Transubstantiation (letter)

Transubstantiation (letter)

Fr G.H. Duggan SM

It was heartening to read in your March issue of the progress of the movement for Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in various parts of the world.

The basis of the movement is the dogmatic truth of transubstantiation, which the Church defined at the Council of Trent in 1551.

"If anyone shall say that in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of bread and wine remains, together with the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and shall deny that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of bread into body and of the whole substance of wine into blood (the species of bread and wine alone remaining) a conversion that the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema."

After the Second World War, some theologians contended that the term "transubstantiation" should be abandoned, because it was based on an out-of-date medieval philosophy, and we should now use such terms as "transignification" to indicate a change in meaning of the bread and wine, or "transfinalisation" to indicate that they were now being used for a purpose different from their normal one, namely to bring about a union in faith of the believer with Christ.

Pope Paul explicitly rejected these new explanations in his encyclical Mysterium Fidei, issued in 1965, and solemnly reaffirmed the doctrine defined by the Council of Trent.

Unfortunately, there are still some Catholic thinkers who refuse to accept this papal teaching. In a book by a prominent biblical scholar, published in 1996, I read: "Thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, the consecrated bread and wine contain simultaneously their own substance or nature as bread and wine, which remains unchanged, and the divine nature. There is a coexistence of two substances or natures: the substance or nature of the bread and wine, and the divine nature."

And in another place: "It is evident that the consecrated bread remains bread, because if one receives it without faith, it is just ordinary bread."

"Consubstantial" (in Greek homoousios) was the watchword used by loyal Catholics in the fourth century to express their faith in the divinity of Christ. "Transubstantiation" could be their watchword in the 21st to express their faith in his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Upper Hutt, New Zealand

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