Mary Ann Collins
Transubstantiation is the doctrine that if a validly ordained Catholic priest consecrates bread and wine, then Jesus Christ is literally present -- body, blood, soul, and divinity -- in every crumb of consecrated bread and every drop of consecrated wine. This is the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is clearly stated in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” [Note 1]
Catholics call this “the Eucharist” or “holy communion”. They speak about the “real presence” of Christ in the bread and wine. Things relating to it are called “eucharistic”. A consecrated communion wafer is called a “host”. Hosts that are left over after Mass are kept in a tabernacle, (a large, ornate container that can be locked). When hosts are in the tabernacle, a candle is lit. This enables Catholics to know that consecrated hosts are inside, so they can kneel and pray in front of the tabernacle as a form of eucharistic devotion. The tabernacle also protects the hosts by making it difficult to steal them.
When I was a Catholic, I sometimes attended special services called “Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament”. A large consecrated host was put in a monstrance. (This is a large, ornate, metal container, in the basic shape of a daisy with a stem, plus a base so that it can stand up.) The monstrance looked like it was made of gold. It had a circular chamber in the middle which held a large, round host. The front of the chamber was glass, so you could see the host. Visually it looked like gold rays were coming out of the host.
The priest put the monstrance on the altar. We worshiped the host, believing that it was Jesus. There were special prayers and special songs. (One of the songs was, “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.”) At the end of the service, we had Benediction. The priest held the monstrance and made the sign of the cross with it. We believed that Jesus Christ Himself was blessing us.
Belief in transubstantiation can cause problems for children. I have corresponded with “cradle Catholics” who, when they were children, were afraid that if they chewed the communion wafer they would hurt Jesus. I never personally had that problem because I was an adult convert to Catholicism. But it is easy to see why this could worry children.
Perhaps this is why communion wafers melt on your tongue, instead of being real bread, which has to be chewed. Jesus used unleavened bread during a Passover meal. In America, such bread is known as matzos, and modern Jews eat it during Passover. You have to chew it. And it makes crumbs. That’s a problem if you believe that every crumb contains the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. What happens if someone steps on that crumb, or if a church mouse eats it? You can avoid that problem by making communion wafers of something similar to library paste, so that they melt on your tongue and don’t make crumbs.
The Orthodox church also believes in transubstantiation. They believe that when validly ordained Orthodox priests consecrate bread and wine, Jesus Christ is literally present in them.
There is a third religious group that believes in transubstantiation. Satanists have a reputation for stealing hosts in order to desecrate them during satanic rituals. Like the Catholic children I mentioned above, Satanists believe that they can hurt Jesus by doing things to the consecrated bread. The difference is that the children want to avoid hurting Jesus, but the Satanists are trying to hurt Him.
According to “The New Encyclopedia of the Occult,” the Black Mass is “the central rite of some traditional forms of Satanism.” It is a mockery of the Catholic Mass, and it usually ends with an orgy. During the Black Mass, a Host (consecrated bread) “is defiled in various ways.” [Note 2]
The Satanists participating in the ritual think that they can hurt Jesus Christ by doing disgraceful things to consecrated bread.
Would God set up a system that enables people to hurt Jesus by doing shameful things to bread and wine? Of course not!
When Jesus talked about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, he was using a metaphor (symbolic language). He often did that when He described our relationship with Him. For example, Jesus said,
But we don’t make special doors that represent Jesus. And we don’t walk through them in order to be saved. And we don’t go into pastures to eat grass like sheep do.
There is another basic problem with the doctrine of transubstantiation. If consecrated bread really did turn into Jesus Christ, then this is what would happen when you took communion. You would eat the consecrated bread. Because of that, Jesus would be inside of you. But only until the bread was digested. Once the bread was gone, then Jesus would also be gone. If you only took communion at Mass on Sundays, then Jesus would be inside of you for a few hours on Sundays. The rest of the time, He would be gone.
This is not what we see in Scripture. Jesus promised to stay with us, to be with us all the time. He said,
Jesus said that a time would come when we would realize that He truly lives in us, and we truly live in Him.
Jesus told us,
According to “Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary,” the word “abide” means “to stay; to continue in a place; to dwell; sojourn; to remain”.
The Bible tells us that God will be with His people, and that He will be in His people. And it does not depend on consecrated bread. It depends upon our personal relationship with God. Look at the following Scriptures. If we are truly Christians, then the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwell within us.
It’s good to take communion as a grateful memorial in honor of what Jesus did for us. But it doesn’t make any sense to take communion in order to be closer to God. If we are truly Christians, then the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all live in us. How can you get any closer than that?
For information about some other Scriptural problems with the doctrine of transubstantiation, see Jim Tetlow’s article “The Eucharist -- A Biblical Review.” It’s on this website. A link is below.
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1. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church, ” paragraphs 1106, 1374, 1377. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” comes in numerous editions and languages. Because it has numbered paragraphs, statements can be accurately located in spite of the variety of editions. You can get the book in regular bookstores and at Amazon.com.
2. John Michael Greer, “The New Encyclopedia of the Occult” (St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., 2003), page 67.