Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Questions on Transubstantiation and the Real Presence

"Holy Culture Radio" asked the following question in the Holy Culture Radio forum (his sn is very appropriate):
When someone takes communion... nowadays.. in a Catholic church.... does that liquid (wine or grape juice) turn into REAL blood. Like physical blood?
Well, you probably didn't mean to imply this, but your question seems to suggest that the wine becomes the Real Presence once you "take it", or put it in your mouth (or perhaps when you receive it in your hand and then put it in your mouth). This is not true. The elements of bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ once the priest calls upon the Holy Spirit to perform the miracle and then repeats the words of Jesus Christ: "This is my body" and "This is my blood."

That said, you are probably more wondering about the nature of this Presence in the wine. First of all, it is not just His Blood. Where His Blood is, there is also His entire self, since He exists whole and entire in heaven and since the sacrifice of the Mass is not a bloody one, in which Jesus loses blood, or has it separated from Him. So, the wine is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, yes, the wine (we don't use grape juice, since Jesus didn't) truly becomes the real and physical Blood of Christ. But, what we experience through out senses are the qualities of wine. So, what is truly His Blood tastes, and smells, and feels and looks like wine, even down to its most basic molecular structure. His Real Presence is "veiled" by the wine, so to speak, to guard against our sensibilities and the charge of cannibalism.

To use the language of metaphysics, the "substance" is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, but the "accidents" are of wine. I hope this helps. I know that it can be difficult to understand. Here is a link to a list of articles that may help:
The following articles may help as well:

What Bible verse teaches transubstantiation?
First, let's clarify some terminology.

"Real Presence" is the word we use to describe the belief that, after the words if institution, the bread and wine are truly Jesus. "Transubstantiation" is the word we use to describe, on a metaphysical level, what actually happens when the bread and wine are changed into Jesus. "Transubtantiation" is not in the bible because the bible does not concern itself with how the transformation takes place, it just asserts that it does. That it does --that the bread and wine do in fact become Jesus Christ-- is attested to by many verses. John 6 alone provides enough to defend the Real Presence. This, at least, is what I hope to show in my next post....

Pax Christi,


  1. Ever since I first read the differences in substance and accidents, I have been excited when someone asks a similar question. It's so much easier to explain with two different words to express the two different properties. It's much easier than saying "well, it is but it isn't" and then trying to explain what you mean.


  2. While the physical Christ is present (body, blood, soul and divinity) in both species, the mode of his presence is not physical but sacramental.

    The physical Christ is present sacramentally not physically. He is present, as Nicholas has said, veiled under the species of bread and wine.

    This nuanced difference regarding the mode of presence explains why our eating his body sacramentally does not affect his body physically.

    -Bro. Thomas Petri, OP, STL

  3. As always Bro. Thomas, your clarifications are very helpful. Thank you!


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