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.
Sometimes a Catholic priest (or Orthodox priest) becomes a satanist. And sometimes a satanist priest finds a way to become ordained as a Catholic (or Orthodox) priest.
Bill Schnoebelen is a Christian minister. Many years ago (before he became a born-again Christian) he was both a Wiccan high priest and a satanist priest. [Note 2] As a satanist priest, he became ordained as an Old Roman Catholic priest. This was arranged by an Old Catholic priest who wanted to be ordained as a Wiccan priest. The following is quoted (with permission) from an email message that Bill sent me.
In Anton LaVey’s official biography, The Devil’s Avenger,' by Burton Wolfe, it is stated that LaVey was consecrated an Orthodox bishop by a Greek Orthodox bishop in exchange for the bishop being made a satanic priest.
Alex Sanders, the King of the Witches,' also sought, and received, Holy Orders and was made a bishop.
Aleister Crowley was consecrated a bishop in the Old Roman Catholic Church from the succession of Archbishop Joseph Rene Villatte (as was I, a generation or two later). His Orders (as mine) are regarded by the Vatican as being valid but illicit.' I have a letter to that effect from Franz Cardinal Seper, who at that time was the head of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Note that both Crowley and Schnoebelen were ordained in the OLD Roman Catholic Church. Its members say that they have the same Apostolic succession as the regular Roman Catholic Church. Its critics claim that it is a sect or the result of a schism. You can read about it online. [Note 3]
Satanists believe that, as an ordained Catholic (or Orthodox) priest, the satanist priest can say Mass and turn the bread and wine into Jesus Christ. Then the satanists attending the ritual can do disgraceful things to that bread and wine in an attempt to hurt and disgrace Jesus. This is known as a Black Mass.
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,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:7-9)
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,
Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20)
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)
Jesus said that a time would come when we would realize that He truly lives in us, and we truly live in Him.
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)
Jesus told us,
Abide in me, and I in you. (John 15:4)
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.
He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1:9)
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
…that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17)
Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Christ liveth in me (Galatians 2:20)
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15)
If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)
…your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God (1 Corinthians 6:19)
God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)
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.
USE OF THIS ARTICLE
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1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Washington, DC: U.S. Catholic Conference, 2000), paragraph 1374. (Also see paragraphs 1373-1377 and 1413.)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is available online with a search engine. You can search for words, phrases, or paragraph numbers. If the following Internet addresses don't work, then do an Internet search for Catechism of the Catholic Church.
2. William Schnoebelen tells about his experience with Wicca and satanism in two books. Wicca: Satan's Little White Lie is about Wicca. Lucifer Dethroned is about satanism. Both are available at Amazon.com.
3. Articles about the OLD Roman Catholic Church
A historical sketch from an Old Roman Catholic website. They refer to themselves as Old Roman Catholic or Old Catholic.
Another website of the Old Roman Catholic Church. It says that they are a present day successor of the historic Catholic Church and its undivided Apostolic faith.
A historic overview of the Old Roman Catholic Church, written by its bishop. This was posted on the website of the Antiochan Catholic Church.
Some Old Roman Catholics joined the Theosophical Society. This put them in contact with, and under the influence of, occultists.
If you want to get this in perspective, please read my article New Age Catholicism. It shows that a number of regular Roman Catholic priests, monks and nuns have been involved with occultism. With the Old Roman Catholics, it was Theosophy. With regular Roman Catholics, it was New Age meditation, witchcraft, pagan goddess worship, eastern religious practices, and other things. You might also want to read my article Mixing Paganism with Christianity.
Copyright 2004 by Mary Ann Collins. All rights reserved.