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September 14, 2006



I would simply have said that Christ is SUBSTANTIALLY present in the Eucharist, where He is not in the other instances...but that's just me.

God Bless,


I am with several of my children (hmm, it's quiet in the next room. That can't be good) but I am SUBSTANTIALLY present to the one who is currently sustaining him/herself from my body and blood.


Seems there are a few Steve's here... hope my nick doesn't collide with anybody else.

I'm new at this, as a recent convert, so take my words with a pinch of salt. My take on this is why would Jesus have bothered to institute the Eucharist if he was present in so many other circumstances in the same way? What would the purpose be?

I suspect that, being God, he knows how important it is to have an "anchor" of sorts. The Eucharist is that anchor. Without the Eucharist, the door is open for a kind of relativism -- if He's everywhere, than anything in particular could be lessened in importance.

How many thousands of denominations are out there without the Eucharist? IMHO, this stands in stark contrast to those churches that have a valid Eucharist. We have our own difficulties with unity, but the anchor (source and summit!) is there and that means something special.


I would say that the difference is comparable to the difference between spousal relationships, and relationships with other close family members.

Our reception of the Eucharist is pointing us towards our heavenly relationship at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Being gathered together in ministering to our fellow man, is reflective of our relationships with close family members.

Francis DS

And when I am by myself, is Jesus no longer present?

How about when there are four or five of us?

John E

"And when I am by myself, is Jesus no longer present?"

Even when I'm "alone", my guardian angel is there, as well as countless saints I can call upon to pray with me and for me.

Catholic Mom

Thanks, Jimmy! This is exactly the answer I was seeking. I had no doubt of the errors in their thinking and your eloquent response explains it. Yet, the discussion also brought about an epiphany for me. I really do understand now their attachment to the horizontal focus on fellowship and sharing a meal that pervades many of their liturgies. Their failure to see that Christ's presence is more complete in the Eucharist than it is in their neighbor makes the fellowship as important to them as Communion. If they understood the True Presence in the Eucharist, the vertically oriented liturgy would make more sense for them. I guess the answer is catechesis, catechesis, and more catechesis accompanied by prayer, prayer, and more prayer!

Brother Cadfael


Even when I'm "alone", my guardian angel is there, as well as countless saints I can call upon to pray with me and for me.

And to continue your point (at least, I think this is the point you were making), even when you're "alone," two or more are still gathered in His name, and He would still be present according to His promise. Good point.

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

For Christ,
the "why" of giving his body and blood to us as food and drink:


[Forgive me if my attempts at providing links have failed.]

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

I think these might work.




Mary Kay

Jimmy, thanks for the your explanation. I'm going to re-read it and use it in discussions in my very liberal diocese. Not that they're likely to listen, but it looks like you've given me some additional ammunition.

Scott W

This is very important because there are unfortunately agenda-driven Catholics who hedge on Real Presence. You may see in resistence to Eucharistic Adoration. In my case it was a We Are Church/women priest enthusiast. My guess is that the effort to downgrade the sacrament means that anyone can do it--man, women, layperson, non-Catholic, trained monkey...


When I am one of those 2 or 3 gathered, I know Christ is present, but I also know that none of us becomes the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Hence, in the Eucharist, which IS the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, the presence is substantially different. QED

Tim J.

For that matter, Psalm 23 says;

"though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me..."

So, the question is, where can we go where God ISN'T? There are numerous passages in scripture that show that this is impossible. He is everywhere, at all times.

God apparently thought it worthwhile, though, to come to us PHYSICALLY via the Incarnation. This was for our sake, not His. He gives us Himself in the Eucharist in much the same way, and again for our sake.

The Eucharist is the way in which Jesus and his Bride become "one flesh". A lot of people get to be with me at some time or another, but only my wife - my bride - gets to be "with me" in the full, physical, unitive sense.

This union that we have with Christ through the Eucharist is not barren, either, but produces spiritual fruit. In fact, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.".

It's no good trying to be more spiritual than God.

When I taught my only Confirmation class, I told the kids that the sacraments were each a certain encounter with Christ. I used the analogy of electrical power, saying that if you go walking around outdoors in all kinds of weather, you might get hit by lightning, but it was by no means a sure thing. On the other hand, the sacraments are like an electrical outlet... reliable, always available, as long as you are not impeded from receiving by sin.

One might feel close to God in the woods, or watching the sun set over the ocean, or while holding a baby... but "feeling close" isn't the same as being IN UNION with someone. Again, I have been "close" to any number of people, but physical union is something of a higher order.


But on the "social justice" front, Christ said: "If you did not do this for the least of my bretheren, you did not do this for me". This to me, means that if an opportunity presents itself to help someone in need, you should do it.

But by the same token, what is our obligation to seek out those who need help? If we clothe 1000 people, but miss one, are we going into eternal hellfire with the "goats"?

I see cases where people are saying that the time spent before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration would be better spent helping the poor, but then I remember Judas' words when Mary was anointing Jesus regarding the "wasting of the ointment" and the money could have been used for the poor.


Catholic Mom,

The next time you're with some of these folks, bite one of them on the arm and say John 6:53.



Jesus is with us even when we can't see Him. Is there really a question on this?

The Blessed Sacrament is not only but also more than. It is also a covenant renewal ceremony, as others have noted above. Christ is also physically present as the elements. Whether when we can't see Him, He isn't physical, I don't begin to know. But He is with us - He Himself says so.

How is this incorrect?


Brilliant answer Jimmy.

Christians who have trouble with Transubstantiation on these grounds would presumably agree that God was present in the world (eg in His holy people and in an omnipresent sense) even before Jesus walked the earth as we do. And God was still present (outside Jesus) while Jesus walked the earth as we do. Yet Jesus is God and the presence of God was at its fullest and most substantial in Jesus, even though God was also omnipresent in Peter and everywhere else.

If they were they alive then they would, no doubt, consider it appropriate to worship/genuflect etc to Jesus but not to Peter - even though God in His omnipresence was also in Peter. The same applies today to Jesus as Eucharistic Bread and Wine compared with Jesus present in the congregation and celebration.


You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Tim J.

That's cuz we are what we eat, Mark.


I eat myself alive.

Theology nerd/technical question for Mr. Akin (or any apologist familiar with the argument): There was recently a poster on another blog (claiming to be a priest) who said that, while Christ is really and substantially present in the Eucharist, He is not PHYSICALLY present.

The poster writes: "Take, for example, "substance". Because in modern-day English, people associate "substance" with physical matter, many people mistakenly think that Catholics believe that bread and wine physically become the Body and Blood of Christ--that Jesus is physically present in the Blessed Sacrament.

"But we hold and teach "transubstantiation"--that is, that the substance of bread and wine have become the substance of Christ's Body and Blood while the physical attributes of bread and wine--the "accidents"--remain the same. Hence, we hold that the Body and Blood of Christ are substantially present under the accidents of bread and wine, not physically present."

He then goes on to cite Aristotle's Catagories, saying that "Substantial presence is a much more profound mode of presence than physical presence could ever be."

Now, this is not my understanding. My understanding is that, while it is true that theologians usually haven't been in the habit of saying that Christ is "physically" present in the Eucharist, this is probably, according to my sources, because they are translating "physically" from the Greek equivalent or root, meaning "naturally." And so, while Our Lord is not present in a "natural" manner or by "natural" means, He is still, as we define the term "physical" in the English language, physically present. Furthermore, Pope Paul VI writes in the Encyclical Mysterium Fidei: "Christ is present whole and entire, bodily present, in his physical reality".

So, is my understanding on this correct? Or is the poster (once again, claiming to be a priest, for which I have no reason to doubt him) correct?

Jared Weber

That anonymous query was mine. Also, to clarify, the sentence, "There was recently a poster on another blog (claiming to be a priest) who said ...." The poster (commenting on someone else's blog) claims to be a priest. The blog itself did not make this claim since, well, it's a blog and being a collection of data disqualifies one from becoming a priest.

Hope that clears that up.


John E

My understanding is also that Christ remains truly and substantially present in the Eucharist as long as the accidents remain. But at some point the bread dissolves and is digested and can no longer be considered bread and the wine is absorbed into the bloodstream so it can no longer be considered wine.

So Christ's substantial presence gradually disappears while his spiritual presence remains? Like a married couple who are present to each other in the conjugal act but at some point are no longer present to each other in that way yet still might remain present in a lesser (although perhaps still very close) way? Would that be a good analogy?

Some Day

I know a good example:
If a priest prays the Divine Office, then it has the merit of the whole Church praying it. But when at least two people pray it regardless of the fact they are not ordained ministers, it has the merit of the whole Church as well, because it is an official prayer of the Church.

Chandra N

In reply to Mark, I also heard that kind of explanation, It says that although it is substantially Christ's body himself, it doesn't mean that he is bound 'physically' (under the law of physics in this universe), because, it says, the risen body of Christ can no longer be contained in this fallen world. And the argument follows that although the transubstantiated host is indeed the body and blood of Christ, it's not as if he's locked locally in the tabernacle/monstrance. But I'm still not very clear on this. Anyone?

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

The physical Body and Blood of Christ are really, truly and substantially present in the Eucharist. However, in the Eucharist we do not physically see flesh and blood. The Eucharist does not physically feel like flesh and blood. It does not physically taste like flesh and blood. To assert that the physical looks, the physical texture and the physical taste are physically present in the Eucharist would be to assert something that Catholic dogma does not assert.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1381 “That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended by the senses,’ says St. Thomas, ‘but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.’ For this reason, in a commentary on Luke 22:19 (‘This is my body which is given for you.’), St. Cyril says: ‘Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.’“

Notice the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “cannot be apprehended by the senses”. He is referring to the physical senses, i.e., that “in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that ‘cannot be apprehended’” physically. For this reason, in his Adoro Te devote, St. Thomas Aquinas declares:

visus, tactus, gustus in Te fallitur, sed auditu solo tuto creditur
“Sight, touch, taste fail in Thee, but hearing alone is safely believed.”

The manner in which Christ’s physical Body and Blood are really, truly and substantially present is a sacramental manner, not a physical manner. That is the faith and teaching of the Catholic Church.

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church entirely omits saying “physical presence” and “physically present” when it speaks of the taste, touch and looks of flesh and blood. The real, true and substantial sacramental presence of those physical qualities is distinct from the physical presence of those physical qualities.


Let’s not chop up the presence of Christ.

Thanks, Jimmy for a great explanation of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I believe that is a mistake, however, to speak (as some of the comments do) of different manifestations of the presence of Christ in the world as though they could be separated. There is one God, one Christ, and one mystery of his presence in the world. The fact that Jesus is present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist can in no way demean or lessen the reality or significance of his presence in the poor or in community. These are all different experiences of the same thing. To set one against the other leaves all of them incomplete.

Pope Benedict XVI discusses this very beautifully in his Encyclical, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html>Deus Caritas Est(God is Love). “Here the usual contraposition between worship and ethics simply falls apart. “Worship” itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”(#14)

When Tony talks about whether time is better spent in adoration of the Eucharist or serving the poor, he takes a stab at but slightly misses the point: if we are not making time to worship and serve, we are not doing either completely.

It may help to think of the presence of Christ with a Baptismal image: as a life giving river in the desert. Whether we dip our toe, soak our bandana, take a drink, haul water for others, or dive in and swim, the river remains the same. What is different is the way we experience it, and the more ways we come to the water, the better we come to know its gifts.

Matt McDonald

"the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented."(#14)

When Tony talks about whether time is better spent in adoration of the Eucharist or serving the poor, he takes a stab at but slightly misses the point: if we are not making time to worship and serve, we are not doing either completely.

Michael, I think you are using the Pope's words to further your own opinion on how best to serve the poor, to the exclusion of what other people might see they can be served.

The Pope said concrete practice of love, you heard "feed the poor". For you to hear that is fine, but if a monk in a contemplative order hears "pray for the poor", others might hear "teach the man to fish". All of these are no less valid ways of concretely serving the poor.

Generally speaking it is important to actually serve people in a face to face manner, as it show's them the love of Christ, it need not be actually feeding them. Perhaps taking the time to speak with them about the love of Christ, or to council those considering abortion, etc. etc.


Matt, I've reread my post and can't find anything that should imply an agenda. I didn't use the word "feed," and I agree that a response to the Gospel's call to feed the poor requires more than handing out food. I was merely trying to point out the danger of a false dichotome between our experience of Christ in the Eucharist and Christ in "the least of these."

Certainly the full and real presence in the Eucharist is special, but authentic worship of Eucharist should not be compared against the encounter of Christ in others as though one could be superior. As Blessed Theresa of Calcutta and others have taught, authentic worship of Christ in Eucharist will sharpen our eye to see Him in the poor and forgotten.


Where two or more are gathered, there is Christ. But we (gatherers) are not God.

Christ is the Word (Bible) made flesh. But the bible is not God.

Christ is physically present in the Eucharist. And the Eucharist IS God.


Brother Cadfael

Christ is physically present in the Eucharist.

Technically, Christ's physical body and blood (as well as His soul and divinity) are sacramentally present in the Eucharist, not physically present. One should distinguish between what is present (Christ's body and blood, indeed the whole Christ) and the mode by which it is present (sacramentally). See Summa, III, q. 75, a. 1, ad 3.

Abbot Vonier emphasizes this point in his 1925 masterpiece, A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist.

Some Day

Our Lord is physically present, because of the sacrament instituted by Our Lord. Sacramentally present does not exclude the physical presence.

Brother Cadfael

Abbot Vonnier:

"For more than one believer, without being conscious of it, the Eucharistic Presence is nothing else than a natural presence under a thin disguise. Such, of course, is not the Catholic dogma. Sacraments, as has been said before, belong to a sphere of reality which has nothing in common with the natural plane of reality. Could Christ be present in His natural reality both in heaven and on earth? I speak now of his human presence. Saint Thomas would say that it is not possible. But why make that supposition? We are not treating of natural presences, but of sacramental presences, and the new substantial mode of being...is nothing else than the sacramental state, as opposed to the natural state of being."

And "[F]or Saint Thomas...[to] sin against Christ's divinity is the greatest sin; next comes the sin against Christ's humanity in His natural state; then the sin committed against the sacrament of Chris's humanity; and finally, the sin against the ordinary creature. Sin committed against the sacrament of Christ's humanity, were it even a bad communion, is not so great as the sin committed by those who crucified Christ in His own nature. 'The sin of those who killed Christ was much greater. Firstly, because that sin was against Christ's Body in its proper nature, but this sin is against Christ's Body under the sacramental species." (See Summa, III, q. 80, a. 5)

"Catholic theology would certainly lose much if at any time the relative position of the natural Christ and the Eucharistic Christ were habitually ignored."

"If we were met by Christ in Person in our churches, such gracious encounters would have nothing in common with what is called the sacramental presence. His Presence in the sacrament must be truly such that at no time could it be seen otherwise than by the eye of faith."

Although I have perhaps not extracted the most illuminative of Abbot Vonier's And Saint Thomas Aquinas' passages on this topic, they seem to leave no doubt that presence in the sacramental mode does in fact exclude presence in the natural, physical, mode.

Some Day

o be honest, I'll have to look it up deeper.

I'll write tommorow.

Jared Weber

Bro.C: The thing is, none of that excludes physical presence as we define that term. It denies natural presence (which, as mentioned before, is the Greek root of the word) but that is not the same as "physical" in English.

I'm not saying you're wrong; I'm saying those quotes don't necessarily back your point.

Brother Cadfael


Perhaps I should be more careful in defining my terms. "Physical" -- according to the first definition in my dictionary -- is an adjective that means "of or relating to nature or the laws of nature." The second definition in my dictionary is "material as opposed to mental or spiritual" and the third is "of, relating to, or produced by the forces and operations of physics."

"Physically" as I have used the term above, would be the adverb that relates to any of those definitions. In that sense, wouldn't the physical realm and the natural realm be essentially interchangeable?

Jared Weber

Bro.C:The Second.

Brother Cadfael


Are you saying that the material realm and the natural realm are different? Not really sure what you mean by "The Second", although I assume you're saying that the second definition is somehow important to your point. Can you clarify?

Jared Weber

The second definition applies to the Eucharist. The second definition does not mention nature.

Jared Weber

To further explain: My dictionary gives these definitions:
1. of or pertaining to the body: physical exercise.
2. of or pertaining to that which is material: the physical universe; the physical sciences.
3. noting or pertaining to the properties of matter and energy other than those peculiar to living matter.
4. pertaining to the physical sciences, esp. physics.
5. carnal; sexual: a physical attraction.
6. tending to touch, hug, pat, etc.; physically demonstrative: a physical person.
7. requiring, characterized by, or liking rough physical contact or strenuous physical activity: Football is a physical sport.
–noun 8. physical examination.

... of which 1, 2, and 3 apply to the Eucharist.

I don't see where any of these definitions exclude that which is unnatural from the physical.

Understand: I'm still not saying you're wrong, Bro.C; I'm more throwing stuff out to get answers. This logic that says that that which is physical MUST be natural does not make sense TO ME. That may just be me, but I think I can come up with a few examples of that which is physical not being natural. The Incarnation itself was not natural per se, but it was a physical manifestation.

Brother Cadfael


To recap, we agree that Christ is really and truly present, but sacramentally, not naturally. The question is whether he is present physically as well, or whether sacramental presence excludes physical presence.

I am not sure which definition of "physical" is best to describe the Eucharistic presence. If we start with your second definition -- "of or pertaining to that which is material: the physical universe; the physical sciences" -- it would seem to me that would not apply to the Eucharist.

That would be saying, I believe, that Christ is materially present in the Eucharist. In other words, that the matter of His Body and Blood are present. Since matter must, by definition I believe, occupy space and have weight -- that is it must be observable with the eye (it may be too small to see, but it is still there to be seen), I believe that it would be wrong to say that Christ is physically present using the second definition. Christ in the Eucharist may only be seen with the eyes of faith.

Do you agree or disagree with this much (again, speaking only to your second definition at this point)?

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