« The Assault on Merit | Main | Consolation »

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Yes, but Christ is a man, not a piece of bread, so I don't see why Schuon has a problem with transubstantiation. He can be God and man at the same time, but not bread and man at the same time.

A thought-provoking post. There are indeed problems with transubstantiation as an expression of the doctrine of the Real Presence. One of them is that location is an accident: as there is no accidental change at the consecration, the location of the Body of Christ remains in Heaven and not on the altar.

With transubstantiation there can be no Real Presence, so transubstantiation is a problem, not a solution. I wonder if Schuon is thinking along the lines of the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation? That would bring eucharistc doctrine more into line with Chalcedonian Christology. It would then be consonant with the idea of the Eucharist as an extension or a manifestation of the Incarnation.

There is a lot more to be said, so I shall be interested in your further thoughts on this topic.

Although, as you know Bill, I am neither a philosopher or a theologian, I would like to raise some objections to Schuon’s proposition “that it would be appropriate to apply to the Eucharistic elements what is affirmed dogmatically of Christ, namely, that he is "true man and true God"; if this is so, one could equally admit that the Eucharist is "true bread and true Body" or "true wine and true Blood" without compromising its divinity.”

First, it implicitly assumes an ontological equivalence between, on the one hand, the human and divine natures in the Person of Christ and, on the other, the bread that is consecrated in the Eucharist and His “body.” But to do so, he must ignore what it is about these “natures” that make them amenable to coexistence in one living substance. For whatever the many incompatible attributes these natures may, to our minds, possess, the human nature embodies something of the divine from the moment of its creation (“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”). It is precisely this special status of the nature of human beings, a divine gift, that makes it worthy to form the duality of natures of the Person of Christ. Now, bread, or at least the wheat and water of which it is composed, are also divine creations, but neither the bread itself or it more fundamental elements partakes of any quality of the divine nature; therefore, bread lacks precisely that unique attribute of human nature that makes it worthy of an ontological association with the divine nature in the living substance that is Jesus of Nazareth. That the substance of bread should ceased to exist at the moment of consecration, becoming the body of Christ, is, thus, entirely appropriate, and it does not follow that it should continue to coexist with the body, since the former is in now way on par with the latter.

Second, what is it to say that the bread becomes the Body of Christ or wine the Blood of Christ? According to Catholic doctrine, what precisely is this transubstantiated bread? It is, in fact, taken to be “the entire Christ,” present “in the sacrament in a twofold manner: first, as it were, by the power of the sacrament [the substantial change of bread into Body]; secondly, from natural concomitance. . . [by which if] “two things be really united, then wherever the one is really, there must the other also be: since things really united together are only distinguished by an operation of the mind.. . .” Thus, since “the change of the bread and wine is not terminated at the Godhead or the soul of Christ, it follows as a consequence that the Godhead or the soul of Christ is in this sacrament not by the power of the sacrament, but from real concomitance. For since the Godhead never set aside the assumed body, wherever the body of Christ is, there, of necessity, must the Godhead be; and therefore it is necessary for the Godhead to be in this sacrament concomitantly with His body” (Aquinas, ST III, q.76, a.1). I quote here from Aquinas simply as a reminder that when the word “bread” is counterposed with “flesh,” the former becoming the latter in the sacrament, the concomitant aspect of the sacrament, with its attendant ontological import, is essentially ignored. Since Christ is complete, body and soul, in the sacrament, just as He is in the living Person of Jesus of Nazareth, it is highly reductionistic to speak of the Body as “flesh,” not because it is not flesh but because it is so much more, and being so much more, that is all of Christ, why should we assume the need for the continued existence of bread, which adds nothing to it, as we assume the need for the continued existence of human nature, which is essential to his unique Being?

Good comment, Jonathan. I'll say more later, but for now I will just say that you are right to bring up consubstantiation, which the RCC considers a heresy. I need to explain the difference between Schuon's position and consubstantiation.

You are right to distinguish Real Presence from theories about it, transubstantiation being only one of them.

There is indeed a lot more to be said. Thinking about the Real Presence leads one soon enough into standard topics in analytic metaphysics such as bare particulars, property-possession, the nature of change, etc.


You bring out something very important. But first let us be very clear about what transubstantiation is. (The following rehearsal is for my benefit as much as for anyone else's.) Transubstantiation is the conversion of one physical reality, a piece of bread, or a quantity of wine, into another physical reality that already exists, namely, Christ. This conversion is a substantial change, not an accidental one, in which the terminus a quo of the conversion ceases to exist entirely and is replaced by the terminus ad quem. So what we have here is not the coming to exist of a new substance out of the stuff of an old one. When the priest utters the words of consecration, the piece of bread passes out of existence to be replaced by the body of Christ.

On to Vito's main point which he borrows from Aquinas. The terminus ad quem of the transubstantial conversion is not merely the flesh of Christ, but the whole of Christ who is wholly present on the altar after the consecration in virtue of 'natural concomitance.' The idea is that the human flesh of the God-Man cannot exist without the human soul of the God-Man, and that the two together (which constitute the God-Man's human nature) cannot exist without being united to the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son.

And so Aquinas says:

>>. . . therefore had this sacrament been celebrated during those three days when He [Christ] was dead, the soul of Christ would not have been there, neither by the power of the sacrament, nor from real concomitance. But since "Christ rising from the dead dieth now no more" (Romans 6:9), His soul is always really united with His body. And therefore in this sacrament the body indeed of Christ is present by the power of the sacrament, but His soul from real concomitance.<<

Here's a question. Since Christ already exists after the Ascension in heaven whether or not any mass takes place, and since he ascended BODY and SOUL into heaven, and thus already exists in heaven with a human body and a human soul, the purely spiritual Trinity must acquire after the Ascension a physical adjunct, no? I raised this question with more rigor months ago; I should re-post that post.

How is it possible that the purely spiritual Trinity have a physical adjunct or 'part'? You might say: it's actual; so it's possible whether or not WE can understand HOW it is possible.

Yes, Bill, I have precisely that understanding of transubstantiation. I am calling into question the continued existence of the bread (as in Schuon's "true bread and true body"); only its accidents perdure, but they are no longer sustained by the substance bread, but neither are they sustained by the existing substance, Christ, that replaces the bread.

These are the words of Aquinas, of which I am sure you are far better versed, that help me understand this doctrine:

"The species of the bread and wine, which are perceived by our senses to remain in this sacrament after consecration, are not subjected in the substance of the bread and wine, for that does not remain, as stated above (III:75:2); nor in the substantial form, for that does not remain....Furthermore it is manifest that these accidents are not subjected in the substance of Christ's body and blood, because the substance of the human body cannot in any way be affected by such accidents; nor is it possible for Christ's glorious and impassible body to be altered so as to receive these qualities....

Therefore it follows that the accidents continue in this sacrament without a subject. This can be done by Divine power: for since an effect depends more upon the first cause than on the second, God Who is the first cause both of substance and accident, can by His unlimited power preserve an accident in existence when the substance is withdrawn whereby it was preserved in existence as by its proper cause... (ST,III, 77, ar 1)."

Compare: How is locomotion possible? It's actual, hence possible, whether or not we can refute Zeno's arguments. We don't need to understand HOW something is possible for it to be possible. On the other hand, if no one can explain in a truly satisfactory way how such-and-such is possible, then that is a reason to say either: it is not actual OR it is mere appearance.

Could we not say in addition to "it is not actual OR it is mere appearance" that it is something the nature of which surpasses the evaluative powers of our faculties, sensible and rational"? I cannot explain the Resurrection, for example, but I am not obligated because of my failure to do so to say that it did not happen or that it only appeared to have happened. The either/or choice seems to rule out much that is beyond our ken. Anyway, realizing that I am speaking to a philosopher, that is my very modest opinion.

So, when Jesus performed the original Mass, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body", what do the Transubstantionists believe happened to the bread in his hand (and bowl)?

Is there any relevant theological literature?

The Fathers spoke volubly and often about the reality of the Transubstantiation, i know. but about their ideas as to how those ideas applied to the (supposed) moment of the first instantiation of God-in-bread-and-wine?

Seems to me that if we can answer that question, then we've answered all t'others.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 10/2008



June 2024

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Blog powered by Typepad