Posts Tagged ‘Science’


July 13, 2010


When we discuss at the macro level, we have to face the question: “Where is God in the evolutionary process?” Today we face it also at the micro level, when we speak about quantum physics and elementary quanta: “What is the place for God in the field of quantum physics?” We shall discuss: 1.2.3.

EUCHARIST: Biblical Reflections in the light of Contemporary Thought and Science

January 13, 2009


The “Year of the Eucharist, inaugurated by the late Pope John Paul II on October 17, 2004, has been an opportunity, for one and all, to deepen the Eucharistic theology, as well as enkindle our love for the Mystery of Love. Jesus came to give us fullness of life (cf. Jn 10:10). He enables us to grow and become fully aware, fully alive, more human and humane. At the Eucharist we are called to “give thanks“, to “bless” God. The Lord wishes to work in us and through us, when we celebrate the Eucharist, frequently and meaningfully.

We have still a few questions to answer: How vibrant is our Christian community in Goa? How closely is the Eucharist connected with the joys, hopes, sorrows and anxieties of people today? Why is there a dramatic decline in Sunday attendance in Europe and America in general? How does the Eucharist respond to the anxieties of people by changing the meaning of their existence?

In this paper I shall give brief biblical reflections, and then delve into new insights in the light of contemporary thought and science, with a critical view, offered with the help of the guidelines of the Magisterial teaching of the Church.

1.1: Scriptural Presentation of the Eucharist:

We have four accounts of the Eucharistic words of Jesus, namely Mk 14:22-25/Mt 26:26-29; Lk 22:15-20/Paul’s 1 Cor 11:23-25. There are a few divergences among them, but Pauline form goes closer to the original form (urform). There is no Johannine account of the Last Supper in the Passion Narrative, but there is footwashing and the commandment of Love (cf. Jn 13:1-20.31-35). However, there is Eucharistic explanation of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves (Jn 6:35-51c.53-58, cf. Jn 6:51c).1

1.2: Jesus used the prayers of grace, before and after the main course of the Passover meal, to add his words of interpretation concerning the bread and the wine (cf. Mk 14:22.24). The words of interpretation over the bread are “This is the body for you” (touto mou estin to swma to hyper hymwn) in 1 Cor 11:22 (cf.Lk 22:19: “given for you”), whereas we have “Take, this is my body” (labete, touto estin to swma mou) in Mk 14:22; and Take, eat this is my body” (labete, fagete, touto estin to swma mou) in Mt 26:26. In Jn 6:51c, we have “The bread, which I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world” (ho artos de hon egw dwsw he sarks mou estin hyper tes tou kosmou zwes). All witnesses transmit the words: “This is my body/my flesh” (touto estin to swma mou/he sarks mou). The Greek word sarks is probably original and means “self, total man”, and is used in the Fourth Gospel, where the same word recurs for the Incarnation of the Word (cf. Jn 1:14a, “Kai ho logos sarks egeneto”). The same Incarnate God-Man, who pitched his tent among men (cf. Jn 1:14b: “kai eskenwsen en hemin”), is now in the tent of the altar, under the species of bread and wine.

1.3: This is the central episode in the life of Jesus, the climax, which prefigures his death/Resurrection. Jesus began the Last Supper with the words, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover before I suffer” (Lk 22:15). After Grace, Jesus said, “Take this and distribute it among yourselves” (Lk 22:17). These five words, “This is indeed my body” (touto estin to swma mou) is found in all the Synoptics, but in Jn 6:51c we have the word, sarks, which corresponds to the Hebrew basar and Aramaic bisra (“flesh, self“). But as the Greeks and Romans could not understand this Semitism, the word swma was used. “This is is my body/this is my blood” (hazeh besari/hazeh dami in Hebrew and aden bisri/aden iadmi in Aramaic).

Jesus interpreted the bread and wine in terms of his whole person, to whom he applies terms from the sacrificial language: Jesus is the Passover Lamb, he is the One who initiated the eschatological time, time of salvation. His sacrifice is not destruction, but radical transformation and embraces his whole life. He expected death in the hands of the enemies, which was the fate of most of the prophets, but he was also certain that God would vindicate his death by his Resurrection and the establishment of the Reign. His death is a saving death, which brings into operation the final work of God. The word “covenant” (berith in Hebrew and diatheke in Greek) is a correlate of the Reign of God. The content of this institution, mediated by the death and Resurrection of Jesus, is the perfect communion with God, which is bestowed through the Holy Spirit, who is the “forgiveness of sins” (cf. Jr 31:31-34; Ez 36:25-28; 37:14; cf.the prayer of Monday of 7th Week after Easter). The blood, which means life (cf. Lv 17:11.14a), is the “blood of the covenant” (cf. Ex 24:8).

1.4: The Catholic tradition in the light of other New Testament passages has interpreted the text in terms of identity and real-sacramental presence (cf.1 Cor 11:24.26-29; Jn 6:53-58). That tradition was crystallized in the Tridentine Decree on the Eucharist (Denz-Schoen 1636). This realism should not degenerate into gross materialism (cannibalism), as it happened even with the disciples (cf. Jn 6:52), as Jesus himself affirmed: “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh profits nothing” (Jn 6:63). The Council of Trent has understood the “mystery of faith” and expressed it as “transubstantiation“, namely the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Jesus, but their species remain.

1.5: We have the command of repetition after the words of interpretation of bread and wine in Paul (1 Cor 11:24-25: “Do this in memory of me“). According to Luke, it is only after the word over the bread (Lk 22:19). This command of repetition has plausibly come from the lips of Jesus. It is an established expression for repetition (cf. Ex 29:35; Nb 15:11-13; QS 2:19). “In remembrance of me” is an objective genitive and means “that God may remember me” (cf. Acts 10:4). This command is fulfilled by the proclamation of the death of Jesus at the Lord’s Supper. Eucharist is the memorial (anamnesis) of the death and Resurrection of Jesus, of the Paschal Mystery (cf. Vatican II, SC nn.2,6,47, 106; LG nn.3,28,48). It is thanksgiving (the words eukharistia and eulogia both translate the Hebrew word beraqa’). The community prays for the eschatological coming of the Lord: MAR-AN-(A)THA means “come, Lord” or “the Lord is come” or “the Lord is coming” (1 Cor 16:22; Rv 22:20; Didakhe 10:6; cf.1 Cor 11:26). With this formula God is reminded of the un-fulfilled climax of the work of salvation, which will be fully realized in the Parousia. It is a synthesis of the three phases of salvation history: past, present and future.

In Jn 6:50-58, we have strictly Eucharistic section: realism of the vocabulary (trogei)–bread must be eaten or chewed, blood must be drunk; ‘this is the bread come down from heaven’, corresponding to: ‘this is my flesh for the life of the world’; the announcement of Judas’ treason in the last verses of the chapter, which bring out the sacrificial aspect, without ambiguity (cf. Jn 6:71).

1.6: The Eucharist is a relational reality, a covenantal relation. In the New Covenant, announced by Jr 31:31-34 and Ez 36: 25-28, God gives a “new law“, not in the sense of another Law, but the Law, given at Sinai and summarized in the golden commandment of Love, is interiorized within our hearts, being the Spirit himself of Yahweh, his life, his love. God has carved it upon our hearts. The Spirit of the living God acts within our hearts and beings. God fulfilled his design through the “new covenant”, inaugurated by instituting the Eucharist. At the Cross, Jesus offered, not the blood of animal victims, a biblical symbol for life, but his own blood, his own life, his person, as a gift and epitome of Love (cf. Jn 15:13; 1 Jn 3:16). The Eucharist is, therefore, the “new covenant” (cf.1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:3.6-17), the “circumcision of heart” (cf. Rm 2:29; Phil 3:3; see Dt 30:6), “new creation” (cf.2 Cor 5:17; see Jr 31:22a), the “new commandment” (Jn 13:34), which is a gift and a challenge.

In the Fourth Gospel, we have the announcement of the “new commandment” of love (Jn 13:34-35). It is new, not in its content, but in its foundation and efficacy in renewing Man and transforming him into “new man” through the holy Spirit, by reason of the “new covenant”, which it constitutes. This love is communicated to him by the Father (cf. Jn 15:12.17), the love, in which we share, thanks to the Eucharist: “Love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34), he is the model and source of Love, which is in us (cf. Jn 17:26)2. This love will act within, synergise our daily existence, order our lives.

2.1: Philosophical-Cosmological Reflection on the Concept of Transubstantiation:

In the field of Eucharistic theology, we have to delve into two issues, namely real presence and substantial change. I shall give a historical background of the controversies on the real presence, oscillating between the symbol and the reality.

2.2: Historical Background of Thomistic-Scholastic Theory:

In the first eight centuries, the doctrine was accepted. In the ninth century, there was a shift: Amalar of Metz (d.853) regarded symbols as dramatic reminders of past events, not as rendering present the reality symbolized. Paschasius Radbertus ( underlined the reality of Christ’s presence, but downplayed symbolism to the point of shocking even his contemporaries with a grossly realistic notion of the Eucharist (veritas or reality seemed to mean physical reality). Ratramnus of Corbie (France, d.after 868): Christ’s body is really present in figura (that is, in a symbolic manner), and not in veritate (not as a physical or material reality). Taken out of context, these words seem to indicate that Ratramnus denied the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. In fact, he was condemned by a Synod in Vercelli (1050).

Berengar of Tours (d.1088), reacting to an overly physical approach to the Eucharist, taunted his opponents by claiming they taught that we receive “little pieces of Christ’s flesh“. Embracing what he believed to be the position of St.Augustine and Ratramnus of Corbie, he rightly returned to viewing sacraments as symbols, but fell into another extreme, that of viewing the sacraments as representations without real content, so as to deny the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.

The reaction was to overemphasize the physical interpretation, so that St.Thomas Aquinas, for example, resisted: “We do not chew Christ with our teeth; Christ is not eaten in his own bodiliness, nor is he chewed with the teeth–what is eaten and broken is the sacramental species” (Summa theologiae 3, q.77, a.7, ad 3). On the popular level, stories about bleeding hosts were seen as bolstering belief in the reality of Christ’s presence.3

St.Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE.) rejected the overly physical interpretation and searched alternate ways of explaining this presence. In an attempt to counteract crass materialism (bordering on “sacramental cannibalism”), Scholastic theology drew upon Aristotelian categories, and put forward a change that did not take place in the physical structure of the bread and wine, but in their metaphysical reality.

2.3: According to Aristotle (384-322 BCE.), existing things are composed of substance and accidents. Substance is the reality, which exists in itself and is a subject (or support) of accidents. Substance is not seen in itself or detected by experimentation, but can only be known through its accidents, which do not exist in themselves, but inhere in the substance, as modes of being. Accidents can be quantity, quality, relation, action, passion, where, when, posture, and state. They do not have independent being, but only exist in the substance, which they modify.

St.Thomas accepted Aristotle’s theory of being, and re-interpreted/“trans-substantiated” it—explaining the real change, which takes place in the bread and wine at the Eucharistic table, in terms of substance and accidents.

3.1: Dogmatic Statement and Theological Reflection:

From the outset, we have to distinguish clearly between the dogmatic statement of the Church and theological reflection. We have to uphold the insights of the dogmatic definition of the Magisterium of the Church, since the Church has an insight into the divine-apostolic Revelation, exploring, however, new avenues for its expression and deepening in the contemporary context. The Church offers guidelines and protects us from errors. While launching the movement for aggiornamento, the Pope John XXIII of venerable memory stated in his inaugural allocution, on October 11, 1962: “The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another”.4 In other words, the substance of the ancient Tradition has to be presented in a new language to the contemporary men.

The Church speaks the common, not technical language. The statement of the dogma of transubstantiation of the Council of Trent is not tied to any particular scientific theory, but is basically a theological datum, and should be understood in the light of the Tradition of the Church. It uses terms, which belong to the heritage of common sense. The Tridentine dogma used a common notion of those days, namely that there is a substance (or hidden reality), underlying the appearances, namely colour, shape, and size. In non-technical language, these appearances were called the species, a more appropriate, meaningful word than accidents (as a matter of fact, the Church never canonized Aristotelian philosophy). But theological systematization owed much to concepts taken from Aristotelian philosophy, for instance, hylemorphism (matter/form) and substance (ousia)/accidents. Scholastic-Thomistic theology grew in the climate of Aristotelian physics. In his Encyclical Mysterium Fidei (1967), Paul VI saw advantages in the model of transubstantiation (cf.n.46), without closing the doors for more avenues (

3.2: Overview of Theological Explanations:

Different theories and contemporary modes of thought were developed in order to articulate our faith in the Eucharistic Jesus. The teaching of the Church is that the Risen Christ is really present under the species of bread and wine. There are different explanations of the mystery of the Eucharist. The Council of Trent employed the mode of Transubstantiation, that is, the substances of bread and wine cease to exist and are replaced by the living substance of the Body and Blood of Jesus. All the accidents of bread and wine remain, however, just as they were before, except that they no longer inhere in a substance, but are maintained by divine power. It is akin to creation.

Various theologians have sought different words to explain the personal action of Jesus through the Eucharist as a sign of his presence.5 a) One of them is transignification, which means that the reality of bread and wine has changed in meaning: that is to say, before, they were human food and drink; now, they bring us spiritual nourishment. They have a divine value, a spiritual and personal meaning.

b) Others prefer the word transfinalization (or transfiguration): Every created being has a finality (or purpose), which God the Creator gives to it. Bread and wine were given us for food and drink, but when they are changed into the Eucharist, they receive a new finality, a religious purpose.

c) Some advocate the mode of impanation, which means that together with the bread and wine, there is hidden the reality of the Body and Blood of Jesus, that is, the Risen Lord.

3.3: Critique of Theories:

In his Encyclical Mysterium Fidei (1967), Paul VI praised the efforts of modern theologians to investigate the mystery of the Eucharist and to give it better meaning for men of today. However, he warned that these new explanations are acceptable only in the measure that they do not deny, or detract, from the doctrine of “transubstantiation“, as defined by the Council of Trent. He reminded us that the sacramental presence of Jesus in the Eucharist goes beyond the laws of nature, as a result of transubstantiation the species of bread and wine take on a new meaning and a new finality. They do not remain ordinary bread and wine, but they take on this new significance and this new finality, and become the sign of a spiritual food, simply because they contain a new, ‘ontological’ reality. (n.46).

An ontological change is a change of being, of essence or substance. The Eucharist certainly has sign value: it is the gesture of Jesus, a sign-act, as he comes to meet us, to join us in worship, and to give himself to us. But it is also a reality: the bread becomes his Body, and nothing else. How it is done, God only knows. That it is done, he has told us; and we believe. It is the great mystery of our Christian faith6. It follows that when we speak of the change of the substance of bread and wine into body and blood of Christ, we refer to the ultimate, permanent, ontological substratum, to the deeper, radical substantial entity. It is beyond the experimental data of Physics. This substratum is changed into the body and the blood of Christ. As far as substance is concerned, we understand that what changes is the metaphysical substance, the ultimate, radical, ‘meta-empiricalreality, that is not perceptible through the senses.

Jesus gives his body to the Church, therefore, Jesus is the centre of meaning and reality of all that is. As he gives the sacramental bread to the Church, he gives his body, the one body of Christ, born of Mary, crucified and Risen. Thus, though the empirical reality of the bread remains the same, the ultimate reality of substance of the bread is changed in the fact that Jesus gives his body to the Church. The Risen Christ is the ultimate judge of the reality of the world–by giving new meaning, Jesus gives them a new being.7 Thus, transubstantiation and real presence are not opposed to symbolism, but are deeply rooted in it. What is unique in the Eucharist is that this sacrament signifies a complete gift of Christ, the gift of himself to the Church.8

4.1: Reformation:

Reformers considered the Eucharistic doctrine as medieval “aberration“. It represented the ugly face of the Church–the sacraments were linked to monetary benefits: a pure ritual was celebrated in a strange language, it was one of the “works” of the priests, the concept of transubstantiation conveyed a purely magical understanding of the Eucharist.

4.2: For Martin LUTHER (1483-1546), the Word of God and the material signs of bread and wine played a pivotal role. He argued for a return to basics, namely the Bible. Till 1518 the Eucharist represented the Cross, led to contrition and forgiveness of sin, and Luther took for granted the real personal presence of Christ in it. Then till 1523 he accepted his real presence in the elements of the bread and wine, which are given to the faithful as the body and blood of Christ, signs or seal of the Grace given by Christ, but he rejected the transubstantiation theory as pseudo-philosophy based on Aristotle. Luther accepted the real presence, but objected to the specific way of explaining that presence. He reacted to such practices as adoration, elevation of the host, benedictions and processions. He opposed the view that transubstantiation was an article of faith. Without using the word, he proposed a form of consubstantiation. He focused on the parallel between the Incarnation (hypostatic union) and the Eucharist. Till 1529, Luther was in conflict with Huldrych Zwingli and the left wing of the Reformation. For him, the real presence of Christ in bread and wine is derived from the Words of the Lord, found in the Institution narratives. This emphasis was in contrast to the spiritualization of the Eucharist by Zwingli, for whom the text was a rhetorical figure of speech, not to be taken literally. But these realities were not available to human reason, they were communicated to the believers in a hidden way, and could be believed because of the absolute dependability on God’s promises.

4.3: The Swiss Reformer, Huldreych ZWINGLI (1484-1531) regarded the celebration of the Eucharist as souvenir (or memorial) of the sufferings and death of Jesus. It is not a repetition of the sacrifice of Christ nor the real presence of Christ. The breaking of bread recalled his broken body, and the wine reminded us of the blood shed on the Cross. Zwingli rejected the medieval doctrine of transubstantiation–the earthly has no spiritual effect. For him, according to Scripture and the Creed, Christ is now seated at the right hand of God, therefore, he cannot be present in the Eucharist. The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross cannot be repeated in the sacraments. Nor can the true humanity of Christ be ubiquitous and, therefore, there cannot be a substantial real presence of Christ in the elements of bread and wine. He calls for a mere symbolic understanding of the Eucharist.

4.4: John CALVIN (1500-1564) took a position roughly midway between the two extremes, represented by them–he did not believe in the real presence, because he thought we would be inflicting an unworthy humiliation on Christ to bring him from heavenly glory and tie him to earthly creatures. The real presence of Christ in the materials of bread and wine in substance somehow endangers the true humanity of Christ, which has implications for soteriology itself. However, Calvin rejected mere symbolism. There was a spiritual, ineffable presence, a mysterious activity of the Holy Spirit, which has truth only for faith and cannot be grasped by the mind. For him, the Eucharist is a sacrament, where the promises of God are made manifest through earthly elements. The sign is visible and physical, but the thing signified is invisible and spiritual. The Anglican tradition is substantially influenced by Calvin.9

5.1: Counter-Reformation:

The Fathers of the Council of Trent (1545-1561) condemned all errors regarding the reality and manner of the Eucharistic presence. They used the categories of Scholastic philosophy, but did not intend to canonize any philosophical or theological system. For this reason they did not choose the word accidents, instead they stated that when the entire substance of the bread is changed into the Body of Christ, and the whole substance of the wine is changed into the Blood of Christ, the species of bread and wine remain (Cf. “per consecrationem panis et vini conversionem fieri totius substantiae panis in substantiam corporis Christi Domini nostri, et totius substantiae vini in substantiam sanguinis eius“, cf.H.Denzinger and A.Schoenmetzer, ed., Enchiridion Symbolorum [DS] (New York: Herder, 1965), nn.877/1642). The word “transubstantiationcame into official use only in the thirteenth century at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 and entered into the definition of the mode of Christ’s Eucharistic presence at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.

Any philosophical or scientific system can be reconciled with the dogma of transubstantiation and used to explain it, as long as it leaves room for a distinction between the appearances of a thing and its underlying reality. For the modern generation, familiar with the subatomic, atomic and molecular composition of matter (protons, neutrons, electrons and quarks), it can be stated in terms of common sense: It is a marvellous, mysterious, singular change, in which one thing takes the place of another. It is a change of substances, of realities, so that after the Consecration at the Eucharist the priest holds up Body and the Blood of Christ, not bread and wine. It is a change, which allows the appearances of bread and wine to remain, their sight, touch, taste, as we have them beautifully expressed in several Eucharistic hymns.10

5.3: Modern Personalistic Approach:

During the apostolic times, attention was paid to the action and purpose of eating and drinking at the Eucharistic table: “Every time, then, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). The real presence of the Lord was presumed. The dynamic, transforming aspect of this action continued to be emphasized. The symbol was making present the reality that it symbolized (a symbolic reality in Rahner’s11 sense).1110 There was a radical change, like the Incarnation, by appropriating a reality to oneself. The substance of the bread meant the reality of the bread as opposed to the appearances. When we emphasize the ‘ontological change’, we must see it in a context that stresses the transformation of the community more than that of the elements. Though St.Thomas Aquinas was a product of his time, he did see Christ’s bodily presence as a means to a fuller presence of Christ in his faithful and, in that sense, a transformation of the faithful.

5.4: Today there is a new approach, that of interpersonal encounter, with a stress on personalism. In his Encyclical, Mysterium fidei (no.25), Paul VI is open to other more understandable explanations of the same reality. We express the real presence of Jesus under the species of bread and wine as an interpersonal encounter with Christ. The basic image is the presence of one person as a person to another person as a person. Interpersonal encounter allows for types of presence and accords a significant role to bodily presence. First, there are different types of presence. There is a purely physical, spatial, or local presence, as in a crowded bus or subway car, in which people are oblivious to one another despite the physical juxtaposition. Full personal presence involves the response of the other. Presence in the deepest sense is mutual, interpersonal presence. It is not enough for one to offer; the other must reciprocate by accepting the offer and offering herself/himself. This kind of presence involves knowledge of the other as a person. On the deepest level this kind of presence involves love, because only in a climate of love can people reveal themselves as they are. This level of presence is the fullest and most real. Further, the personal analogy accords a significant role to bodily presence. Purely physical presence is secondary to full, interpersonal presence. But it is absolutely necessary. This corresponds to human nature. Every attempt of one person to communicate with another inevitably takes place in and through that person’s bodiliness. Relationships start, for example, with a smile or a friendly greeting. They find expression through words and bodily gestures, and this expression often intensifies the relationship.

The Risen Lord has no longer the limitations that can hinder the deepest personal presence to people and the Universe. His glorified body is the perfect vehicle of Christ’s self-expression and allows a sovereign, absolute freedom that enables an intimacy and intensity impossible before his death. His presence is substantial in the sense that it lasts as long as the bread and wine are still recognizable as food and drink (sub specie cibi). Calling it substantial does not mean to deny the reality of the other modes of presence, but simply affirms the distinctive character of Christ’s presence in the elements. The bread and wine are not merely tokens or signs of Christ, pointing to him and reminding us of him. Rather, with a sovereignty and freedom that now belong to his glorified body, he identifies himself with the bread and wine. Closely related to this is Christ’s presence in the Church, which has become the embodiment of his ongoing presence in the world. The Eucharist in general and Eucharistic presence in particular is meant to express and thereby intensify that presence. This personal unity of the faithful with Christ, and through Christ with the Father and with each other in the Holy Spirit, is the real presence, of which St.Paul speaks: ”Christ dwells in your heart through faith” (Eph 3:17). By taking the bread and wine and making them a symbolic reality of himself and of his own self-giving, Christ gives them a new meaning in the Christian community. By doing this, he gives them new being.

5.5: Eucharist and Scientific Revolution:

The Church grew in the climate of Aristotelian physics, but with the advent of Renaissance, Aristotelian physics was abandoned. Modern physics has shed light on the intimate constitution of the bodily substances. Let us see briefly what science, in particular quantum physics, has to say regarding the Eucharistic mystery.

a)In the field of science substance means an empirical reality with certain homogeneity of structure and certain stability of properties (physical and chemical). In the scientific field, we have to distinguish the phenomenon, which is known through senses and instruments, and intellectual judgment, or scientific investigation, which gives meaning to those data.

One of the basic units of matter is atom, incredibly tiny–more than a million times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. Atoms form the building blocks of the simplest substances, the chemical elements. Each chemical element consists of one basic kind of atom. Two or more kinds of atoms linked together in units are called molecules. Although among the smallest things in the Universe, atoms are also among the most powerful. Locked within them is a huge amount of energy. Tiny as atoms are, they consist of even more minute particles. Three basic types are protons, neutrons, and electrons. Each atom has a definite number of these subatomic particles. The protons and neutrons are crowded into the nucleus, an exceedingly tiny region at the centre of the atom. Outside the nucleus it is most empty space. The electrons whirl through this space, completing billions of trips around the nucleus, each millionth of a second. Mass is the quantity of matter in an atom. Each proton carries one unit of positive electric charge. Each electron carries one unit of negative charge. Neutrons have no electric charge. Under most conditions, an atom has the same number of protons and electrons, and so the atom is electrically neutral. Protons and neutrons are, in turn, made up of even smaller particles called quarks. Electrons have very little mass. Opposite electric charges attract. The positively charged nucleus, therefore, exerts a force on the negatively charged electrons that keeps them within the atom. The field of physics, called quantum mechanics, deals with the forces inside an atom and the motions of subatomic particles. This field was opened up in 1913, when the Danish physicist Niels BOHR used the quantum theory to explain the motion of electrons in atoms.

b)Physics of our days sees in the bread and wine several substantial components, particles and waves, energy and fields of force. If the substance of the bread is considered in its ensemble of substantial components, and each one of them with its constitutive elements: protons, neutrons, electrons, positrons, mesons, ions, photons, quarks, with their particles and their energy or fields of force–all this indicates that the substance of bread is composed integrally of various other substantial elements. As the human body is composed integrally of different substantial components, yet it is one substance of the human body—because of the vital substantial principle, which informs them–, so there is one substance of bread and wine.

c)Bread and wine consist mostly of substances derived from the union of atoms of hydrogen, carbon, azote, oxygen. Atomic physics tells us that hydrogen consists of six electrons outside the nucleus and of a nucleus, which in the totality of cases contains six protons and six neutrons. Oxygen consists of eight electrons external to the nucleus and of a nucleus containing almost always eight protons and seven neutrons. Inside these atoms there are magnetic, electric and nuclear fields, quanta of energy, and, at least in the potential state, other electrons, positrons, mesons. These particles are accompanied by waves, according to quantum mechanics.

d)Contemporary physics delves into the intimate structure of matter in general, of bread and wine in particular. The mass of the bodies is not a substance, but a property, at the operational, not ontological level. All species of bread and wine, like colour, taste, figure, elasticity, fluidity, depend on the molecular and atomic structure, the atomic structure depends on the structure of the nucleus, which, in turn, depends on the nature of elements, particularly proton and neutron.

e) It was accepted by the ancient authors that the Eucharistic species maintain activity, as they had before the Consecration. As they remain in being, they remain also in operation (Saint Thomas Aquinas, STh III, q.77, a.3). The Eucharistic species continue emitting olfactive particles, which communicate their odour; they continue to have a taste, a colour. All these accidents and properties, which are rooted in the quantity, continue in the Eucharistic species with their characteristic activity.

f)According to Carlo COLOMBO, the species and all physico-chemical elements of bread and wine after Consecration remain the same, whereas only there is a metaphysical, ‘meta-empirical’ change. In short, modern physics does not change our dogmatic view at all. On the other hand, F.SELVAGGI held that the ensemble of substances that constitute bread and wine: protons, neutrons, electrons, atoms, molecules, ions, micro-crystals cease to be and are converted into the Body and Blood of Christ. But accidents of these substances, like extension, mass, electric charge, with all potential and actual energy, magnetic, electric, kinetic fields, all optic, acoustic, termodynamic, electromagnetic effects–, all these constitute Eucharistic species, or an ensemble of sensible phenomena, which can be object of direct experimentation. (He called Eucharistic conversion “physical change” in this sense. This was an effort to combine fidelity to Tradition and openness to physics).

g)To give a word of critique: We should speak of one reality or substance of bread and wine, but of different levels of knowledge, common, scientific and philosophical, and distinguish the ontological (being) and epistemological or gnoseological (knowledge) plane. The empirical, physical and metaphysical reality, is converted into the Body and Blood of Jesus, whatever is needed to say “This is my Body”.12 We are dealing with a datum of faith, with mystery.

6.1: Theologico-Existential Reflections:

The Eucharist is regarded by Catholics, Orthodox, Christians, and, increasingly, Anglicans, as the greatest of the sacraments, the mystery of faith par excellence, precisely because in this sacrament the presence of Christ, which is central to all the sacraments, is made most explicit (SC 7; LG 11). As St.Thomas Aquinas says, it “contains Christ himself substantially“. But it should be emphasized that Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist sacramentally, in the form of bread and wine, as food, as a redeeming nourishment. As food imparts life, in this unique food what is imparted is Christ’s own life, what we call Life of Grace, Christic Grace. It is the sacrament of unity, because all the faithful share in the Eucharist, continually, throughout the world and throughout history (cf. Mal 1:11). Bread is broken, wine is shed. Wine is the “blood of the grape” (Gn 49:11; cf. Dt-Is 63:1-6), the cup is the traditional expression of tragic fate (Mk 10:38; Rv 14:10). Jesus gives his new life through his death/Resurrection, his Spirit, fullness of love, forgiveness of sins. The disciple abides in the Master and the Master in him, in the new covenant’ (cf. Jn 15:1-11).

The Mystical Body of Christ is built up by the Body and Blood of the Eucharistic Jesus: “The Church makes the Eucharist, and the Eucharist makes the Church“. Believers, coming together to do what Jesus did, celebrate the Eucharist. As Didache puts it: As far as the Eucharist is concerned, give thanks in this manner: . . . just as this bread had been broken and scattered over the hills and was made one when it was gathered together, so too may your church be gathered into your kingdom from the ends of the earth” (9:1). We become his Body, the Church. That is to say, he gives us his body, in order that we should become his body. By receiving his Body, with appropriate dispositions, mainly with the desire for communion with Christ, we become the Body of Christ.

Amidst injustice, inequity, inequality, divisive forces in our country, we become conscious of human rights and of the freedom of the children of God and celebrate the Eucharist against this sad background, in order to be empowered to struggle for human dignity and re-fashion a ‘global’ community, God’s own family (cf. Jn 11:52), experiencing God as ABBA, as Father, and being enabled to pray the Lord’s Prayer.

6.2: Sunday Eucharist:

We know about “Sunday Catholics“, those who go for Mass by routine, by fear, by sheer and queer legalism. But Sunday Eucharist is also a measure of the vibrant Christian life of the people. Sunday Catholics should become vibrant, with a heart throbbing in love and service. Sunday is the day of the Eucharist, the day of Passover, of Exodus, of liberation. Christians are called to proclaim the new creation, the new exodus, the new covenant. Eucharist ushers in love, builds bridges of harmony and peace, forgives sin. Its liberating character should come to the fore. Its efficiency is both in the vertical and horizontal-social dimension (cf. Mt 25:40), as we can glean from our own existential experience, as well as from the heroic lives of harbingers of faith and justice, throughout history. Freedom means freedom from and freedom for, freedom from sin, freedom for the service of God and humanity. It is a passage from slavery to liberty. The seeds of evil and violence are being sown. Sunday is the day of Resurrection, it is the day of Christians, it is our day. Jesus is Immanuel, God-with-us: “I am with you till the end of times” (Mt 28:20). His presence is not as “prisoner of love”, but dynamic presence, he is “there-for-us”, transforming our hearts, our families, whatever we place consciously and purposefully before him on the altar, sharing with us his mission and his destiny, filling us with the fullness of life and love (cf. Jn 10:10), radiating into the whole Universe, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has visualized,13 and “christifying”, “eucharistizing”, renewing the world into a “new heaven, new earth” (cf. Rv 21:1).14


We have yet to re-discover the “centrality” of the Eucharistic celebration, as a privileged place of encounter with Christ, the Lord of family and of life, the Lord who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6; see 1 Jn 1:3). We have still to learn to “start fresh from Christ”, the Good Shepherd, ever ready to lay his life for the sheep (cf. Jn 10:7-18), –like the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:25-27), who recognized him in the “breaking of bread” (cf.Lk 24:30-32)–, and grow in Christian maturity, in our dialogue with the people around. Eucharistic spirituality is a theme for our research, a topic for our continual endeavours in the priestly ministry and priestly formation. Priests are leaders of Eucharistic renewal, through the Word and the Eucharist (cf. DV 21). They have to preside at the table of the Eucharist, as well as at the table of human communities. They should imbibe themselves with Gospel values, become ‘prolongations’ or ‘extensions’ of the Eucharistic mystery, so as to re-create the lethally wounded social fabric of life, including the youth, old, sick and downtrodden. Seminarians are priests-to-be, they should learn and assimilate Eucharistic spirituality, Gospel values and principles, during their formative years, so as to live the earthly journey as a “Eucharistic journey”

*Dr.Ivo da C.Souza

1 J. DELORME, ed., The Eucharist in the New Testament. A Symposium, Helicon Press, Baltimore/Dublin, 1965, 71-101; Joachim JEREMIAS, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, SCM Press, London, 1966, 41-88, 160-186. See also Ivo DA CONCEICAO SOUZA, “The Eucharist and New Evangelization”, Luceas 2000-2001, 26-36; Idem, “Eucharist in the New Testament”, Rays January-February 2003, 11-12; Caetano DA CRUZ FERNANDES, The Eucharist–the Paschal Mystery and the New Covenant, TPI, Bangalore, 1985, pp.84-111; Pierre BENOIT, “Le récit de la Cene dans Luc 22:15-20”, RB 48, 1939, pp.357-393, reprinted in: Exégese et Théologie, Paris, 1961, vol.1, 163-203

2 Cf.Paul Savio PUDUSSERY, “Towards Self-giving Love.A Biblical Model of Seven-Stage Development of Inter-Personal Dynamics”, Journal of Dharma 30/1, January-March 2005, 13-34

3 In order to help people to grow in Eucharistic faith, Fr.P.A.Thomas PAZHEPARAMPIL, SDB, has published a booklet on Eucharistic Miracles, Asian Trading Corporation, Bangalore, 2005, 14-52. The Author has grouped them under four headings: miraculous flow of blood from the Sacred Host; bread and wine visibly changed into the flesh and blood of Christ; apparition of Jesus in the Sacred Host; and Eucharistic prodigies.

4 Cf. Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, Vatican City, 1970, vol.1, part 1, 172

5 Cf.Joseph M.POWERS, Eucharistic Theology, A Crossroad Book, The Seabury Press, New York, 1967, pp.111-179

6 See the Declaration of the Church given in the A New Catechism. Catholic Faith for Adults, with Supplement, Search Press, London, 1970, 33-3

7 Cf.Michael SCHMAUS, Dogma, vol.5: The Church as Sacrament, trans. by Mary Lederer, Sheed and Ward, Kansas City-London, 1975, pp.95-98: the author speaks of ‘trans-realization’ or transformation of reality, which has the character of transubstantiation. See also John H.McKenna, CM, “Eucharistic Presence: An Invitation to Dialogue”, Theological Studies 60(1999), pp.294-317; Edward SCHILLEBEECKX, The Eucharist, trans.N.D.Smith (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1968) 21; Michael Witczak, “The Manifold Presence of Christ in the Liturgy”, Theological Studies 59 (1998) 68-702

8 Cf.Franz J.LEENHARDT, “Ceci est mon corps”, Cahiers theologiques 37, Neuchatel/Paris, 1955; Pierre BENOIT, OP, “The Holy Eucharist”, Scripture 8, 1956, 97-108; 9, 1957, 1-14; Jacques DUPONT, OSB, “Ceci est mon corps, Ceci est mon sang”, NRT 80, 1958, 1025-1041; Oscar CULLMANN, “The Meaning of the Eucharist in Primitive Christianity”, in: Essays on the Lord’s Supper, Richmond, 1958, 5-23; J.De BACIOCCHI, SM, “Le mystere eucharistique dans les perspectives de la Bible”, NRT 77, 1955, 561-580; Idem, L’Eucaristia, Il Mistero Cristiano, Desclee/Editori Pontifici, Roma, trans. from French by Camilla Castiglioni, 1968, 75-99

9 Cf.Isaac PADINJAREKUTTU, “The Eucharist and the Reformers Luther, Zwingli, Calvin”, JPJRS 8/2, July 2003, 34-45

10 Cf.Raniero CANTALAMESSA, “This is My Body”.Eucharistic Reflections Inspired by Adoro Te Devote and Ave Verum, Pauline Publications, Mumbai, 2005, 32-49

11 See Karl Rahner, SJ, “The Theology of Symbol”, in: Theological Investigations 4, trans. Kevin Smyth (Baltimore: Helicon, 1966), pp.221-52; Louis-Marie Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Experience, trans.Patrick Madigan and Madeleine Beaumont (Collegeville: Liturgical, 1995), pp.112-124

12 F.SELVAGGI, “Il concetto di sostanza nel dogma eucaristico”, Gregorianum 30, 1949, 35-42; Idem, “La sostanza nella fisica dei quanti”, CivCatt 1952, I, 510-522; Idem, “Realta fisica e sostanza sensibile nella dottrina eucaristica”, Gregorianum 37, 1956, 16-33; C.COLOMBO, “Teologia, filosofia e fisica nella dottrina della transustanziazione”, La Scuola Cattolica 83, 1953, 89-124; Idem, “Bilancio provvisorio di discussione eucaristica”, La Scuola Cattolica 88, 1960, 23-55; R.MASI, “Teologia eucaristica e fisica contemporanea”, Doctor communis 8, 1955, 31-51; Lucio DA VEIGA COUTINHO, “Eucaristia e Fisica”, Boletim Eclesiastico da Arquidiocese de Goa (BEAG), Series II, Year 17, no.10, October 1958, 381-387; C.VOLLERTS, “Current Theology: The Eucharist.Controversy on Transubstantiation”, TheolStud 22, 1961, 391-425; Miguel NICOLAU, Nueva Pascua de la Nueva Alianza. Actuales enfoques sobre la Eucaristia, Ediciones Studium, Madrid, 1973, 139-179. I am leaning on the work of F.Selvaggi, Carlo Colombo and Roberto Masi.

13 Cf.Pierre TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, The Divine Milieu.An Essay on the Interior Life, Harper, New York, 1960, 99-107: Through love God enfolds us, penetrates us by creating and preserving us, through unitive transformation God maintains us in the field of his presence, divine milieu, a “zone of continuous spiritual transformation”. See also his Hymn of the Universe, Fontana Books, London, 1961, 19-35

14 Cf.Benny KOOTTANAL, MSFS, “Eucharist: Love in Action”, Indian Journal of Spirituality, July-September, 2005, vol.18, no.3, 372-390. We have in the Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol, in the Corridor of Patriarchs-Founders, a fresco by Raffaello Sanzio di Urbino (1483-1520) with the scene of the “Dispute on the Blessed Sacrament“, which is also entitled Triumph of the Church and of the Faith“, in the room called Stanza della Segnatura. At the top, the Father, surrounded by his Incarnate Son, below the holy Spirit, still below in two rows the Fathers and Theologians, Popes, Saints and Doctors, discussing the mystery of the Eucharist: St.Thomas Aquinas, St.Bonaventure…