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Christ with the Eucharist, Vicente Juan Masip, 16th century.

Transubstantiation (in Latin, transsubstantiatio, in Greek μετουσίωσις metousiosis) is, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the change by which the bread and the wine offered in the celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist become, in reality, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.[1][2]

The Catholic Church teaches that the substance, or reality, of the Eucharistic offering (either bread alone, or bread and wine) is changed into both the Body and Blood of Christ.[3]

Catholics believe that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, the whole presence of Christ exists in:

  • Transubstantiated bread, even in small fragments, and
  • Transubstantiated wine, even in a single drop.

All that is accessible to the senses (the outward appearances - species[4][5][6] in Latin) remains unchanged.[7]:1413[8] What remains unaltered is also referred to as the "accidents" of the bread and wine,[9] but the term "accidents" is not used in the official definition of the doctrine by the Council of Trent.[10] The manner in which the change occurs, the Catholic Church teaches, is a mystery: "The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ."[7]:1333

The Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and Church of the East have sometimes used the term "transubstantiation" (metousiosis); however, terms such as "divine mystery", "trans-elementation" (μεταστοιχείωσις metastoicheiosis), "re-ordination" (μεταρρύθμισις metarrhythmisis), or simply "change" (μεταβολή) are more common among them, and they consider the Eucharist with its change from bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ a "Mystery". Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with the Holy See likewise prefer such terms and see them alongside the teaching expressed by the term "transubstantiation", which likewise denotes an actual change, a "becoming", as opposed to the mere addition of a new symbolic significance expressed in "to be for us the body and blood of Christ".[11][12]


The Disputation of the Sacrament by Raphael 1509-1510.

The earliest known use of the term "transubstantiation" to describe the change from bread and wine to body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist was by Hildebert de Lavardin, Archbishop of Tours, in the 11th century.[13][14] By the end of the 12th century the term was in widespread use.[15] The Fourth Council of the Lateran, which convened beginning November 11, 1215,[16] spoke of the bread and wine as "transubstantiated" into the body and blood of Christ: "His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been transubstantiated, by God's power, into his body and blood".[17]

During the Protestant Reformation, the doctrine of transubstantiation was heavily criticised as an Aristotelian "pseudophilosophy"[18] imported into Christian teaching and jettisoned in favor of Martin Luther's doctrine of sacramental union, or in favor, per Huldrych Zwingli, of the Eucharist as memorial.[19]

The Council of Trent in its 13th session ending October 11, 1551, defined transubstantiation as "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".[20] This council officially approved use of the term "transubstantiation" to express the Catholic Church's teaching on the subject of the conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, with the aim of safeguarding Christ's presence as a literal truth, while emphasizing the fact that there is no change in the empirical appearances of the bread and wine.[8] It did not however impose the Aristotelian theory of substance and accidents: it spoke only of the species (the appearances), not the philosophical term "accidents", and the word "substance" was in ecclesiastical use for many centuries before Aristotelian philosophy was adopted in the West,[21] as shown for instance by its use in the Nicene Creed which speaks of Christ having the same "οὐσία" (Greek) or "substantia" (Latin) as the Father.

Patristic period

The belief that the Eucharist conveyed to the believer the body and blood of Christ appears to have been widespread from an early date, and the elements were commonly referred to as the body and the blood by early Christian writers. The early Christians who use these terms also speak of it as the flesh and blood of Christ, the same flesh and blood which suffered and died on the cross.

The short document known as the Teaching of the Apostles or Didache, which may be the earliest Christian document outside of the New Testament to speak of the Eucharist, says, "Let no one eat or drink of the Eucharist with you except those who have been baptized in the Name of the Lord,"[22] for it was in reference to this that the Lord said, "Do not give that which is holy to dogs." Matthew 7:6

A letter by Saint Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans, written in AD 106 says: "I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ."[23]

Writing to the Christians of Smyrna, in about AD 106, Saint Ignatius warned them to "stand aloof from such heretics", because, among other reasons, "they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again."[24]

In about 150, Justin Martyr wrote of the Eucharist: "Not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."[25]

Justin Martyr wrote, in Dialogue with Trypho, ch 70: "Now it is evident, that in this prophecy to the bread which our Christ gave us to eat, in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers, for whom also He suffered; and to the cup which He gave us to drink, in remembrance of His own blood, with giving of thanks."

In about 200 AD, Tertullian wrote (Against Marcion IV. 40): "Taking bread and distributing it to his disciples he made it his own body by saying, 'This is my body,' that is a 'figure of my body.' On the other hand, there would not have been a figure unless there was a true body."

The Apostolic Constitutions (compiled c. 380) says: "Let the bishop give the oblation, saying, The body of Christ; and let him that receiveth say, Amen. And let the deacon take the cup; and when he gives it, say, The blood of Christ, the cup of life; and let him that drinketh say, Amen."[26]

Saint Ambrose of Milan (d. 397) wrote:

Perhaps you will say, "I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ?" ... Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed. ... For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? ... Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which was crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: "This Is My Body." Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks."[27]

Other fourth-century Christian writers say that in the Eucharist there occurs a "change",[28] "transelementation",[29] "transformation",[30] "transposing",[31] "alteration"[32] of the bread into the body of Christ.

In AD 400, Augustine quotes Cyprian (AD 200): "For as Christ says 'I am the true vine,' it follows that the blood of Christ is wine, not water; and the cup cannot appear to contain His blood by which we are redeemed and quickened, if the wine be absent; for by the wine is the blood of Christ typified, ..."[33]

Middle Ages

In the eleventh century, Berengar of Tours denied that any material change in the elements was needed to explain the Eucharistic Presence, thereby provoking a considerable stir.[15] Berengar's position was never diametrically opposed to that of his critics, and he was probably never excommunicated, but the controversy that he aroused forced people to clarify the doctrine of the Eucharist.[34]

The earliest known use of the term "transubstantiation" to describe the change from bread and wine to body and blood of Christ was by Hildebert de Lavardin, Archbishop of Tours (died 1133), in about 1079,[35] long before the Latin West, under the influence especially of Thomas Aquinas (c. 1227-1274), accepted Aristotelianism.

Although it was only in the West that Aristotelian philosophy prevailed,[36] the objective reality of the Eucharistic change in a valid Divine liturgy is also believed in by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the other ancient Churches of the East (see metousiosis).

In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council used the word transubstantiated in its profession of faith, when speaking of the change that takes place in the Eucharist. It was only later in the 13th century that Aristotelian metaphysics was accepted and a philosophical elaboration in line with that metaphysics was developed, which found classic formulation in the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas."[15]

In 1551, the Council of Trent officially defined, with a minimum of technical philosophical language,[15] that "by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change 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. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."[37]

Protestant criticisms

In the Protestant Reformation, the doctrine of transubstantiation became a matter of much controversy. Martin Luther held that "It is not the doctrine of transubstantiation which is to be believed, but simply that Christ really is present at the Eucharist".[38] In his "On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church" (published on 6 October 1520) Luther wrote:

Therefore it is an absurd and unheard-of juggling with words, to understand "bread" to mean "the form, or accidents of bread," and "wine" to mean "the form, or accidents of wine." Why do they not also understand all other things to mean their forms, or accidents? Even if this might be done with all other things, it would yet not be right thus to emasculate the words of God and arbitrarily to empty them of their meaning.
Moreover, the Church had the true faith for more than twelve hundred years, during which time the holy Fathers never once mentioned this transubstantiation — certainly, a monstrous word for a monstrous idea — until the pseudo-philosophy of Aristotle became rampant in the Church these last three hundred years. During these centuries many other things have been wrongly defined, for example, that the Divine essence neither is begotten nor begets, that the soul is the substantial form of the human body, and the like assertions, which are made without reason or sense, as the Cardinal of Cambray himself admits.[39]

In his 1528 Confession Concerning Christ's Supper he wrote:

Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, "This is my body", even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word "this" indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a "sacramental union", because Christ's body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament. This is not a natural or personal union, as is the case with God and Christ. It is also perhaps a different union from that which the dove has with the Holy Spirit, and the flame with the angel, but it is also assuredly a sacramental union.[40]

What Luther thus called a "sacramental union" is often erroneously called consubstantiation by non-Lutherans.

In "On the Babylonian Captivity", Luther upheld belief in the Real Presence of Jesus and, in his 1523 treatise The Adoration of the Sacrament, defended adoration of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

Huldrych Zwingli taught that the sacrament is purely symbolic and memorial in character, arguing that this was the meaning of Jesus' instruction: "Do this in remembrance of me".[41]

The 39 articles of religion in the Church of England declare: "Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions";[42] and made Mass illegal.[43]

In Roman Catholic theology

The distinction between "substance" and "accidents" - the latter term is not used in the Catholic Church's official definition of the doctrine[10] but has been used in the writings of theologians - arose from Aristotelian philosophy, but in Roman Catholic eucharistic theology is independent of that philosophy, since the distinction is a real one, as shown by the distinction between a person and that person's accidental appearances.[44] "Substance" here means what something is in itself, its essence. A hat's shape is not the hat itself, nor is its colour, size, softness to the touch, nor anything else about it perceptible to the senses. The hat itself (the "substance") has the shape, the color, the size, the softness and the other appearances, but is distinct from them.[45] While the appearances, which are also referred to, though not in the Church's official teaching, by the philosophical term 'accidents', are perceptible to the senses, the substance is not.[46]

When at his Last Supper, Jesus said: "This is my body",[47] what he held in his hands still had all the appearances of bread: the "species" remained unchanged. However, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that, when Jesus made that declaration,[48]:1376 the underlying reality (the "substance") of the bread was changed into that of his body. In other words, it actually was his body, while all the appearances open to the senses or to scientific investigation were still those of bread, exactly as before. The Catholic Church holds that the same change of the substance of the bread and of the wine occurs at the consecration of the Eucharist[48]:1377[49] when the words are spoken in persona Christi "This is my body ... this is my blood." In Orthodox confessions, the change is said to start during the Dominical or Lord's Words or Institution Narrative and be completed during the Epiklesis.[50] Orthodox from the period of Dominican-Orthodox controversies (witnessed by Nicholas Cabasilas) until the Council of Florence and the "libellus (booklet)" of Mark of Ephesus, held for a double moment of consecration at the words "This is my body/blood" and the epiclesis. Despite the fact that this was a normative interpretation of the De sacraments and De mysteries of St. Ambrose, as early as Paschasius Radbertus (Ps.-Augustine), John Torquemada opposed the Orthodox position at the Council of Florence. This is all the more ironic since he cited Paschasius Radbertus (as if Augustine) in his Sermo alter in the Acta Latina in order to refute emperor John VIII (who was relying on Mark of Ephesus "libellus"). The end result was that, though authors from Radbertus until St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio held for the consecratory potential of the epiclesis, Torquemada represented the Dominican position as universal and non-controversial among the Latins. In fact, Torquemada's overconfidence was the result of having studied the works of Pope Benedict XII in his debates against Mark of Ephesus in Ferrara in 1437. Therein, Benedict condemned an alleged Armenian theory (never verified among any of the dozen or so Armenian commentaries from the period) that denied all consecratory value to the words of institution and confined the consecration ONLY to the epiclesis (not the Byzantine position). Lastly, the Armenians were alleged to hold that the eucharistic change was not substantial and only imperfect and typological, and therefore not transubstantiation. The arguments, that Benedict XII's letter to the missionaries (c. 1340) addressed, relied on Aquinas' premises, which was no surprise given Benedict and Pope Clement VI thomistic preferences. However, these arguments were confused for the Byzantine position from Cabasilas to Florence and are still grossly misunderstood among modern and contemporary scholars when attempting to speak of Catholic-Orthodox differences.

Teaching that Christ is risen from the dead and is alive, the Catholic Church holds that when the bread is changed into his body, not only his body is present, but Christ as a whole is present (i.e. body and blood, soul and divinity.) The same holds for the wine changed into his blood.[51] This teaching goes beyond the doctrine of transubstantiation, which directly concerns only the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.

In accordance with the dogmatic teaching that Christ is really, truly and substantially present under the remaining appearances of bread and wine, and continues to be present as long as those appearances remain, the Catholic Church preserves the consecrated elements, generally in a church tabernacle, for administering Holy Communion to the sick and dying, and also for the secondary, but still highly prized, purpose of adoring Christ present in the Eucharist.

The Roman Catholic Church declares that the doctrine of transubstantiation is concerned with what is changed, and not how the change occurs; it teaches that the appearances (the "species") that remain are real, not an illusion, and that Christ is "really, truly, and substantially present" in the Eucharist.[48]:1374 To touch the smallest particle of the host or the smallest droplet from the chalice is to touch Jesus Christ himself, as when one person touches another on the back of the hand with only a fingertip and in so doing touches not merely a few skin cells but touches the whole person: "Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ."[52]

In the arguments which characterised the relationship between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism in the 16th century, the Council of Trent declared subject to the ecclesiastical penalty of anathema 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, let him be anathema."[20]

Protestant denominations have not generally subscribed to belief in transubstantiation or consubstantiation.

As already stated, the Roman Catholic Church asserts that the "species" that remain are real. In the sacrament these are the signs of the reality that they efficaciously signify,[53] not symbols. And by definition sacraments are "efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Catholic Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us."[54]

In The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist: The Eucharist and Its Effects (2000-2012), James H. Dobbins, citing the work This Tremendous Lover (1989), by Dom Eugene Boylan,[55] expresses the paradox of Holy Communion:

"Ordinary food is consumed and becomes that which consumes it. In the Eucharist, we consume God and become that which we consume."[56]

According to Catholic teaching, the whole of Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity, is in the sacrament, under each of the appearances of bread and wine and in each part of the appearances of bread and wine (since the substance of bread or wine is in each part of ordinary bread or wine, and the substance of Christ is in each part of the consecrated and transubstantiated elements of the host and the cup of the sacrament), but he is not in the sacrament as in a place and is not moved when the sacrament is moved. He is perceptible neither by the sense nor by the imagination, but only by the spiritual eye (nous).[57]

St. Thomas Aquinas gave poetic expression to this perception in the devotional hymn Adoro te devote:

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed.
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.
English translation of Adoro Te Devote

Interpretations of the New Testament

The Last Supper (upper image) and preparatory washing of feet (lower image) in a 1220 manuscript in the Badische Landesbibliothek

Those who believe that in the Eucharist the bread and wine become instead the body and blood of Christ see this as indicated in the New Testament, in the Eucharistic discourse given by Christ in John 6, and in 1 Corinthians 10-11, where Saint Paul equates the body and blood of Jesus with the "bread" and "cup of benediction" used in the Eucharist.[58][59][60]

Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, who together constitute the majority of Christians,[61] hold that the consecrated elements in a valid celebration of the Eucharist indeed become the body and blood of Christ. This belief is held also by some Reform and Protestant Christian churches, Lutherans and Anglicans,[62] though they generally deny transubstantiation.

While there is a large body of theology noting the many Scriptural supports for transubstantiation, in general, Orthodox and Catholics consider it unnecessary to "prove" from texts of Scripture a belief that they see as held by Christians without interruption from the earliest, apostolic times. They point out that the Church and its teaching existed before it assembled and canonized the New Testament, and even before any individual part of the New Testament was written.[63] They also point out that early Christians such as Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Clement of Rome (who were much closer to the event than those who have later proposed a figurative interpretation of the Eucharist), described the Eucharist as truly the body and blood of Christ. They see nothing in Scripture that in any way contradicts this age-old Christian belief that the reality beneath the visible signs in the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ and no longer bread and wine. Instead, they see this teaching as the same teaching in the Bible's reports of what Christ himself and Paul the Apostle taught.

As the scriptural support required by their sola scriptura position, Protestants who believe that in the Eucharist the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ turn to the words of Jesus himself at his Last Supper, as reported in the Synoptic Gospels[64] and Saint Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians.[65] In that context, Jesus said of what to all appearances were bread and wine: "This is my body … this is my blood" or, in the case of what appeared to be wine, "… this cup is the new covenant in my blood".

Many Protestants reject a literal interpretation of these words. They compare them to non-literal expressions by Jesus such as "I am the door", "I am the vine", "You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13-14),"Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6-12). In this last example, the disciples thought that the reason Jesus said it was because they had brought no bread; but Jesus explained that he was referring to the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

These Protestants add that "eating and drinking" is sometimes used metaphorically, as of Jeremiah "eating" God's words (Jeremiah 15:16), or David speaking of water as blood, since it was obtained at the risk of the lives of his men (2 Samuel 23:17).

Those who hold that Jesus' words, "This is my body", "This is my blood", were not metaphorical claim that there is a marked contrast between metaphorical figurative expressions, which of their nature have a symbolic meaning, and what Jesus said about concrete things such as the bread and wine.

In the phrase "This is my body"as expressed in the original Greek (Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου), the word "τοῦτο" ("this" or "this thing") is a grammatically neuter pronoun, and so of the same grammatical gender as the noun "σῶμα" (body), but of a different grammatical gender from that of the word "ἄρτος" (bread), which is a masculine noun. Some claim that this is an indication of the change of the reality from bread (ἄρτος) to body (σῶμα).[66][67]

As indications that the bread and wine are indeed changed to the body and blood of Christ, appeal is made to expressions used by Saint Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, in particular his rhetorical question, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:16), and his statement, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 11:27).[68] Protestant commentators, such as Matthew Henry (1662–1714) say that use of the word "bread" shows there has been no change.[69][70]

Paul's subsequent recommendation, "Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Corinthians 11:28-29), has likewise been interpreted either as indicating the reality of the disputed change or as implying no such change. Marvin R. Vincent, in particular, objected to what he called the mistaken King James Version translation of κρῖμα in verse 29 as "damnation", rather more literally as "judgment".[71]

It has been noted that Paul wrote: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord" (emphases added).[72][73] This has been interpreted as stating that unworthy participation of either the bread or the cup of the Lord involves guilt concerning both the body and blood of the Lord, an indication of the presence of Christ in each of the two cases.[74][75][76]

Real presence in other churches

Eastern Christianity

The Eastern Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches, along with the Assyrian Church of the East, agree that in a valid Divine Liturgy bread and wine truly and actually become the body and blood of Christ. They have in general refrained from philosophical speculation, and usually rely on the status of the doctrine as a "Mystery," something known by divine revelation that could not have been arrived at by reason without revelation. Accordingly, they prefer not to elaborate upon the details and remain firmly within Holy Tradition, than to say too much and possibly deviate from the truth. In Orthodox confessions, the change is said to start during the Liturgy of Preparation and be completed during the Epiklesis. However, there are official church documents that speak of a "change" (in Greek μεταβολή) or "metousiosis" (μετουσίωσις) of the bread and wine. "Μετ-ουσί-ωσις" (met-ousi-osis) is the Greek word used to represent the Latin word "trans-substanti-atio",[77][78] as Greek "μετα-μόρφ-ωσις" (meta-morph-osis) corresponds to Latin "trans-figur-atio". Examples of official documents of the Eastern Orthodox Church that use the term "μετουσίωσις" or "transubstantiation" are the Longer Catechism of The Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church (question 340) and the declaration by the Eastern Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem of 1672:

"In the celebration of [the Eucharist] we believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present. He is not present typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, nor by a bare presence, as some of the Fathers have said concerning Baptism, or by impanation, so that the Divinity of the Word is united to the set forth bread of the Eucharist hypostatically, as the followers of Luther most ignorantly and wretchedly suppose. But [he is present] truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin, was baptized in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sits at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world.[79]

It should be noted, that the way in which the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ has never been dogmatically defined by the Eastern Orthodox Churches. However, St Theodore the Studite writes in his treatise On the Holy Icons: "for we confess that the faithful receive the very body and blood of Christ, according to the voice of God himself."[80] This was a refutation of the iconoclasts, who insisted that the eucharist was the only true icon of Christ. Thus, it can be argued that by being part of the dogmatic "horos" against the iconoclast heresy, the teaching on the "real presence" of Christ in the eucharist is indeed a dogma of the Eastern Orthodox Church.


During the reign of King Henry VIII of England, the official teaching was identical with the Roman Catholic Church's doctrine before and after Henry's break with Rome. Under Henry's son, Edward VI, the Church of England began to accept some aspects of Protestant theology and rejected transubstantiation. Elizabeth I, as part of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, gave royal assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, which sought to distinguish Anglican from Roman Church doctrine. The Articles declared that "Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions." The Elizabethan Settlement accepted the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, but refused to define it, preferring to leave it a mystery. Indeed for many years it was illegal in Britain to hold public office whilst believing in transubstantiation, as under the Test Act of 1673. Archbishop John Tillotson decried the "real barbarousness of this Sacrament and Rite of our Religion", considering it a great impiety to believe that people who attend Holy Communion "verily eat and drink the natural flesh and blood of Christ. And what can any man do more unworthily towards a Friend? How can he possibly use him more barbarously, than to feast upon his living flesh and blood?" (Discourse against Transubstantiation, London 1684, 35).

Anglicans generally consider no teaching binding that, according to the Articles, "cannot be found in Holy Scripture or proved thereby", and are not unanimous in the interpretation of such passages as John, Chapter 6, and 1 Corinthians 11. Consequently, some Anglicans (especially Anglo-Catholics and some other High Church Anglicans) accept transubstantiation while others do not. In any case, nowadays even Church of England clergy are only required to assent that the 39 Articles have borne witness to the Christian faith.[81]

Official writings of the churches of the Anglican Communion have consistently upheld belief in the Real Presence, a term that includes transubstantiation as well as several other eucharistic theologies such as consubstantiation. Some recent Anglican writers explicitly accept the doctrine of transubstantiation[82] or, while avoiding the term "transubstantiation", speak of an "objective presence" of Christ in the Eucharist. The term "objective presence" includes a belief in transubstantiation but does not limit belief to transubstantiation.

Theological dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church has produced common documents that speak of "substantial agreement" about the doctrine of the Eucharist: the ARCIC Windsor Statement of 1971,[83] and its 1979 Elucidation.[84] Remaining arguments can be found in the Church of England's pastoral letter: The Eucharist: Sacrament of Unity.[85]


Lutherans explicitly reject transubstantiation [86] believing that the bread and wine remain fully bread and fully wine while also being truly the body and blood of Jesus Christ.[87][88][89][90] Lutheran churches instead emphasize the sacramental union[91] (not exactly the consubstantiation, as is often claimed)[92] and believe that within the Eucharistic celebration the body and blood of Jesus Christ are objectively present "in, with, and under the forms" of bread and wine (cf. Book of Concord).[87] They place great stress on Jesus' instructions to "take and eat", and "take and drink", holding that this is the proper, divinely ordained use of the sacrament, and, while giving it due reverence, scrupulously avoid any actions that might indicate or lead to superstition or unworthy fear of the sacrament.[88]


Methodists believe in the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine (or grape juice) while, like Anglicans and Lutherans, rejecting transubstantiation. According to the United Methodist Church, "Jesus Christ, who 'is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being' (Hebrews 1:3), is truly present in Holy Communion."[93]

While upholding the traditional Reformed view of scripture as the primary source of church practice, Methodists also look to church tradition and base their beliefs on the early church teachings on the Eucharist; that Christ has a real presence. However, a minority of Methodist denominations will take the symbolic view of the bread and wine common in other Protestant denominations.

Reformed churches

Classical Presbyterianism held Calvin's view of "pneumatic presence" or "spiritual feeding", a real presence by the Spirit for those who have faith. John Calvin "can be regarded as occupying a position roughly midway between" the doctrines of Martin Luther on the one hand and Huldrych Zwingli on the other. He taught that "the thing that is signified is effected by its sign", declaring: "Believers ought always to live by this rule: whenever they see symbols appointed by the Lord, to think and be convinced that the truth of the thing signified is surely present there. For why should the Lord put in your hand the symbol of his body, unless it was to assure you that you really participate in it? And if it is true that a visible sign is given to us to seal the gift of an invisible thing, when we have received the symbol of the body, let us rest assured that the body itself is also given to us."[94] He quoted Augustine in his harmony of the Synoptic Gospels on Mark 14:22-25, "Judas ate bread with the Lord, but did not eat the Lord with the bread."[citation needed]

The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes the teaching:

Q. What is the Lord's supper?

A. The Lord's supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ's appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.[95]

Conceptual art

An Oak Tree is a conceptual art installation in the Tate Modern, consisting of a glass of water, which the artist, Michael Craig-Martin, declared he had turned into "a full-grown oak tree", "without altering the accidents of the glass of water".[96] Craig-Martin is claiming that he has changed the substance but not the appearance. Transubstantiation, as defined at Trent and further specified in Mysterium fidei (1965), makes the same claim.[97] The text he included as part of his work states: "It's not a symbol. I have changed the physical substance of the glass of water into that of an oak tree. I didn't change its appearance. The actual oak tree is physically present, but in the form of a glass of water."[96][dead link] In a Richard Dimbleby Lecture, on 23 November 2000, Sir Nicholas Serota said: "We may not 'like' Craig-Martin's work, but it certainly reminds us that the appreciation of all art involves an act of faith comparable to the belief that, through transubstantiation, the bread and wine of Holy Communion become the body and blood of Christ."[98]

See also



  1. Richard A. Nicholas, The Eucharist as the Center of Theology (Peter Lang 2005 ISBN 978-0-82047497-7), p. 292
  2. Teresa Whalen, The Authentic Doctrine of the Eucharist (Rowman & Littlefield 1993 ISBN 978-1-55612558-4), p. 12
  3. Fay, William (2001). "The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Basic Questions and Answers". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved 13 December 2015. the Catholic Church professes that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Donald L. Gelpi, The Conversion Experience (Paulist Press 1998 ISBN 978-0-80913796-1), p. 160
  5. John W. O'Malley, The Jesuits (University of Toronto Press 1999 ISBN 978-0-80204287-3), p. 546
  6. Liam G. Walsh, Sacraments of Initiation (LiturgyTrainingPublications 2011 ISBN 978-1-59525035-3), p. 326
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Article 3 The Sacrament of the Eucharist". Catechism of the Catholic Church. Holy See.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Transubstantiation". Encyclopaedia Britannica.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "The conversion of the whole substance of the bread and wine into the whole substance of the Body and Blood of Christ, only the accidents (i.e. the appearances of the bread and wine) remaining" (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church - Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3 - article Transubstantiation
  10. 10.0 10.1 Council of Trent, Decree concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, canon II
  11. Francis Marsden, "Pope John Paul II's new Document on the Eucharist"
  12. Paul F. Bradshaw, Maxwell E. Johnson, The Eucharistic Liturgies: Their Evolution and Interpretation (Liturgical Press 2012 ISBN 978-0-81466240-3), p. 323
  13. John Cuthbert Hedley, Holy Eucharist (Kessinger 2003 ISBN 978-0-76617494-8), p. 37
  14. John N. King, Milton and Religious Controversy (Cambridge University Press 2000 ISBN 978-0-52177198-6), p. 134
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article Transubstantiation
  16.  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). [ "Fourth Lateran Council (1215)" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. of Faith Fourth Lateran Council: 1215, 1. Confession of Faith, retrieved 2010-03-13.
  18. Luther, M. The Babylonian Captivity of the Christian Church. 1520. Quoted in, McGrath, A. 1998. Historical Theology, An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. Blackwell Publishers: Oxford. p. 198.
  19. McGrath, op.cit. pp. 198-99
  20. 20.0 20.1 J. Waterworth (ed.). "The Council of Trent - The Thirteenth Session". Scanned by Hanover College students in 1995 (1848 ed.). London: Dolman.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Charles Davis: The Theology of Transubstantiation in Sophia, Vol. 3, No. 1 / April 1964
  22. "The Didache", 9:1
  23. "Epistle to the Romans", 7
  24. Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 7
  25. First Apology, LXVI
  26. Book VIII, section II, XIII
  27. On the Mysteries, 50-54
  28. Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat. Myst., 5, 7 (Patrologia Graeca 33:1113): μεταβολή
  29. Gregory of Nyssa, Oratio catechetica magna, 37 (PG 45:93): μεταστοιχειώσας
  30. John Chrysostom, Homily 1 on the betrayal of Judas, 6 (PG 49:380): μεταρρύθμησις
  31. Cyril of Alexandria, On Luke, 22, 19 (PG 72:911): μετίτησις
  32. John Damascene, On the orthodox faith, book 4, chapter 13 (PG 49:380): μεταποίησις
  33. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, book 4, ch 21, quoting Cyprian.
  34. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article Berengar of Tours
  35. Sermones xciii; PL CLXXI, 776
  36. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005), article Aristotle
  37. Session XIII, chapter IV; cf. canon II)
  38. McGrath, op.cit., p197.
  39. A Prelude by Martin Luther on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 2:26 & 2:27
  40. Weimar Ausgabe 26, 442; Luther's Works 37, 299-300.
  41. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
  42. Thirty-Nine Articles, article 28
  43. The Literature of Persecution and Intolerance; James MacCaffrey, vol. 2; St. Margaret Clitherow
  44. Paul Haffner, The Sacramental Mystery (Gracewing Publishing 1999 ISBN 978-0-85244476-4), p. 92
  45. This illustration is given in Maisie Ward and F. J. Sheed, Catholic Evidence Training Outlines (Sheed & Ward, third edition 1935), p. 240.
  46. "The word 'substance' as here used is not a technical philosophical term, such as might be found in the philosophy of Aristotle. It was used in the early Middle Ages long before the works of Aristotle were current. 'Substance' in common-sense usage denotes the basic reality of the thing, i.e., what it is in itself. Derived from the Latin root 'sub-stare', it means what stands under the appearances, which can shift from one moment to the next while leaving the subject intact. Appearances can be deceptive. You might fail to recognize me when I put on a disguise or when I become seriously ill, but I do not cease to be the person that I was; my substance is unchanged. There is nothing obscure, then, about the meaning of 'substance' in this context" (Avery Dulles: Christ's Presence in the Eucharist: True, Real and Substantial).
  47. Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24
  48. 48.0 48.1 48.2 "V. The Sacramental Sacrifice Thanksgiving, Memorial, Presence". Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  49. Christ's Presence in the Eucharist: True, Real and Substantial
  51. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1406-1409, number 1413
  52. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1356-1381, number 1377, Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1641: "Nor should it be forgotten that Christ, whole and entire, is contained not only under either species, but also in each particle of either species. Each, says St. Augustine, receives Christ the Lord, and He is entire in each portion. He is not diminished by being given to many, but gives Himself whole and entire to each." (Quoted in Gratian, p. 3, dist. ii. c. 77; Ambrosian Mass, Preface for Fifth Sunday after Epiph.) —The Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests, issued by order of Pope Pius V, translated into English with Notes by John A. McHugh, O.P., S.T.M., Litt. D., and Charles J. Callan, O.P., S.T.M., Litt. D., (1982) TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., Rockford, Ill. ISBN 978-0-89555-185-6. p. 249 "Christ Whole and Entire Present in Every Part of Each Species".
  53. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1333-1344, numbers 1333-1336 under the heading "III. The Eucharist in the Economy of Salvation The signs of bread and wine".
  54. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1131-1134, number 1131
  55. Boylan, Dom Eugene, This Tremendous Lover, Christian Classics, Westminster, Maryland, 1989, pp. 159-170
  56. The Eucharist and Its Effects—The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, James H. Dobbins (if site says "404 Error: page not found", enter the article title in the site's Search window). Copyright © 2000-2012 by, Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association, 718 Liberty Lane, Lombard, IL 60148, Phone: 815-254-4420
  57. Thomas Aqunas, Summa Theologica, III, Question 76
  58. John Cuthber Hedley, The Holy Eucharist (Kessinger Publishing 2003 ISBN 978-0-76617494-8), p. 23
  59. Connie Ann Kirk, Critical Companion to Flannery O'Connor (Infobase 2008 ISBN 978-1-43810846-9), p. 363
  60. Jerome Kodell, The Eucharist in the New Testament (Liturgical Press 1988 ISBN 978-0-81465663-1), p. 64
  61. Major Branches of Religions Ranked by Number of Adherents
  62. Transubstantiation and the Black Rubric; and see Anglican Eucharistic theology
  63. See, for instance, Eastern Orthodoxy: The Twelve Apostles, Introduction: What is the Greek Orthodox Church?, Unity and Autocephaly: Mutually Exclusive?, The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church; Catholicism: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 74, 75-79, 80-83.
  64. Mark 14:22-24; Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20
  65. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
  66. Come Hither (London: Wertheim, Macintosh, and Hunt 1863), p. 7
  67. George Huntston Williams, The Radical Reformation (Truman State University Press 1992 ISBN 978-0-940474-15-4)
  68. The Sacrament of the Holy Communion
  69. Matthew Henry, A Commentary upon the Holy Bible (Religious Tract Society, London 1835), p.. 155
  70. Online version
  71. Vincent's Word Studies
  72. The King James Version translators wrote: "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27, emphasis added), but the word in the original Greek text is ἤ (or), not καί (and).
  73. Note on verse 27
  74. Haydock's Commentary
  75. The Holy Eucharist
  76. Utraquism
  77. The Synod of Jerusalem and the Confession of Dositheus, A.D. 1672
  78. "The Holy Orthodox Church at the Synod of Jerusalem (date 1643 A.D.) used the word metousiosis--a change of ousia--to translate the Latin Transubstantiatio" (Transubstantiation and the Black Rubric).
  79. Confession of Dositheus (emphasis added) The Greek text is quoted in an online extract from the 1915 book "Μελέται περί των Θείων Μυστηρίων" (Studies on the Divine Mysteries/Sacraments) by Saint Nektarios.
  80. [Catherine Roth, St. Theodore the Studite, On the Holy Icons, Crestwood 1981, 30.]
  81. The Declaration of Assent
  82. Transubstantiation and the Black Rubric by the Catholic Propaganda Society within the Church of England
  83. Pro Unione Web Site - Full Text ARCIC Eucharist
  84. Pro Unione Web Site - Full Text ARCIC Elucidation Eucharist
  85. Eucharist 2
  86. Luther, Martin (1537), Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article VI. Of the Sacrament of the Altar, stating: "As regards transubstantiation, we care nothing about the sophistical subtlety by which they teach that bread and wine leave or lose their own natural substance, and that there remain only the appearance and color of bread, and not true bread. For it is in perfect agreement with Holy Scriptures that there is, and remains, bread, as Paul himself calls it, 1 Cor. 10:16: The bread which we break. And 1 Cor. 11:28: Let him so eat of that bread."
  87. 87.0 87.1 Brug, J.F. (1998), The Real Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in The Lord’s Supper:: Contemporary Issues Concerning the Sacramental Union, pp2-4
  88. 88.0 88.1 Schuetze, A.W. (1986), Basic Doctrines of the Bible (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House), Chapter 12, Article 3
  89. "Real Presence: What is really the difference between "transubstantiation" and "consubstantiation"?". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 27 Sep 2009. Retrieved 4 Feb 2015. We reject transubstantiation because the Bible teaches that the bread and the wine are still present in the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 11:27-28). We do not worship the elements because Jesus commands us to eat and to drink the bread and the wine. He does not command us to worship them.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  90. "Real Presence: Why not Transubstantiation?". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 27 Sep 2009. Retrieved 4 Feb 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  91. VII. The Lord's Supper: Affirmative Theses, Epitome of the Formula of Concord, 1577, stating that: "We believe, teach, and confess that the body and blood of Christ are received with the bread and wine, not only spiritually by faith, but also orally; yet not in a Capernaitic, but in a supernatural, heavenly mode, because of the sacramental union"
  92. "Real Presence Communion – Consubstantiation?". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 27 Sep 2009. Retrieved 4 Feb 2015. Although some Lutherans have used the term 'consbstantiation' [sic] and it might possibly be understood correctly (e.g., the bread & wine, body & blood coexist with each other in the Lord's Supper), most Lutherans reject the term because of the false connotation it contains...either that the body and blood, bread and wine come together to form one substance in the Lord’s Supper or that the body and blood are present in a natural manner like the bread and the wine. Lutherans believe that the bread and the wine are present in a natural manner in the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s true body and blood are present in an illocal, supernatural manner.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  93. "This Holy Mystery: Part Two". The United Methodist Church GBOD. Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2013. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  94. McGrath, op.cit., p.199.
  95. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 96
  96. 96.0 96.1 Artist's Text Archived February 3, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  97. [1][dead link]
  98. "There's no need to be afraid of the present". The Independent. London. 2000-11-23. Archived from the original on December 10, 2012. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Burckhardt Neunheuser, "Transsubstantiation." Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, vol. 10, cols. 311-14.
  • Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (1991), pp. 369–419.
  • Otto Semmelroth, Eucharistische Wandlung: Transsubstantation, Transfinalisation, Transsignifikation (Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1967).
  • Richard J. Utz and Christine Batz, "Transubstantiation in Medieval and Early Modern Culture and Literature: An Introductory Bibliography of Critical Studies," in: Translation, Transformation, and Transubstantiation, ed. Carol Poster and Richard Utz (Evanston: IL: Northwestern University Press, 1998), pp. 223–56."

External links