What is the difference between transubstantiation and real presence in the Eucharist?

In reading Aquinas, he seems to say that the bread and wine are representative of the remembrance of the act performed by Christ, but that when received, they are transformed into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (and given what we know about the nature of energy and matter, that makes sense) which feeds our own spirits.  That we are not able to perceive the difference through our own senses makes no difference to the fact that they are transformed.

In reading Newman (Tract 90), he rejects the concept that the bread and wine are transformed, but believes that through remembrance, Christ is present with us in the act of Eucharist, and His real presence is what feeds us.  He emphasizes that “locality” is in terms of God’s understanding and not human understanding.

I don’t think that Newman’s opinion negates Aquinas, but then I don’t see the Eucharist as merely a “symbol” either.  I don’t tend to be one to limit God’s abilities.

Sacraments are held as outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace given by Christ.

Part of the question, I think, has to do with whether the bread and wine are transformed prior to ingestion by the recipient, or whether that is an individual transformation that takes place in the heart of the receiver.  There are those who feel the nature of the priest is of primary importance in this change, and others who feel that it is more despite the nature of the priest, and because of the belief of the receiver.

Adding on 3/6/18:

I found the excellent explanation on transubstantiation my professor gave:  We have substance and we have accidents. Accidents are all the qualities of the thing that are part of it but aren’t totally necessary. Substance is like the thing’s “-ness”. Kind of like adjectives vs nouns.

Take this chair. (grabs chair) We can see that this chair is made out of metal, plastic, cloth, has different colors, etc. But it’s a chair, right? (right).

Take this other chair. (grabs other, different-looking chair) It’s made of wood, different colors, has a desk attached to it, etc. It’s WAY different than the first chair, but we still know that both of them are chairs. We have this idea in our minds of what a chair is, we have this understanding of “chair-ness” that we agree on, that exists, but isn’t totally dependent on what’s in front of us. That “Chair-ness” is the substance, the materials are the accidents.

In the Eucharist, we have substance and we have accidents. The accidents are the hosts and the wine mixed with a little water. The mystery of the Eucharist is that the accidents don’t change, but the substance does. It may have all the appearances of bread and wine, but it’s “breadness” and “wineness” are gone, replaced with “Jesus-ness.” And we can’t say it’s both bread and Jesus, because there’s no “bread-ness” left. The “-ness” is what we all agree actually makes the thing a thing, not the accidents.


2 thoughts on “Transubstantiation

  1. I think it all comes down to belief of the person receiving. I can remember for years, feeling like I was just to unworthy of the sacraments. And then I had an epiphany and realized that I was insulting our Christ by not accepting this wonderful gift he had provided for us as believers. He died for MY sins. What a loving Father we have.

    • It’s kind of interesting – I actually addressed that last week in the church blog – that the grace supplied by God through his sacraments is only half of the gift. The other half is acceptance, thanks, and *doing* something with the grace to show the thanks. John 4:11-12: “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love on another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”

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