Food, Body and Eucharist

Food, Body and Eucharist February 28, 2010

Some time ago, I wrote a post highlighting the fact that Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is not properly understood in a physical way.  Many found this post helpful, but others reacted quite strongly against this suggestion.  For them, any suggestion that the eucharistic presence is not physical meant that it is not “real” or not “bodily.”  Now Church teaching has always professed that Christ’s eucharistic presence is both real and bodily, but never that it is physical.  In fact, it has insisted the opposite.

Despite this insistence, however, many Catholics today feel that physical language is not only appropriate, but necessary, to capture the Church’s faith in the Eucharist.  One of the reasons for this is that, following the Protestant reformation and the Council of Trent, Catholic theology and piety went through a long period in which anyone who reflected on the reality of the bread and wine was immediately suspect of heresy.  But, speaking in purely physical terms, the bread and wine remain unchanged.  The physical reality of bread and wine came to be understood as a kind of disguise for Jesus’ presence.  In reality, they are supposed to be a disclosure of that presence.  In The Wedding Feast of the Lamb, Roch Kereszty, O. Cist. writes that:

“the average post-Tridentine theologians began to emphasize that after the consecration the bread and wine remained bread and wine only in appearance.  Thus, most Catholics in no way thought it permissible to speak about bread and wine after consecration:  the species of bread and wine lost all measure of reality.  It was not taken into account that the consecrated bread and wine do appear to the senses as bread and wine precisely to reveal to the eyes of faith that Christ’s sacrificed and risen humanity become true food and true drink for eternal life.

Indeed, though the Church does not use the adjective “physical” to describe Christ’s presence, it does use the word “sacramental” and, as every good Catholic knows, a sacrament is a symbol that achieves what it signifies.  If we are to grasp what “sacramental” presence means, we need to have an appreciation of the symbols of bread and wine.  We need to think a little about what it means to call something spiritual food and drink.

Now, most of the explanations I have heard for this in popular piety are quite sound, but incomplete.  We are told that, as food sustains and strengthens the body, so the Eucharist sustains and strengthens the soul.  This is certainly true, but it captures only the vertical aspect of the Eucharist.  We call Eucharist “communion” for two utterly inseparable reasons:  that it brings is into closer relationship with God by giving us the very life of God, and that it binds us in love to the community of the Church.  The first is called vertical and the second horizontal, but neither can be achieved in isolation.  As the Gospels never cease to point out, our relationship with God depends on our relationships with one another.  If we want to understand the full value of the symbols of bread and wine as conveying to us the reality of Jesus as spiritual food and drink, we need to look at another, very basic, aspect of food:

Food is the only thing with which to make a body.

We might think that an apt definition of food is that which can be eaten, but we can eat all kinds of things that aren’t food.  We can eat rocks, or grass or poison, but we know that those aren’t food.  And we know that because they simply cannot be assimilated to our bodies.  Indeed, your body is constructed entirely from food.  What makes something food is precisely that it can be used to make a body.

The Fathers of the Church were unequivocal that the relationship between the Eucharist and the Church is that of cause and effect.  The Eucharist is the food that God uses to make the body of Christ, the Church.  Physical food makes physical bodies; spiritual food makes spiritual bodies.  Or, to use patristic language, mystical food makes the mystical body.

The horizontal aspect of the Eucharist should now be clear.  We are brought into communion with our sisters and brothers, made one body with them, by sharing the Eucharist.  And the body that we are made into is Christ’s body.

The Eucharist as the “body of Christ” is the means by which Christ gathers the faithful into his resurrected body (described as a “spiritual body” in 1 Cor. 15).  As Augustine was told, “You will eat me, but you will not turn me into you.  Rather, you will be turned into me.”  Our own resurrection is utterly dependent on this incorporation.  Our bodies can be raised because they have participated in the resurrected body of Christ.  Augustine called the final product of this incorporation the totus Christus.  The whole Christ, head and members, is Christ together with his body the Church.

Our bodies are nothing but food.  The Eucharist is the “body of Christ” because it is the food that Christ uses to feed – that is, to make – his body.

Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto.  He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.

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  • Hello Brett:

    I don’t feel ready to accept your statements (theses?) “Food is the only thing with which to make a body” and “Our bodies are nothing but food.”

    Maybe this is a tautology? “Whatever builds bodies is food, therefore our bodies are nothing but food.” My body also needs breathable air, drinkable water, regular exercise and sensory stimulation if I am to continue my earthly journey, but air, water and stimulation could also be pulled into the definition as “building bodies” and therefore “food.”

    What more deeply drives my rejection of these statements is that I don’t believe anyone’s “body” can, does or should exist in isolation. “Body” as separate entity is a dualistic concept, no?

  • brettsalkeld

    Thanks Frank,
    Our bodies do need other things to survive, sure. I’m not certain that undoes my basic point, or the symbolism of the Eucharist as food. The Eucharist is food and drink. And the transformation of food into body does require externals like air and exercise but I really don’t know how that invalidates my statement that our bodies are made of food, it just nuances it a bit. (Perhaps a reflection on the epiklesis could be related to the body’s need for air, but I don’t think every aspect needs to have a perfect analogue in order for the symbolism in the sacrament to hold.)

    As for body as a separate entity, I agree with you totally. I’m not sure what I said that gave the impression that I think a body exists in isolation. I don’t see that implication in what I wrote.

    In fact, I had written a bit about the need for a theological definition of body (over against a purely biological definition) but didn’t include it because it wrecked the flow of the piece. In any case, I have been most satisfied by theological reflections on body that understand the body as our relationship with creation. That definition works equally well with our natural-historical bodies, Christ’s eucharistic body, and the body of Christ as the community of the Church.

  • Wj

    Aristotle has some interesting things to say on the relationship between food and blood (which Aristotle understood as the product of food’s being appropriated by the body) and pneuma. Great post.

  • Thanks for sharing Brett. Good thoughts!

  • Augustine’s work on the eucharist and the church is some mind-bending material! And much of it would blow the average Catholic’s mind, particularly Christ’s radical identification with us and indeed, as you put it, Christ’s incorporation of us into himself.

    Tom Beaudoin has a really nice section on the Body of Christ in his Santa Clara lecture on global capitalism that you might like, Brett:
    http://www.scu.edu/ignatiancenter/events/lectures/archives/upload/f01_beaudoin.pdf (PDF)

    Also, one of my final coursework papers was a re-reading of Augustine’s image of the totus Christus as a fruitful image for political theology, putting it in dialogue with Sobrino and Ellacuria’s image of the crucified peoples. I should pass it on to you.

  • Craig

    Off-topic, but:
    Despite the “ad-free blog” logo in the right margin, I see a few of “ads by google” at the end of this entry (one to become a minister by getting an online degree, one to learn if there’s a difference between Catholic and Christian, one to get your congregants to give more money with Dave Ramsey’s method, and one for RC colleges). What’s up?

    • I don’t see anything like that. Others?

      • I don’t see anything like that, either. I expect it is either 1) Craig’s browser or 2) Craig has spyware/adware on his computer.

  • brettsalkeld

    Once upon a time I followed a link from somewhere else and ended up at Vox Nova and there were a couple Google ads. When I come here my normal way I have never seen them. Craig, how did you get to VN today?

    [I’ll probably delete these comments later, but thanks to Craig for pointing this out.]

  • brettsalkeld

    MI,
    Reading Augustine on the Eucharist is genuinely world-expanding. Everything looks different when you’re done. At some point I will probably have to write a book(let) on it to get it out of the academy and into the pews. But I’m not there yet.

  • M.Z.

    This is why you may have seen an ad:
    http://en.support.wordpress.com/no-ads/

  • Brett: “Now Church teaching has always professed that Christ’s eucharistic presence is both real and bodily, but never that it is physical. In fact, it has insisted the opposite.” … “Indeed, though the Church does not use the adjective “physical” to describe Christ’s presence”.

    The word ‘physical’ is not of a single, precise meaning. Since the poster doesn’t define in which sense the word ‘physical’ is being used, this leaves the post sometimes hard to understand. For example, the Church is happy to say: “nothing remains of the bread and the wine except for the species —— beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in His physical ‘reality,’ corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place.” (Mysterium Fidei).

    I would guess that the post is using ‘physical’ along the lines of: “as detected by the senses” or “as measurable by science”. Which is pretty much what the Church intends when is describes the ‘appearances’ of bread and wine being unaltered by the Consecration.

    Brett: “…following the Protestant reformation and the Council of Trent, Catholic theology and piety went through a long period in which anyone who reflected on the reality of the bread and wine was immediately suspect of heresy.”

    Again, there is some vagueness in this — now in the word ‘reality’. The Church even recently has said: “Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration” (Solemni hac liturgia).

    So:
    a) the appearances of bread and wine are unaltered by the Consecration;
    b) but in reality, the bread and wine have ceased to exist.

    If (b) has tended to be emphasized, it is because (a) is not a matter of faith, but something we can readily determine unaided by revelation. But (b) is certainly a matter of faith, and thus worth emphasizing.

    That bread and wine were chosen is fitting for a whole variety of reasons, and the post points out some of these.

  • brettsalkeld

    Thanks Paul,
    I linked to my previous post because some of the issues you point out were dealt with in either that post or in the discussion following.

    I would simply add here that I use “physical” always in an adjectival way, hence as a description of what the Church has called the “mode of presence.” The noun that is present, namely Christ, has both physical (body and blood) and spiritual (soul and divinity) aspects, but though his “physical reality” is present, it is not present in a physical way.

    As you point out, that should be clear from the plain evidence of the senses. However, many Catholics have so misrepresented this aspect of the faith that Catholics and non-Catholics alike often say very strange things about the Church’s eucharistic faith. Many scholars would suggest that what was rejected in the Protestant Reformation was not transubstantiation, but capharnaism under the name of transubstantiation. I would suggest (from my experience in adult catechesis, among other things) that many contemporary Catholics who reject Christ’s Real Presence in the eucharist are doing roughly the same thing.

  • brettsalkeld

    Also, as to appearances, I am in substantial agreement with Father Kereszty. It is certainly true that the Church has said that the appearances are unaltered. The problem that has emerged is that too often this has been presented in a way that leads people to believe that the appearances are a deception hiding Christ, rather than the very way that Christ is disclosed to us.

    The fellow mentioned in my previous post who thought that what remained of the wine was not enough to even communicate disease obviously thought that “appearances” did not include the basic physical operations of bread and wine, though the Church has never understood this to be part of eucharistic faith.

  • brettsalkeld

    Lastly, on “reality”. I was using the term in the same sense as Father Kereszty. He and I both meant to emphasize that the physical reality of the bread and wine remain, and to good purpose.

    I believe that the point being made in Solemni hac liturgia is to emphasize that the change in the elements is objective, that is, its reality does not depend on the acknowledgment of those participating in the eucharist. I fully support this view.

  • The question is whether ‘physical’ is an apt word for being used in the context that you using it, and capable of expressing our (however limited) understanding of the Eucharist. I am dubious that it is a helpful word, and seeing you use an explanation like: “…though his ‘physical reality’ is present, it is not present in a physical way”, makes me more dubious still.

    Here’s what the Catholic philosopher G.E.M. Anscombe said:

    “Theologians have not been accustomed to say that our Lord is ‘physically’ present in the Eucharist. I think this is because to them ‘physically’ means ‘naturally’, as the word comes from the Greek for nature – and of course our Lord is not present in a natural manner! But to a modern man to deny that he is physically present is to deny the doctrine of the Catholic Church – for meanings of words change. Pope Paul VI tells us in the Encyclical Mysterium Fidei that ‘Christ is present whole and entire, bodily present, in his physical reality’.”

    When you say: “the physical reality of the bread and wine remain”, I don’t think it captures the whole of what the Church teaches. There is one teaching (which can be expressed in different words, that refer to the same thing):

    a) the appearances of bread and wine do not change;
    (OR the bread and wine retain their species;
    OR the accidents of bread and wine are unaltered).

    But another teaching that:

    b) after the Consecration, the substances of bread and wine cease.

    I am not at all sure how your terminology proposes to express (b).

    I take Paul VI’s expression in Solemni hac liturgia that “the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration” and that afterwards they exist “under the sacramental species of bread and wine” as being consistent with Martin V’s condemnation of Wycliff’s claim that “In the sacrament of the altar the material substance of bread and likewise the material substance of wine remain”, and also consistent with the Council of Trent’s definition that the whole substance of bread and wine is converted at the Consecration.

  • Craig

    Thanks, all. The ads are gone now. Apologies for the disruption.

    And great post, Brett. I like this very much: “The physical reality of bread and wine came to be understood as a kind of disguise for Jesus’ presence. In reality, they are supposed to be a disclosure of that presence.” Yet since my reading on the Eucharist consists mainly of an occasional reading of Hopkins’ Adoro te translation, how might that compare with Kereszty? Have I misinterpreted or overemphasized “shrouded,” “hidden,” etc., or was St.Thomas’ (or his translator’s) focus necessarily limited by the purpose (or mood, focus, size constraints, etc.) of the hymn?

  • brettsalkeld

    Thanks Craig,
    I think there are two things going on in the Adoro Te. The first is the poetic nature of the piece. The second is that Thomas is highlighting that it is only by faith that Christ is recognized in the elements of bread and wine and not by the senses. His use of “hidden” and its synonyms refers to the use of the senses alone, unaided by faith. But to faith, the elements are a disclosure of Christ’s presence.

  • brettsalkeld

    Thanks again Paul,
    I am in full agreement that “physical” is entirely inadequate for expressing our faith. Part of the problem is that in contemporary English physical means both natural (which the Eucharistic presence certainly is not) and bodily (which the Eucharistic presence is). I would never use it in a vacuum. The reason I feel I must use it is because I hear many affirmations of “physical presence” that end up so distorting the Church’s teaching that both our ecumenical dialogue partners and our own faithful end up rejecting transubstantiation because they think it implies capharnaism. In such a context the term needs qualifying.

    Just to give you an idea of the problem, last night I googled “transubstantiation” and “microscope”. The second hit was a priest telling a skeptic that transubstantiation can, at least occasionally, be observed by microscope. (Yikes!) The fourth was a faithful Catholic apologist doing his best to explain to a Protestant colleague that the Church does not in fact teach a physical presence. Again, both Catholics and our dialogue partners are confused by an emphasis on physical presence.

    Anscombe is correct that teaching modern man that Christ is physically present will get him to affirm real presence, but I disagree that this is a good move, precisely because of the mass of confusion I see in adult catechesis, on the internet, and many other places. Unqualified denial of physical presence does, for modern man, end up with denial of the Church’s teaching. Affirmation of physical presence, unfortunately, does the same thing, though more covertly because those denying Church teaching think that they are the ones affirming it the most loudly (and excommunicating those with a more nuanced view). What is needed, in my view, is a qualified denial of physical presence, i.e., one that robustly affirms both the “reality” of the presence, and its “bodily” nature.

    You might be interested in de Lubac’s Corpus Mysticum which traces the evolution of the language surrounding the Eucharist and the Church. For a long time the early Church was uncomfortable with the adjective “bodily” for the same reasons I am uncomfortable with “physically”. Once the centuries hedged it with enough qualifiers (including “not naturally” which was the Latin equivalent of the Greek “physically”) it entered the Church’s lexicon. I have no idea what words the Church will use in 1000 years, but I know that the unqualified affirmation of “physically” in our contemporary context has been catechetically disastrous. Many reject Church teaching because they think a physical presence is non-sense, and many others accept it and excommunicate their brothers and sisters who cannot.

    Finally, I propose that the denial of physical presence is precisely an affirmation of b), because substance is not a physical thing. It is that which is present to the understanding, not that which is present to the senses. To affirm a change while denying a physical change is to say, exactly, that it is the “substance” as Thomas used the word, that changes.

  • Charles Robertson

    “because substance is not a physical thing. It is that which is present to the understanding, not that which is present to the senses. To affirm a change while denying a physical change is to say, exactly, that it is the “substance” as Thomas used the word, that changes.”

    I have to disagree with this statement. Substance is not an a priori category of the understanding a la Kant, which is what you seem to be edging on saying here. Substance is a physical thing; it’s basic meaning is the individual thing. Substance in its primary meaning is not some underlying intelligible essence of a thing (that is a secondary meaning).

  • brettsalkeld

    Thanks Charles,
    I’m afraid I can’t make much sense of your comment. I have no problem with substance as “individual thing” or “underlying intelligible essence,” but how on earth does “individual thing” equate to “physical thing”? In our trinitarian theology we call God a substance. Does that make God physical? What about angels, demons etc.? If those things are physical then Christ’s eucharisic presence is certainly physical, but then we have stopped using the word in any recognizable way. It becomes tough to affirm anything that is not physical and “physical” comes to equal “real”. This sounds far too much like materialism for me.

  • Charles Robertson

    When referring to material things, substance includes matter; that is, you can’t bracket out matter from the notion of substance, nor from the essence of a physical thing. Now, natural/physical substances are composed of matter and form, whereas immaterial substances are composed of potency and act. God, of course, is not composed but is pure act. The bread and wine offered at mass are individual substances composed of form and matter. When they are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, it is a substantial change, that is, the form of bread ceases to exist and is replaced by the form of the body and blood of Christ. What does this do to the matter? Matter persists through change, but is determined by the form–therefore the matter is now no longer the matter of bread and wine, but of the body and blood of Christ. The accidents of bread and wine alone remain. The whole substance of the bread and wine are now gone; the individual, physical thing that was bread and wine is no more. The appearances only remain: “the consecrated bread and wine do appear to the senses as bread and wine precisely to reveal to the eyes of faith that Christ’s sacrificed and risen humanity become true food and true drink for eternal life.”

  • Charles Robertson

    Let me also clarify that the appearance of bread and wine itself does have a physical reality, but it does not inhere in any subject.

  • brettsalkeld

    Matter persists through change, but is determined by the form–therefore the matter is now no longer the matter of bread and wine, but of the body and blood of Christ.

    Great! The new determination of matter by the form is what makes us able to say that something new is here, not a change in the matter per se. For the philosophically inclined, that is a lovely way to put it.

    The whole substance of the bread and wine are now gone; the individual, physical thing that was bread and wine is no more.

    Less great. The whole substance is not gone in the sense of disappearing and being replaced, but in the sense of becoming something else. How? As you point out above, the matter is now determined by a new form and, as such, is a different substance. But the matter has not changed in itself. To tell someone that “the physical thing that was bread and wine is no more” is certain to evoke the, “Let me just check with my microscope” response.

    The appearances only remain.

    What are appearances if not physical?

  • ben

    I’m unclear about the ramifications of what it would mean for the bread to remain physically present as a sign of the sacramental presence of Jesus.

    Under such understanding, is the Host, outside of mass and reserved in the tabernacle worthy of veneration? worship? latria? How do we understand and interact with the sacramental presence in this circumstance?

  • brettsalkeld

    Ha,
    I wrote my response before getting your clarification. Yes, the appearance has a physical reality. Perhaps even is a physical reality?

  • Charles Robertson

    “The whole substance is not gone in the sense of disappearing and being replaced, but in the sense of becoming something else.”

    I don’t really see the difference. If it becomes something else, it has ceased to exist simpliciter, having been replaced by another substantial form.

    “But the matter has not changed in itself”

    This is something I’m not so sure about. There can only be one substantial form of any individual thing, and the matter is determined by the form. This matter is no longer the matter of bread, but the matter of the body of Christ. No, its appearances have not changed so it will be the same under a microscope. But it is no longer the matter of bread. There is a physical appearance of bread and wine, but no substance to which it corresponds. Weird stuff.

  • brettsalkeld

    Ben,
    The sacramental manner or mode of Christ’s presence is perfectly compatible with worship. Denys Turner even writes that, in the eucharist, Christ is more present than he was in his natural body, though less present than he will be in the eschaton, when Christ will be “all in all.” Someone can be physically present in a room but totally disengaged. Christ’s sacramental presence is specifically “for you” as the words of consecration state. The distinctions I am trying to make here should encourage healthy eucharistic piety, not denigrate it. As long as you don’t understand yourself as worshiping the accidents themselves, you have no problems.

    Sacramental presence is a fully real presence. Thomas probably would have dealt with your questions under the rubric of “local” presence. He would say that, when the host is moved, Christ is not moved, but it is still perfectly acceptable (even required) to worship the host. I am not trying to do anything new here, just to apply Thomas in a contemporary context where I have encountered much misunderstanding due to the language of “physical presence.”

  • brettsalkeld

    Charles,
    Grab the Summa and flip through the Eucharist section. (You probably have it closer to hand than I.) Somewhere in there Thomas does a nice job of explaining the difference between annhilation and replacement and the change of one substance into another. (If I recall, there is a third option he also rejects.) At Lateran IV, the definition of transubstantiation was left open so that for some time after theologians took various views as to whether it meant annhilation and replacement, or change of one substance into another (or the third thing that I am currently forgetting). Once the Church basically adopted Thomas, however, that definition got tighter and only meant change of one substance into another.
    Gary Macy does some informative work on this in either Theologies or the Eucharist or Treasures From the Storeroom.

  • Frank M.

    There can only be one substantial form of any individual thing, and the matter is determined by the form.

    Finally, something I can comment on as a Physicist! Quantum Physics contradicts this statement entirely. By this I don’t mean to imply that Physics trumps Theology. Only that there are reasons completely outside Theology or pure Philosophy to say “only one substandial form,” though true in most everyday macroscopic experience, is not universally true, even in a material sense.

  • Charles Robertson

    With that stuff, we’re getting into the question of how the change occurs, which can only be a matter of speculation. What was basic to all theories is the change from one substance to another, but whether that was by adduction or reproduction was the question, annihilation being generally ruled out. The thomistic theory was reproduction: the existing body of Christ is produced from the bread and wine by a new activity of God.

    What is particularly interesting to me is that the change that does take place has no parallel in either the philosophy of nature or in metaphysics. We can say that Christ is physically present if we mean by that that the form/matter composite is present, but not if we mean the mode in which he is present. We are dealing with a change pertaining to physics (in the Thomistic/Aristotelian meaning) because it is a change from one matter/form composite to another. (In metaphysics, spiritual substances can only change with respect to act/potency, and there can be no substantial change involved.) On this account there is certainly a legitimate use of the word physical to describe the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I think this is what Paul VI had in mind when he said that Christ is present in his physical (i.e. form/matter) reality.

  • Charles Robertson

    Frank,

    Bring the fight! I maintain that there can only be a single substantial form for any individual thing. Taking it to the micro level will not shed light on form, but rather reduce the intelligibility of the object of knowledge to the point of solipsism.

  • brettsalkeld

    Frank,
    Until about a month ago, I would have simply told you that physics has nothing to do with it, but I did some reading (esp. Colman O’Neill and Karl Rahner) for a paper that actually made good use of this idea.
    Contemporary Catholicism panicked briefly when quantum physics became aware of this, until people who really understood Thomas were able to point out what was really at stake. Some even said that quantum physics disproves transubstantiation, or the whole concept of substance in general.
    The real benefit of your observation is to demonstrate that “substance,” as the term is used in theology, applies to what is intelligible as reality. At the level of quantum physics it can be very difficult to tell the difference between a river and a tree planted in that river, esp. regarding the water molecules being exchanged in the roots. Nevertheless, common sense knows the difference between trees and rivers, and it does so operating on a logic much more symbolic than material. Substance is what is affirmed by calling something a tree rather than a river at this common sense level.

  • Charles Robertson

    Brett, I would add to your discussion of substance that we only ever use it unequivocally of living things. For example, a table is not a substance, nor is the wood with which it is made, but only the living tree can be truly called a substance. Inorganic substances are difficult to pin down: is it only at the molecular or atomic level, or does it go right down to the subatomic? At any rate, the soul as the form of a living body is the unique substantial form of that body, and any other “forms” at the microscopic level are called such only by analogy.

  • ben

    It seems to me that what you are saying is that there is some way, restricited to physical nature, that the reality of the bread and wine are still present.

    But but you can’t be saying that.

    Could you please sketch out for me how the bread and wine are still in some sense physically present, but not really present. Could you tell me how what you are saying is different from those who say “appearance ony” or “the accidents don’t in an a subject”. Because it seems to me that while the accidents of the bread and wine my be physically present, the bread and wine themselves are not physically present.

  • ben

    opps,

    that should read “accidents don’t inhere in a subject” sorry I missd the word there.

  • Charles Robertson

    Ben,
    The accidents of bread and wine, although they have some kind of physical existence, no longer have a natural existence. They are free-floating accidents, which is philosophically problematic. But since God is omnipotent, he can keep them in existence without their having to inhere in a substance. They are not the accidents of Christ’s body and blood, that is, they do not inhere in the substance of the Eucharist, but nor do they inhere in the substance of bread and wine. There is absolutely no parallel to this in the world of nature or metaphysics and can only be accepted by faith. Any comments Brett?

  • Andrew

    Brett,

    If the Real Presence is not physical, as you say, then how does one understand the difference between transubstantiation and transessentiation? I had always (probably naively) thought that the former implied more of a physical / material alteration, whereas what you discuss seems to be more like the latter. I would be grateful if someone could help me understand this better.

  • ben

    Charles,

    Yes. That is how I understand it. I’m wondering how Brett understands it. I wonder what it means to him that the whole substance of the bread and wine are converted.

    To me it means that the bread and wine aren’t really there, they are some sort of illusion. It’s like when a child hears a noise in the middle of the night and thinks there is some sort of ghost, but when you come in and turn on the light and look at what is really there, you both see there is no ghost. The Eucharist is like that. If we have no knowledge of the real world, we might think it is bread, but when we shine the light of faith, it turns out that there really was no bread at all, only Jesus.

  • Brett: “Just to give you an idea of the problem, last night I googled ‘transubstantiation’ and ‘microscope’. The second hit was a priest telling a skeptic that transubstantiation can, at least occasionally, be observed by microscope. (Yikes!)”

    I looked up that post, and quite disagree with your description of it. The priest is actually defending the proposition that miracles occur, and says several things in relation to that — he says nothing whatsoever about what usually happens in transubstantiation.

    Brett: “Anscombe is correct that teaching modern man that Christ is physically present will get him to affirm real presence, but I disagree that this is a good move…”

    Someone hearing “Christ is present physically in the Eucharist” is subject to one set of potential grave misunderstandings, and someone hearing “Christ is not present physically in the Eucharist” is subject to a different set of grave potential misunderstandings. So I don’t see the advantage of using the word ‘physical’ (whether in affirmations or denials) to avoid misunderstandings.

    Of course, ‘physical’ can be used, if it is accompanied by all the right qualifications.

    Brett: “I know that the unqualified affirmation of “physically” in our contemporary context has been catechetically disastrous.”

    Could you explain that? It seems to be a strong motivator for you, but I haven’t understood exactly what you are referring to. (I would have guessed that anyone using an unqualified usage of ‘physical’ was likely teaching what was either false, or rashly close to false — with the real problem being not the fact that ‘physical’ was used, but that the catechesis left out the necessary qualifications for proper understanding.)

    Brett: “…speaking in purely physical terms, the bread and wine remain unchanged.”

    Here you are (under your terminology) using ‘physical’ to refer solely to the accidents of the bread and wine.

    Then later you say: “…substance is not a physical thing”.

    Which (again following your terminology) is saying “substance is not accidents”. So, your terminology here is consistent. But this still doesn’t illuminate what you say ‘substance’ is.

    You say: “[substance] is that which is present to the understanding, not that which is present to the senses.”

    The second half of that is fine (since — by definition — only accidents present themselves to the senses). It’s the first half which needs some explanation. What has understanding to do with substance? Isn’t the substance of some ordinary object (e.g. an apple, or a tree) a part of created reality, and independent of understanding? Doesn’t an apple have a real existence — substance — apart from its observed accidents?

    (So, as a corollary, I still don’t understand how you would take the Church’s teaching that “the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration”.)

  • Charles Robertson

    Ben,
    I think calling it an illusion goes too far. The appearances are there, and they are real, but they don’t correspond to what is there. It would be a Cartesian error to say that the appearances are only in me subjectively and don’t correspond to anything outside of me, but that to which they correspond no longer exists. To me, this is the thorniest issue in Eucharistic theology — the freestanding accidents of bread and wine. Of course, it’s only thorny because I don’t know how to conceive of it, not because I doubt God’s power to make it so.

  • Charles:

    I’m not interested in fighting, just clarifying. I understand use of the word “body” in this context to mean an integral whole, as in “body of knowledge.” However all the insistence that a “thing” is “physical” or not, “this” or “that,” sounds so much like an exercise of human categorization that I have to wonder what energy is driving this discussion.

    For myself, I think it’s much more important to participate in the Sacrament than to draw conceptual boundaries around it.

  • brettsalkeld

    OK, you folks have given me a lot of homework. I’ll do my best for you.

    Charles,
    I had never heard that substance is only used (unequivocally) to speak of living things. Does Thomas say this? How does that apply to bread?

    Ben,

    Ben: “It seems to me that what you are saying is that there is some way, restricited to physical nature, that the reality of the bread and wine are still present.”

    I am saying that the physical reality of the bread and wine remain unchanged (as our senses tell us). I really don’t see how this is a controversial statement.

    I think that this is different from saying that the reality (in general) of the bread and wine remains simply because I believe that there is something much more important than the physical which determines reality, namely the Word. For instance, when you are baptized, or ordained, or receive absolution, the Catholic Church believes that your reality is genuinely changed through the power of Christ, even though there is no question of physical change. That is not to say these things are perfect analogues with the Eucharist. Nothing is. But they do show that reality can change without any corresponding change in physical reality.

    Ben: “Could you please sketch out for me how the bread and wine are still in some sense physically present, but not really present. Could you tell me how what you are saying is different from those who say “appearance ony” or “the accidents don’t in an a subject”. ”

    It is not any different than saying the substance changes and the accidents remain, or other such traditional formulations like the ones you mention. It is merely a way of explaining such statements to contemporary Catholics (and our dialogue partners) because some have understood “transubstantiation” to mean that there is a change in the physical structure of the bread and wine and feel that it could be proved or disproved with a microscope (or mass spectrometer or some other, more precise, device developed in the future). They also think things like, Jesus gets lonely in the tabernacle, or Jesus suffers harm when the host is harmed. In my experience, it is not uncommon that those familiar with the traditional formulas think that, though their own senses have never noted anything but bread and wine, if they looked hard enough, the difference could be found. Many people (Catholic and otherwise) know this is nonsense and conclude they must reject Church teaching. That is my basic motivating concern.
    Saying that Jesus is not physically present, or, conversely, saying that the physical reality (but only the physical reality) of the bread and wine remain, is meant as an interpretive key for the traditional formulas. It is not meant to affirm anything different than the traditional formulas but simply to explain what they mean. To say that the accidents remain means, quite simply, that the physical aspect of the bread remains. To say that the substance changes means that, first of all, that there is something other than the physical that determines reality (an important affirmation in our culture in its own right), and secondly, that that something changes at the consecration. The physical things that were bread and wine have been determined by a new reality and so can not appropriately be called bread and wine anymore. (Though Thomas does allow for the possibility that the “species hold on to the name of the original substance” (ST, 3, 77, 6))

    Ben: “Because it seems to me that while the accidents of the bread and wine my be physically present, the bread and wine themselves are not physically present.”

    I’m not sure what this could mean. The way to be physically present, in the sense I am using the term, is through accidents. As far as I can tell, to say that accidents are physically present is to say that the accidents are accidents and behaving accordingly. In other words, it doesn’t say anything. On the other hand, to say that the accidents of bread and wine are present is to say something, namely, that the bread and wine are physically present, i.e., that is they can be discerned by the senses or scientific instruments etc. And to say that ONLY the accidents of bread and wine are present is to say that the bread and wine are ONLY physically present.

    I know this is getting long and convoluted. It is really quite simple, however. Many people in my (fairly extensive) experience have the misconception that the Church teaches that eucharistic change/presence is somehow discernible on a physical level. I have found that teaching them that this is not Church teaching is often a great relief to them and an important step in getting them to consider the claim that Christ is really present.

  • brettsalkeld

    Though the word “naturally” could be read in a couple different ways, I know what Charles means here and agree fully with Charles comments to Ben.

  • brettsalkeld

    Ben: “Yes. That is how I understand it. I’m wondering how Brett understands it. I wonder what it means to him that the whole substance of the bread and wine are converted.”

    To me it means that the determining reality of the species is no longer their natural reality, but Christ.

    Ben: “To me it means that the bread and wine aren’t really there, they are some sort of illusion. It’s like when a child hears a noise in the middle of the night and thinks there is some sort of ghost, but when you come in and turn on the light and look at what is really there, you both see there is no ghost. The Eucharist is like that. If we have no knowledge of the real world, we might think it is bread, but when we shine the light of faith, it turns out that there really was no bread at all, only Jesus.”

    Here I must quote the Summa, 3, 75, 5:
    “There is no deception in this sacrament; for the accidents which are discerned by the senses are truly present. But the intellect, whose proper object is substance as is said in De Anima iii, is preserved by faith from deception. And this serves as answer to the third argument; because faith is not contrary to the senses, but concerns things to which sense does not reach.”

    and 3, 76, 7
    “substance as such cannot be seen by the bodily eye, nor is it the object of any sense, nor can it be imagined; it is only open to the intellect, the object of which is the essence of things, as Aristotle says.”

    I agree that “they aren’t really there” (in the technical sense of really). I disagree that they are “some kind of illusion.” Rather, their accidents, the physical aspect which remains unchanged by the consecration, exists now purely as a sign of Christ’s presence for us. The accidents disclose Christ to those who have faith rather than hiding Him from us. (Note, this is not saying that the presence is dependent on faith, but only that its disclosure to human persons is dependent on faith.)

  • brettsalkeld

    Andrew: “If the Real Presence is not physical, as you say, then how does one understand the difference between transubstantiation and transessentiation? I had always (probably naively) thought that the former implied more of a physical / material alteration, whereas what you discuss seems to be more like the latter. I would be grateful if someone could help me understand this better.”

    I have never heard the word “transessentiation” before. However, though substance as used by Thomas has no equivalent in contemporary English, most will suggest that “essence” is pretty close. (See the quote from Thomas above.) It is certainly closer than the way substance is used in contemporary English to mean, precisely, physical stuff.

    Transubstantiation does not mean physical/material alteration, if by that is meant something which could somehow be discerned at the level of sense experience or scientific investigation. Indeed, Thomas insists that, not only could you never discern the change, you can’t put a picture of it in your head. It is unimaginable.

    Now, as you have seen, some use the words “physical” or “material” in this context to also mean that which is indiscernible and unimaginable. I think this is quite confusing, but I do not deny that someone could use the words this way to express the faith of the Church.

    Nevertheless, if you understood transubstantiation to indicate a change that occurred in physical structures of bread and wine as that phrase would be commonly understood, you have misunderstood it. It seems to me that what you are getting at with “transessentiation” might actually be closer to the faith of the Church than what you originally took “transubstantiation” to mean.

  • brettsalkeld

    Paul: “I looked up that post, and quite disagree with your description of it. The priest is actually defending the proposition that miracles occur, and says several things in relation to that — he says nothing whatsoever about what usually happens in transubstantiation.”

    I’m not sure what is so wrong with my description. Someone writes him saying that transubstantiation is nonsense and that a microscope would prove it to be. All he needs to say at this point is that that is not what transubstantiation means. Instead, as you note, he defends “the proposition that miracles occur” and “says nothing whatsoever about what usually [always!] happens in transubstantiation.”

    That’s exactly the problem. The questioner asks about transubstantiation and he thinks he is answering that question even though he says nothing at all about transubstantiation and leaves the fellow with the impression that it could be proved or disproved with a microscope.

  • brettsalkeld

    Paul: “Someone hearing “Christ is present physically in the Eucharist” is subject to one set of potential grave misunderstandings, and someone hearing “Christ is not present physically in the Eucharist” is subject to a different set of grave potential misunderstandings. So I don’t see the advantage of using the word ‘physical’ (whether in affirmations or denials) to avoid misunderstandings.

    Of course, ‘physical’ can be used, if it is accompanied by all the right qualifications.”

    I agree 100%. If it were up to me, the word would have no place in the discourse. However, it is not up to me and since I constantly have to deal with the confusion that ensues from the affirmation of “physical presence” I have taken it upon myself to try and clear up some of it.

  • brettsalkeld

    Paul: “Could you explain that? [My comment about catechetical disaster.] It seems to be a strong motivator for you, but I haven’t understood exactly what you are referring to. (I would have guessed that anyone using an unqualified usage of ‘physical’ was likely teaching what was either false, or rashly close to false — with the real problem being not the fact that ‘physical’ was used, but that the catechesis left out the necessary qualifications for proper understanding.)”

    I think you are basically correct here. I have heard it used basically as an emphatic. I have literally seen fists banged on podiums accompanying its intonation. Its like the Church’s language of “real” or “substantial” isn’t good enough. It is used to whip people up. And yes, it is rarely accompanied by any nuance. So, people take what the word “physical” means in everyday language and apply it to the Eucharist and end up way out to lunch.

    I heard a story of a priest who gave a retreat to a group that had started a chapel for adoration at their parish. He asked them, “If the chapel was on fire and you could go out one door and save the host, or the other and save your children?” They all felt that they must save the host. When I use this test case, I have only heard one or two people give that answer (there was probably some group psychology thing going on in the original example), but the kind of convoluted reasons I hear for why it is OK to save the kids instead show that the idea of “physical” presence has lead to a tonne of confusion for many. “Jesus could untransubstantiate himself.” “Jesus would be willing to suffer for the children.” “The host could be miraculously preserved from the flames.” etc. No one stops to think that the final end of a host is to be dissolved in stomach acid. Jesus is in no danger whatsoever if a host should burn.

    I am an ecumenist and so, on top of being concerned that many Catholics are confused about the faith because of an unnuanced emphasis on “physical” presence, I also have to deal with the fact that we are doing a terrible job of presenting Catholic truth to our separated brothers and sisters on this question. How can we expect a Protestant to consider our teaching on the Real Presence when his Catholic neighbour was taught not to bite the host for fear of hurting Jesus?

  • brettsalkeld

    I leave out a bit of Paul’s comments here because I think they are basically an accurate assessment of my position. I go straight to his next question.

    Paul: “What has understanding to do with substance? Isn’t the substance of some ordinary object (e.g. an apple, or a tree) a part of created reality, and independent of understanding? Doesn’t an apple have a real existence — substance — apart from its observed accidents?”

    Understanding has to do with substance what senses have to do with accidents.

    Yes, substance exists independent of understanding, but it is still that aspect of reality which is present to understanding. Just like accidents exist independent of our senses, but they are still that aspect of reality which is present to our senses.

    Ans yes, things do have real existence apart from their observed accidents. For instance, an apple can undergo many accidental changes and remain an apple. Though our senses perceive a different colour or shape, our understanding still recognizes “apple.” In the normal course of things, however, substantial changes (like the digestion of the apple, after which our understanding does not recognize “apple”) are accompanied by accidental changes. In this regard, transubstantiation is unique. Indeed, it is this aspect that gave it the name.

  • brettsalkeld

    Here is a video I just found by Father Robert Barron. I have found him quite useful for my teaching on Eucharist. His full-length Eucharist video is very good. This isn’t all that connected to our discussion, except for his little bit on Rahner near the end as it relates to the Word (as definitive of the reality of the elements).

  • grega

    Brett you give as fine of a rational and still soulful explanation as I have ever read – nevertheless – Why does the ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ comes to mind regarding the Churches ancient Kabuki dance regarding this issue?
    Sure on some level the creator of the Universe can of course do this or that – but than again why literally create miracles out of something utterly invisible – please oh Lord have mercy with us poor souls and have the Holy Spirit inspire somebody to cry that the emporer is utterly naked. Sure we can spin all kinds of air castles as trappings for our thoughts – in the end for me these are all vehicles to give some formal expression to some deep human desire to be godlike.

    LOL But hey all religion seem to have a certain percentage of folks that deeply grave hokus pokus – and surprise surprise magic enters the religion (due to popular human demand in my view)- fine with me – as the general confusion and holy hand wringing regarding this topic indicates the large majority of catholics around here do not exactly loose sleep over the issue.
    Charming innocent fun.

  • Brett: “I’m not sure what is so wrong with my description.” (Where the answer made you say ‘Yikes’.)

    The questioner makes a statement about transubstantiation, claiming that it’s stupid and medieval. From the details of the answer, I see the answerer as taking the question as something like: “Modern science has shown that miracles don’t occur.” So the answerer details some miracles, and tries to give some reasons why scientists aren’t necessarily always right. He doesn’t actually cover the usual case of transubstantiation, but details some of the (extra) miracles that have occurred with consecrated hosts.

    Now perhaps the answerer has not grasped the question. Or perhaps the answerer grasped that an important component of the question did in fact relate to modern science and miracles. It’s not clear. But it is clear that the answerer does not claim that flesh and blood will always be seen when a consecrated host is viewed under a microscope — he explicitly says “sometimes”, and describes it as a miracle.

    Hence I don’t see any compelling evidence that the answerer did have a faulty understanding of the usual case of transubstantiation.

    I’ve raised this issue not because it’s any big deal, but because I want to understand better what kind of errors people make. Pointing to that one didn’t help me. I’ve heard many times that Catholics may not grasp the Real Presence (perhaps taking the Eucharist as something extremely important, but only symbolic), but I have not heard many times that the Real Presence is reduced to something excessively physical in an ordinary way.

    Brett: “…things do have real existence apart from their observed accidents”.

    I’ve been asking a series of questions about your terminology relating to ‘substance’, ‘physical reality’, and ‘accidents’. Given your answers, I conclude that your terminology would say: “The substance of an apple has no physical reality”.

    That would make me wince. The wording would be so incredibly easy to misunderstand. Hence why I just don’t like the proposed terminology — I think it would just introduce a new set of misunderstandings.

    (And why abandon the use of ‘substance’ and ‘accident’ to explain these things? Such a terminology has been common for a very long time, and has the advantage that it is unaffected by modern science, even by quantum physics.)

  • brettsalkeld

    Paul: “Hence I don’t see any compelling evidence that the answerer did have a faulty understanding of the usual case of transubstantiation.”

    There is no “usual” case of transubstantiation. It is always the same thing. To talk about miracles as if they were, even exceptionally, transubstantiation, is to misunderstand the doctrine. Eucharistic miracles where accidents change are, by definition, something quite other than transubstantiation. His answer seems to say that transubstantiation can sometimes be observed by the senses or scientific instruments. The faith of the Church is that it never can. That is not to say there can be no miracles, but simply to say that they are not transubstantiation.

    In any case, we may have to agree to disagree on our assessment of Reverend Know-It-All’s response. Our readers can check the site and decide for themselves.

    Paul: “I’ve been asking a series of questions about your terminology relating to ’substance’, ‘physical reality’, and ‘accidents’. Given your answers, I conclude that your terminology would say: “The substance of an apple has no physical reality”.
    That would make me wince. The wording would be so incredibly easy to misunderstand. Hence why I just don’t like the proposed terminology — I think it would just introduce a new set of misunderstandings.”

    I wouldn’t say “The substance of an apple has no physical reality.” I would say, “The substance of an apple is not a physical reality per se.” The physical reality that it “has” are its accidents.

    I’m afraid I don’t see myself as proposing a terminology, just supporting and explaining the existing one. As I have noted numerous times, many people hear “transubstantiation” and think that the elements are somehow bio-chemically affected, even if in some clandestine way. This shows that they are misunderstanding the classical teaching. Why is saying that the physical aspect of the bread and wine remain so open to misunderstanding? It should be perfectly clear just from looking at (and eating!) a host. The fact that it is not indicates just how much confusion is out there about what substance and accidents are.

    Paul: “And why abandon the use of ’substance’ and ‘accident’ to explain these things? Such a terminology has been common for a very long time, and has the advantage that it is unaffected by modern science, even by quantum physics.”

    I am far too traditional to even consider abandoning the use of ‘substance’ and ‘accident.’ I merely want to explain them. Because the word “substance” used to mean “that which is present to understanding” but now means “that which is present to the senses” it requires explanation in the contemporary context. Nevertheless, the language of substance is here to stay and I am a big supporter of it, in part due to some of the reasons you mention. If I was not, I would be using a word other than “transubstantiation.”

  • Charles Robertson

    “On the other hand, to say that the accidents of bread and wine are present is to say something, namely, that the bread and wine are physically present, i.e., that is they can be discerned by the senses or scientific instruments etc. And to say that ONLY the accidents of bread and wine are present is to say that the bread and wine are ONLY physically present.”

    I think I have reservations even about saying that the accidents are physically present, since my default meaning of physically refers to natural mode of existence. The accidents of bread and wine do not persist in their natural mode of existence entirely. The accidents that follow upon dimensive quantity persist naturally, but the dimensive quantity itself is given its existence by God directly and does not inhere in the matter that was formerly bread. As I said earlier, I think that this is the most difficult thing to understand about the Eucharist: how to conceive of pure dimensive quantity. Is it with or without matter? It must be with matter, but it is not the matter that was bread–that has been transsubstantiated. Also, Brett, I think that you are using the term substance without the proper distinctions when you refer to it as that which is presented to the mind in contrast to the accidents which are presented to the senses. True, the proper object of the senses are accidents following upon dimensive quantity, and the proper object of the mind is the intelligible being of the thing, but you seem to be using the term substance in its secondary meaning of essence. In the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, substance is used in the primary sense, that is, the individual thing in its constitution as a form/matter composite. In a substantial change, what persists is prime matter (which never exists in concreto). This matter is in potential to the reception of a new form and receives its actuality from that for. So in the Eucharist, the matter of the bread is no longer bread but body. The accidents of bread and wine remain, but they cannot inhere in the matter that was once bread and wine. The only thing left for them to inhere in is dimensive quantity, which can have no existence apart from a specific form/matter composite barring an act of divine power. From this point of view, the whole physical reality of bread, both in its mode of existence and in its essential form/matter composition, is no more. That is why “transessentialism” won’t do — it views substance as essence and does not do justice to the change that takes place with respect to the matter.

  • brettsalkeld

    Paul,
    Though I am baffled that the claim that the physical aspect of the bread and wine remain is so controversial, I must, at some point, recognize that it is and that I can’t do much to change that.
    I am considering, therefore, when I am confronted in the future with the claim that Christ is physically present whether it is best to respond that He is not (as is my current practice), or to find some way of saying that the word “physical” is not helpful in this matter and is best avoided due to the confusion that can ensue from its affirmation or denial. Do you think such an approach would be met with less angst? Would some still suspect me of denying the faith of the Church? What would you say if you were in a context where someone was emphasizing the “physical” nature of Christ’s eucharistic presence with an obvious lack of nuance?
    Thanks,
    Brett

  • brettsalkeld

    Charles: “I think I have reservations even about saying that the accidents are physically present, since my default meaning of physically refers to natural mode of existence. The accidents of bread and wine do not persist in their natural mode of existence entirely.”

    While I can appreciate that the accidents are existing in a unique way in the Eucharist, I’m not sure how helpful this statement is. It seems like you have gone from saying that substance is physically present, to saying that accidents are not physically present. You are now using the words to mean almost the opposite of what they have always been taken to mean. I know that you are using “physical” in a highly specialized way, but my point is simply that most people who affirm “physical” presence do so in a very common parlance kind of way, and when they do so they end up with errors in their theology. I don’t know how telling these people that the substance is physically present, but the accidents are not is going to help anything (even though I can tell from the context in which you are making these claims that you do not yourself hold these errors).

    Charles: “you seem to be using the term substance in its secondary meaning of essence. In the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, substance is used in the primary sense, that is, the individual thing in its constitution as a form/matter composite.”

    While I do not deny using the term in this “secondary” sense, I simply do not see how this is in conflict with the “primary” sense you highlight. I certainly affirm that that the individual thing (bread or wine) as a form/matter composite becomes the body and blood of Christ.

    Charles: “This matter is in potential to the reception of a new form and receives its actuality from that form. So in the Eucharist, the matter of the bread is no longer bread but body. The accidents of bread and wine remain, but they cannot inhere in the matter that was once bread and wine.”

    I think that you need to be clear that matter for Thomas does not mean what matter means for contemporary English speakers. We would never say that accidents inhere in matter. To common usage, accidents are matter. In Thomas’ sense, the matter is certainly no longer bread but body. Nevertheless, for contemporary English speakers this sounds like saying the change occurs in the physical material stuff, i.e., in a way that could be determined by sense perception or scientific investigation. That matter means something different for us and for Thomas is clear by his use of the idea of prime matter, which is nonsense when applied to the common contemporary use of the word.

  • Kyle R. Cupp

    Fascinating.

  • brettsalkeld

    For instance, in modern contemporary usage, one would never say that a bronze statue and a heap of unfinished bronze are made of different matter. Thomas, on the other hand, would say that bronze is the matter of the statue and that copper and tin are the matter of the bronze. Bronze is NOT the matter of bronze, though it is the matter of anything made of bronze. In other words, modern usage ignores the essentially relational character of what Thomas meant by matter.

  • Charles Robertson

    “Thomas, on the other hand, would say that bronze is the matter of the statue and that copper and tin are the matter of the bronze.”

    Yes, we need to recognize that the material cause is relative to the form, but the assignment of matter to form in this case (and I would add, in all cases of inorganic “forms”) is analogical. Bronze:statue::copper&tin:bronze. In any case, neither of these are substantial forms.

    Also, it is good to make clear that accidents do not inhere in matter, but in substance, i.e., the matter form composite.

    I haven’t been able to find a nice explanation of what it going on with the accidents that do not inhere in a substance; the explanation I have found is simply that they inhere in pure dimensive quantity, which enables them to objects of the senses. My question, then, is what kind of matter is involved in this pure dimensive quantity, and I have not found an adequate answer to that question yet.

  • Brett: “There is no “usual” case of transubstantiation. It is always the same thing.

    I’m using ‘usual’ in a different sense than the one you are complaining of. Viz: The only accidents (i.e. appearances) we expect to see after transubstantiation are those of bread and wine. Sometimes, because of an extra miracle, people may see (for example) blood — but that’s unusual.

    Brett: “I wouldn’t say ‘The substance of an apple has no physical reality.’ I would say, ‘The substance of an apple is not a physical reality per se.’ The physical reality that it ‘has’ are its accidents.

    That doesn’t avoid the potential problem I see. For example: When physicists investigate an apple (or any physical object, even a proton), they do so by means of observations (i.e. they look at its accidents, using the human senses, or measuring instruments), in order to determine something about its substance — so they can come up with theories about the substance of an apple. The physicist’s mind then holds a theory about the substance of an apple. The mental theory is how the substance is grappled with by the mind (since the substance can’t be grappled with directly — only via accidents/observations). But the substance of an apple has a real existence entirely apart from the mental theory of it.

    So, a sentence such as: “The substance of an apple is not a physical reality per se” is potentially very easily confusing. The substance of objects is what physicists are trying to make theories of — so to see it described as ‘not a physical reality per se’ is weird.

    Brett: “What would you say if you were in a context where someone was emphasizing the ‘physical’ nature of Christ’s eucharistic presence with an obvious lack of nuance?”

    In that particular context I would emphasize that ‘physical’ is a word that needs to be used carefully so that we stay within the limits of what the Church does and doesn’t teach about this. At that point I think that the best procedure would be to explain the teaching in terms of substance and accidents, and at the end of that explanation, go back, and very quickly indicate in which senses ‘physical’ can be used, and in which senses it can’t be used. So (in brief):

    The idea of ‘accidents’ is not too hard to get across. The observations that we make of an object — whether by human senses, or any kind of scientific instrument whatsoever — are its accidents. Trickier to get across is the idea of ‘substance’ — but it’s actually vital to understand its ordinary meaning (else how is transubstantiation even going to be start to be grasped?).

    An example: What’s happening when I see someone? My human senses are receiving light that has been reflected off them. I’m not directly seeing them, I’m seeing light reflected off them. The light that is reflected off them and received by me is termed an accident (nothing to do with car accidents!). Then, by using my mind to look at the shapes and patterns of that light, I deduce what or who it is that I am seeing. I deduce that you really are there, even though all I am observing is light reflected off you. The lights that I observe from you are accidents, and the fact that you really are there is your substance. We use accidents to deduce substances.

    (Other examples, as needed, can be given — e.g. hearing or touch — to emphasize that this is a very fundamental way in which we interact with and understand the ordinary objects of the world.)

    Ordinarily with bread and wine, we would observe their particular colors, shapes, arrangements, and so on, to deduce that what was really there was bread and wine — i.e. we go from our observations to deduce a substance. In the everyday world that would be a correct deduction.

    But what happens in the transubstantiation that occurs at the moment of Consecration? The accidents are unaltered — so all the observations that we make will still be those of bread and wine. But, in this case, if we deduced that what was really there was bread and wine, we would be in error. The what is really there (substance) is now the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.

    (Why does God do this? Explanations of this can be unending. One thing I can point out is that this changes a piece of our everyday world. Our everyday world is in bondage to decay, and we humans are subject to death. But in the Eucharist a piece of this everyday world has been replaced by a completely perfected human, perfectly undying. In our everyday world, what is really there is now something entirely renewed, endless, and a taste of the first fruits of what our world is destined to be transformed into. And we are presented with this entirely new thing/person, and invited to take it into our own substance — so that what we really are starts to become transformed, even while we are still in this everyday, dying world.)

  • brettsalkeld

    Paul: “I’m using ‘usual’ in a different sense than the one you are complaining of. Viz: The only accidents (i.e. appearances) we expect to see after transubstantiation are those of bread and wine. Sometimes, because of an extra miracle, people may see (for example) blood — but that’s unusual.”

    Yes, it is unusual. But it is also, by definition, not transubstantiation. If you see accidents other than the accidents of bread and wine, you do not see evidence of transubstantiation, but of its opposite.

  • Brett: “But it is also, by definition, not transubstantiation. If you see accidents other than the accidents of bread and wine, you do not see evidence of transubstantiation, but of its opposite.”

    I’m not understanding your point. (You are asserting something, but I don’t understand on what grounds you are asserting it.) If God were to occasionally, miraculously, make it so that the accidents seen were other than those of bread and wine, how does that let us conclude something about the underlying substance? How can we conclude that if the accidents seen are ever anything other than bread and wine, then definitely there is no Real Presence (‘transubstantiation’) ?

  • brettsalkeld

    I certainly never said anything about Christ not being present!

    You are conflating two ideas. He was present at Bethlehem and Egypt and Nazareth and Capernaum and Calvary, but there was no question of transubstantiation. Furthermore, he was present in the upper room and is present in heaven and transubstantiation has nothing to do with it. The presence of Jewish heart tissue following on a Eucharistic miracle is a natural (physical!) presence. It is the same mode of presence as Christ had in his historical body. Transubstantiation achieves a sacramental presence, that is, a presence predicated on the logic of sign. You simply cannot have sacramental presence if the sign disappears, i.e., if the accidents of bread and wine change to accidents of something other than bread and wine. (You might be interested in Anscar Vonier’s Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist on this point.) Transubstantiation means, precisely, that the accidents do not change. Whether Christ is present or not in another kind of Eucharistic miracle is an entirely separate question.

  • I wish to able to say things like:

    In some eucharistic miracles perhaps it is possible that a form of transubstantiation takes place where the substance present is that of the Real Presence, but the accidents are not that of bread and wine but something else (e.g. blood).

    That seems to me to be a readily understandable sentence. Your reply (I would guess, from what you have been saying) would be along the lines that it is “by definition, not transubstantiation”. All I have grasped is that you have a very strong preference for reserving the word ‘transubstantiation’ solely to mean “what is caused to happen at the moment of Consecration, where the substances of bread and wine are replaced by the Real Presence, and the accidents of bread and wine are unaltered” — with every other use of the word being incorrect.

    But why should I agree? There’s no doctrine at issue here, it’s just a matter of picking particular words to get ideas over.

  • brettsalkeld

    Paul,
    I hope this does not sound condescending, but your last long set of answers makes me suspect that the reason you are suspicious of my claim that the substance is not a physical reality is because you don’t quite know what substance is. I will try to explain this with reference to your comments.

    Brett: “I wouldn’t say ‘The substance of an apple has no physical reality.’ I would say, ‘The substance of an apple is not a physical reality per se.’ The physical reality that it ‘has’ are its accidents.”

    That doesn’t avoid the potential problem I see. For example: When physicists investigate an apple (or any physical object, even a proton), they do so by means of observations (i.e. they look at its accidents, using the human senses, or measuring instruments), in order to determine something about its substance — so they can come up with theories about the substance of an apple. The physicist’s mind then holds a theory about the substance of an apple. The mental theory is how the substance is grappled with by the mind (since the substance can’t be grappled with directly — only via accidents/observations). But the substance of an apple has a real existence entirely apart from the mental theory of it.

    Yes, physicists only investigate an apple by means of observing its accidents. However, physicists, precisely as physicists, do not do so in order to determine something about its substance. They do so only in order to be able to say more subtle and elaborate things about its accidents.

    They have affirmed the substance of the apple not as physicists, but as amateur philosophers (or more simply, as thinking persons) before they even begin to work on it. To say, “I will study an apple” is already to affirm the substance of “apple.” There is nothing more for physics, as physics, to say about the substance of the apple. The only way a physicist might use physics with reference to the substance of an apple is if he or she were to approach an unknown object, submit it to a series of tests and then conclude: “This is “apple””. But that conclusion takes him or her out of the realm of physics proper and into metaphysics. The physicist’s mind, as such, holds no theory about the substance of an apple, only theories about its accidents.

    Mental theories about accidents (which is what physicists have) are not, in fact, how substance is grasped by the mind. To affirm “substance” is simply to say that, “This thing is.” It, by definition, allows for no imaginative constructs – you cannot make a picture of it in your head. It is the province merely of the affirming (or denying) intellect.

    Of course, you are correct that whether a given intellect affirms or denies a given substance is not a determining factor in whether such a substance actually exists.

    So, a sentence such as: “The substance of an apple is not a physical reality per se” is potentially very easily confusing. The substance of objects is what physicists are trying to make theories of — so to see it described as ‘not a physical reality per se’ is weird.

    The substance of objects is emphatically not what physicists are trying to make theories of. So to see it described as “not a physical reality per se” is, in fact, instructive.

    Brett: “What would you say if you were in a context where someone was emphasizing the ‘physical’ nature of Christ’s eucharistic presence with an obvious lack of nuance?”

    In that particular context I would emphasize that ‘physical’ is a word that needs to be used carefully so that we stay within the limits of what the Church does and doesn’t teach about this. At that point I think that the best procedure would be to explain the teaching in terms of substance and accidents, and at the end of that explanation, go back, and very quickly indicate in which senses ‘physical’ can be used, and in which senses it can’t be used. So (in brief):

    The idea of ‘accidents’ is not too hard to get across. The observations that we make of an object — whether by human senses, or any kind of scientific instrument whatsoever — are its accidents. Trickier to get across is the idea of ’substance’ — but it’s actually vital to understand its ordinary meaning (else how is transubstantiation even going to be start to be grasped?).

    So far, so good. (Except that the observations are not its accidents, but are of its accidents, but I suspect that is more a grammatical error than a philosophical one.)

    An example: What’s happening when I see someone? My human senses are receiving light that has been reflected off them. I’m not directly seeing them, I’m seeing light reflected off them. The light that is reflected off them and received by me is termed an accident (nothing to do with car accidents!). Then, by using my mind to look at the shapes and patterns of that light, I deduce what or who it is that I am seeing. I deduce that you really are there, even though all I am observing is light reflected off you. The lights that I observe from you are accidents, and the fact that you really are there is your substance. We use accidents to deduce substances.

    Things start getting cloudy here. The light you see is not an accident, but what Thomas calls the ambient modified by the accidents. Same goes for air modified by sound, etc. If my eyes are blue, they reflect light in a certain way so that you can see that they are blue, but in a mineshaft 2 miles under, with no light to reflect, they are still blue. The light is not an accident, the blueness of my eyes (independent of any ambient) is an accident. It is not that you are not observing my substance (me), but simply observing the light reflecting off of me. You are observing my accidents by means of the light.

    Your example makes it sound as if the physical stuff is the substance and the ambient is the accident. In fact, the ambient is merely the means for conveying the physical stuff, the accidents, to the senses of the onlooker who must then make an intellectual judgment about what he or she observes. That is, he or she now, abstracting from the physical, makes an existential judgment regarding substance, regarding what is.

    You are right that we do use accidents to deduce substances, but you have not said anything about what such a deduction looks like. You have only explained the physics of our ability to deduce accidents themselves. What is lacking is the concrete act of affirming substance based on its accidents.

    (Other examples, as needed, can be given — e.g. hearing or touch — to emphasize that this is a very fundamental way in which we interact with and understand the ordinary objects of the world.)

    Ordinarily with bread and wine, we would observe their particular colors, shapes, arrangements, and so on, to deduce that what was really there was bread and wine — i.e. we go from our observations to deduce a substance. In the everyday world that would be a correct deduction.

    In fact, all we can deduce from our observations, qua observations, is that the accidents of bread and wine are present. And that deduction is correct. This is what Thomas means when he says that there is no deception in the sacrament. The accidents appear to be present and they are present.

    But what happens in the transubstantiation that occurs at the moment of Consecration? The accidents are unaltered — so all the observations that we make will still be those of bread and wine. But, in this case, if we deduced that what was really there was bread and wine, we would be in error. The what is really there (substance) is now the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.

    Our observations were never of bread and wine, but only of the accidents of bread and wine. And our observations are still of the accidents of bread and wine. But now, as you point out, to conclude based on our observation of these accidents that bread and wine are present would be erroneous. As Thomas points out in the Adoro Te Devote, the sense we need here is not sight, touch or taste, but hearing. If we have heard the word of Christ, “This is my body” we can, in faith, make the concrete act of judgment that affirms “This is the Body of Christ.”

    (Of course Thomas is being poetic here. It is not that hearing somehow accesses a part of reality that the other senses do not. Hearing is just as physical as the other senses. Rather it is through being informed of Christ’s words that we take on faith. A deaf person who read what was going on, or read the priest’s lips could also affirm Christ’s presence. So, in fact, could someone who walked into an empty Church but knew by convention that the lamp next to the tabernacle means that, at some point, the words of Christ had been spoken over the elements inside.)

  • brettsalkeld

    Furthermore, your most recent post suggests not only that you do not know what the words we are debating mean, but also that their meaning is somehow arbitrary and that you are free to use them as you see fit. This strikes me as an odd position for a Catholic, who presumably wants to understand and communicate the faith effectively, to take.

    I wish to able to say things like:

    In some eucharistic miracles perhaps it is possible that a form of transubstantiation takes place where the substance present is that of the Real Presence, but the accidents are not that of bread and wine but something else (e.g. blood).

    That seems to me to be a readily understandable sentence.

    That sentence is only readily understandable if you don’t know what transubstantiation means. Furthermore, to use the term to mean things that it does not mean is absolutely certain to contribute to the confusion already present on the issue.

    Your reply (I would guess, from what you have been saying) would be along the lines that it is “by definition, not transubstantiation”. All I have grasped is that you have a very strong preference for reserving the word ‘transubstantiation’ solely to mean “what is caused to happen at the moment of Consecration, where the substances of bread and wine are replaced by the Real Presence, and the accidents of bread and wine are unaltered” — with every other use of the word being incorrect.

    I do have a strong preference that the word ‘transubstantiation’ be used to mean a change of one whole substance into another whole substance that leaves the accidents fully intact. It is odd, however, to make it sound like I am being arbitrary or idiosyncratic here. The Church has coined and accepted this term in order to express a very precise thing. Using it indiscriminately to describe other things is rather irresponsible. The thing in question is hard enough to explain without muddying the terminology that was invented precisely to describe it. What would you think if I used ‘homoousion’ to express the relationship between myself and my son, or between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches? And, in your sentence above, you are not using transubstantiation to mean simply something other than what it means. If it is used to describe a Eucharistic miracle where the accidents do change, it is used to mean the exact opposite of what it was coined to mean! Words mean things. And if we think that certain things are worth believing and explaining, it is rather important to be careful with our words when we teach others about these things.

    But why should I agree? There’s no doctrine at issue here, it’s just a matter of picking particular words to get ideas over.

    Well, let’s start with why you should disagree. You should disagree if it is clear to you that I am misrepresenting the Catholic tradition and that I am incompetently expounding on things which I know nothing about. If I am wrong about what the words ‘substance’ or ‘transubstantiation’ do mean and have meant in the accepted tradition of the Catholic Church, then you should make that case.

    If, on the other hand, I am correct about the accepted meaning of the words ‘substance’ and ‘transubstantiation’ in the theological tradition, then there are all kinds of reasons to agree. The first is that it is not much good for you to be using words in an idiosyncratic way because that it a surefire way to confuse those you teach. The second reason is because there actually is doctrine at issue here. The Church has seen fit, at the Councils of Lateran IV and Trent, to give approbation to the word ‘transubstantiation’ to describe the Eucharistic change. They didn’t do that because the word is infinitely elastic and can be used to mean many things, including mutually opposed things, at the same time. If you use words in ways different from how the Church uses them you will have difficulty in conveying the teaching of the Church. Furthermore, if you use words in ways different from the way the theological tradition uses them, you are quite likely to fall into error yourself about the teaching of the Church.

    Finally, words are not so separate from ideas as your last clause indicates. In fact, lack of clarity about what the words ‘substance’ and ‘transubstantiation’ actually mean has led to immense confusion about the Church’s eucharistic faith. Your own lack of clarity about the words has led to confusion about the ideas they represent. And if one can be confused about the Church’s teaching because one does not understand the words the Church uses, how can one expect to convey that teaching to others?

    I am sorry if this is rather strong. I am just quite baffled that a Catholic seeking to understand Church teaching and convey it to others could be so cavalier about the meanings of the words the Church uses to express its faith. Earlier in the thread it was you who was recommending to me that I stick by the tried and true terminology of the Church. But surely you wanted me to use that terminology to mean what the Church defines it to mean and not just use it for the sake of continuity? If you think I misrepresent the Church, by all means, say so. Honest disagreement I can understand. Linguistic relativism I cannot.

  • I had said that I wanted to use the word ‘transubstantiation’ in sentences such as: “In some eucharistic miracles perhaps it is possible that a form of transubstantiation takes place where the substance present is that of the Real Presence, but the accidents are not that of bread and wine but something else (e.g. blood)”, because it seemed to me that the meaning of the sentence was readily understandable.

    And you replied: “I do have a strong preference that the word ‘transubstantiation’ be used to mean a change of one whole substance into another whole substance that leaves the accidents fully intact. [..] The Church has coined and accepted this term in order to express a very precise thing.”

    Here’s ‘transubstantiation’ as doctrinally defined by the Council of Trent:

    “…this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made 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; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.”

    It is quite clear that the word ‘transubstantiation’ refers to the conversion of substances.

    So, even if I were to put aside my claim that I am using the term in a perfectly understandable sentence to refer to something highly unusual, I think my use of the term is right in line with the usage of the Council of Trent.

  • brettsalkeld

    If ‘transubstantiation’ means simply the conversion of substances, then eating an apple is transubstantiation. I think it is clear that Trent is using the term in line with the history of theological reflection, and with Thomas in particular, to refer to the very particular conversion that the term was coined to describe.

  • brettsalkeld
  • Brett: “I do have a strong preference that the word ‘transubstantiation’ be used to mean a change of one whole substance into another whole substance that leaves the accidents fully intact.”

    That’s your personal preference. However, the Council of Trent (and quoted in the current Catechism) said “…by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made 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; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation”.

    So that the usage of the Council of Trent and the current Catechism both refer to ‘transubstantiation’ as the conversion of substances that happens at the Consecration — and do not contain within the definition of ‘transubstantiation’ that the accidents are unaltered. (Though they do teach that the accidents are unaltered, they do not contain that fact within their definition of the word ‘transubstantiation’.)

    Brett: “If ‘transubstantiation’ means simply the conversion of substances”.

    No one has suggested that they simply mean that. It refers to the conversion of substances that happens at the Consecration, as the quotation that I supply from the Council of Trent makes entirely clear, and has been the context of our discussion all along.

    Brett: “The thing in question is hard enough to explain without muddying the terminology that was invented precisely to describe it.”

    I agree. Accordingly, if you could stop using your personal preference for the meaning of ‘transubstantiation’, and stick with the Church’s definition, this discussion will be more understandable.

  • brettsalkeld

    Well, we seem to be at a bit of an impasse. You think my working definition of transubstantiation is personal and idiosyncratic, and I think yours is the same.

    Your definition of transubstantiation, as far as I can tell, is “the conversion of substances that takes place at the consecration which may or may not be accompanied by a change in the accidents.”

    I really don’t know what to make of this except to say that nowhere have I ever seen this interpretation given to the term. The Catholic tradition has, since the word was coined, understood it to exclude a change in accidents. The lack of change in accidents was, in fact, the impetus for its coinage. To suggest that Trent and the Catechism leave the question of a change in the accidents open strikes me as disingenuous.

    I can only recommend that you read further since my assertions are of no value. I would recommend starting with Aquinas. Anscar Vonier would also be very helpful.

    I leave off with a quote from St. Thomas:

    “Again, this conversion has something in common with natural transmutation in two respects, although not in the same fashion. First of all because in both, one of the extremes passes into the other, as bread into Christ’s body, and air into fire; whereas non-being is not converted into being. But this comes to pass differently on the one side and on the other; for in this sacrament the whole substance of the bread passes into the whole body of Christ; whereas in natural transmutation the matter of the one receives the form of the other, the previous form being laid aside. Secondly, they have this in common, that on both sides something remains the same; whereas this does not happen in creation: yet differently; for the same matter or subject remains in natural transmutation; whereas in this sacrament the same accidents remain.

    From these observations we can gather the various ways of speaking in such matters. For, because in no one of the aforesaid three things are the extremes coexistent, therefore in none of them can one extreme be predicated of the other by the substantive verb of the present tense: for we do not say, “Non-being is being” or, “Bread is the body of Christ,” or, “Air is fire,” or, “White is black.” Yet because of the relationship of the extremes in all of them we can use the preposition “ex” [out of, which denotes order; for we can truly and properly say that “being is made out of non-being,” and “out of bread, the body of Christ,” and “out of air, fire,” and “out of white, black.” But because in creation one of the extremes does not pass into the other, we cannot use the word “conversion” in creation, so as to say that “non-being is converted into being”: we can, however, use the word in this sacrament, just as in natural transmutation. But since in this sacrament the whole substance is converted into the whole substance, on that account this conversion is properly termed transubstantiation.” [emphasis added]
    (ST. III, 75, 8)

  • brettsalkeld

    I would like to offer a quick clarification following consultation with a reputable Aquinas scholar.

    My explanation about a physicist’s exploration being entirely limited to accidents was a bit oversimplified. What needs adding is that a physicist’s exploration of the accidents does allow her or him to consider and theorize about the “form” of the subject of investigation. “Form” is perhaps best understood in contemporary language as “organizing principle.” And it is part of what defines substance.

    It remains that affirming substance is a concrete act of the intellect, but an appreciation of the form that comes from investigation of the accidents is an important step in Paul’s aforementioned deduction of substance from accidents.

  • Brett: “Your definition of transubstantiation, as far as I can tell, is “the conversion of substances that takes place at the consecration which may or may not be accompanied by a change in the accidents.”

    Huh??? I have already explicitly given twice now a definition of the word ‘transubstantiation’ that my usage is consistent with: “…by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made 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; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation”.

    I proposed to use the word ‘transubstantiation’ in a sentence like: “In some eucharistic miracles perhaps it is possible that a form of transubstantiation takes place where the substance present is that of the Real Presence, but the accidents are not that of bread and wine but something else (e.g. blood).”

    You (as I understand it) then objected extremely strongly to such a usage of the word, and said that the word ‘transubstantiation’ should never ever be used to refer to anything except to the combination of both the conversion of substances that happen at the Consecration and the fact that the accidents don’t change.

    But the Council of Trent itself doesn’t use the word to refer to such a combination!! (They do teach that the accidents change, but they do not include that fact within the scope of the word ‘transubstantiation’.)

    Hence I still see nothing wrong with the usage of the word ‘transubstantiation’ in the proposed sentence.

    Brett: “The Catholic tradition has, since the word was coined, understood it to exclude a change in accidents.”

    I can’t make out what you mean by that. The definition given by the Council of Trent of the word ‘Transubstantiation’ is very clear, and does not include within the scope of the word what happens to the accidents. Likewise the current Catechism. So what exactly is this ‘Catholic tradition’ that you are appealing to?

  • brettsalkeld

    So you can pull one quote from Trent that is not explicit about the species remaining. I’m not sure why you think that proves that transubstantiation does not include the idea of the accidents remaining. The simple fact is that Trent didn’t feel the need to state this aspect explicitly at every turn because it was not in question. It has never been in question.

    Nevertheless, here is an anathema from Trent that demonstrates that the Fathers at Trent did understand “transubstantiation” to exclude a change in the species (Trent’s word for accidents):

    Anyone who “denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue” and anyone who “saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation”
    is declared anathema.

  • brettsalkeld

    Furthermore, when the Catechism quotes Trent, the very next line states:
    “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist.” (1377)

    It is difficult for me to understand how a reading of the Catechism that insists that the persistence of the species is not intrinsic to transubstantiation is not disingenuous.

    Shoot, if someone wanted to take this out of context, they could claim that it is Church teaching that Christ is NOT present when a Eucharistic miracle causes the species to change.

  • Brett: “So you can pull one quote from Trent that is not explicit about the species remaining.”

    It’s not a quote pulled out of context, but precisely the quote that defines what ‘transubstantiation’ refers to.

    Brett: “I’m not sure why you think that proves that transubstantiation does not include the idea of the accidents remaining.”

    To be very precise in what I say yet again: the word transubstantiation is used to refer to the conversion of the whole substances of bread and wine into the Real Presence.

    We have no disagreement about Church teaching. We disagree on what the word ‘transubstantiation’ refers to.

    Brett: “Nevertheless, here is an anathema from Trent…”

    Yes, I had seen that one. Anyone looking at the last part of it can see: “…which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation”. It’s the conversion that is called Transubstantiation.
    Why would it be “most apt”? Because in the original Latin it’s ‘transubstantantiatio’, with the formulation of that word clearly having a reference to the conversion of substances and not including any reference to the accidents.

    Brett: “Furthermore, when the Catechism quotes Trent, the very next line states: ‘The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist.’ (1377)”

    As I say. we’re not in disagreement over Church teaching. Nothing in the quote you give says anything directly about what the word ‘transubstantiation’ refers to. It can be read as: “The transubstantiation begins at the moment of consecration and endures as long as the accidents subsist.” We’re not in the slightest disagreement over that.

  • brettsalkeld

    I’m sorry Paul, but this is clearly going nowhere.

    It seems perfectly clear to me that both Trent and the Catechism presume that transubstantiation means that the accidents/species remain unchanged. I don’t know how else one could possibly make sense of the sentence in the catechism that follows the quote from Trent. To me your explanations of how they do not presume this, especially your reading of the anathema, seem strained to the breaking point.

    I am afraid we will have to let our readers decide what they think from the arguments we have given thus far. They will also perhaps pay attention in their future reading to see what the tradition has to say about whether or not a lack of change in accidents/species is an essential part of the definition of transubstantiation.

    Peace.

  • Pingback: Frank Sheed on Transubstantiation « Vox Nova()

  • Brett: “I’m sorry Paul, but this is clearly going nowhere.”

    Then me let me summarize my position:

    Trent’s definition of the word transubstantiation: “..by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made 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; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.”

    Mention of accidents? None at all.
    Reason for suitability and properness? Because the Latin word directly refers to the conversion of substances, containing no reference to accidents.
    Does using the word ‘transubstantiation’ in such a way do anything to change the Church’s teaching? It doesn’t change it in the slightest.
    Reason for me wanting to use such a definition? It’s consistent with the way that Trent defines the word.

  • R.C.

    I’m getting confused.

    I thought I believed what the Church taught.

    But I have a parish priest telling me a story that the consecrated host was tested by scientists at the Vatican, and found to contain myocardial human tissue, and that the — I suppose for clarity I’ll say the liquid in the chalice was tested and found to be of a particular blood type. He said this during a lecture on the Eucharist for the kids of the parish.

    If scientific investigation could detect it, that would be trans-accidentiation, wouldn’t it?

    Is this just a myth that the priest thinks is reality?

    Or is this a reference to some Eucharistic miracle in which trans-accidentiation did occur, but which is an exception, the norm being merely transubstantiation?

  • brettsalkeld

    R.C.,
    The Church does not deny the possibility of a miracle that could be detected by the senses or scientific instruments. This would not, however, be transubstantiation. You last paragraph shows you understand the issue properly.
    If your priest was talking about a particular instance, he might be gullible, but he’s not in material heresy. If, however, he was suggesting that any consecrated bread and wine would yield a similar result, he has misunderstood, and is misrepresenting, Church teaching.

  • brettsalkeld

    R.C.,
    Did you follow the link to the quote from Frank Sheed?