The Catholic Anglican View of the Eucharist

Image of an Anglican priest elevating the Host during Mass.

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 Jesus

Justin 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 children

Clement 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 disputes

Ignatius 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 blood

Council 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.

9 thoughts on “The Catholic Anglican View of the Eucharist

  1. If you want recognition of Anglican holy Orders from Rome this type of defense of your own Church’s doctrine is not the best way to do it. Firstly, I have to say I know it can be hard for a devout person (an apologist even) to admit that church doctrine could be wrong. However, sometimes it’s necessary to fulfill our obligation to the truth of the Gospel. Some of the evidence here doesn’t support your conclusion.
    Simply put arguing what you did in “In Defense of Anglican Holy Orders Against Rome” about the Lutheran understanding of the Eucharist (as the intention of the Anglican church in the 1550s) and then turning around and saying that the bread and wine do not transubstantiate is actually a contradiction. Doesn’t it say somewhere in your own 39 Articles that no church teaching not even the solemn definition of an ecumenical Council can actually be infallible?
    If that’s really so then by their own logic the 39 Articles can certainly contain mistakes and incorrect judgments on very important doctrines as I truly perceive them to contain. To me “transubstantiation is just a scientific or logical way of explaining the words of the Gospel “This is my body”…” I understand that it’s tide up with Aristotle’s understanding of physics and metaphysics.
    Even if Ignatius of Antioch called both the bread and the wine “bread” and “wine” after the consecration it doesn’t disprove that he could have subscribed to the essentials of transubstantiation. Furthermore, because your interpretation of the Fragments hinges on one or two words and how close they written to each other it’s very possible that he was only suggesting that what appears to be bread is it actually the body of Christ. This could be true because of some specific detail of how ancient Greek conveys these things when they are put into short sentences. What you quoted from the Liturgy of Saint Mark in fact supports transubstantiation directly and not ambiguously. All that said I really do appreciate the value of the Anglican tradition as both Catholic and reformed.

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    1. Hi! Thanks for your feedback. I think there may be some miscommunication regarding the word “transubstantiation.” Lutherans do not believe in transubstantiation. Many Eastern Orthodox reject that term for various reasons, preferring the term “transmutation” in their western rites.

      Transubstantiation is not equivalent with Real Presence, for Anglicans and Lutherans and Easterns all believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Protestant argument is not that there is no real presence of Christ but that there is real presence of both Jesus Christ and the bread and wine. Dom’s argument, as I understand it, is that the real presence of bread and wine was never understood to be destroyed by the consecration.

      Personally, I am quite comfortable with Aristotilian categories, which is why transubstantiation (the destruction of the substances of bread and wine) is such a problem. It is the very nature of an accident to exist in a substance. Transubstantiation results in a contradiction of terms. If you say that an accident subsists in nothing, then you are just redefining accident as substance.

      Regarding the liturgy, in the Liturgy of St. Mark, after the consecration and the epiklesis, it reads “[the priest] takes the bread into his hands.” And that’s a very common thing, to call this consecrated bread “bread.” Later the priest calls it “holy bread.” Now, if you assume transubstantiation, you can come up with numerous ways to explain it away. However, transubstantiation could never be derived logically from the plain sense of the words used by the Fathers and the ancient liturgies.

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  2. Transubstantiation is definitely not repugnant to Scripture.
    “GENERAL Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.”

    So in other words the Church of England is a scripture alone Church without any charism of infallibility to answer questions definitively. Is it fair to say that, “unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture” means that no anathema from a general counsel could ever truly settle a discussion?
    https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/book-common-prayer/articles-religion#XXI

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    1. I really appreciate you reading our confessions. Though, I think you misunderstand sola scriptura. Sola scriptura does not destroy true councils or authentic tradition. Instead, it asserts that Scripture is the sole God-breathed and, therefore, inerrant rule of faith for the Catholic Church. It also means that all doctrine must be grounded in the Scriptures. As St. Paul teaches, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-7) While St. Paul demands obedience to the discipline he lays down and to his oral instructions (such as in 2 Thess. 2:15), only Scripture is ever called God-breathed and the Word of God (this is replete in the Old Testament and the Psalms more than the New Testament). It is interesting, because it creates this Trinitarian imagery. The Scriptures are given by the Father, through His Word (the Son), by means of His breath (the Holy Spirit).

      This is the teaching of the Fathers. For example, St. Vincent of Lérins teaches, “the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient.” (Commonitory, par. 5) St. Athanasius also teaches, “to be sure, the sacred and divinely inspired Scriptures are sufficient for the exposition of the truth.” (Contra Gentes, par. 1). This patristic teaching is largely carried through the scholastics. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, “sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities [philosophers] as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof.” (ST I, art. 84)

      This chief position of the Scriptures does not destroy the councils, for the rule of faith still needs to be understood in a certain mode. For example, catholic consent (the Church agreeing always, everywhere, and by all) is based on the Scriptural promise of Our Lord that the Holy Ghost will guide the Catholic Church. Therefore, where there is catholic consent on a doctrine, it is properly called a dogma, and the catholic consent is considered infallible. This is found most excellently in ecumenical councils. Of course, in history, there have been general councils which are not ecumenical in the true, catholic sense. The classic example is Ephesus II. It is interesting that in the last few of the seven ecumenical councils, they still refer to the ecumenical Council of Ephesus as “the first council of Ephesus.” They recognise that the general council of Ephesus II really happened, but it was a robber council and so should be rejected for its infidelity to the Scriptures. We would view the Council of Trent in a similar way.

      I hope that addresses your concerns.

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  3. “Simply put arguing what you did in “In Defense of Anglican Holy Orders Against Rome” about the Lutheran understanding of the Eucharist (as the intention of the Anglican church in the 1550s) and then turning around and saying that the bread and wine do not transubstantiate is actually a contradiction”

    In your formidable piece on Anglican holy Orders “In Defense of Anglican Holy Orders Against Rome” you cited Bishop John Overall as expressing a key aspect of the Anglican church’s understanding of the Eucharist as it relates to the intention to transmit the same kind of priestly ordination as during the Middle Ages.

    “And herein we follow the Fathers, who after consecration would not suffer it to be called Bread and Wine any longer, but the Body and Blood of Christ…It is confessed by all Divines, that upon the words of the Consecration, the Body and Blood of Christ is really and substantially present, and so exhibited and given to all that receive it, and all this not after a physical and sensual, but after an heavenly and incomprehensible manner. But there yet remains this controversy among some of them, whether the Body of Christ be present only in the use of the Sacrament, and in the act of eating, and not otherwise. They that hold the affirmative, as the Lutherans (in Confess. Sax.) and all Calvinists, do seem to me to depart from all Antiquity, which place the presence of Christ in the virtue and benediction used by the Priest, and not in the use of eating the Sacrament”

    “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.” “The Catholic Anglican View of the Eucharist”
    So how is that not a contradiction? Personally, I’m in favor of recognizing the Anglican priesthood as just as valid as our priesthood. But it gets harder when this type of contradiction is present and inherent in your catechism.

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    1. There is not agreement amongst Anglicans about the mode of Jesus Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Some believe in substantial presence, others do not. Though, they all believe in real presence. I think Christian, in his article on orders, was trying to show how Leo XIII’s view of the Anglicans of the 16th century as being “bare memorialists” is absurd.

      Regarding what Dom said in this article, it seems to be an issue with replacing the bread and wine’s substance. He may not believe in substantial presence. I’m not sure.

      Regarding your comment on our catechism, where does our catechism deny substantial presence?

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      1. Yes that does clarify things. I’m sorry I didn’t investigate the Liturgy of Saint Mark instead I just went off of knee jerk apologetic assumptions.
        “Regarding your comment on our catechism, where does our catechism deny substantial presence?”
        I’m referring to the 39 Articles as your catechism.

        “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.”

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  4. I will try to summarize my personal thoughts about consubstantiation as an expression of the real presence. Probably the main problem I have here in practice is that the Anglican church as far as I know is not proposing any interpretation of our Lord’s words regarding the real presence as definitive. Are Anglicans required to believe that the 39 Articles are infallible in the same way that the cannons of First Nicaea and Chalcedon are thought to be infallible in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches?

    Consubstantiation is a different way of looking at the real presence than Transubstantiation. As far as I know Lutherans and some Anglicans believe in Consubstantiation. Consubstantiation essentially states that symbolic bread and wine are present alongside Christ who is also sacramentally present so that his flesh and blood are consumed in some mysterious way.
    Catholic theologians like Father Robert Spitzer have said that Transubstantiation makes a much bolder claim that the substance of the bread and wine disappear and are replaced with the substance of the body and blood of Christ.

    At the deepest philosophical level, from my point of view, the term Consubstantiation can be interpreted in two different ways. First, it could be an attempt to deny the fullness of the Real Presence by saying that the bread and wine are primarily symbolic, and Jesus Christ is present in the spirit when his people gather to remember him. It seems likely to me that this was basically Philip Melanchthon’s understanding of Consubstantiation. And his view has been vastly influential in the Protestant churches. I think that Fr. Martin Luther would have been extremely upset if he knew what Phillip had done to their Church’s understanding of the Eucharist (and he probably was upset in the afterlife).

    Second, I think that someone who believes in Consubstantiation may in fact believe in substantially the same article of faith as Transubstantiation but use different sets of or interpretations of philosophical categories. In my opinion this is likely what Martin Luther originally meant by Consubstantiation. For example, where Transubstantiation refers to the “accidents” of bread and wine such a person who professes this version of Consubstantiation may be looking at the “accidents” with their molecules, sight and taste and identifying them as a true substance because they have observable structural form and effects. In which case it becomes a philosophical argument more than a heretical doctrine.

    As far as Aristotle’s physical categories (which I’m less familiar with) the eucharistic presence is a miracle so the normal logical rules that we use to identify contradictions in metaphysics might not apply. Therefore, since clearly Transubstantiation offers a logical explanation, I don’t see why Anglicans cannot consider it a valid explanation if they’re so inclined. I’m truly hoping that the validity of the Eucharist and priestly ordination doesn’t depend upon the head of a Church or the author of an ordination rite e.g. Thomas Cranmer using the right words to correctly express with precision the best school of thought regarding the “mode” of Christ’s presence.

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    1. I appreciate your care for what must be foreign categories to you and other Roman Catholics.

      Anglicans generally accept the 39 Articles, though they are not infallible, since infallibility is wrought by the Holy Ghost bringing the Catholic Church to consent on a doctrine, and that has not happened with all of the articles. The 39 Articles is more analogous to the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the documents of Vatican Council II than an ex cathedra definition.

      I think you’ve struck at the issue the Church has been discerning since its beginning: what is the Eucharist? Except for some radical sects, everyone believes in the Real Presence of Christ. However, the mode and method of that presence, especially in relation to its sacramental sign of bread, is difficult to discern and articulate.

      If we love the Eucharist (and I think we all do), then we should try to coherently and logically explain it, if we dare try to. Transubstantiation ascribes a true contradiction to the Eucharist, which is hardly worthy of the mystery of faith. On a most basic level, it is sufficient for me to say that a sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace and that the outward sign is efficacious. So, the bread really makes present efficaciously the Body of Christ. Therefore, to deny that there is any bread there (but merely the qualities or appearances of bread) denies the very instrument by which the Body of Christ is made present.

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