A concern with Transubstantiation

Recently during a lecture referring to the change of the elements of the eucharist, a concern came to mind regarding the doctrine of transubstantiation. The concern is not whether there is a change of the elements into the body and blood of Christ but the implications of the specific teaching regarding the change of substance:

The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, 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. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”

This can be understood to mean that while the appearances of the bread and wine (to be understood as wine mixed with water) remain those of bread and wine the substance of the bread and of the wine is no longer that of bread and wine but that of the body and the blood of Christ respectively. In other words it is as if the substance of bread has been replaced by the body and similarly the wine by blood. The bread and wine cease to be bread and wine and become something else. While this supports that the bread and wine have now become the body and blood of Christ, this doctrine raises a concern.

What is this concern? Considering the symbolism of the offering, the bread and wine are not merely offered as bread and wine in and of themselves but are also offered as Christ and as us. They are an offering that is at least symbolically connected to the offering of the Lord’s body and blood and also our own body and blood. Keeping in mind that transubstantiation requires a change of substance becoming something else from before, although appearing the same, if the bread and wine are the types of the body and blood of the Lord then transubstantiation can lead to the idea that the Lord’s body ceased to be what it was at His sacrifice and was transplanted by a body of another substance at His resurrection, even if keeping its appearance somewhat. In terms of the offering being our body then it would appear that for us to become the body of the Lord, that is the Church, we too must cease to be what we are and have a new substance. However, this contradicts that we know that the Lord’s body now is the same that He had from His mother’s womb; it exists in a different mode of existence but it is still the same body of the same substance. We too will be resurrected in the same body but it will be spiritualised and not existing in the same mode as now. If for the bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ requires them to cease being what they are then it would also require us to cease being what we are to become the body of Christ. This does not seem consistent with Orthodox liturgical and eschatological theology.

One may argue that our substance is different from bread but the same as the body of Christ so it doesn’t need to be replaced. Only the substance of bread and wine not being that of a human body and blood needs to be replaced by the substance of a human body. Yet, bread and wine are food that sustain our substance, they are made of the same elements and has those things that our body requires to live. Thus, bread and wine don’t have to become something else to sustain our body and blood other than to be processed by our body.

Rather it would be better to say that the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ without ceasing to be bread and wine in substance but as having a new mode of existence. Perhaps, as said above, we should not try to see bread and wine as things completely other than body and blood but that Christ can encompass all matter into His body and that He gives us His body and blood as bread and wine as food, although not ordinary bread and wine but that changed to a new mode of existence by the Holy Spirit. This mode of existence unifies the bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ because there is no division of matter in this mode, although distinctions can remain. As such, this new bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, by the power of the Spirit, while deifying us also unites us in one body without destroying the uniqueness of our own bodies. That is rather than replacing our flesh with that of Christ or by simply connecting our body to that of Christ. The common food is appropriated by each of us as the one body of the Lord yet uniquely to each hypostasis.

So, while the reality of the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is preserved by the doctrine of transubstantiation and it is useful to this extent the teaching that the substance is changed to another substance can lead to false ideas about the eucharist and our deification. It is thought best to say that the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ without defining what happens to the substance; consistency with other theology tends to rather support that the substance does not change rather the mode of existence changes.

Any thoughts and/or opinions from the Fathers?


  1. “Considering the symbolism of the offering, the bread and wine are not merely offered as bread and wine in and of themselves but are also offered as Christ and as us. ”

    I disagree. They are not offered as us. Our deification is by grace given from God, not from our nature or from our substance. Therefore we dont share in the reality of the miracle as you claim.


  2. A few thoughts:

    (1) If Transubstantiation is an uber heresy, then the 1672 Eastern Orthodox Council of Jerusalem (never repudiated and accepted by all the Patriarchs), Decree 17 says:

    In the celebration [of the Eucharist] whereof we believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, nor by a bare presence, as some of the Fathers have said concerning Baptism, or by impanation, so that the Divinity of the Word is united to the set forth bread of the Eucharist hypostatically, as the followers of Luther most ignorantly and wretchedly suppose, but truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin, was baptised in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sitteth at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world.

    Further [we believe] that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, there no longer remaineth the substance of the bread and of the wine, but the Body Itself and the Blood of the Lord, under the species and form of bread and wine; that is to say, under the accidents of the bread.

    It seems unacceptable to suggest Jesus is present ‘along side’ the bread and wine, for that wouldn’t make them the Body and Blood but mere symbols, nor is it acceptable to say Jesus is hypostatically united to bread, nor is it acceptable to suggest the bread and wine undergo a ‘theosis’ for that only applies to humanity. Transubstantiation is the only acceptable answer – even if one prefers not to go into such details.


  3. Hussein, it doesn’t follow that deification by grace precludes sharing in the miracle. Or, at least, you will have to develop your reasoning for your point to stand.


  4. Fr Patrick, here are many theories of transubstantiation in the Catholic Church. Take a look, e.g., at Fr Herbert McCabe’s presentation in his article “Eucharistic Change” (http://goo.gl/w3hXS). Does McCabe’s analysis satisfy some of your concerns?


  5. The Council of Jerusalem’s decrees were not written in English (nor in Latin) — surprise! — and thus rendering the Greek term it used (μεταβολή / metabolē, if I remember correctly) is questionable, at best. I know the papists like to trot out 1672 as ‘proof’ that Orthodox believe in ‘transubstantiation’, but it ain’t so.

    The term μεταβολή (metabolē) is normally translated as ‘change’.


  6. I do not think that the bread and wine are offered as Christ. They are offered as type of Christ. Therefore there is no change from one Christ to another, but from type to reality. If the bread and the wine were Christ from the beginning there would be no need to change into the body and blood of Christ.


  7. This is a protestant eucharistic theology, and it scares me. I would rather be accused of Romish influence than be a protestant.

    I think the word used in the council was metaousios, which literally means change of essence, or transubstantiation.


  8. I never could REALLY understand the difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation when I was a Lutheran. Now as an Orthodox, this is a place where I fall back on that Protestant “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” mindset.

    I don’t know how it happens, I but the Church tells me that this is the body and blood of Christ that I am taking when I am communing. It is with great awe that I approach the chalice. I don’t understand, but “the Church says it, I believe it, that settles it” for me. I accept that it is a mystery that I may never fully understand.


  9. Fr Aidan,

    Thank you for the article. It does go some way to satisfy my concern and provides fairly much the same understanding that I was trying to present.


    Thanks for the thoughts. The bottom line is that the bread and wine mixed with water become the body and blood of Christ objectively. Consubstantiation is not acceptable, which the council quoted was rejecting because the body of Christ is not connected to the bread but the bread itself becomes the body of Christ. While transubstantiation is much closer the concern is that it may create other problems and I don’t think that it is necessary to talk of bread ceasing to be bread but rather body. This can be taken to mean that ordinary bread is replaced by ordinary flesh but hidden to make it palatable. Rather it is suggested that the bread is changed to become heavenly bread, it is no longer ordinary bread, and the heavenly bread, without ceasing to be bread, is the body of Christ, which is not ordinary flesh, without ceasing to be flesh. It is this changed state that removes the division between bread and flesh that we experience with ordinary bread and flesh so we can speak of the same elements being both truly bread and body without contradiction. This is a mystery and how it can be I don’t know and I don’t put this forward as gospel rather to offer alternate way of thinking that removes a symbolic concern with transubstantiation and yet retains the real objective change of the bread and wine mixed with water into the body and blood of Christ.


    I am not suggesting that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ but indeed a type changed to reality. However, symbolism of the offering and the explanation of the change need to be consistent with teaching on theosis and we cannot look at the mystery of the Eucharist in isolation of its symbolic meaning.


  10. Nick,

    First that synod never met the criteria for being an ecumenical council. One reason was that there was no permitted participation or discussion given the Turkish rule. We also have well known Jesuit influence here as well. What matters is not what Catholic terms appear in the statement. What matters is what the Orthodox meant by them. Protestants often use Catholic terms but it in no way follows that the mean what Catholics mean by them. So I’d suggest going and looking at what Orthodox Fathers say about this matter.

    Second, theosis is not just applicable to humanity but to all of creation. If it were so, then Paul’s language about all creation in Romans 8 and Eph 1 would have no place.

    The point is that the divine presence doesn’t entail the elimination of created things because created things are of the eternal logoi. This is why for us God is the formal cause of creatures and why for Catholics he isn’t, and why Transubstantiation entails the obliteration of the essences of the elements and why it doesn’t for us. Added to this such a view on the Catholic side seems to imply significant problems in Christology, namely monophysitism. I’d recommend then coming up to speed on the problem sin medieval Christology from Lombard to Thomas. So no, Transubstantiation is not the only acceptable answer, rather it is an unacceptable answer given the theological deformities it entails.


  11. Great food for thought Fr. Patrick. Here are some patristics.

    Ss. Barsanuphius and John ca. 6th cent.

    Q: A certain Christ-loving man asked the same Elder: Should one be curious about the Mysteries?

    A: When coming into the holy temple to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and when receiving Them, pay heed to yourself that you unfailingly believe the truth of this [Sacrament]. But as to how this happens, do not be curious, as it has been said: “Take, eat, this My Body and Blood.” The Lord gave them to us for the remission of sins (cf. Matt. 26:26-28 and Mk. 14:22-24). We have hope that he who believes thus will not be condemned, but he who does not believe is already condemned. (Guidance Toward Spiritual Life 460)


  12. Hi Perry,

    I’m not sure why it’s an issue that this synod wasn’t an ecumenical council. Even a step down from ecumenical still holds authority, and isn’t this the only level of council the EO have been able to hold since the split? It was accepted by all the Patriarchs and Dositheus is mentioned as a champion of orthodoxy in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy. Since theology is to be studied in a hierarchical fashion, this means unless and until there is an EO document signifying Dositheus was in serious error and to be rejected, it must remain a genuine authoritative decree (otherwise any layman is free to disregard any number of decrees of the last 1000 years).

    The issue of Turkish rule is an interesting one, because since 1453 when the Turks took over Constantinople (up to the present day), they’ve imposed numerous restrictions and persecutions on the Patriarch of Constantinople, basically making him a puppet to their whims. If that’s a concern as far as the 1672 synod goes, then it should be an issue other times as well. The Turks didn’t want East and West uniting, so they intentionally selected only anti-western Patriarchs. In looking into this issue, some have suggested there really isn’t a formalized East-West split at all since Constantinople has basically had no ‘free will’ in this matter for 600 years.

    As far as language being used, it seems like a stretch to say the EO used language such as transubstantiation and accidents, including commentary on what this signified, and yet this is not to be taken as anything close to the same meaning and language and commentary Catholics use. The proximity to the Council of Trent and the very similar language used at times indicates to me that Dositheus had the Decrees of Trent in mind.

    Maybe my language was a bit off when I used the term “theosis,” but what I was getting at is the idea that the bread is ‘divinized’ yet remains bread doesn’t seem acceptable by the Orthodox (and for good reason, that doesn’t make it Christ’s Body). This was not to suggest creation will not be glorified in some sense in the end. I don’t follow your objection to the elimination of created things, when God is free to transform the essence of created things and He does so throughout the Scriptures via miracles (e.g. the water at Cana). If the bread remains in essence while Christ’s presence comes to exist along side, then shouldn’t that require a ‘consubstantiation’?


  13. Fr Patrick, I thought that you might be sympathetic to McCabe’s presentation. He too is critical of some popular views of transubstantiation. As you may have noticed, he in fact avoids saying that the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ. He thinks that such a way of thinking can easily be misunderstood as claiming that the bread and wine become a different kind of this worldly “stuff,” thus contradicting the symbolic and eschatological nature of the Eucharist. Here is the key paragraph:

    “The bread does not turn into the body by acquiring a new form in its matter; the whole existence of the bread becomes the existence of the living body of Christ. The body is not made out of the bread, as ashes are made out of paper by burning it (a chemical change). Something has happened as profoundly different from chemical change as creation is. It is not that the bread has become a new kind of thing in this world: it now belongs to a new world. As far as this world is concerned, nothing seems to have happened, but in fact what we have is not part of this world, it is the Kingdom impinging on our history and showing itself not by appearing in the world but by signs speaking to this world.”

    I have elaborated upon McCabe’s eucharistic theology in a couple of blog articles written when I was a Catholic: http://wp.me/p45Xi-17 and http://wp.me/p45Xi-1b. Certainly I think it is fair to say that McCabe is uncomfortable with popular post-Tridentine articulations of the eucharistic change.

    And lest McCabe be dismissed as a modernist, consider also this passage from the once Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger:

    “What has always mattered to the Church is that a real transformation takes place here. Something genuinely happens in the Eucharist. There is something new there that was not before. Knowing about a transformation is part of the most basic eucharistic faith. Therefore it cannot be the case that the Body of Christ comes to add itself to the bread, as if bread and Body were two similar things that could exist as two ‘substances,’ in the same way, side by side. Whenever the Body of Christ, that is, the risen and bodily Christ, comes, he is greater than the bread, other, not of the same order. The transformation happens, which affects the gifts we bring by taking them up into a higher order and changes them, even if we cannot measure what happens. When material things are taken into our body as nourishment, or for that matter whenever any material becomes part of a living organism, it remains the same, and yet as part of a new whole it is itself changed. Something similar happens here. The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different” (God is Near Us [2001], pp. 85-86).

    Terence Nichols has elaborated a construal of transubstantiation similar to Ratzinger’s in his essay “Transubstantiation and Eucharistic Presence” (http://goo.gl/VidtE).

    What this all means, I think, is that traditional Orthodox criticisms of transubstantiation may no longer have the force they once did, at least in light of contemporary Catholic reflection. A comparison of McCabe and Schmemann, for example, might be particularly illuminating.


  14. Robert, why do you committ the fallacy of a complex question?

    I do not like to critique Rome so much. Even if I did, what I like or dislike is irrelevant to the arguments I present. So your remark smacks of an ad hominem.

    Further, I am an equal opprotunity critiquer I go after the Reformed, Lutherans, Evangelicals, Anglicans, and other religious traditions. I deliberately aim to rotate the posts in terms of whom I am targeting. Go through my past posts and discerning the pattern isn’t exactly rocket science.

    But your comment leads me to believe that my critiques bother you and/or other Catholics (or potential Protestant converts to Catholicism), which means I am making headway. Thanks for letting me know.

    In the further, keep your remarks to making an actual argument or contributing to the discussing in a substantial way. If not, your remarks will be deleted without notice.

    In any case, I didn’t write this post.


  15. Father Patrick,

    I do not think that transubstantiation is a matter of theosis but about a created substance changing into another created substance. The body of Christ, although divinised, remains a created body. If you see in Christ only the divine essence then it is such a view that is inconsistent with the doctrine of theosis and seems to imply monophysitism.

    As the Synod of Jerusalem decreed “the bread ….is transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin, was baptised in the Jordan…etc” showing the createdness of the substance into which the bread is converted. That’s why I do not think that transubstantiation has anything to do with theosis.


  16. “Therefore it cannot be the case that the Body of Christ comes to add itself to the bread, as if bread and Body were two similar things that could exist as two ‘substances,’ in the same way, side by side.”

    I certainly understand and appreciate this critique. When we look at the incarnation of Christ it is not as if Christ is added to flesh. But nevertheless, Christ takes that matter which is not His body and fashions a body out of it which He assumes. What I fail to see is why transubstantiation seems to rule out this approach to the Eucharistic change. It is certainly not as if Christ adds his Body to the host; indeed, such is extremely problematic. But it would seem, perhaps only to me, appropriate to say that Christ assumes the bread as His body. And if this is what is meant by transubstantiation, than I am glad by it. However, I also do not understand why many Catholics are so hesitent to use our theological language of the incarnation to describe the mystical change.

    Fr Aidan, perhaps you can clarify this for me?


  17. Hi, Nathaniel. Three thoughts, and several questions, immediately come to mind:

    First, what is the difference between the hypostatic union and the eucharistic transformation? The former has certainly been invoked in the Tradition as an analogy for the latter (Pope Gelasius, e.g.); but what are the limits of the analogy? In the Incarnation we affirm that the eternal Son has assumed human nature (body, mind, spirit); but do we want to say that in the Eucharist the eternal Son assumes bread in quite the same way?

    Second, I believe that the Latin concern at this point is to assert the _identity_ of the body that Christ assumed in the Incarnation and raised into eternal life on Pascha and the body that we partake in the Eucharist. Christ has one body, not two different bodies. Is the eucharistic body different from the body that the risen glorified Christ possesses in Heaven? How can the eucharistic body be salvific if it is different from Christ’s glorified flesh? And what does “body” mean in this context?

    Third, it is not coincidental that the scholastic speculation on transubstantiation occurs at a time when the practice of eucharistic adoration is becoming common and popular. Adoration of the consecrated gifts can only be legitimate if these gifts _are_ Jesus Christ; otherwise we are adoring Christ + creatures (bread and wine), and that would be idolatrous.

    In his essay “The Eucharist–Mystery of the Church,” Paul Evdokimov offers a strong critique of the traditional Latin formulation of transubstantiation; yet in the end he affirms: “In summarizing the teaching of the Fathers, beyond any physical conversion, for the eyes of faith after the epiclesis, quite simply there is nothing else on the diskos and in the chalice except the body and blood of Christ.” I suspect that many contemporary Catholic theologians would agree and would insist that this is all the doctrine of transubstantiation is trying to say.

    What do you think?


  18. It is certainly Pope Gelasius that I had in mind in the first case. But even earlier, I find the sharpest critique of Irenaeus against the gnostics to be his insistence that their own liturgics betray them. That is they say that Christ has no physical body and yet they profess that the Eucharist is truly flesh and blood. I find this line of argumentation fascinating precisely because the doctrine of the change preceeds and proves proper Christology. As such I have a hard time moving away from the notion that there is some proper formal relationship between the change and Christology. But to be honest, I’m not quite sure how to articulate it.

    Second, perhaps you can enlighten me to the context of how this concern for identity of body arises. I admit we would consider it foolish to say that Christ has two bodies. And yet, why does this concern for identity not arise in ecclesiology. I mean in the sense that the Church is the Body of Christ relates directly, for St Paul, as to how the Eucharist is the Body of Christ. If we assert the identity of the later, how does this identity not transfer to the former? By joining Christ’s Church do I transubstantiate into the Body of Christ? Should we then do eucharistic adoration of one another?

    The adoration brings us to the third point. It seems to me that EA operates in an entirely orthogonal relationship to the veneration of icons. Certainly the Latin Church received 2nd Nicea in a different manner than the Greeks. However, there is this impulse in Western Christianity, certainly not universal, that some relic must be authenticated in order to be worthy of veneration. And yet, as an Eastern Riter, I ask: how is the Shroud of Turin made any less of an icon if it is a 14th century “fraud”? Is it not still worthy of veneration? To be honest, I’m not clear exactly how this relates to EA (I have only seen the practice a handful of times, nor am I quite sure of its purpose). However, I don’t see how if something of the bread and wine remain that this is somehow idolotrous… But again, not being familiar with the “inner logic” of the practice, or really what is expected of the participant in the act, I’ll simply admit I do not understand and that I am seeking understanding (my buest guess is that it is related to the bronze serpant, but again, this is created).

    I have no doubt that Evdokimov thinks the way he does. Nor do I necessariliy think him wrong. I just know many Orthodox who do not think as he does and I wish to be discerning…


  19. Nathaniel, you ask why the identity of the eucharistic body and the natural body of Christ is important. That’s a very good question. No doubt we would first need to ask what “body” means. I know I am not able to give a good answer to that question; but whatever it means, I do believe that the salvific significance of the Eucharist hinges upon this identity. No doubt this identity is mystical and mysterious, yet this identity we must assert. I do not know how to make sense of the Divine Liturgy if we do not affirm it. Consider, e.g., this passage from St Nicolas Cabasilas:

    “When theses words [the Epiclesis] have been said, the whole sacred rite is accomplished, the offerings are consecrated, the sacrifice is complete; the splendid Victim, the Divine oblation, slain for the salvation of the world, lies upon the alter. For it is no longer the bread, which until now has represented the Lord’s body, nor is it a simple offering, bearing the likeness of the true offering, carrying as if engraved on it the symbols of the Saviour’s Passion; it is the true Victim, the most holy Body of the Lord, which really suffered the outrages, insults and blows; which was crucified and slain, which under Pontius Pilate bore such splendid witness; that Body which was mocked, scourged, spat upon, and which tasted gall. In like manner the wine has become the blood which flowed from that Body. It is that Body and Blood formed by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, which was buried, which rose again on the third day, which ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father.”

    I do not have feel a burden to “defend” transubstantiation per se, though I acknowledge that the doctrine, as speculative as it was, was seeking to express more fully the faith of the Church in ight of the challenges of Berengar and others. The Eastern Church never had a Berengar. Before it can be dismissed, we must first understand the concerns that drove St Thomas Aquinas and the other scholastics, as well as the Fathers of Trent. But as I mentioned in my first comment, there are transubstantiations and there are transubstantiations. I think you might find the various essays by Fr Herbert McCabe on the eucharistic presence to be helpful. I mentioned earlier that I would love to see a conversation by McCabe and Schmemann. Perhaps even better would be a conversation between McCabe and Fr Sergius Bulgakov. My feel is the traditional formulation of transubstantiation calls into question the eschatological nature of the Eucharist.

    Off to bed. Good night.


  20. I think that my latent fear about transubstantiation is mostly related to EA, which in my mind represents the sum of the tradition of the Libri Carolini, or at least what we can reconstruct of it. It, in a sense, smacks of the “Eucharist is the only icon of Christ” line of the iconoclasts. This is further reinforced in my mind by your statement “Adoration of the consecrated gifts can only be legitimate if these gifts _are_ Jesus Christ.” That is, how is this *not* the case that this is a form of iconoclasim, although certainly more subtle than that of Leo IV. I am willing to be corrected if you see this view as faulty.


  21. Wouldn’t Maximos’ Ambiguum 42 be relevant here? Perhaps the following excerpts aren’t germane at all, but I find that they respond succinctly to the various inquiries (and thus I leave them without comment):

    “Generally speaking, all innovation is manifested in relation to the mode (tropos) of the thing innovated, not its natural principle (logos). The principle, if it undergoes innovation, corrupts the nature, as the nature in that case does not maintain inviolate the principle according to which it exists. The mode thus innovated, while the natural principle is preserved, displays a miraculous power, insofar as the nature appears to be acted upon, and to act, clearly beyond its scope.”

    “God acted on this principle of innovation when he translated the blessed Enoch and Elijah from life in the flesh, subject to corruption, to a different form of life (1 Kg 2.11; Gen. 5.24), not by altering their human nature, but by changing the mode and domain of action proper to their nature. . . . God set fire to the burning bush without it being consumed in order to call his servant (Ex 3.2), and gave water the quality of blood in Egypt without denying its nature at all, since the water remained water by nature even after it turned red.”

    “In company with all these achievements [i.e., manifold miracles in OT], and yet after them all, God fulfilled for our sake the truly new mystery of his incarnation, a mystery for which and through which all these other things took place. Here again, God innovated human nature in terms of its mode, not its principle, by assuming flesh mediated by an intelligent soul; for he was ineffably conceived without human seed and truly begotten as perfect man without corruption, having an intelligent soul together with his body from the very same moment of his ineffable conception.”


  22. Ioannis,

    As far as I understand, every aspect of our lives as Christians and the rites of the Church are to lead us to theosis; this is the goal for which we were created. The eucharist is central to this process of deification, so whatever we discuss in terms of the change needs to be understood in the context of theosis.

    I agree that bread from created matter changes into the body from created matter of the Lord. What I am questioning is whether an explanation of replacing one created substance with another is appropriate. I propose that a better solution is to consider the matter in terms of changing modes of existence because this seems more consistent with theosis. Transubstantiation, as it is commonly understood, is not the only viable solution and we need to take care of making it dogma.

    As I have said, the identity of the bread with the body does not have to mean that it cannot be both completely and truly bread and completely and truly body at the same time. This is relevant to ourselves in that we are really the body of Christ and yet we have our own unique body. Christ’s body does not replace our body nor is it merely attached to our body but His body and our body become One.

    From Chrysostom:
    Wherefore it is necessary to understand the marvel of the Mysteries, what it is, why it was given, and what is the profit of the action. We become one Body, and “members of His flesh and of His bones.” (Ephesians 5:30) Let the initiated follow what I say. In order then that we may become this not by love only, but in very deed, let us be blended into that flesh. This is effected by the food which He hath freely given us, desiring to show the love which He hath for us. On this account He hath mixed up Himself with us; He hath kneaded up His body with ours, that we might be a certain One Thing, like a body joined to a head.


  23. Nathaniel, the ‘rejection of the impanation’ (my apologies, I didn’t catch that earlier) is, imo, much more consistent with Western scholasticism than with Orthodoxy.

    Samonas Kim, you may well be correct about the terminology of Jerusalem (1672); my reading of that synod is minimal and I certainly haven’t studied it.

    If metaousios was used instead of the more traditional μεταβολή (metabolē), I’d have to classify Jerusalem 1672 with the catechism of Peter Mogila and the confession supposedly written by Cyril Lucaris — examples of what Father Georges Florovsky incisively labelled the Western Captivity.

    Anam Cara comes very close to what I understand as the appropriate Orthodox approach: a Mystery that none of us will ever fully understand, at least in this world.

    Father Patrick: you write of ‘wine mixed with water’ — do the Latins do this? If they do not (and I am not sure they do), would this make a difference with regard to your subject of ‘transubstantiation’?

    I think Perry’s observation that Jerusalem (1672) does not qualify as an ecumenical synod is correct, notwithstanding disagreement as to what the criteria of an ecumenical synod is some time back on these pages.

    Nick, there have been ‘higher’ levels of synods than that of Jerusalem (1672) since the departure of the Latins from the Church: certainly the Constantinopolitan Synods of 1341, 1347, and 1351, probably the Blachernae Synod of 1285, possibly the Constantinopolitan Synods of 1082, 1166, and 1386 as well as the Blachernae Synod of 1157. As for

    The Turks didn’t want East and West uniting, so they intentionally selected only anti-western Patriarchs.

    my reading suggests they chose the candidate which offered the greatest amount of money.

    I must confess at least some of my uneasiness about ‘transubstantiation’ is its roots in Scholasticism.


  24. iI think that my latent fear about transubstantiation is mostly related to EA, which in my mind represents the sum of the tradition of the Libri Carolini, or at least what we can reconstruct of it. It, in a sense, smacks of the “Eucharist is the only icon of Christ” line of the iconoclasts. This is further reinforced in my mind by your statement “Adoration of the consecrated gifts can only be legitimate if these gifts _are_ Jesus Christ.” That is, how is this *not* the case that this is a form of iconoclasim, although certainly more subtle than that of Leo IV. I am willing to be corrected if you see this view as faulty.’

    Nathaniel, I’m afraid I do not follow your concern about transubstantiation and iconoclasm. The Fathers of Second Nicaea rejected the iconoclastic claim that the Eucharist is the only icon of Christ: the Eucharist, they replied, is not an icon; it is Christ. Note also St Nicholas Cabasilas’s comment on the veneration of the Holy Gifts at the Great Entrance:

    “During the ceremony we must prostrate ourselves before the Priest and entreat him to remember us in the prayers which he is about to say. For there is no other means of supplication so powerful, so certain of acceptance, as that which takes place through this most holy sacrifice, which has freely cleansed us of our sins and iniquities. If any of those who prostrate themselves thus before the Priest, who is carrying the offerings, adores them as if they were the Body and Blood of Christ, and prays to them as such, he is led into error: he is confusing this ceremony with that of the entry of the Presanctified not recognising the difference between them. In this entry of the offerings, the gifts are not yet consecrated for the sacrifice; in the Liturgy of the Presanctified they are consecrated and sanctified, the true Body and Blood of Christ.”

    Here it seems to me is a fundamental liturgical datum, namely, the difference between the veneration of icons, including the veneration of the Gifts at the Great Entrance, and the adoration of Christ in his Body and Blood. I suggest that all of our inadequate attempts to conceptualize the eucharistic presence must respect and articulate this difference.

    Thus I keep coming back to the notion of sacramental identity, which I discussed many years ago in my essay “Eating Christ” (http://goo.gl/OFGx8). My own provisional reflection on this matter has not progressed much further than that. I would love to read an Orthodox critique of what I wrote back then in what now seems another lifetime. The Orthodox theologian whom I find most helpful, congenial, and challenging in this regard is Sergius Bulgakov, “The Eucharistic Dogma.”


  25. This is a bit off topic but I always wondered when Jesus was sitting right there with the apostles saying this is my body…were they all eating the pre glorified body of Christ? If it was the glorified body that the Jesus and apostles ate before it was historically glorified, then wouldn’t we have to say that the OT saints also participated in the Eucharist since the NT wasn’t established when Jesus instituted it?

    “and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”

    Do the RC and EO answers differ based on their view of the “how” of the divine presence and theosis?


  26. I meant in the sense that eucharistic adoration as a liturgical practice seems consistent with the strain of iconoclasm that several scholars have trace in Western Europe, and particularly France, from the Carolingian period onward. This strain of iconoclasm is almost identical to the Eastern strain with the exception that they permitted the use of icons for pedagogical purposes (‘to educate the illiterate’; this distinction is made by only one of the iconoclasts in the East to my knowledge and it is a reference in passing). Thus while 2nd Nicea requires the liturgical veneration of icons, for all practical purposes the veneration that occurs within Western liturgy is restricted to the cross, the scriptures, sacred vessels, the altar, relics and, later, eucharistic adoration. Aside from the relics, this is the exact practice of the Eastern iconoclasts who were willing to accept the pedagogical use of icons.

    I fully agree with you that the Eucharist is *not* an icon. I am only curious how well eucharistic adoration as a liturgical practice seems to me to fit within the iconoclastic schema. A pedagogical-iconoclast would have little problem with Western Liturgics.


  27. Father Patrick,

    it seems to me that you suggest that in Eucharist the bread and the wine retain their substance whilst they change into the substance of the body of Christ, otherwise the sacrament seems to imply monophysitism. But in such a case, instead of two, Christ has three or even four natures. The divine, the human nature, the nature of the bread and that of the wine.


  28. Ioannis,

    The ordinary bread that we eat becomes our substance though the digestive process etc. Does the digestive process replace the substance of bread with the substance of our body? When can be say that the bread ceases to be bread and becomes our body? Surely, the bread is formed of the same things of which our body is formed just in another package. So, the food in the form of bread may not be our human body in the form that it takes about us but nevertheless, it is not really other than us. It is not like the divide between created and uncreated substances/essences. What I am suggesting is that ordinary bread by the power of the Holy Spirit changes its mode of existence such that in the new mode of existence it becomes identified with the body of Christ. It doesn’t have two substances but in that mode of existence the same thing can be identified as both bread and the body of Christ.


  29. Father Patrick,

    Yes, I believe that the digestive process replace the substance of bread with the substance of our body. According to John Damascene “the compound nature cannot be of the same essence as either of the natures out of which it is compounded, as made one thing out of others: for example, the body is composed of the four elements, but is not of the same essence as fire or air, or water or earth, nor does it keep these names”.

    The question for me is: which is the substance of the bread after the Epiclesis? If it doesn’t have substance at all, but only a mode of existence, then it doesn’t exist. If it retains the bread substance or if it has both the bread substance and the body-of-Christ substance then either it isn’t the body of Christ or Christ has more than two natures. Therefore transubstantiation is the only answer to the question that makes sense to me.

    I think that it doesn’t matter if the doctrine was formulated by heretics. It is the confirmation and acceptance by the Orthodox Church that makes it a valid and true doctrine. And if it is a true doctrine that means that it was there before its formulation.


  30. It seems to me to be about using established and acceptable unions of substances, such as two unconfused natures that are united by what they share…the person. If you look at the Eucharist from there, with the concept of enhypostasis, then it seems we still have the two substances intact, yet the quality of life that is given with normal bread is replaced (enhypostasis) by the quality of life given by Christ’s flesh.

    Basically, change or replacement is not on the level of substance, but on that which unites them…life.


  31. Further food for thought from the Lutheran/Orthodox ecumenical dialogue:

    ‘With regard to the holy eucharist, Lutherans and Orthodox converge in their insistence on the reality of the body and blood of Christ given and received in the eucharistic elements. In this respect, Orthodox speak of the change (metabole) in the elements of the eucharist such that after the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) there is no longer “bread” and “wine” but the real body and blood of Christ. Lutherans traditionally say that the real body and blood of Christ are present “in, with, and under” the bread and the wine. Lutherans and Orthodox agree that in holy communion we do not receive ordinary bread and ordinary wine, but the body and blood of Christ. As St. Paul teaches: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? (I Cor. 10:16).”‘

    ‘Orthodox profess a real change (metabole) of the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ by the Words of Institution and the act of the Holy Spirit in the eucharistic anaphora. This does not mean a “transsubstantiation” of the substance of the bread and the wine into the substance of the deified humanity of Christ, but a union with it: “The bread of communion isn’t an ordinary bread, but united with divinity” (John of Damascus). This union amounts to a communication of the deifying properties of the humanity of Christ and of the deifying grace of his divinity to the eucharistic gifts: The bread and the wine are no longer understood with respect to their natural properties but with respect to Christ’s deified human body in which they have been assumed through the action of the Holy Spirit. As in Christology the two natures are united hypostatically, so in the Eucharist Christ’s exalted human body and the “antitypes” (St. Basil, Anaphora) of bread and wine are united sacramentally through the act of the Holy Spirit.’

    ‘Orthodox and Lutherans agree, whether they use the language of “metabole” or of “real presence”, that the bread and wine do not lose their essence (physis) when becoming sacramentally Christ’s body and blood. The medieval doctrine of transubstantiation is rejected by both Orthodox and Lutherans.’

    (Source: http://goo.gl/nIAL3)

    I am curious what ecclesial authority is invoked by the Orthodox theologians of the dialogue for the statement that the medieval doctrine of transubstantiation is rejected by the Orthodox. Does this rejection include all medieval construals of transubstantiation or just some?


  32. Ioannis,

    Refer to the comments of Fr Aidan and androgen.

    The mode of existence does not remove substance rather the thought is that in a new mode of existence the substance of bread is identified with the substance of the body of Christ within that mode of existence. The change in mode does away with the division of substances which we experience in the ordinary mode of existence yet without removing the substance. What you have to prove that mode of existence cannot allow one substance to be identified with another. At present your responses continues at the level of understanding substances in the ordinary manner.

    Even at ordinary level, I don’t think that your separating bread and body as two separate substances necessarily holds. This all relates to philosophy and science, into which I don’t really want to go here. Your quote from St John is helpful but it doesn’t prove your point because it refers to the elements making up a compound and both bread and the human body have much the same elements and neither, as St John says, identify with any particular one of its components. It is the components of bread that may be a better focus than simply considering its substance, whatever that really means. The identity of the body and bread are found in the elements constituting them and the elements of heavenly bread have been transformed to the same mode of existence as the heavenly body and are the same elements. Anyway, just another angle on the matter. This needs more in-depth reflection that possible here but I think your position is a little simplistic, although perhaps you are right. I am not convinced that it is necessarily so and so I cannot support transubstantiation in terms of replacing substances as being necessarily the correct understanding.


  33. It seems to me that Ioannis is looking at the union between the bread and body as a personal union, which would make Jesus bread, just as much as he is human.

    The union between the bread and body is energetic, in that the life giving energy of the bread is replaced with the life giving energy of the deified body. Its the presence of both life giving substances that allows for the type of union we see in the incarnation.


  34. Father Patrick,

    What exactly is that mode of existence you are referring to? If by that you mean theosis, then, since the deifying energy is the common energy of the three divine persons why don’t you say that the bread is also the body of the Father and of the Holy Spirit? What makes that bread the body of Christ in particular and not the body of the Holy Trinity if not a hypostatic union with Him?

    And if there is indeed a hypostatic union of Christ with that bread and if the bread retains its substance then wouldn’t that mean that Christ has more than two natures at least temporarily that is until the bread gets eaten by the faithful?

    Now, if the deifying energy of God makes all matter the body of Christ through a mode of existence where all matter substances can be identified with each other, why don’t we ask from God to send us immediately His energy and turn our bodies into the body of Christ? What’s the point of the mediation of the bread? What’s the point of the Eucharist? (What’s the point of the Incarnation in the last analysis?) But the priest does not ask from God to deify the bread. He asks Him to covert it into the body of Christ.

    And if an energetic union is enough to make the bread the body of Christ, as also Androgen says, wouldn’t that imply Nestorianism and that the energetic union of Logos with a certain body in the womb of Theotokos made that body the body of Christ?


  35. My phrase “And if there is indeed a hypostatic union” should be rendered “But if there is indeed a hypostatic union….etc”
    I do not claim that there is a hypostatic union of Christ with the bread and wine, as Androgen interpreted my arguments, even if my words gave that impression, because, as I explained, that would mean that Christ assumed the natures of the bread and wine and that He has more than two natures. I do not believe that there is either a hypostatic or an energetic union of Christ with the bread and wine. I believe that the bread and wine get transubstantiated by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.


  36. Ioannis,

    Sorry for the misunderstanding. It might help me a bit to understand your position if you can give me other biblical examples of transubstantiation or at least the structural pattern that allows for it to take place within Christology?

    Does Nestorianism account or incorporate the principle or concept of enhypostasis?

    If I said Jesus united the substance of his body to a perfect and complete substance of bread BY WHICH the bread no longer had an independent life giving energy of its own (enhypostais principle), but had the life giving energy of his flesh in its place, would that make me Nestorian?

    We know the Human nature that Jesus assumed didn’t have a human person, and yet that didn’t make his humanity something other then human. I would take this structure and apply it to the Eucharist in that just because the bread no longer has a life giving energy of its own, that doesn’t make it not bread. Again, I am not denying a true presence of the body or a real union, for that allows for the true communicatio idiomatum between the bread and body. Also, in order for there to be a union there must be something shared or common to both and I believe it is life. In your position, Jesus could have used hemlock instead of bread for there is no need of a union, but that won’t work in my understanding.

    There are different types of unions so just because I say two created things are energetically united does not mean that all things are energetically united. My flesh is not my person so my flesh cannot have a personal union with anything. Again, I say that the bread and body are energetically united because the bread and body are not persons or essences.

    In contrast to an energetic union structurally based off the incarnation, transubstantiation operates on the level of nature or essence, and it therefore shows us what happens when there is a union of two natures…one is eliminated.


  37. One more thing 🙂 I don’t understand why an EO would find transubstantiation an option when it is wholly other to the essence, person, energy approach. Also, why in the world would you want to use anything other then the orthodox structure found in the incarnation to understand the Eucharist…especially when speculating? From my limited knowledge, I would argue that if the principles set forth in the incarnation are used, then transubstantiation becomes nonsense.


  38. Ioannis,

    I cannot define the mode of existence other than to say that Christ’s resurrected body is not as our ordinary bodies. It is not restricted by material objects, it is capable of being in many places at one time and it is capable of being eaten without being consumed, yet it is still a created body so it exists in another mode of existence. If this mode of existence is what is meant by the body being deified then the process of deification does not mean that the body becomes that of the Father and Holy Spirit in the same manner as it is specifically the body of the Son through His incarnation.

    I will think more about your other points and respond later.


  39. “The union between the bread and body is energetic, in that the life giving energy of the bread is replaced with the life giving energy of the deified body. Its the presence of both life giving substances that allows for the type of union we see in the incarnation.”

    I am intrigued by this comment and would like to see it further developed. On what Church Fathers and theologians are you relying? Please direct me to specific writings. Thanks.

    I am also curious by your suggestion that the life-giving energy of the bread is replaced with the life-giving energy of Christ’s body. Why doesn’t that mean it ceases to be bread? Does not the consecrated bread nourish my body?

    “I don’t understand why an EO would find transubstantiation an option when it is wholly other to the essence, person, energy approach.”

    And I don’t understand why you think that the notion of substantial change is alien to Orthodoxy. This language has been used by the Orthodox Church for centuries. It has the advantage of making clear that the consecrated bread truly *is* the Body of our risen Lord, the same body that was born of the Theotokos and crucified under Pontius Pilate. This is less clear in the model you are proposing.


  40. Fr Kimel,

    The life giving energy nourishes or operates according to the “faculties” of both substances, so yes the consecrated bread nourishes your body. I might even say it is a composite logoi

    As far as references, I said I, as in I myself believe that it is life that allows for the union between the bread and body…so that is my own. I get that from Jesus being the bread of life and his contrast between the life that mana gave and the life that he gives…life being what both share. Could I be wrong? Sure, but there must be something common that allows the union…unless you deny there is a union.

    Is the orthodox understanding of the incarnation not clear enough as to Jesus having two natures? Again, as my first answer should show, my model is based off the incarnation so any lack of clarity is do to my explanation of it, not the model. In other words, what I have done is just placed the model of the incarnation that I received from the Church and placed it on the Eucharist. What better way there to understand the body of Christ?

    As for what the Orthodox believe, you know more about that then I do (I am not being sarcastic), so maybe you can show me where transubstantiation takes place in scripture and in EO Christology, other then in the Eucharist?


  41. Fr Kimel,

    In case I am accused of being novel in my approach, anyone who has ever made the charge that transubstantiation entails monophysitism is presupposing that the incarnation is the model by which we understand the Eucharist…whether they know it or not. As for the places where I filled in the blanks, Ill accepts the charge. As far as I can see, there is no better model to use to understand the Eucharist…it is bullet proof.


  42. Actually, I suspect that very theological formulations are bullet-proof: our language always breaks down when we speak of these profound mysteries. The best that we can do is to establish boundaries and rule out clear errors. I do not expect one theological model to adequately describe the eucharistic conversion, nor do I see why the energetic union model which you are proposing must necessarily exclude the substantial change model; indeed, each may well illuminate and correct the other.

    Androgen, I have no objection to you advancing your private opinion on the eucharistic presence; but let’s agree that it is just your opinion, no doubt shared by others, and does not represent the formal teaching of the Holy Orthodox Church. As far as I know, no council of the Orthodox Church has ever denounced the Latin doctrine of Transubstantiation, and for four four hundred years Orthodox councils and theologians felt free to employ this model, with qualifications. Thus Fr Michael Pomazansky in his *Orthodox Dogmatic Theology*:

    ‘In the Mystery of the Eucharist, at the time when the priest, invoking the Holy Spirit upon the offered Gifts, blesses them with the prayer to God the Father: “Make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ; and that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ; changing them by Thy Holy Spirit” — the bread and wine actually are changed into the Body and Blood by the coming down of the Holy Spirit. After this moment, although our eyes see bread and wine on the Holy Table, in their very essence, invisibly for sensual eyes, this is the true Body and true Blood of the Lord Jesus, only under the “forms” of bread and wine.

    Thus the sanctified Gifts 1) are not only signs or symbols, reminding the faithful of the redemption, as the reformed Zwingli taught; and likewise, 2) it is not only by His “activity and power” (“dynamically”) that Jesus Christ is present in them, as Calvin taught; and finally, 3) He is not present in the meaning only of “penetration,” as the Lutherans teach (who recognize the co-presence of Christ “with the bread, under the form of bread, in the bread”); but the sanctified Gifts in the Mystery are changed or (a later term) “transubstantiated” into the true Body and true Blood of Christ, as the Saviour said “For My flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55).

    ‘This truth is expressed in the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs in the following words: “We believe that in this sacred rite our Lord Jesus Christ is present not symbolically (typikos), not figuratively (eikonikos), not by an abundance of grace, as in the other Mysteries, not by a simple descent, as certain Fathers say about Baptism, and not through a ‘penetration’ of the bread, so that the Divinity of the Word should “enter” into the bread offered for the Eucharist, as the followers of Luther explain it rather awkwardly and unworthily — but truly and actually, so that after the sanctification of the bread and wine, the bread is changed, transubstantiated, converted, transformed, into the actual true Body of the Lord, which was born in Bethlehem of the Ever-Virgin, was baptized in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, resurrected, ascended, sits at the right hand of God the Father, and is to appear in the clouds of heaven; and the wine is changed and transubstantiated into the actual true Blood of the Lord, which at the time of His suffering on the Cross was shed for the life of the world. Yet again, we believe that after the sanctification of the bread and wine there remains no longer the bread and wine themselves, but the very Body and Blood of the Lord, under the appearance and form of bread and wine.”‘

    The citation from the Eastern Patriarchs is from the 1672 Council of Jerusalem. In 1727 the Council of Constantinople denounces the Latin Church (a) for teaching (a) that the consecration occurs by the recitation of the dominical words and (b) for restricting communion to one kind; but it commends the word “transubstantiation” to speak of the eucharistic change The Orthodox Church has always been clear that in speaking of a change of substance it is not committing itself to an Aristotelian understanding of substance and accidents. Most contemporary Latin theologians would agree with this qualification.

    In his 1962 *Dogmatics of the Eastern Church*, Greek theologian Panagiotes Trembelas writes: “We are in accord in this with the Roman Catholics in believing that in this marvellous transformation although the exterior phenomena and the accidents of bread and wine remain, all their substance however is changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord.”

    Similarly, in his 1972 book *Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism*, Archbishop Methodios Fouyas writes: “Roman and Orthodox teach that by the words spoken in the Holy Eucharist the species of bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so that although these species have the outward qualities of bread and wine, essentially they are the Body and Blood of Christ.”

    I think it is fair to say that transubstantiation is a legitimate opinion within Orthodoxy.

    So what is the dogmatic teaching of the Orthodox Church on the Eucharist? I suggest something along the lines of the following: The consecrated bread and wine *are* the Body and Blood of Christ. In other words, it is an assertion of ontological identity. All else is theologoumena.

    Many Orthodox and Protestants, as well as not a few Catholics, believe that the Latin doctrine of transubstantiation teaches a material change in the bread and wine. I believe that this judgment is mistaken: http://goo.gl/zihIW.


  43. The very first sentence should read: “Actually, I suspect that very few theological formulations are bullet-proof,”


  44. Androgen,

    what took place in the Incarnation was not an energetic union but a hypostatic one.

    What exactly is your view on what happens in the Eucharist? Do you believe in Impanation? If yes, Christ for you is not only god and human but He is also bread and wine. In that case instead of bread becoming the body of Christ, it is Christ that becomes bread.

    Do you believe that Christ gets impanated every time there’s a Eucharist or that He did it once and for all during Last Supper? 🙂


  45. Ioannis,

    I agree that the incarnation is hypostatically based…I am not sure what caused you to think I didn’t. My guess is when I said that I took the model of the incarnation and put it on top of the eucharist. I said there are different types of unions, and what the things are determines what type of union they have.

    Also, what I mean by model are the necessary preconditions or principles that allow for the orthodox understanding of the incarnation…such as enhypostasis. That is also what I meant by the model being bullet proof, not in the theological formulations, but the principles that the formulations are trying to express.

    To tell you the truth, impanation is the dumbest thing I ever heard. If you are saying that an energetic union causes a personal union, I don’t see it. Also, wouldn’t a personal union then cause an essential union? I guess I just don’t see it yet. Was impanation a problem in the East?

    As to what happens in the eucharist, I can only speculate. What I try not to do is violate principles and boundaries set by the church. This is what I believe to be basic and what I have been trying to work with:


    The Orthodox Church uses such expressions because in Orthodoxy what is real is not opposed to what is symbolical or mystical or spiritual. On the contrary! In the Orthodox view, all of reality—the world and man himself—is real to the extent that it is symbolical and mystical, to the extent that reality itself must reveal and manifest God to us. Thus, the eucharist in the Orthodox Church is understood to be the genuine Body and Blood of Christ precisely because bread and wine are the mysteries and symbols of God’s true and genuine presence and manifestation to us in Christ. Thus, by eating and drinking the bread and wine which are mystically consecrated by the Holy Spirit, we have genuine communion with God through Christ who is himself “the bread of life” (Jn 6:34, 41).
    Thus, the bread of the eucharist is Christ’s flesh, and Christ’s flesh is the eucharistic bread. The two are brought together into one. The word “symbolical” in Orthodox terminology means exactly this: “to bring together into one.”


  46. Androgen

    The application of what happened in the Incarnation to what happens in the Eucharist leads to the idea of Impanation. That’s what I thought that you said that you do and if I misunderstood you I apologise.

    An energetic union is what happened in the Incarnation from a nestorian point of view.

    Do you believe that in Eucharist Christ assumes the natures of the the bread and the wine which get ehnypostasised in His person?


  47. Ioannis,

    Your question regarding changing all things into the body of Christ by changing the mode of existence does raise a good issue.

    In response, firstly the Incarnation is necessary otherwise the Son of God would not have a body for us to be united to or to be changed into. Secondly, our bodies will only be changed at the final resurrection so the only present way for our bodies to be physically united with that of Christ is through physically eating His body and blood via the eucharistic gifts.

    Change of mode of existence may in itself not be sufficient to cause the identity of the bread with the body of Christ and I accept that there may be a transformation of the bread into the body of Christ also that is permitted in the new mode of existence. If you take this change to occur at a “molecular” level then one could still maintain that the molecules are still those that constitute bread and yet are those of the body of Christ, which constitute His body. We know that at this level that ordinary bread and body are constituted of the same things but in different configurations. So, one could say that a molecule of bread is changed/transformed into a molecule of the body of Christ. It is not removed and replaced but the same molecule is changed because it corresponds with the same molecule that constitutes the body of Christ. (This can be applied at other particle levels.) Thus, it is truly bread and truly the body of Christ at the same time. The substance/accidents terminology is not necessary nor necessarily helpful or properly descriptive of what a thing is. Anyway, this is only an idea and no way meant to be prescriptive. Since this discussion is heading to potentially unhelpful speculation about how miracles take place I prefer not to continue this point.


  48. Nick,

    If the council were ecumenical then it would be infallible. I would think that Catholics would agree that local synods aren’t necessarily infallible. I would also think that Catholics would agree that there are degrees of authority and means for expressing them. While it is true that councils a step down from ecumenical councils hold authority, it doesn’t follow that they bind equally. This is uncontroversial for Catholics so I don’t know on what grounds you are pressing it as some kind of problem for Orthodox ecclesiology.

    You ask if this is the only level of council that the Orthodox have been able to hold since Rome went into schism. The answer is no. And I don’t think Rome has been able to hold an ecumenical council since the schism either. I am sure Catholics will disagree but we knew that already. But even if it were the last such synod since the schism, not much follows from that. There isn’t any particularly new heresy and there is not some unwritten law that councils have to be held every so many years, especially if doctrine doesn’t develop.

    I grant that it was accepted by the other patriarchates, but that says little as to whether it was ecumenical or not, especially with respect to the failure to meet the canonical conditions I mentioned previously. If you wish to uphold the Synodikon of Orthodoxy I’d suggest paying attention to the other Catholic doctrines it condemns as heretical. That kind of contextualizes the synod’s doctrinal statements contrary to the way you wish to read them. In any case, even if there were no error or it could not be expressed better, that of itself doesn’t amount to a demonstration that the Orthodox meant what Catholics mean.

    As for your claim that until there is a demonstration of error the definition stands just doesn’t follow. If the synod failed to meet various conditions then it is held at a lower level of authority. When there is reason for thinking that there is in the tradition a better expression, then there is certainly room for the Orthodox to interpret it in line with their tradition and not that of schismatic heterodox half a world away.

    I wouldn’t call the Patriarch of Constantinople a puppet anymore than I’d call the popes of Avignon puppets. The issue of Turkish intervention is an issue when there is demonstrated restrictions that preclude canonical implementation and not when there isn’t such a preclusion.
    While it may be true that the Turks approved of only anti-unionist” candidates, this is not always the case and this could be gotten around for the right price as there are clear cases of the inhabitants doing so. To argue that the See had no “free will” for 600 years is a gross overstatement. First because it confuses circumstantial restrictions for a lack of metaphysical freedom. The former cannot remove the latter. Aquinas says as much.
    The Turks didn’t want East and West uniting, so they intentionally selected only anti-western Patriarchs. In looking into this issue, some have suggested there really isn’t a formalized East-West split at all since Constantinople has basically had no ‘free will’ in this matter for 600 years.

    I note that it seems like a stretch to you, but giving me biographical information doesn’t amount to an argument, so you will need to do better. Secondly, other non-Catholic and non-Orthodox historians say as much. They have no axe to grind either way so I am only reporting established historical facts. And one would think that charity would give room for allowing the Orthodox to interpret their own documents, not to mention interpreting them in their historical and theological content. And the use of Aristotelian terms isn’t the exclusive domain of Latin Scholastics. Please remember that the Easterners were using such terms long before Rome had been conquered by Arians a thousand years earlier.
    The proximity to Trent would be relevant if the Orthodox bishops had read Trent or any of the previous Catholics synods. Use of similar terms doesn’t imply identical semantic content. If you think it does, then you will need to demonstrate as much.
    Your language about theosis wasn’t “off”, your statements were just false and heterodox. Your language of “some sense” regarding the deification of creation signals that Catholic theology doesn’t seem to provide you with the tools to make sense of such a claim, hence the ambiguity.
    As for the problem of elimination of creatures, the objection is simple. Creation is made good and God sustains it as such. God’s access to creation pace Arianism is direct and unmediated and there exists no opposition between God and creation. Therefore, the divine presence in created things does not entail the elimination of those things. To think that it does depends on a false and heterodox view of the relation of God to creation. The miracle at Cana is not apt and for this reason. It is not a case of divine presence in the water per se.
    As for your statement regarding consubstantiation, this follows from your false framing of the matter. You are thinking of it terms of a substantialist model. But first you’d need to demonstrate that that is how the Orthodox think of it or at least that it is the only viable metaphysical grid to use. And again to think that the presence would need to be “alongside” presupposes this model as well as the consequence that the substance of the elements and the substance of Christ can’t co-exist empirichoretically. One must replace the other and so they are in opposition to each other. Again, the same problem comes to the fore. The only difference between the Catholic and the Protestant glosses is whether the substance of the creatures gets eliminated or not, not whether they are opposed. This is why Protestantism and Catholicism are much closer than one would think. They both agree on the fundamental assumption that the deity and creatures can’t exist in an interpenetrating manner since they are substances. Rather than rejecting the obviously problematic philosophy, they go to their respective extremes. And this is just like the problem with the Filioque. Instead of questioning the Arian assumption of the Adoptionistic objection, the Spanish granted it but took it in another direction. So no, there is no “consubstantiation” here since there is no substantialist metaphysical grid operating. Just try using it to gloss deification and you’ll end up in Pelagianism or Pantheism real fast.


Comments are closed.