A-Z: General definitions: Transubstantiation


The conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ which is believed by some Christians to occur in the Eucharist or Mass. According to the Catholic theology of Holy Communion, the appearance of bread and wine used in that service (taste, smell etc.) are known as the 'accidents'. Catholics believe that transubstantiation turns the 'substance' of the water and wine (what they really are) into the body and blood of Christ (even though the appearance remains the same) and a new reality comes about. Transubstantiation occurs when the priest repeats over the bread and wine the words of Christ at the Last Supper before he was crucified: ' Over the bread is said 'Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.' ' Over the wine is said 'Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all men so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.' ' These words underline the idea of 'the sacrifice of the Mass': i.e. that at each Mass (known by non-Catholics as Holy Communion) Christ's sacrifice of himself, flesh and blood, is repeated, and the bread and wine become his body and blood. Those parts of the Christian tradition that do not accept transubstantiation see the communion service as a commemorative and symbolic act.

Related Topics

Big ideas: Last Supper, communion, eucharist, mass

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