- Transubstantiation refers to the change in the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist, according to Roman Catholic belief.Christian doctrine has presented various explanations of Christ's presence in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, which most Protestants term the Lord's Supper. In the centuries immediately preceding the Reformation, the concept of transubstantiation was introduced, and by the 16th century it had become the dominant theory within the Roman Catholic Church.In Catholic doctrine, when the words of institution (consecration) are spoken, the substance of the bread and wine are changed into the substance of Jesus Christ, such that the liturgy of the Mass reenacts the actual crucifixion of Christ. The idea is most easily explained in terms of Aristotle's philosophy. In looking at any object, according to Aristotle, one could distinguish between its substance and its accidents. That is, if one looked at a chair, the substance was what made it a chair. Chairs, however could have many attributes (accidents) - color, texture, size, number of legs, general appearance. In like measure, bread may have many accidents - color, taste, texture - all of which can be distinguished from its substance, its breadness. During the Mass, Catholics believe that when the words of institution are spoken, though the accidents remain unchanged, the substance of bread becomes the substance of the body of Christ. The priest's authority to officiate at the Mass when such change occurs derives ultimately from Christ; it was conveyed through the apostles to the successive bishops of Rome (the popes), and through them to the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.Protestants rejected transubstantiation as well as the idea that the Mass was a new sacrifice of Christ, but they disagreed as to what actually did happen during the Lord's Supper, Martin Luther suggested the idea of consubstantiation, by which he was able to keep the idea of a real presence, but hoped to remove the magical element implied if the priest caused the change by pronouncing the words of institution. Protestants in the tradition of Ulrich Zwingli tended to suggest that the Lord's Supper was simply a memorial meal. John Calvin attempted to mediate the two positions by suggesting that Christ was present spiritually in the elements and perceived by faith.In England in the 16th century, Protestants claimed to notice a similarity between a common phrase used by jugglers and conjurers, "hocus pocus," and the words of institution in the Latin Mass, "Hoc est corpus" (this is my body). In the 1690s, Archbishop of Canterbury John Tillotson (1630-94) tied the two phrases together as part of an anti-Catholic polemic, the implication being that the Mass was so much nonsense.Further reading:■ Adolf Adam, The Eucharistie Celebration: The Source and Summit of Faith (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1994)■ Louis Bouyer, Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer, trans. by C. U. Quinn (Notre Dame, Ind.: Fides, 1968)■ Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue: IV: Eucharist and Ministry(Published jointly by Representatives of the U.S.A. National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation and the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, 1970).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.