Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What Is Transubstantiation?

Transubstantiation is what takes place in the Mass when the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is basically a way of explaining how the change from "bread" to "Jesus" takes place. In transubstantiation, the accidents of the bread and wine remain the same while the substance of the bread and wine are changed.

Of course, in order to understand this, you have to know what "accidents" and "substance" are. Whatever the senses perceive of a thing are the accidents of that thing. They are not the thing itself but merely the perceptible qualities or characteristics of the thing. The substance, however, is the thing itself, or rather, the essence of the thing.

So, take for example the bread used in Mass. The accidents of it are: roundness, whiteness, crispiness, bread-like smell, bread-like taste. The substance of it is: "bread." Our senses perceive the accidents; only the mind knows the substance.

In every case in the universe but one, when the substance changes, the accidents of it change too since the accidents are attached to (or, exist in) the substance. For example, when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, it also changes in outward appearance b/c, well, butterflies have different outward characteristics than caterpillars do.

Only in the transubstantiation of the Eucharistic elements does the accidents remain even though the substance changes. Maybe an illustration will be helpful. I saw a magic trick once where a man in a black costume stood in the middle of the stage. Some assistants pulled up a curtain around him. There was smoke and flashes of light. When they dropped the curtain to the floor there stood a woman in the same black costume. Transubstantiation is kinda like that. The "costume" of bread is suspended ("in mid air" so to speak) while the underlying substance (or thing that wears the costume) is changed.

I hope that helps you to make sense of this mystery. It is universally accepted that all created things have accidents and substance. The only quarrel is over whether or not God desires to suspend the laws of the universe in this one instance in order to be substantially present in the Eucharist.

There are two articles that I highly suggest if you would like to learn more about transubstantiation:Thank you for your question.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

'In every case in the universe but one, when the substance changes, the accidents of it change too since the accidents are attached to (or, exist in) the substance...Only in the transubstantiation of the Eucharistic elements does the accidents remain even though the substance changes.'

I'm a christian, non-catholic, and if it wasn't so pathetic it would have actually almost had me laughing as you stated that so factually...I'll restate what I understood

'Nothing that can possibly be tested or observed to prove what we did was real will change, but its substance, something vaguely defined and completely untestable, does change, take our word for it'

By the way i'm not saying it can't be done supernaturally, but that it isn't being done in this case.

Nicholas Hardesty said...

For one, I don't see how substance was "vaguely defined" in my post. I was rather clear on that matter. Secondly, if you accept the possibility that a change in substance without a change in accidents could take place supernaturally, why in fact could that not be the very thing taking place in this case? Because you don't want it to? Because it's "untestable"? If it happens supernaturally then, by its very nature, its untestable.

Anonymous said...

I want you to know that I appreciate how thoroughly you explained this. I am not Catholic, and while I do not agree with or believe in transubstantiation, I thought you explained the concept better than any Catholic I have ever met. I have many conversations with people of all faiths, and this has been helpful to understand why some believe what they do.So,although the belief is not supported scripturally, I thank you.

Anonymous said...

Its a ridiculous teaching,actually doctrine.Just as false as the Trinity only less defaming of God. Jesus` apostles were Jews and eating human flesh and drinking blood were forbidden under Mosaic law and repugnant to them. They understood the true meaning of what Jesus commanded them. Blood was only used for sacrifice and to validate covenants and anything else was to be poured out.That command from God is borne out In Matt 26:29. Jesus is validating a covenant with his disciples and then says his blood will be poured out.

Later after his death the apostles again commanded Christians to abstain from blood.

Get out of the church,seek truth and save your life!

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