Transsubstantiation

The whole concept of transsubstantiation makes me ooky.

Let’s see if I understand this: Jesus was both divine and human. During the miracle of transsubstantiation, the bread is transformed into the flesh of Jesus and the wine is transformed into the blood of Jesus.

You want me to eat and drink that? There’s a word for people who eat other people. There’s even a word for people who eat gods – theophagy.

Every time I ask a Roman Catholic to explain this to me, they get defensive.

Can anyone explain this in non-ooky terms?

I have no idea where your “ook” threshhold lies, so I cannot claim that you will find my terms any less “ooky” than ones you ave heard before.

The notion of the Divine Presence in the Eucharist is most fully developed in the New Testament in John (Jn 6: 22 - 66, esp., 51 - 58).

In this passage, Jesus explicitly says that He is the Bread of Life which must be eaten–and he met a reaction quite similar to yours.

Transubstantiation, (as I noted in this post) is a Greek philosophical concept that attempts to address how the Divine Presence is made present in the bread and wine. As such, the term Transubstantiation is peculiar to the RCC, although other Christian denominations also believe in the Divine Presence.

But if Jesus is God, then you are not eating a person. You are a deivore, which is permitted.

Thanks, I was never clear on the Scriptural cite for transsubstantiation. My question, though, it really “How do modern-day Catholics explain this to themselves?”

If you buy into the quasi-Aristotelian Scholastic metaphysic that Aquinas worked with, everything is “really” what its underlying ousia (or “substance”) is – though the concept “dog” describes an animal that has four legs, a tail that wags, a tongue that licks you (and other things), and a tendency to bark, a quintuple-amputee dog (all four legs and tail) which has also had its larynx and tongue removed would still remain a dog. The characteristics which speak outwardly of “dogness” to us are “accidents” (technical term, not implying accidentalness) which report on but do not constitute that inward “substance” of dogginess.

So Aquinas is forced to deal with the Eucharist, in which one re-enacts a meal where Jesus takes bread and wine and says “This is My body, this is My blood, take and eat/drink them in remembrance of Me” and we’re forced by the nature of previous debate to think that He meant something concrete and non-metaphorical by those statements.

He found the solution in saying that, in response to the priest’s prayers, God miraculously transforms the “substance” – the inner essence – of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, while leaving the “accidents” – the characteristics of falling butter-side-down and of being capable of causing intoxication that are known for bread and wine – alone. So while it looks like bread and wine, it’s really Christ’s Body and Blood.

Not the most obvious bit of logical thinking in the world, but that’s the basic doctrine underlying transubstantiation from a Scholastic perspective.

(BTW, Orthodox and Anglicans say that Christ is Really Present in the consecrated bread and wine, normally attributing it to the moment in the prayers when the Holy Spirit is asked to descend upon the bread and wine “and make them to be for us the sacrament of His Body and Blood” while refusing to get into exactly how He’s present, preferring to consider it a mystery. (That’s not intellectual cowardice, but the use of John’s term musterion (mystery) as synomymous with “sign” to the faithful for any God-showing event.)

“Two, four, six, eight. Time to transsubstantiate.”

–Tom Leher, The Vatican Rag

The Divine Presence is in the Eucharist according to the Catholic Church. Transubstantiation is a term taken from the Greeks and applied after the fact in an attempt by the human mind to understand and explain the Divine Presence in the Eucharist.

The Divine Presence is the totality of Christ’s Presence: His Body, Soul and Divinity, since Christ’s divinity and humanity are inseparable.

Perhaps interestingly, Catholics do not receive just Christ’s body in the bread, and just His blood in the wine (as the OP suggests); rather, they receive all (body, blood, soul and divinity) in each. Moreover, each particle of the bread and/or wine contains the entirety of Christ, and distributing it does not distribute parts of Christ, thereby creating a gory monstrosity, but rather Christ’s entire presence is distributed to each recipient in all of it’s glory.

Thus, Catholics do not think about chewing a leg of Jesus, if I may be so vulgar; rather, they think of Christ in his full glory, radiant divinity and all, which He gives to the recipient of the Eucharist in miraculous and overwhelming generosity.

Having said all that, I honestly don’t think most Catholics (at least cradle Catholics) give the cannibal aspect of it that much thought, and are truly surprised to learn that there are people who feel ooky at all.

I’m probably wrong here, but I thought transubstantiation was when an angel tore off its wings and became human.

As a Catholic, I believe Jesus meant what He said “Take this, all of you, and eat it. This IS my body which shall be given up for you.” He didn’t say, “this is a symbol.”

A belief in the reality of the Divine Presence in the Eucharist is common to Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans and no doubt other Christian denominations. This belief is a very ancient one.

Transubstantiation, as Poly and il Topo have explained, is an attempt to understand and explain that reality. Transubstantiation is (relatively speaking) a much more modern idea than the Real Presence. It starts with Thomas Aquinas and is largely associated with Roman Catholics. As stated, it depends on a distinction between the substance of a thing and its accidents, and I think it is fair to say that it is increasingly difficult to reconcile that view of the world with the insights of modern physics, and I think that many Catholic theologians either no longer use transubstantiation to explain the Real Presence, or have greatly developed their understanding of what transubstantiation means, in ways that Aquinas might not have recognised.

As Poly has said, transubstantiation has never enjoyed much acceptance within the Anglican community, who regard it as an inevitably imperfect attempt to understand something which necessarily passes human understanding. Some other protestant denominations use the term “consubstantiation”, which again depends on a substance/accidents distinction, and holds that the substance of Christ is to be found in the consecrated elements, along with the substance (and the accidents) of bread and wine. I do not know what view Orthodox Christians take of transubstantiation; I believe that they do not use the term, but that their Eucharistic theology is not a thousand miles away from it. But perhaps someone who knows more than I do about Orthodoxy can comment further.

All I can tell you is this is a Catholic doctrine. Protestants don’t share this belief. We believe that communion is done in remembrance of Him (do this in remembrance of Me) and not that a priest has the authority to say some words and make a cracker turn into Jesus’ actual body.
I think there are some Scriptures that Catholics use to support this but Protestants believe this is symbolic. I believe there’s a Scripture that says “unless ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no part in me” or something like that, don’t know if that’s correct at the moment. Protestants may tend to believe this is accomplished when we’re born again through faith in Christ. After all, even if it were true, a person could partake of the wafer and juice without truly knowing Jesus and if he doesn’t, just partaking of the elements has no saving power in my opinion. This is just one of the differences between Protestants and Catholics.

Welcome back, His!! I’d have some definite arguments to pick with part of what you imply about Catholicism (and the rest of us Eucharistically-oriented churches), but I don’t want to get into that sort of “he said/she said” thing with you right now. There are, however, two quick comments to make that might make you a bit more insightful into what Catholics and Anglicans do think, however. The first is that what is said before the distribution of the communion elements is one long (very very long) prayer, in which the Holy Spirit is asked to bless the elements “that they may be for us the Body and Blood of Christ.” The Pope doesn’t believe that he can transform bread and wine into anything else (except, of course, by bodily functions into what he releases into a toilet) – like us, he believes that God does the transformation in answer to prayer. Second, there’s a passage in First Corinthians in which Paul speaks of those who receive communion without the right intent, and which pretty closely agrees with your next-to-last sentence – and that attitude matches what Catholics and Anglicans believe about taking communion “casually” pretty closely.

Anax:

Let me second your proposition: YUK!!

I went to Catholic schools as a kid and I remember that the priest and nuns made it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that the host was the ACTUAL body of Christ, not just a symbol. Now, they may not have been the “keepers of the holy secrets”, but that’s what they told us, we believed it, and we ate the host. It probably helped that it still just tasted like stale, dry bread.

[Homer Simpson] “Mmmm . . . Leg of Jesus . . . Sacrilicious . . .” [/Homer Simpson]

Why should the water here be the holy spirit, but the wine and bread have to be Jesus’s actual blood and body, and not merely a similar metaphor?

People don’t go drink holy water and suddenly have rivers of living water bursting out of their bellies (as per the text) or anything. Why should eating the bread and drinking the wine suddenly fill their guts with godflesh?

To me, this seems to be the same thing: accept Jesus, and you will live forever.

Eve:

Don’t laugh-- I remember the nuns telling us we shouldn’t chew the host because it was the body of Christ.

Toad:

I am not religious now, but I will admit that the Bible is a wonderful piece of literature with much wisdom in it. There is room for metaphore and strict literal interpretation of the Eucharist being the Body of Christ. Even if I were religious, though, I’d side with the metaphore folks.

From what i’ve read in The Golden Bough by James Frazier and assorted Joseph Cambell books of comparative mythology, eating the god who sacrifices himself to himself and is a dying and reborn king is an element of religious practices from many times and places. Sometimes, apparently, it was celebrated with actual flesh and blood. Sometimes, apparently, human flesh and blood.

Found a site with an opinion from the Protestant point of view mostly here. I had another link too but it wouldn’t work. By the way, I’m not dissing individual Catholics by posting this link, but I do disagree with a lot of their teachings.

Are there other denominations other that Catholics who believe in transubstantiation.

Thanks for the welcome, Polycarp. Just haven’t felt like posting much lately. Been doing some posting on another board. While I may be able to understand some about this doctrine, I doubt I’ll ever agree with the Catholic view. Thanks for any info though. I kind of like what toadspittle said.

His4ever said

I don’t think Lutherans or Episcopalians would agree with your generalization of the “Protestant point of view” concerning the Eucharist.

When you refered to the Holy Eucharist a cracker - Jack Chick’s influence came to mind immediately. I hope that’s not your primary information source on Catholic Doctrine.

No, I don’t consider Jack Chick to be my primary information on Catholic doctrine. I’ve had conversations with a few Catholics and have read about their beliefs, albeit I admit from Protestant point of view. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who doesn’t believe in transubstantiation. If I’d never heard of Chick, I still wouldn’t agree with some of the things taught in catholicism. There was a debate going on another board (Christian) that I visit sometimes on Catholic doctrine and someone there used the term cracker, that’s probably why I used it.

Do Lutherans and Episcopalians also believe in transubstantion? I don’t know who, besides Catholics, who support this.

The taking of the wafer and grape juice (we don’t use wine) in communion will always be to me a memory of what Jesus did for me on the cross. “This do in remembrance of me.” There’s no need for a constant unbloody sacrifice of Christ over and over through the Eucharist. Jesus died once, that was enough.