The Most Holy Eucharist: As Transubstantiation

By Rev. Fr. Oliver Onah

Oge odudo di aso gasia, achicha anaghi abuzi achicha o buru Aru Jeso, mmanya aburozi mmanya o buru Obara Jeso. This is the teaching of the Catechism, the eternal and living faith of the Church.

With the word, "Transubstantiation" (tran-sub-stantia), we confess that, when the minister of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the priest or bishop, in the person of Jesus Christ, invokes the intercession of the Holy Spirit and with the same words of the Institution, "the substance of the bread" becomes the Body of Jesus Christ, and the "substance of the wine" becomes the Blood of Jesus Christ.

What do we mean by the term substance? Substance simply put is the true nature of a thing which is invisible to the biological eye. It is the thing (quiddity) that makes a thing what it is, without which that thing cannot be. It is the 'heart', soul and kpim of a thing.

It gives form and existence to a thing. Remove it, that thing ceases to exist. For instance, we are human beings because we have in us the substance of human beings. A goat is a goat because it has in it the substance of a goat. Likewise, every other thing that is. In the consecration of the Altar bread and wine, the intrinsic transformation of these natural elements, the bread in Body and wine in Blood of Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church calls it "Transubstantiation".

It is not a "Consubstantiation" which according to the errors of Martin Luther the heretic states that "the substances of bread and wine exist conjointly with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ". Also, it is not "Impanation" which according to the errors of Guitmund of Aversa, "Jesus Christ and the substance of the bread are united by a Hypostatic Union".

Transubstantiation on the contrary is a change or transformation that happens at the heart or substance of the bread and wine such that what we still see as physical bread and wine are really no more so, though in appearances are coated with the accident elements of bread and wine. The change is ontological and permanently irreversible.

The substance is gone and permanently replaced by a spiritual substance, the Body and Blood of Christ. This is so true that J. Betz in his article on the Eucharist argues, "A mere 'transignification or transformation', by which bread and wine receive a new signification as signs of the self-dedication of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, are not enough to explain the Eucharist. On the contrary, the new significance and purpose of the sign comes from the fact that it contains, by virtue of transubstantiation, a new ontic reality" (J. Betz, "Eucharist" in Sacramentum Mundi, vol. 2, 1968, pp. 257-266).

The Church rather accepts the term "Transmutation" (GS., 38). Transubstantiation has as effect, the real, true and substantial presence of Jesus Christ in His Body and in His Blood entirely in the elements of the Bread and of wine (cf Denz., 335, 430, 465, 1529). Transubstantiation is a marvelous and unique conversion (Denz., 884).

In a passive sense, conversion designates the transition of one thing into another thing. Consider a "Terminus a quo" (a point of departure which ceases to be) and a Terminus ad quem" (a point of arrival or destination which commences to be). But both termini must be positive Being because the conversion in question is different from creation (creatio) which has a negative terminus a qou and destruction and a negative terminus ad quem.

Looking at the whole which is present, before as well as after the conversion, one speaks of a "terminus totalis a qou" (bread and wine), and a "terminus totalis ad quem" (the Body and Blood of Christ with the accidents of bread and wine). Well, when one considers that which ceases to be, and that which commences to be, one speaks of a terminus formalis a quo (the substance of bread and wine), and a terminus formalis ad quem (the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ) [cf Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Illionis, Tan Books and Publishers Inc. 1960, p.380).

The Eucharistic conversion is so unique that it has no analogue either in the natural or supernatural order and so is rightly and justly designated by the special name- "Transubstantiation". This truth compounds all the more, the doubts and confusions of heretics and Protestants. The power that effects this conversion is implicitly contained in the words of the Institution uttered by Jesus Christ.

On the ground of His Eternal Divine veracity and Omnipotence, we infer from His words that a change has really occurred; a change that affected only the substance of the bread and wine while the accidents continued to exist. As it happened at the Last Supper, so it happens now since it is the activity of the same God that continues in His validly ordained ministers that act in the person of Christ and in the name of the Church.

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