I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

Oh dear.

I’m pretty sure this is how I sound when I try to explain transubstantiation, the Catholic teaching that in the Eucharist, the whole substance of the bread and wine changes into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, while still appearing, in every physical way, to bread and wine…

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

John 6:52-60

This is a hard teaching.

But it’s not unbelievable. I’ve been told that accepting that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist means I have to buy into a primitive and bizarre system of Aristotelian metaphysics, in particular distinguishing between substance and accidents of a thing.

I don’t buy that.

If I can tell the difference between what something is and what it seems to be, then I’ve understood transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is simply changing of the substance of a thing, the what-it-is, without changing the accidents, the what-it-appears-to-be.

It’s a pretty basic distinction: what it is and what it seems to be.

Sure, Aristotle can help us understand it; apparently so can Alice Tinker.

And yes, if I think about it more, my head will probably explode. That’s the uncreated, crucified, resurrected Lord of the Universe, truly, really and substantially, in a bit of bread and wine.

But that’s faith, right?

“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”


8 responses to “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

  1. It escapes me how Protestants can read that passage and say the Eucharist is a symbol. When the Jews didn’t want to believe what they were hearing and said it was a “hard teaching,” Jesus went back and repeated himself even more explicitly. “No, for real guys, you must eat my literal flesh and drink my literal blood. I’m not being metaphorical here.”

  2. I agree with Joseph. It’s right there, sola scriptura, if you will. More to the point, when I teach transubstantiation to my 7 year olds in First Communion class, sometimes a few will say it’s hard to understand. The majority will say something like, “oh, so the Host is Jesus.” No more questions……….unless we become like little children………..

  3. Very, very funny, Laura. I am with the others, it is only by denying the words of Jesus mean what they mean that anyone could not believe that we eat His flesh and drink His blood. Catholicism, unlike Orthodoxy, provides a sort of explanation for it, but I find it best to accept it is a great mystery. He said it, I believe it – from His mouth to my ears, from the priest’s hand to my mouth.

  4. Pingback: Transubstantiation? (Answering ‘Nothing In My Hand I Bring’) | Catholic Cravings·

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