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CHAPTER LXVIIAnswer to the Difficulty raised in respect of the Breaking of the Host

IT has been said above (Chap. LXIV) that the substance of the Body of Christ is in this Sacrament by virtue of the Sacrament [Sacramental words]: but the dimensions of the Body of Christ are there by the natural concomitance which they have with the substance. This is quite the opposite way to that in which a body naturally is in place.983983We must always remember that ‘place’ (locus) in St Thomas, is the Aristotelian τόπος, τὸ πρῶτον περιέχον σωμάτων ἑκάστων (Physics, iv, 2), the outline marked in space by the exterior surface lines of a body, — the shell or mould, which the body fills up. A body is in place by means of its dimensions, by which it is made commensurate with its place.984984As the outer surfaces of the soft part of an egg formally render the contents commensurate with the shell.

But substantial being and quantitative being do not stand in the same way related to that in which they are. Quantitative being is in a whole, but is not whole in each part: it is part in part, and whole in the whole.985985In a phial filled with an ounce of wine, there is not an ounce of wine at the bottom, and an ounce at the top; but some uncial fraction of the wine in each section of the phial, and the whole ounce in the whole phial. But substantial being is whole in the whole, and whole in every part of the same, 391as the whole nature and species of water is in every drop of water, and the whole soul in every part of the body.986986When St Thomas speaks of quantitas dimensiva, he means ‘visible bulk.’ Of invisible bulk he took no note at all. He says (Chap. LXIII, not translated): “If the substance of bread were resolved into its prime corporeal elements, this change would necessarily be perceptible to sense, since corporeal elements are sensible.” By ‘corporeal elements’ he meant fire, air, earth, and water. The schoolmen herein followed Aristotle; Aristotle followed Plato; and Plato had a singular dislike for Democritus, the author of the atomic theory. Compare however the elemental τρίγωνα of Timaeus, 53 sq., which triangular atoms Plato expressly declares to be invisible. Every chemist and electrician now recognises that visible bulk is not of the essence of material substance; and the question stands open, whether the ultimate elements of such substance have any bulk, even invisible, — whether they are extended at all. But every body is extended, still more every living body, in its natural state. We say then that the Body of Christ is not in the Sacrament of the Altar in its natural state. Since then the Body of Christ is in the Sacrament by reason of its substance, into which the substance of bread is changed, while the dimensions of bread remain, — it follows that as the whole species of bread was under every part of its (visible) dimensions, so the whole Body of Christ is under every part of the same. The breaking then (of the Host) does not reach to the Body of Christ, as though the Body of Christ were subjected to that breaking: its subject is the dimensions of bread, which remain.987987   Read 1 Cor. xiii, 8-12, and thereupon the following from some unpublished Dialogues of the Dead.
   Spirit of Aristotle: “Thomas, your explanations are harder to accept than the doctrine which you undertook to explain.”

   Spirit of Aquinas: “My dear sir, take all this explanation as child’s play on my part: for, as Paul says, when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but now I am become a man, and see face to face, I have put away the things of a child.”

   Surely we may call the things of a child all mere human speculations on a mystery so incomprehensible as the Holy Eucharist. I have nothing to say against the wisdom of the school, but it does not make transubstantiation one whit clearer to me. I remain in Cardinal Newman’s frame of mind, when he wrote:

   “I cannot tell how it is, but I say: Why should it not be? What’s to hinder it? What do I know of substance or matter? Just as much as the greatest philosophers, and that is nothing at all . . . . The Catholic doctrine leaves phenomena alone. It does not say that the phenomena go: on the contrary, it says that they remain: nor does it say that the same phenomena are in several places at once. It deals with what no one on earth knows anything about, the material substances themselves” (Apologia, p. 239, ed. 1895).

   The Cardinal in this passage writes in the easy epistolary style which he often affects, not in the solemn and strict phraseology of a legal document, civil or ecclesiastical. Newman knew, as well as any man, that substance is the reality that underlies appearances, the objective unity of those appearances, the noumenon, or thing in itself. We know that, and we say that; and, thanks to that modicum of knowledge, transubstantiation is not to us a vox nihili: but how much more do we know? and how far does that slight concept of substance carry towards a comprehensive understanding of transubstantiation?


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