thing here: by the very definition of when the Real Presence is no longer there, you also are in the situation in which you no longer have “the appearance of bread”.

They can’t. They’re no longer even “the appearance of bread and wine”!

Actually, ‘substance’ is a term that’s being used in its sense in philosophy.

Nope. You’re left with the accidents of things that used to be components of the species. The species, themselves, no longer exist as such.

[quote=“afthomercy, post:13, topic:583724, full:true”]
A being may or may not have “accidents” (body). Spiritual beings and imaginary beings do not have accidents. Every accident absolutely needs to have a substance (God’s concept), otherwise it cannot exist.

Accidents are forms and they can be either in matter or without matter. Spiritual beings such as the angels have accidents, not material accidents but pure formal accidents. Only God is an absolutely simple substantial being without accidents. God has the idea in his intellect not only of the substance of things but their accidents too. But creatures are not just ideas in God’s intellect or they would be God. The ideas of creatures in God’s intellect he created to have their own being with substance and accidents. The substance of a specie of creature corresponds to the universal idea of that creature in God’s intellect such as human beings or horses. But, again, the idea in God’s intellect of a specie of creature includes the accidents too.

The bread and wine of course do not retain their original substances post consecration. If they did, it would be equivalent to consubstantiation, which the dogma denies. By an act of will, God chooses to see the body and blood of Jesus in those accidents whilst still permitting them to retain the molecular structures of bread and wine. At one level in his mind, God is aware that the faithful still perceive them as bread and wine.

I think I see where you are coming from. It appears to me that you are saying that the appearances or accidents of the bread and wine which remain and which we sensibly see after transubstantiation are the body and blood of Christ in some manner. There is a name for this sort of view called impanation roughly modeled in a way on the incarnation of Christ who is one person in two natures. This view has been around for centuries but the Church teaches transubstantiation which is about a change of substance not of the appearances or accidents of the bread and wine which manifestly do not change. The substance of Christ’s body and blood lies invisibly hidden under the accidents of the bread and wine.

For Thomas Aquinas (TA) to say that they are their own substances also looks to me a roundabout way of admitting that the original substances of bread and wine have returned. Maybe I’d have greater clarity if you threw some light on the reasons why TA thinks that the original substances of bread and wine do not return post departure of the Real Presence?

I’m not to sure what you mean here but St Thomas does not say that the accidents which remain of the bread and wine after transubstantiation are both substance and accident. They are simply the accidents of the bread and wine. However, he does say that a miraculous property is bestowed on the dimensive quantities of the bread and wine because it is manifest that the eucharistic species can undergo a substantial change such as when the body digests the eucharist or if the eucharist was burned it would turn to ashes. A person could potentially live on the eucharistic bread or get drunk drinking the eucharistic wine if they took enough of it.

(continued)
Concerning a proposed return of the substances of the bread and wine, one of St Thomas’ arguments against this idea is that no time can be assigned for it. The substances of Christ’s body and blood are present as long as the appearances or accidents of the bread and wine remain. When these accidents are no longer present, the substance of a thing is already taking on another substantial form such as the substance of the human body because everything has its own proper accidents.

Secondly, Christ’s body and blood do not turn back into bread or wine because Christ’s body and blood are immortal and incorruptible.

The substances of bread and wine to return would have to be created anew by God because they no longer exist after transubstantiation. St Thomas is not against the idea that matter could be created anew by God when the substances of Christ’s body and blood are no longer present under the accidents of the bread and wine when these accidents are no longer present. But, he prefers the explanation I have already mentioned about the dimensive quantities of the bread and wine which God bestows a miraculous property on at the consecration that they can pass to both substance (which I understand to be matter, not the substantial forms of bread and wine as well which are not needed and no time can be assigned to it as I mentioned above) and dimensions.

Gorgias,
I more or less agree with what you are saying. If I were to put it in my terminology, I’d say that once the “appearances” of the bread and the wine change, the old “beings” proper are no longer there. What you have are new beings. New beings come with their own substances. Hence the question of whether the old substances of the bread and the wine return or not, is irrelevant/moot.

I’d disagree when you say that “substance” is a term that’s being used in its sense in philosophy. The Wikipedia page on Transubstantiation states: “This council (Trent) officially approved use of the term “transubstantiation” to express the Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject of the conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, with the aim of safeguarding Christ’s presence as a literal truth, while emphasizing the fact that there is no change in the empirical appearances of the bread and wine. It did not however impose the Aristotelian theory of substance and accidents: it spoke only of the “species”, not the philosophical term “accidents”, and the word “substance” was in ecclesiastical use for many centuries before Aristotelian philosophy was adopted in the West, as shown for instance by its use in the Nicene Creed which speaks of Christ having the same “οὐσία” (Greek) or “substantia” (Latin) as the Father.”

Richca,

Your statement: “The substance of a specie of creature corresponds to the universal idea of that creature in God’s intellect such as human beings or horses” seems to be in sync with my proposition that the substance of a creature is God’s concept of that creature. But you seem to diverge when you say that “God has the idea in his intellect not only of the substance of things but their accidents too” Here you seem to imply that substance is something other than the idea itself. Again, you say: “The ideas of creatures in God’s intellect he created to have their own being with substance and accidents” . Now you really need to elaborate what exactly you mean by “substance”. As I have stated in my reply to Gorgias above, the Church has been using the term “substance” even before it adopted Aristotelian philosophy.

I can see how my statement “By an act of will, God chooses to see the body and blood of Jesus in those accidents whilst still permitting them to retain the molecular structures of bread and wine. At one level in his mind, God is aware that the faithful still perceive them as bread and wine” conveys a whiff of “implantation”, but I do not subscribe to implantation. I agree that the divine substances do not “inhere” in the species, but only support them from outside. I see the whole point of the Transubstantiation “exercise” as nothing more than God, in concession to the human need to touch/see/feel in order to better experience, giving the faithful a physical point of his Son’s personal presence.

I agree with you that the “The substances of Christ’s body and blood are present as long as the appearances or accidents of the bread and wine remain. When these accidents are no longer present, the substance of a thing is already taking on another substantial form such as the substance of the human body because everything has its own proper accidents” and hence the question of a proposed return of the substances of the bread and wine to the accidents is moot/irrelevant.

Your statement that “…both substance (which I understand to be matter, not the substantial forms of bread and wine…” is not at all comprehensible to me and I request for more clarification.

Thank you.

You may disagree that substance is a term being used in its philosophical sense, but you are in an area which is a bit deeper than you may presume. Substance and essence are closely related; and Wikipedia is not the end all and be all of a whole lot of subjects, this one included. It is giving a ten cent answer in a thousand dollar question - meaning it is condensing matters according to whomever wrote the article, and that individual may or may not have all of the knowledge to back the claim made. Whether Aristotelian categories had been “adopted” by the Church then or later does not equate with Aristotle’s philosophy being an unknown or not used at all. Not using the term “accidents” does not equate with “substance” not being based in his philosophical system.

and while we are at it, God is not in time; God is outside of time, so God does not “ideate” as if it were in time He was doing this. Thus, God “deciding” is an incorrect statement, as it implies God making a decisnion (in time) and after (later in time) changing His mind.

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