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CHAPTER LXIIIOf the Conversion of Bread into the Body of Christ

IT is impossible for the true Body of Christ to begin to be in this Sacrament by local motion, because then it would cease to be in heaven, upon every consecration of this Sacrament; as also because this Sacrament could not then be consecrated except in one place, since one local motion can only have one terminus; also because local motion cannot be instantaneous, but takes time. Therefore its presence must be due to the conversion of the substance of bread into the substance of His Body, and of the substance of wine into the substance of His Blood. This shows the falseness of the opinion of those who say that the substance of bread co-exists with the substance of the Body of Christ in this Sacrament;976976For this early mention of consubstantiation St Thomas refers to the Master of the Sentences (Peter Lombard), 4 Sent., dist. 11, not as approving but as recording the opinion. also of those who say that the substance of bread is annihilated. If the substance of bread co-exists with the Body of Christ, Christ should rather have said, Here is my Body, than, This is my Body. The word here points to the substance which is seen, and that is the substance of bread, if the bread remain in the Sacrament along with the Body of Christ. On the other hand it does not seem possible for the substance of bread to be absolutely annihilated, for then much of the corporeal matter of the original creation would have been annihilated by this time by the frequent use of this mystery: nor is it becoming for anything to be annihilated in the Sacrament of salvation.977977See Chap. LXVI, with note. St Thomas is reluctant to call that substance annihilated, the accidents of which remain.

We must observe that the conversion of bread into the Body of Christ falls under a different category from all natural conversions. In every natural conversion the subject remains, and in that subject different forms succeed one another: hence these are called ‘formal conversions.’ But in this conversion subject passes into subject, while the accidents remain: hence this conversion is termed ’substantial.’ Now we have to consider how subject is changed into subject, a change which nature cannot effect. Every operation of nature presupposes matter, whereby subjects are individuated; hence nature cannot make this subject become that, as for instance, this finger that finger. But matter lies wholly under the power of God, since by that power it is brought into being: hence it may be brought about by divine power that one individual substance shall be converted into another pre-existing substance. By the power of a natural agent, the operation of which extends only to the producing of a change of form and presupposes the existence of the subject of change, this whole is converted into that whole with variation of species and form.978978e.g., this whole book thrown into the fire, is converted into gas, smoke and ashes. So by the divine power, which does not presuppose matter, but produces it, this matter is converted into that matter, and consequently this individual into that: for matter is the principle of individuation, as form is the principle of species.979979   Many will find these scholastic explanations harder to accept than transubstantiation itself. The dogma is guaranteed by the Catholic Church. The explanations of the dogma lie beyond the domain alike of faith, of sensible experience, and of physical science. They rest on a structure of abstruse metaphysics, into which there enter elements much open to debate, as the ‘principle of individuation.’ At the same time, any one who will have it that transubstantiation is philosophically absurd, may well be asked whether he has mastered these scholastic subtleties, and has his reply ready to dispel them. All that a Catholic need care to do is to point out, as Newman does (note, p. 391), how by reason of the very obscurity of the subject arguments against the possibility of transubstantiation cannot be cogent and apodictic. We are not bound to have forthcoming positive evidence of that possibility. We take the fact from the teaching of the Church, and leave the how to God. When physical science has said its last word on the constitution of matter; when psychology and metaphysics have finally disposed of substance and accident, ‘things in themselves’ and phenomena; we shall then be not quite so ill equipped as we are at present for speculating on the philosophy of transubstantiation.
   Meanwhile, one important point seems to have escaped notice. Faith does not raise the question of any substance being converted into any other substance, but only of the substances of bread and wine being converted into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ. Now the Body and Blood of Christ are the Body and Blood of God, and consequently hold a unique position among substances. God’s Body may well ’supercomprehend,’ so to speak, all lower material substances; and be able, after unseating any of them from the throne where it sits queen, surrounded by attendant accidents, itself occupy that same throne in the midst of those same accidents. We cannot safely conclude thereupon that any other material substance is capable of doing the like. It does not follow, to borrow St Thomas’s own illustration, that because bread and wine can be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, therefore, of my two fingers, one can be changed into the other. Of the intrinsic possibility of this latter conversion, — and not even God can effect intrinsic impossibilities, — I confess I entertain the gravest doubts. And Catholic faith allows me to doubt it. Vasquez (tom. 3, disp. 184) discusses an quaelibet res in quamlibet aliam converti possit.
Hence it is plain that in the change of the bread into 388the Body of Christ there is no common subject abiding after the change, since the change takes place in the primary subject [i.e., in the matter], which is the principle of individuation. Yet something must remain to verify the words, This is my body, which are the words significant and effective of this conversion. But the substance does not remain: we must say therefore that what remains is something beside the substance, that is, the accident of bread. The accidents of bread then remain even after the conversion.

This then is one reason for the accident of bread remaining, that something may be found permanent under the conversion. Another reason is this. If the substance of bread was converted into the Body of Christ, and the accidents of bread also passed away, there would not ensue upon such conversion the being of the Body of Christ in substance where the bread was before: for nothing would be left to refer the Body of Christ to that place. But since the dimensions of bread (quantitas dimensiva panis), whereby the bread held this particular place, remain after conversion, while the substance of bread is changed into the Body of Christ, the Body of Christ comes to be under the dimensions of bread, and in a manner to occupy the place of the bread by means of the said dimensions.

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