In my recent article entitled “Pope announces procedure for Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church,” I made mention at the end that one stumbling block for Anglicans is the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation. I was reminded by a reader that, “most Anglicans including Episcopalians believe in the ‘real presence’ of Christ in the Holy Eucharist but they do not call it transubstantion.” (Note: spelling of commenter) In order to address this issue properly, I researched the concepts of Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation and Sacramental Union. These doctrines truly demand much more discussion than this article can provide in five hundred words. However, I thought it important to differentiate between the Roman Catholic doctrine and other doctrines of various Christian denominations.
Catholic doctrine is quite clear on their belief of transubstantiation, which describes the nature of the Eucharist in metaphysical terms. Roman Catholic’s have faith in the literalness of the words spoken by Jesus. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines transubstantiation in section 1376:
“The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: ‘Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”
According to Catholic doctrine, once consecration of the bread and wine has taken place and it has become the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, it remains as such until it is entirely consumed. The body and blood of Christ that is not consumed during the celebration of the Eucharist is reserved for the next celebration and is venerated as the body and blood of Christ.
Consubstantiation also attempts to define the nature of the Eucharist in concrete terms. However, unlike transubstantiation, consubstantiation doctrine declares the “substance” of the body and blood of Christ is present alongside the substance of the bread and wine, which remain. Where Catholics believe the bread and wine is changed completely into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, believers of consubstantiation believe the body and blood of Jesus Christ and bread and wine exist together in the Eucharist.
Martin Luther defined his doctrine as the sacramental union. Luther rejected consubstantiation, as he believed it substituted biblical doctrine with a philosophical interpretation. In his 1528 Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, Martin Luther wrote,
“Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, “This is my body,” even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word “this” indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a “sacramental union.” because Christ’s body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament. This is not a natural or personal union, as is the case with God and Christ. It is also perhaps a different union from that which the dove has with the Holy Spirit and the flame with the angel, but it is also assuredly a sacramental union.”
Therefore, Roman Catholic doctrine regarding the Holy Eucharist is substantially different from other Christian viewpoints. Some Lutherans believe in consubstantiation, while others reject it in favor of Luther’s sacramental union doctrine.
To read more from this writer on the Roman Catholic Faith:
Pope announces procedure for Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church
Vatican City, Athens & Mykonos: Inspiring Travel Destinations
Belmont Abbey College Faces Discrimination
RCIA: Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults
wiki.answers.com-transubstantiation vs. consubstantiation