My Turn: Can Transubstantiation take place? It can, it has and it does |

My Turn: Can Transubstantiation take place? It can, it has and it does

Under the title Is “Transubstantiation True?” (Sierra Sun, Oct. 19, Community, Faith Listings) Dr. Jeff Kaplan, Senior Pastor, Bear Valley Church, is presented as asking that question.

The title and his essay imply that he is asking: Can Transubstantiation take place? Has it ever taken place? Does it now take place? The answer is: It can, it has and it does.

Transubstantiation, a term whose usage is confined to the Eucharistic rite, signifies that “by the consecration of the bread and wine (in the Eucharistic celebration) a change takes place in which the entire substance of the bread is changed into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and the entire substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the holy Catholic Church fittingly and properly calls transubstantiation” (Chap. 4, sess. 13, Council of Trent, Oct. 11, 1551: Denz 1642).

Can Transubstantiation take place? Yes. God, who created the universe, can readily change one substance of that universe into another; that is, transubstantiate.

Did Transubstantiation take place? Yes. Jesus Christ, being truly God, by his infinite power did change the substance of bread and wine into the substance of His body and blood at the Last Supper on the night before he was crucified. That he did so is reported in the Gospels of Matthew (26:26-28), Mark (14:22-24) and Luke (22:19-20), and in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (11:23-25). Matthew records Jesus as taking bread and saying: “Take this and eat it, this is my body,” and taking a cup (of wine) and saying: “All of you must drink from it, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out on behalf of many… .” Mark reports the words of Jesus as: “Take this, this is my body. …This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out on behalf of many.” Luke reports Jesus’ words as: “This is my body to be given for you. … This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.” St. Paul has Jesus saying: “This is my body, which is for you. …This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” In each of these reports Jesus’ words are direct and clear. There is no indication that they should be taken in other than their literal sense. That was the sense in which Jesus’ hearers – Jews, disciples, Apostles – understood him on the occasion of the dialogue reported in John’s Gospel, Chapter 6. Their response: “After hearing his words, many of his disciples remarked: ‘This sort of talk is hard to endure! How can anyone take it seriously?’ …From this time on, many of his disciples broke away and would not remain in his company any longer” (cf Jn. 6:60 et seq.) Jesus did not call them back and tell them they erred in taking his words literally. If they had erred he should have and would have told them so. Rather he “said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to leave me too?'” (cf Jn. 6:67).

The early Christian writers understood Jesus as having spoken literally in reference to the changing of bread and wine into his body and blood. St. Ignatius of Antioch (died c. 110 A.D.) wrote that ‘the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh that suffered for our sins …” (cf Epist. Ad Smyrnaeos 7.1; Quasten MonE 336).

St. Justin (died c. 165 A.D.) wrote that the Eucharist is regarded “not as common bread nor common drink, ……” but “is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” (cf Apologia 1.66; Quasten MonE 18). Saint Irenaeus (died c. 202 A.D.) wrote that the wine in the chalice and the bread that has been baked become the Eucharist of the Lord’s blood and body (Adversus haereses 5.2.3; Quasten MonE 347).

Does Transubstantiation take place today? Yes; whenever and wherever the Eucharist is validly celebrated. Jesus, being God, can share his power with whom he wills. When he transubstantiated the bread and wine into his body and blood at the Last Supper he empowered his Apostles to do the same. “Do this,” he said, “in remembrance of me” (cf Lk 22:19; I Cor. 11:25). That power has been passed on from them down through the centuries to the present time through the sacrament of Holy Orders.

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