The Church and the Sacraments, Views During the Third Period (750-1517 A.D.), The Seven Sacraments, The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation

The doctrine of Transubstantiation as set forth in the decrees of the Council of Trent

In chapter 1 of the decrees of this council, calling attention to the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, we read: “In the first place, the holy Synod teaches, and openly and simply professes, that, in the august sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things. For neither are these things mutually repugnant,—that our Savior himself always sitteth at the right hand of the Father in heaven, according to the natural mode of existing, and that, nevertheless, he be, in many other places, sacramentally present to us in his own substance, by a manner of existing, which, though we can scarcely express it in words, yet can we, by the understanding illuminated by faith, conceive, and we ought most firmly to believe, to be possible unto God: for thus all our forefathers, as many as were in the true Church of Christ, who have treated of this most holy Sacrament, have most openly professed, that our Redeemer instituted this so admirable a sacrament at the last supper, when, after the blessing of the bread and wine, he testified, in express and clear words, that he gave them his own very body, and his own blood, words which,—recorded by the holy Evangelists, and afterwards repeated by Saint Paul, whereas they carry with them that proper and most manifest meaning in which they were understood by the Fathers,—it is indeed a crime the most unworthy that they should be wrested, by certain contentious and wicked men, to fictitious and imaginary tropes, whereby the verity of the flesh and blood of Christ is denied, contrary to the universal sense of the Church, which, as the pillar and ground of truth, has detested, as satanical, these inventions devised by impious men; she recognizing, with a mind ever grateful and unforgetting, the most excellent benefit of Christ.” 

In chapter III of these decrees, calling attention to the excellency of the most holy Eucharist over the rest of the sacraments, we read: “The most holy Eucharist has indeed this in common with the rest of the sacraments, that it is a symbol of a sacred thing, and is a visible form of an invisible grace; but there is found in the Eucharist this excellent and peculiar thing, that the other sacraments have then first the power of sanctifying when one uses them, whereas in the Eucharist, before being used, there is the Author himself of sanctity. For the apostles had not as yet received the Eucharist from the hand of the Lord, when nevertheless himself affirmed with truth that to be his own body which he presented (to them). And this faith has ever been in the Church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, the veritable body of our Lord, and his veritable blood, together with his soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine; but the body indeed under the species of bread, and the blood under the species of wine, by the force of the words; but the body itself under the species of wine, and the blood under the species of bread, and the soul under both, by the force of that natural connection and concomitancy whereby the parts of Christ our Lord,who hath now risen from the dead, to die no more— I Cor. 6:9, are united together; and the divinity, furthermore, on account of the admirable hypostatical union thereof with his body and soul. Wherefore it is most true, that as much is contained under either species as under both; for Christ whole and entire is under the species of bread, and under any part whatsoever of that species; likewise the whole (Christ) is under the species of wine, and under the parts thereof.” 

Christ is present in this ordinance, not spiritually as taught by the Reformed, nor by the real presence of his body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine, but by the bread and wine being by the almighty power of God changed into his body and blood. As at the feast in Cana of Galilee, the water was changed into wine, so in the eucharist, the bread and wine are changed into, and remain the body and blood of Christ. The doctrine is thus set forth in the Canons of the Council of Trent, in which the Roman Catholic Church anathemizes all those who deny this doctrine as follows. Canon I: “If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that he is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue: let him be anathema.” Canon II: “If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood—the species only of the bread and wine remaining—which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation: let him be anathema.” Canon III: “If any one denieth that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated: let him be anathema.” Canon IV: “If any one saith, that; after the consecration is completed, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the admirable sacrament of the Eucharist, but (are there) only during the use, whilst it is being taken, and not either before or after; and that, in the hosts, or consecrated particles; which are reserved or which remain after communion, the true body of the Lord remaineth not: let him be anathema.” Canon V: “If any one saith, either that the principal fruit of the most holy Eucharist is the remission of sins, or that other effects do not result therefrom: let him be anathema.” Canon IV: “If any one saith, that, in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with the worship, even external of latria; and is, consequently, neither to be venerated with a special festive solemnity, nor to be solemnly borne about in procession, according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of holy Church; or, is not to be proposed publicly to the people to be adored, and that the adorers thereof are idolators: let him be anathema.” Canon VII: “If any one saith, that it is not lawful for the sacred Eucharist to be reserved in thesacrarium, but that, immediately after consecration, it must necessarily be distributed amongst those present; or, that it is not lawful that it be carried with honor to the sick: let him be anathema.” Canon VIII: “If any one saith, that Christ, given in the Eucharist, is eaten spiritually only, and not also sacramentally and really: let him be anathema.” Canon IX: “If any one denieth, that all and each of Christ’s faithful of both sexes are bound, when they have atttained to years of discretion, to communicate every year, at least at Easter, in accordance with the precept of holy Mother Church: let him be anathema.” Canon X: “If any one saith, that it is not lawful for the celebrating priest to communicate himself: let him be anathema.” Canon XI: “If any one saith, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist: let him be anathema. And for fear lest so great a sacrament may be received unworthily, and so unto death and condemnation, this holy Synod ordains and declares, that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made beforehand, by those whose conscience is burdened with mortal sin, how contrite even soever they may think themselves. But if any one shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated.” 

Commenting on these decrees and canons, Hodge in his Systematic Theology, pages 680-682, writes as follows: “From this statement it appears, first, as concerns the elements of bread and wine, that in and by the act of consecration, their whole substance is changed. Nothing of the substance is changed. Nothing of the substance or essence of either remains. The accidents, or sensible properties, however, continue as they were. The form, color, taste, odor, the specific. gravity, their chemical affinities, and their nutritive qualities remain the same (this Rome cannot very well deny. These things can easily be proven.—H.V.). So far as the senses, chemical analysis, and physics are concerned or are to be trusted, no change has taken place. As the sensible properties of the bread and wine do not and cannot inhere in the substance of Christ’s body and blood, and as their own substance no longer exists, those properties do not inhere in any substance. This is stated literally in a Roman Catholic Catechism (H.V.) 

Secondly; as to what is said to be present under the species of bread and wine, it is the body and blood of Christ; the body which hung upon the cross; the blood which flowed from his side; with the nerves, bones, and whatever pertains to the completeness of man (this, too, is literally stated in a Roman Catechism—H.V.). As, however, the body of Christ is inseparably connected with his soul, so that where the one is, the other must be and as his soul is in like manner connected with his divinity, it follows that the whole Christ, body and soul, and divinity, is present (Catechism by Rome—H.V.). 

Thirdly, the whole Christ is in the bread and the whole Christ is in the wine: and not only so, but in each and every particle of both species. Thus again the Roman Catechism. 

Fourthly, Lutherans teach that the presence of the body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine, is confined to the time of the administration of the sacrament. Romanists, on the other hand, teach that as there is an entire change of the substance of the elements into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, that change is permanent. From this it is inferred, (1) That the consecrated wafer as containing the whole Christ may be preserved. (2) That it may be carried to the sick. (3) That it may be borne about in procession. (4) That it should be adored. 

It is well known that Romanists distinguish between the “cultus civilis,” or worship (that is, respect) due to our superiors among men; douleia, due to saints and angels; huperdouleia, due to the Virgin Mary, andlatreia, due to God alone. The ground of this worship is the real or supposed possession of divine perfections in its object. When our Lord was upon earth He was the proper object of this divine worship, because He was God manifested in the flesh. The worship terminated on the person; and that person is and was divine. If Christians err in believing that the person known in history as Jesus of Nazareth, was, and is the Eternal Son of God clothed in our nature, then their worship of Him is idolatry . . .” With this analysis of the canons of the council of Trent by Hodge we will continue, the Lord willing, in our following article. 

—H.V.