The process by which the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ for the sacrament of Eucharist. This is a major difference between Catholics and Protestants. The Protestants do not believe in transsubstantiation; that is to say, they believe that the bread and wine only symbolize body and blood. The Catholics, on the other hand, believe that the bread and wine are literally changed into flesh and blood.

Let us not forget where this idea comes from and explain WHY transubstantiation is a valid system for those who believe in God. The belief comes from the works of Aristotle and how the essence of an object can change in several ways. Transubstantiation is the last step in the
system and perhaps the most important. It looks past the physical and at what the object really is. Hence how the bread and wine are actually in essence the body and
blood of Christ. If it is just a symbol why would Jesus, according to the gospels have not said: "This is like my body sort of I guess if you want it to be so." No he
said: "This is my body and this is my blood." This is what a Catholic priest would say when asked the question. It is really a metaphysical belief and when thought
about is becomes valid. For example if one really believes that a can of Coca-Cola is Pepsi then the essence of it has changed for that individual and they will be
drinking Pepsi in their reality.

*Please note for a non-Christian this will be considered bunk in the highest degree. Yet the theory itself is valid even in non-theological terms.*

More formally, transubstatiation can be explained by distinguishing between form and substance. Transubstantiation is simply a process where the substance changes, but not the form. However, it must be stressed that the terms form and substance are not used in the modern sense of shape and material. These terms are used in the context of Aritstoelian/Scholastic metphysics.

Contrary to bigeldac's comment, transsubstantiation is not caused by belief. That is, even if I really believe that can of Coke is really Pepsi, that can is no less a can of Coke than it was before. It is the Catholic's belief, however, that by the grace of God, when the priest utters the words of the sacrament, the substance of the bread and wine become body and blood of Christ---whether one chooses to believe it or not. That is why it's considered a miracle.

There have been cases where reportedly, the (form of the) bread actually changed to real flesh, and the wine, blood. Although I am a Catholic, somehow the idea grosses me out.

Matthew 14:22-25 (NIV):
22While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."
23Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
24"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. 25"I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."
Transubstantiation is the Roman Catholic belief that, during communion, the bread and wine, upon consecration, literally become the "body" and "blood" of Jesus Christ, although the physical qualities of the materials, such as the taste and fragrance, do not appear to change; the theological belief is based on the Church's scholarly interpretation of the Biblical verses quoted above.

The doctrine of transubstantiation was first adopted by the church at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and was re-affirmed in 1551 at the The Council of Trent. Sadly, it was also at this Council that a portion of the doctrine was written as such that it has developed as a major rift between Catholic and Protestant branches of the church. In particular, it was stated in Session 13, Canon 2 that:
If anyone says 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 denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema. 1

It should, at this point, be noted that the concept of transubstantiation differs from many Protestant beliefs that the bread and wine are, to varying degrees, symbolic. Thus, the significance in the above quote is that, due to this decree, non-Catholic believers are considered persona non grata at a Catholic Mass -- a decision that, in a time where we are seeing churches of various beliefs reuniting, is still an unfortunate schism that has not been resolved, and doesn't look to be, any time soon.

Works Referenced and Cited
1"Orthodoxy and Transubstantiation" :

The NIV Biblical translation, including the portions quoted above, are © Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Tran`sub*stan`ti*a"tion (?), n. [LL. transubstantiatio: cf. F. transsubstantiation.]


A change into another substance.

2. R. C. Theol.

The doctrine held by Roman Catholics, that the bread and wine in the Mass is converted into the body and blood of Christ; -- distinguished from consubstantiation, and impanation.


© Webster 1913.

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