Needing to instruct the faithful in England, the Ecclesia Anglicana upheld the ancient, Scriptural doctrine regarding the Eucharist that
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ. 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 Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.Article 28
The article references St. Paul’s description of the Eucharist in Scripture:
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 Cor. 10:16
It is by means of the bread and the wine that the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ are made present to His Church. This is the catholic doctrine of the Eucharist, as is seen when examining the Church Fathers.
The Real Presence of Christ in the Fathers
There is truly no shortage of quotes from the early patristics that unequivocally disprove a minimalist view of the Eucharist. There is no question that the early church fathers believed that Christ was really, truly present in the Eucharist.
We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated JesusJustin Martyr, First Apology 66
Not only do we have a mention of the real presence, but we also have a mention of who the Eucharist can be administered to. Only those who believe the orthodox position and have also been baptized can receive the true flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
Justin describes the Eucharist as “not common bread nor common drink”. This phrase is describing the actual bread and wine, not just the spirit of the sacrament. The bread and wine and the Body and Blood of Christ, and for this we celebrate and give thanks, hence the term “Eucharist” which is derived from the Greek word thanksgiving. This does not make sense on a memorialist view.
Eat my flesh,’ [Jesus] says, ‘and drink my blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his childrenClement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3
After quoting Christ’s command to drink His blood, he then says that the Lord has supplied us with these nutrients. It seems clear that the nutrients are not those of a bite of unleavened bread and a sip of wine. These nutrients are that of the true Body and Blood of Christ that is sufficient for the growth of his children. He is administering grace through the sacrament, through his Body and Blood.
Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputesIgnatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1
Not only do we get the real presence here, but we also get a little deeper into catholic eucharistology. The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of our Lord sacrificed for us. It is this act of ultimate sacrifice that saves us, and it is the act that makes the Eucharist meaningful. Not only is Christ present, but the very Christ who endured unspeakable torture, agony, and a criminal’s death for us is truly, and really present. The Eucharist comes from and is oriented towards the once-for-all accomplished sacrifice on Calvary.
The Real Presence of Bread in the Fathers
While the Fathers strongly taught that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are truly present in the Eucharist, they equally taught the the natural substances, bread and wine, were also present.
For example, St. Irenaeus (d. 202) argues that since the new covenant, being different from the old covenant, commands a spiritual and true worship,
the oblation of the Eucharist is not a carnal one, but a spiritual; and in this respect it is pure. For we make an oblation to God of the bread and the cup of blessing, giving Him thanks in that He has commanded the earth to bring forth these fruits for our nourishment. And then, when we have perfected the oblation, we invoke the Holy Spirit, that He may exhibit this sacrifice, both the bread the body of Christ, and the cup the blood of Christ, in order that the receivers of these antitypes may obtain remission of sins and life eternal. Those persons, then, who perform these oblations in remembrance of the Lord, do not fall in with Jewish views, but, performing the service after a spiritual manner, they shall be called sons of wisdom.St. Irenaeus, Fragments 37
Here, St. Irenaeus maintains the catholic balance. While we do not want to deny that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, at the same time, it is truly bread and wine. It is truly spiritual.
St. Irenaeus, likewise, elsewhere expounds on this reality in the Eucharist. He recounts an event when catechumens (those not baptised and so not yet communed), under torture, said
that they had heard from their masters that the divine communion was the body and blood of Christ, and imagining that it was actually flesh and blood, gave their inquisitors answer to that effect.St. Irenaeus, Fragments 13
St. Irenaeus corrects their misconception, and quotes St. Blandina who, under torture by men who wanted to know if the catechumens were correct, said,
How should those persons endure such [accusations], who, for the sake of the practice [of piety], did not avail themselves even of the flesh that was permitted [them to eat]?St. Irenaeus, Fragments 13
To these Christians, it was a confusion to think that the Eucharist was without the bread and wine. The point of the sacraments is to administer the grace of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. God did not make the sacraments to overtake or destroy the symbols from nature, they were to work alongside these natural symbols.
This is seen especially in the early church’s liturgies. For example, in the Liturgy of St. Mark, the priest prays
Send down upon us also and upon this bread and upon these chalices Your Holy Spirit, that by His all-powerful and divine influence He may sanctify and consecrate them, and make this bread the body.Liturgy of St. Mark
Given all of these, it seems more likely that these Christians did not believe that the substances of bread and wine were changed. It is this mystery that the Ecclesia Anglicana teaches and reinforces in Article XXVIII. It is also reinforced in her liturgy.
There are several places in the Holy Communion service where we affirm the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In the Oblation, which we say right after the anamnesis, we describe the Eucharist as a memorial, but not merely a memorial. We thank God for the innumerable benefits that the Eucharist itself gives us. In the Invocation or epiclesis, we ask the Holy Ghost to bless the bread and wine, the priest saying,
And we most humbly beseech thee, O merciful Father, to hear us; and, of thy almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.Holy Communion from the 1928 BCP
We then say that we are partakers of Christ’s Body and Blood. Then while the priest distributes the Eucharist, he says,
The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.Holy Communion from the 1928 BCP
This continues the catholic theological and liturgical tradition from Scripture and the Fathers unto today. It is clear that the early church fathers believed in a real presence in the Eucharist. It is also clear that there are early church fathers who did not believe in transubstantiation. This is the beauty of Anglicanism, the via media. We embrace the early, catholic patristics that better support the Anglican view than it does the Zwinglian or the Roman Catholic view. The catholicity found in the Anglican tradition is not found in the Roman Catholic church or other Protestant traditions. In opposition to this, the Roman Church’s claims that the substances of bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, with the accidents (or qualities) of the bread and wine subsisting in nothing. This is not a development of the patristic doctrine but an innovation.
Transubstantiation: A Novel Explanation
There were some theologians who did teach transubstantiation, but they came along around a millennium after Christ. Nowhere is transubstantiation explicitly taught until around the 10th century. Yet, the Roman church teaches that
…it has always been the conviction of the Church of God and this holy Council now declares again, 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 bloodCouncil of Trent, Decree on the Sacrament of the Eucharist, D. 1642
The Roman church has to prove that it has always been the conviction of the church that transubstantiation is the correct view of the Eucharist. So any example that can be provided that disproves this is enough to show that the Roman conception is incorrect. Any one of the previous examples suffices. To try to maintain the teaching, some argue that the Scriptures and St. Paul only speak of bread qua accidens but not qua substantia. However, not only is that distinction absent from the Fathers, their words, such as St. Irenaeus’, lose their meaning if they were speaking qua accidens merely. Instead, these explanations are ad hoc attempts to insert a later innovation into earlier texts which knew nothing of it.
Transubstantiation: The Useless Miracle
Furthermore, the miracle of transubstantiation is useless. One of the primary purposes of miracles is as a way of evangelization. During Christ’s ministry, he performed countless miracles in public. He could have done so privately, but he chose to do so where many people would see and have the ability to see His miracles. However, transubstantiation is not one of these, partly because there is no way of verifying it. We can see when someone is healed, or when water is turned to wine, or when someone walks on water, but we do not see any change in the bread and wine in the Eucharist.
Not only can we not verify it, but it doesn’t even do anything that the Anglican view cannot do. It is useless as an effectual help. It would be like destroying the water of Baptism in order to emphasise the regenerating grace. The miracle of having Christ’s Body and Blood substantially there, instead of the bread and wine, does not do anything that the Anglican view does not do, and one could argue it is less effective. Because of the focus on the bread and wine, it draws our attention away from what God is doing in us through the sacrament. If a sacrament is supposed to move the Christian from the sacrament to God, transubstantiation forces man to stay at the sacrament and not ascend up, so to say.
Now, some faithful Roman Catholics will point to a plethora of Eucharistic miracles where the bread is tested and seen to be the flesh of a heart in peril. This does not disprove the previous point for two reasons. Firstly, this is a divergence from the norm of transubstantiation. The reason we can see these miracles is that they are different from what happens every Sunday morning. It is not transubstantiation. The doctrine of transubstantiation states that the accidens stays the same. In these instances, the accidens is different. It is not an example of transubstantiation.
But, for the sake of argument, let us consider that these are true instances of transubstantiation. Miracles happen to certain people in order to draw them closer to God. Someone may see this miracle and see it as evidence for God, and become Roman Catholic. Obviously, Roman Catholicism is better than Atheism, so God performs miracles for certain people depending on their current relationship with Him. Seeing this miracle may have been the one thing needed in order to bring that person to God. They see this miracle, which is not what happens every Sunday morning, and begin their journey with God. It is perfectly within God’s nature to do this, but it is obviously not what happens every Sunday morning.
Is there anything in the Anglican view that Rome would deny? They believe Christ is truly present and that the Holy Spirit is effectually working through the sacrament. So they would not deny any part of the Anglican view, they would just add the changing of the substance. What is the actual purpose of this? If the Anglican view has a real presence of Christ through which his grace is administered, what is the need for Christ’s substance? At best this does nothing other than offer a faulty and highly questionable mechanism through which God’s grace is given. At worst it diverts our attention from what is truly happening.
The miracle that Roman Catholics claim happens is a useless miracle. There is no sign that we can use as a devotional tool. They are still looking at bread and wine. It may help them to believe Christ is really present, but effectually this is no different than the Anglican view. In addition to this, the instances that seem to validate their claim are noteven instances of transubstantiation.
Transubstantiation: “Overthroweth the Nature of a Sacrament”
Another reason that transubstantiation does not make sense is that the nature of transubstantiation is not that of any other sacrament. In transubstantiation, it is the elements themselves that administer the grace rather than God, This is not like any of the other sacraments. The Anglican Catechism, following the catholic tradition of Sts. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, explains the Scriptures well when it teaches that a sacrament is
an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us; ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.Anglican Catechism in 1928 BCP
The outward sign does not itself give the grace but is the means by which God gives the grace. So, for example, in Baptism, it is not the water that cleanses us from original sin. It is the act performed by the Holy Spirit. It is not the sacraments themselves that give grace, it is God, through the natural signs, that affects our soul. God’s grace perfects nature, it does not destroy it. The water is the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace. Likewise, it is not the bread and wine themselves that confer grace even after consecration. Just as The Holy Spirit is truly and literally present at baptism, the water is not substantially the Holy Spirit. Christ is truly and literally in the Eucharist, but the bread and wine are not substantially Christ’s Body and Blood. This is the same with the other five sacraments of the Church.
Martin Luther’s Objection
The last thing I will bring up as a refutation to transubstantiation is Martin Luther’s criticism of this doctrine. In his work, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, he points out that according to Aristotelian metaphysics (on which the Roman view of transubstantiation hinges) transubstantiation must also be accompanied by “transaccidentation.” According to Aristotelian metaphysics, substance is
that which is neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject.Aristotle, Categories Chapter 4
Accidens, on the other hand, only exist by existing in a substantia. For example, white only exists inasmuch as it exists in paper or wood or man. Therefore, Aristotle reasons,
Everything except primary substances is either predicable of a primary substance or present in a primary substance.Aristotle, Categories Chapter 4
The accidens is the attributes or characteristics of the non-physical substance. The substance manifests itself and interacts through the accidens. The substance is truly what that thing is. A dog has a certain substance that can manifest itself with different accidens. There are dogs that have different accidens, but they are all truly dogs. For a substance to exist, it has to manifest its specific accidens. The accidens is inextricably tied to the substance. Since the accidens of bread are a manifestation of the substance of bread, a change in the substance to the Body of Christ requires a change in accidens to the Body of Christ.
While some might argue that transubstantiation is simply a miracle, it is contrary to God’s nature to uphold a contradiction. If, according to transubstantiation, the accidens of bread inheres in nothing, then God would be contradicting the very nature and definition of an accidens. In fact, what Rome calls an accidens “is neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject” (Categories 4). Therefore, by definition, it must be a substantia.