Summary Against Modern Thought: Correcting Errors About Baptism & The Eucharist

Summary Against Modern Thought: Correcting Errors About Baptism & The Eucharist

Previous post.

The first set of errors about the Eucharist are fixed up this week.


1 Although, of course, the divine power operates with a greater sublimity and secrecy in this sacrament than a man’s inquiry can search out, nonetheless, lest the teaching of the Church regarding this sacrament appear impossible to unbelievers, one must make the endeavor to exclude every impossibility.

Notes I love the Church’s use of mystery to describe truths that cannot be reasoned to. These truths are like all axioms in that.

2 The first consideration we meet, then, is that of the way in which the true body of Christ begins to be under this sacrament.

3 It is impossible, of course, that this take place by a local motion of the body of Christ. One reason is that it would follow that He ceases to be in heaven whenever this sacrament is performed. Another reason is that this sacrament could not be performed at the same time except in one place, since a local motion is not ended except at one term. Another reason, also, is that local motion cannot be instantaneous, but requires time. Consecration, however, is perfected in the ultimate instant of the pronouncement of the words.

4 Therefore, one concludes by saying that the true body of Christ begins to be in this sacrament by the fact that the substance of the bread is converted into the substance of the body of Christ, and the substance of the wine into the substance of His blood.

5 But thus appears the falsity of the opinion: not only of those who say that the substance of the bread exists simultaneously with the substance of Christ in this sacrament, but also of those who hold that the substance of the bread is reduced to nothing or is resolved into prime matter. For on each of these positions it follows that the body of Christ does not begin to be in this sacrament except by local motion. And this is impossible, as we have shown.

Furthermore, if the substance of the bread is simultaneous in this sacrament with the true body of Christ, Christ should rather have said: “My body is here” than: “This is My body.” For by “here” one points to the substance which is seen, and this is indeed the substance of the bread, if it remains in the sacrament with the body of Christ.

Similarly, also, it seems impossible that the substance of the bread returns to nothingness. For much of the bodily nature first created would have already returned into nothingness from the repetition of this mystery. Neither is it becoming that in a sacrament of salvation something be reduced to nothing by the divine power.

Nor is it even possible that the substance of the bread is resolved into prime matter, since prime matter cannot be without form—except, perhaps, that one is to understand by “prime matter” the primary bodily elements. To be sure, if the substance of the bread were resolved into these, this very thing would necessarily be perceived by the senses, since the bodily elements are sensible. There would also be local transmutation in the place and bodily alteration of contraries. And these cannot be instantaneous.

6 Nonetheless, it must be recognized that the aforesaid conversion of the bread into the body of Christ is of another mode than any natural conversion whatever. For in any natural conversion a subject persists in which different forms succeed themselves: these are accidental—white, for example, is converted into black, or they are substantial—air, for example, is converted into fire; wherefore these are named formal conversions. But in the conversion under discussion a subject passes over into a subject, and the accidents persist; hence, this conversion is named substantial. Indeed, how these accidents persist, and why, must be closely examined later.

7 But now we must consider how a subject is converted into a subject. And this, to be sure, nature cannot do. For every operation of nature presupposes matter which individuates the substance; wherefore, nature cannot bring it about that this substance become that substance, that this finger, for example, become that finger. But matter is subject to the divine power, since the latter brings it into being. Hence, by divine power it can come about that this individual substance be converted into that pre-existing substance.

Now, just as the power of a natural agent whose operation extends to the change of a form only, and the existence of the subject is supposed, changes this whole into that whole in a variation of the species and the form—this air, let us say, into that generated fire—so the divine power, which does not presuppose matter, but produces matter, converts this matter into that matter, and, in consequence, this individual into that individual; for the principle of individuation is matter, just as form is the principle of species.

Notes The definition of a miracle.

8 In this way, of course, it is clear that in the aforesaid conversion of bread into the body of Christ there is not a common subject persisting after the conversion, since a transmutation takes place in the first subject, and this is the principle of the individuation. It is necessary, for all that, that something persist to make true the words: “This is My body”; the very words, in fact, which are significative and effective of this conversion. And the substance of the bread does not persist; neither does any prior matter (as was shown). Therefore, one necessarily says that what persists is other than the substance of the bread. Of this sort, of course, is the accident of the bread. Therefore, the accidents of the bread do persist even after the conversion mentioned.

9 Among accidents, however, there is a certain order to be considered. For, among all the accidents, that inhering more closely to the substance is the quantity which tends to measure.

Then the qualities are received in the substance with the quantity as medium: color, for example, with the surface as medium; hence, even by the division of the quantity they are incidentally divided.

But, in addition, the qualities are the principles of actions and passions, as well as of certain relations; father and son, let us say, or master and servant, and others of this kind. Of course, some relations follow immediately on the quantities—greater and less, for instance, or doubled and halved, and similar relations. Therefore, one ought to hold that the accidents of the bread persist after the conversion mentioned in such wise that only the quantity which tends to measure subsists without a subject, and on it the qualities are based as on a subject, and so in consequence are the accidents, passions, and relations. Therefore, in this conversion what takes place is the contrary of what usually takes place in natural mutations, for in these the substance persists as the subject of the mutation, whereas the accidents are varied; but here, conversely, the accident persists, the substance passes.

Notes The accident hierarchy, if you will, is important. It can be “violated”, too, as in the multiplication of fishes and loaves.

10 Of course, a conversion of this kind cannot properly be called motion as that is considered by the natural philosopher, since that requires a subject, but it is a kind of substantial succession; so there is in creation a succession of being and non-being, as was said in Book II.

11 This, then, is one reason why the accident of the bread must remain: that something be discoverable which persists in the conversion under discussion.

12 But it is necessary for another reason. For, if the substance of the bread were converted into the body of Christ and the accidents were to pass on, it would not follow from such a conversion that the body of Christ in His substance would be where first there was bread, for no relationship between the body of Christ and the aforesaid place would be left. But since, after the conversion, the quantity of the bread which tends to measure does remain, and through this the bread acquired this place, the substance of the bread changed into the body of Christ becomes the body of Christ under the bread’s quantity tending to measure; in consequence, the body of Christ in some way acquires the place of the bread, with the measurements of the bread, nonetheless, mediating.

13 Other reasons can also be given: respecting the essentials of faith, which deals with the invisible; respecting also its merit, which is so much the greater in connection with this sacrament, since it deals with the more invisible, for the body of Christ is hidden under the accidents of the bread; respecting, also, the more appropriate and worthy use of this sacrament, for it would be horrible for the receivers, and an abomination to those looking on, if the body of Christ were received by the faithful in its own appearance. Hence, it is under the appearance of bread and wine, which men use rather commonly for meat and drink, that the body of Christ is set forth to be eaten and His blood to be drunk.

Notes Bet you didn’t see that one coming.


  1. C-Marie

    Perfectly explained for those who believe and who are working with God to believe. As for the last paragraph, the flesh of the unblemished animals sacrificed under the Old Testament was eaten, but their blood was not drunk, for God said: “Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh.” Deuteronomy 12: 23.

    But Jesus, Himself is the Lamb of God as John the Baptist said: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1: 29.

    And Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” John 14: 6. He, Himself, declares that He is the Life.

    And so, since Jesus is the Life, we are to partake of His Body and to drink His Blood, for He is the Lamb of God, the true, complete sacrifice for all of our sins, Whose sacrifice God the Father received, as complete propitiation for our sins. Just believe and remember, that God brings all into existence, not we ourselves.

    And remember, Jesus in His humanity, fully trusted God our Father, and so we are to do, too.

    God bless, C-Marie

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