The Roman Catholic Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation: the bread and wine literally become the blood and body of Christ during the giving of the sacrament. (n.b. I know some devout Catholics who don't believe this. They aren't exactly devout then, are they?)

Luther (and I presume Lutherans) however held a subtly different belief called consubstantiation. He believed that although the Real Presence of Christ is present in the bread and wine, it is only there in essence. I believe Luther likened it to the heat within an iron bar.

I knew studying the Reformation would be useful sometime :)

To speak technically, transubstantiation is no more literal than consubstantiation; rather, the whole argument has to do with how the Christ nature and the Bread/Wine nature "share each other."

In transsubstantiation, the bread and wine are truly transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. That is what they are. But of course it still looks/smells/tasks like bread and wine, so they retain their original appearance. People have tried to disprove transusbstantiation by looking at a host under a microscope; nice try. God is smarter than that :-).

In consubstantiation, after the consecration, the bread and wine are truly, literally, the Body and Blood of Christ. They are, at the same time, also bread and wine (Catholics believe this ceases to be). They are consubstantial.

While many Catholics don't believe in transubstantiation, it is a binding belief on all the faithful, and they are supposed to try. Consubstantiation, while still believed by many Lutherans, is not what most of the Lutherans I know believe -- but they have no binding beliefs, I guess.



An identity or union of substance.

2. Theol.

The actual, substantial presence of the body of Christ with the bread and wine of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; impanation; -- opposed to transubstantiation.

⇒ This view, held by Luther himself, was called consubstantiation by non Lutheran writers in contradistinction to transsubstantiation, the Catholic view.


© Webster 1913.

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