I’m pretty sure this is how I sound when I try to explain transubstantiation, the Catholic teaching that in the Eucharist, the whole substance of the bread and wine changes into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, while still appearing, in every physical way, to bread and wine…
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
This is a hard teaching.
But it’s not unbelievable. I’ve been told that accepting that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist means I have to buy into a primitive and bizarre system of Aristotelian metaphysics, in particular distinguishing between substance and accidents of a thing.
I don’t buy that.
If you can tell the difference between what something is and what it seems to be, then you’ve understood transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is simply changing of the substance of a thing, the what-it-is, without changing the accidents, the what-it-appears-to-be.
It’s a pretty basic distinction. Sure, Aristotle can help us understand it; apparently so can Alice Tinker.
And yes, if I think about it more, my head will probably explode. That’s the uncreated, crucified, resurrected Lord of the Universe, truly, really and substantially, in a bit of bread and wine.
But that’s faith, right?
“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”