Transubstantiation is the Roman Catholic dogma that the substance of bread and wine transforms into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ during the Eucharistic celebration of Holy Mass.
To make sense of the fact that the communion wafer doesn’t change in outward appearance, Catholic theologians rely on the Aristotelian distinction between a thing’s form and its substance.
According to this belief, the form (what we see) does not change but the substance (sometimes called the essence) does.
This opposes the popular view that the Eucharist is only a symbol of remembrance or, as some New Age believers say, a sign of human or cosmic unity. From a Catholic perspective, both of these views are inadequate.
While the sacrament of the Eucharist includes symbolic and unifying aspects, its heavenly mystical quality supersedes these shortsighted interpretations about its meaning and character.
In some New Age circles, there is a trend to equate the cosmic and/or astral realms with the heavenly. But for Catholics the cosmic (planets, stars, galaxies, energy), the astral (spirits, gods, goddesses), and the heavenly (sometimes revealed audio-visually but usually experienced as grace) are each different.
So for Catholics, any attempt to homogenize these realms falls short.
On the Web:
- While Catholics believe that the Eucharist need not change in physical appearance to be an effective sacrament, claims are sometimes made as to its miraculous transformation