Orthodoxy and Transubstantiation
This series of posts was compiled in answer to Ken Peck, an intelligent well-read Anglican minister and major participant in FidoNet discussions, who made the following statements in August 1997 in response to Tim Rivera (a/k/a Brett Johnson), myself (P), and Michael Brazier on the subject of Eastern Orthodoxy and the doctrine of Transubstantiation --
KP> And, of course, we have your double standard operative again. Where the Eastern Orthodox can affirm the real presence but can (and do) reject the word 'transubstantiation' and its scholastic underpinnings and you find that 'substantially' the same, while others who also hold to the real presence but reject the word 'transubstantiation' and its scholastic underpinnings and you find that heretical. You are simply not consistent on this point.
KP> The Eastern Orthodox believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist, but do NOT accept the Roman terminology. You call that 'substantial agreement.'
KP> I would think that dogmatic insistence upon either the word 'transubstantiation' or the scholastic definition would be problematic for Orthodoxy. They doubtless would not have a problem with the Fourth Lateran Council as an attempt to define the reality, but as the necessary definition of orthodoxy and catholicism it becomes a major obstacle.
KP> The Orthodox do not accept the word 'transubstantiation.' They do not accept the notions of 'substance' or 'accidents.' They hold that the consecrated elements of the eucharist 'are' the Body and Blood of Christ. That is said to be 'acceptable' to Rome. The Anglicans hold precisely the same view; that is said to be 'unacceptable' to Rome.
EASTERN THEOLOGY: Sixth Century and Beyond
For more from the Church Fathers see This is My Body: Eucharist in the Early Fathers
(adapted from Darwell Stone A History of the Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, chapter 4 "Eastern Theology from the Sixth Century to the Present Time", volume 1, pages 172 ff which details some of the prominent Orthodox theologians and councils that clearly affirmed Transubstantiation)
GENNADIUS (c. 1453 AD)
At the time of the Council of Florence (1439), a layman named George Scholarius (later known as Gennadius and appointed Patriarch of Constantinople in 1453) wrote a treatise "Homily on the Sacramental Body of our Lord Jesus Christ" and introduces language and phraseology that had become current in the West. He is the first individual to use the word "TRANSUBSTANTIATION" (Greek metousiosis) in reference to the Eucharist in the East (see Stone, page 172ff for the original Greek). The term had become standard in the West by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.
Gennadius speaks of the change (Greek metabole) of the SUBTANCE (Greek ousia) of the elements into the SUBSTANCE of the body and blood of Christ; of the "ACCIDENTS" (Greek sumbebekota) of the bread and wine remaining unchanged; of the body of Christ being with its appropriate ACCIDENTS, while the bread retains its ACCIDENTS without its own SUBSTANCE; and of the outward state of the elements being preserved in view of the repugnance which communicants might otherwise feel.
He maintains that the body of Christ is not in the Sacrament naturally but after the manner of a Sacrament, and therefore is not in it as in a place, and is not under the dimensions of a real body but under the dimensions of the bread only. He says that each fragment is the whole body of Christ, and that the body of Christ in heaven and on every altar on earth is one and the same, being that body which was born of the Virgin, was once on the cross, and is now in heaven (the full text of the Sermon of Gennadius is found in Migne PG 160:351-374).
GABRIEL SEVERUS OF PHILADELPHIA (c. 1577)
Gabriel Severus, in 1577 appointed Bishop of Ala Sher in Asia Minor, the ancient Philadelphia, and later as Bishop of Eastern Christians in the Venetian States, published several theological treatises. Among them is one titled (this is rather long)
"Against those who say that the Orthodox Children of the Eastern Church do wrongly and unlawfully in honoring and venerating the Holy Gifts when the Cherubic Hymn is sung and the Priest carrying them enters the Holy Sanctuary."
In this Gabriel defends the reverence due the elements at the Great Entrance (before the consecration), and uses the term TRANSUBSTANTIATION as well as "SUBSTANCE" and "ACCIDENTS" several times in discussing the change that takes place after consecration, at which point the Eucharist is worthy of ADORATION. Gabriel speaks of "three degrees" of honor (from Stone, page 173-175) --
"This bread and wine receives and possesses three degrees of honor. The first it has by nature, the second it receives by participation, it enters on the third through the Holy Ghost by TRANSUBSTANTIATION. The natural honor it has in that it is a creature and work of God....Wherefore, it is not for this venerated, or worshipped, or carried in procession, but is commended as the fair creation of God. The second degree of honor and regard it receives by participation when it is brought to the holy table, and blessed by the priest, and dedicated.
"Then it is no longer bread and wine as before, but is holy and an honorable gift and divine, and matter fit and set apart and assigned to become properly the body and blood of Christ, the SUBSTANCE of it, and the ACCIDENTS of the SUBSTANCE, still remaining....
"But the third degree of regard and unspeakable honor it receives by TRANSUBSTANTIATION when it puts off the whole of its own SUBSTANCE of the nature of bread, and is TRANSUBSTANTIATED into the flesh and blood of Christ. Wherefore it is not only venerated but is also ADORED, and is believed by all the orthodox Christians to be properly the flesh and blood of Christ our God, although its ACCIDENTS are preserved, the Lord granting this as a concession to human weakness."
"If we kneel to a material image which cannot become the flesh of Christ, why should you forbid us to offer honor and the bowing of head and knees to the matter that is dedicated to God, and inseparably appointed to become the body and blood of Christ, since even before the TRANSUBSTANTIATION which results from the blessing and prayer of the priest it has an ineffaceable hallowing...."
"The Eastern Catholic Holy Church of Christ, which keeps the faith unhurt, teaches her true children to venerate and reverence the holy gifts when they are brought in, and to say, 'Lord, remember me in Thy kingdom,' as holy gifts and honorable matter definitely appointed to be changed into the flesh and blood of Christ, but not as the completed body of the Lord; for this she orders them to ADORE when the priest standing at the doors of the sanctuary says,'Draw near with the fear of God and faith and love.' And then each one says....'I believe, Lord, and confess that Thou art Jesus Christ the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first.'"
CYRIL LUCAR (d. 1638) AND CALVINIST HERESY
Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Alexandria and later of Constantinople, studied Western theology in Germany and Switzerland and was brought into contact with some of the Protestant concepts of the Eucharist. In his "The Eastern Confession of the Orthodox Faith," published in Latin in 1629 with a translation into Greek in 1633, he denied there are seven Sacraments but only two and adds that "He who instituted them delivered no more." In the 17th chapter of this Confession he quotes the Gospel accounts and St. Paul on the Eucharist and states --
"This is the simple, true, and genuine tradition of this wonderful mystery, in the performance and administration of which we acknowledge and believe is the true and real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ; nevertheless, such as our FAITH presents and offers to us, NOT AS TRANSUBSTANTIATION [metousiosis] VAINLY INVENTED teaches. For we believe that the faithful who partake of the Supper eat the body of our Lord Jesus Christ not by perceptibly pressing and dissolving the Communion with the teeth, but by the soul realizing Communion. For the body of the Lord is not what is seen in the mystery with the eyes and received, but what FAITH SPIRITUALLY apprehends and presents and bestows upon us." (Stone, page 176)
Here also he says the presence of Christ in the Sacrament is dependent on the faith of the communicants (which is basically the teaching of John Calvin and the Calvinists that followed him). Cyril Lucar was strangled in 1638 by the order of the Sultan Murad IV for accusations of treason brought against him.
ORTHODOX RESPONSE TO CYRIL LUCAR
Several responses to the Calvinistic heresies of Cyril Lucar were made shortly after his death. In 1640 we have the compilation "The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church" which was to re-affirm the traditional doctrine of the East in those terms and matters which Cyril had denied or modified the classic teaching.
ORTHODOX CONFESSION (1640)
This Orthodox Confession was drawn up in Russian by Peter Mogila, the Metropolitan of Kieff (among other theologians) and was translated into Greek. It was then approved by the following Orthodox councils and Patriarchs --
(1) the Council of Jassy in 1642
(2) the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem in 1643 (all the Eastern Sees)
(3) and the Council of Jerusalem in 1672
The Orthodox Confession of 1640 reads --
"Christ is now in heaven only and not on earth after that manner of the flesh wherein He bore it and lived in it when He was on earth; but after the sacramental manner, whereby He is present in the Holy Eucharist, the same Son of God, God and Man, is also on earth by way of TRANSUBSTANTIATION [kata metousiosis]. For the SUBSTANCE of the bread is changed into the SUBSTANCE of His holy body, and the SUBSTANCE of the wine into the SUBSTANCE of His precious blood.
"Where it is fitting to WORSHIP and ADORE the Holy Eucharist even as our Savior Jesus Himself.
"The priest must know that at the moment when he consecrates the gifts the SUBSTANCE itself of the bread and the SUBSTANCE of the wine are changed into the SUBSTANCE of the real body and blood of Christ through the operation of the Holy Ghost, whom the priest invokes at that time, consecrating this mystery by praying and saying,
'Send down Thy Holy Ghost on us and on these gifts set before Thee, and make this bread the precious body of Thy Christ and that which is in this cup the precious blood of Thy Christ, changing them by Thy Holy Ghost.'
"For immediately after these words the TRANSUBSTANTIATION [metousiosis] takes place, and that bread is changed into the real body of Christ, and the wine into His real blood. ONLY THE SPECIES WHICH ARE SEEN REMAIN, and this by the ordinance of God, first, that we may not see the body of Christ, but may believe that it is there....
"The honor which it is fitting to give to these awful mysteries is of such a kind as that which is given to Christ Himself....This mystery is also OFFERED AS A SACRIFICE on behalf of all orthodox Christians, both the living AND THOSE WHO SLEEP in hope of a resurrection to eternal life; and the SACRIFICE shall never fail until the last Judgment.
"The fruits of this mystery are these: first, the commemoration of the sinless passion and death of Christ....secondly....this mystery is a PROPITIATION AND ATONEMENT WITH GOD FOR OUR SINS BOTH OF THE LIVING AND OF THE DEAD....thirdly....that each Christian who shall frequent this SACRIFICE and partake of this mystery may be delivered by means of it from the temptation and danger of the devil." (Stone, page 177f)
COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE (1642)
Two years after the above Orthodox Confession a council was held at Constantinople to condemn the opinions of Cyril Lucar, specficially --
"He so destroys the Holy Eucharist as to leave to it nothing but an empty figure, as if our worship were still in the shadow of the ancient law. For he says that not the bread which is seen and eaten is, after it has been consecrated, the real body of Christ, but that which is spiritually perceived, or rather represented. Which opinion is full of all impiety. For Jesus did not say, 'This is the figure of My body, ' but 'This is My body,' and 'This is My blood' (Matt 26:26f) -- this, that is, which is seen and taken and eaten and broken, when it has been consecrated and blessed." (Stone, page 179)
DOSITHEUS AND COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM (1672)
Thirty years later, under Dositheus, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, another council was held at Bethlehem where the Confession of Cyril Lucar was again considered. This Council reads on the Eucharist --
"In the celebration of this we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is present, not figuratively, or in an image, or by superabundant grace, as in the other mysteries, nor by a simple presence, as some of the Fathers have said concerning Baptism, nor by conjunction, as that the Deity of the Word is personally united to the bread of the Eucharist which is set forth, as the LUTHERANS MOST IGNORANTLY AND MISERABLY THINK; but really and actually, so that after the consecration of the bread and the wine the bread is changed, TRANSUBSTANTIATED, transmade, and reordered, into the real body of the Lord itself, which was born in Bethlehem of the Ever-Virgin, was baptized in Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose, ascended, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father, and will come on the clouds of heaven; and the wine is transmade and TRANSUBSTANTIATED into the real blood of the Lord itself, which was poured forth for the life of the world when He hung on the cross.
"Further, we believe that after the consecration of the bread and the wine the SUBSTANCE of the bread and the wine NO LONGER REMAINS, but there is the body itself and the blood of the Lord in the species and form of the bread and the wine, that is to say, under the ACCIDENTS of the bread. Further, that the all-pure body itself and blood of the Lord are distributed and enter the mouth and stomach of the communicants, both pious and impious, only they convey to the pious and worthy remission of sins and eternal life, but they involve to the impious and unworthy condemnation and eternal punishment.
"Further that the body and the blood of the Lord are severed and divided by the hands and teeth by way of ACCIDENT, that is, in the ACCIDENTS of the bread and the wine, in which they are acknowledged to be visible and tangible, while in themselves they remain altogether unsevered and undivided. Wherefore also the Catholic Church says, 'He is separated and distributed who being separated is not divided, who is ever eaten and never consumed, but sanctifies those who partake' [from the Liturgy of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom], that is, worthily."
"Further, that in every part and the smallest fragment of the changed bread and wine there is not a part of the body and blood of the Lord, for that would be blasphemous and wicked, but the whole Lord Christ wholly in SUBSTANCE, that is, with His soul and Godhead, perfect God and perfect Man. Wherefore, though there may be many celebrations in the world at one and the same hour, there are not many Christs or many bodies of Christ, but one and the same Christ is present really and actually, and His body and His blood are one in all the several churches of the faithful; and this not because the body of the Lord which is in heaven descends on the altars but because the bread which is offered and set forth in all the several churches, being transmade and TRANSUBSTANTIATED, becomes and is after the consecration one and the same as that which is in heaven. For the body of the Lord is one in many places, and not many bodies....
"Further, that the body itself and the blood of the Lord which are in the mystery of the Eucharist ought to be honored in the highest way, and WORSHIPPED WITH DIVINE ADORATION. For the WORSHIP of the Holy Trinity and of the body and blood of the Lord is ONE. Further, that it is a REAL AND PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE offered for all the orthodox living and dead, and for the benefit of all....Further, that before the use immediately after the consecration and after the use that which is kept in the holy pyxes for the reception of those who are about to depart is the real body of the Lord, and not in any respect different from it; so that before the use after the consecration, in the use, and after the use, it is altogether the real body of the Lord.
"Further, that by the word TRANSUBSTANTIATION the manner in which the bread and the wine are transmade into the body and blood of the Lord is not explained; for this is altogether incomprehensible and is impossible except for God Himself; and attempts at explanation bring Christians to folly and error. But the word denotes that the bread and the wine after the consecration are changed into the body and blood of the Lord not figuratively or by way of image or by superabundant grace or by the communication or presence of the Deity alone of the Only Begotten. Neither is any ACCIDENT of the bread and of the wine transmade in any way or by any change into any ACCIDENT of the body and blood of Christ; but REALLY AND ACTUALLY AND SUBSTANTIATIALLY the bread becomes the real body of the Lord itself, and the wine the blood of the Lord itself, as has been said above." (Stone, page 180ff)
The decrees of the Council of Jerusalem of 1672 have remained ever since the authorized statements of the doctrine of the Greek Orthodox Church.
NON-JURORS AND BISHOPS OF THE GREEK CHURCH (1716-1725)
For about ten years a lengthy correspondence took place between the English and Scottish Non-jurors and the Bishops of the Greek Church in hopes of a re-union. The Eucharist was one of the subjects discussed.
Throughout, the Easterns adopted the theological position and terminology of the Council of Jerusalem of 1672, and affirmed that the elements are consecrated by the operation of the Holy Spirit; that by consecration they are changed and TRANSUBSTANTIATED into the body and blood of Christ; that the ACCIDENTS remain; that the whole Christ, perfect God and perfect Man, is substantially in every part of the consecrated species; and that the body of Christ present in the consecrated elements is to be WORSHIPPED and ADORED.
They were careful, however, to quote a synodical declaration of 1691 that explained that in using the word TRANSUBSTANTIATION the Easterns had not borrowed from the West but had followed their own Holy Tradition and that they intended no further definition than that in the Sacrament there is a change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. (see Stone, page 183-184)
COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE (1727)
In an article concerning the Eucharist in an exposition of faith by a council held at Constantinople in 1727 we find a re-affirmation that the word "TRANSUBSTANTIATION" is "the most fitting statement of this mystery" and the "most accurately significant declaration of this change" in the elements. This Council reads --
"It is right to believe and confess that the most mystic and all-holy rite and Eucharist of the holy Liturgy and BLOODLESS SACRIFICE, which is for a memorial of Christ our God voluntarily sacrificed on our behalf, is celebrated in the following way. Leavened bread is offered and wine together with warm water is placed in the holy cup, and they are supernaturally changed, the bread into that life-giving body of the Lord and the wine into His precious blood, by the all-holy Spirit by means of the prayer and invocation of the priest which depends on the power of the words of the Lord.
"Not that the consecration is effected by the words 'Take, eat,' etc., or by the words 'Drink ye all of it,' etc., as the Latins think; for we have been taught that the consecration takes place at the prayer of the priest and at the words which he utters, namely, 'Make this bread the precious body of Thy Christ, and that which is in this cup the precious blood of Thy Christ, changing them by Thy Holy Ghost,' as the most glorious Apostles and Fathers filled with the Spirit who compiled the holy liturgies explained and handed down, and as this tradition of their divine teaching has come to us and to the Holy Church of Christ, and as also is clearly shown by the example of the Lord Himself, who first prayed and then commanded His Apostles, 'Do this for My memorial.'
"Therefore we acknowledge that at the invocation of the priest that ineffable mystery is consecrated, and the living and with-God-united body itself of our Savior and His blood itself are really and substantially present, and that the whole without being in any way impaired is eaten by those who partake and is BLOODLESSLY SACRIFICED. And we believe without any doubt that in the reception and communion of this, even though it be in ONE KIND ONLY, the WHOLE AND COMPLETE CHRIST is present; nevertheless according to the ancient tradition which has prevailed in the Catholic Church we have received that Communion is made by all the faithful, both clergy and laity, individually in both kinds, and not the laity in one kind and the priests in both, as is done in the innovation which the Latins have wrongly made.
"As an explanatory and MOST ACCURATELY SIGNIFICANT DECLARATION OF THIS CHANGE of the bread and the wine into the body of the Lord itself and His blood the faithful ought to acknowledge and receive the word TRANSUBSTANTIATION, which the Catholic Church as a whole has used and receives as the MOST FITTING STATEMENT OF THIS MYSTERY. Moreover they ought to reject the use of unleavened bread as an innovation of late date, and to receive the holy rite in leavened bread, as had been the custom from the first in the Catholic Church of Christ." (Stone, page 182-184)
What this Council shows us is the Eastern Orthodox had differences with the Latins (Catholics) during this period in practice (Communion under both kinds, leavened bread) and the exact moment of consecration, but had no difficulty in affirming the reality of the change by using the term TRANSUBSTANTIATION as the "MOST FITTING STATEMENT OF THIS MYSTERY" and "MOST ACCURATELY SIGNIFICANT DECLARATION OF THIS CHANGE."
The following from the Council of Trent (1545-1563) shows that Catholics and Orthodox are in agreement on affirming the reality of the change of the Eucharistic elements into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ, affirming that the Eucharist is the re-presentation (making present) of the PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE of Christ, that is, an "UNBLOODY SACRIFICE" beneficial for those Christians living and departed in Christ, and as the most fitting term to describe the reality of the change in the elements the word TRANSUBSTANTIATION is affirmed.
I shall follow with a few statements from modern Orthodox theologians explaining how they understand the Eucharist and their own doctrine as defined above.
THE COUNCIL OF TRENT ON TRANSUBSTANTIATION AND THE MASS
Session 13, Chapter 1
The Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist
First of all, the holy council teaches and openly and plainly professes that after the consecration of bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is truly, really and substantially contained in the august sacrament of the Holy Eucharist under the appearance of those sensible things. For there is no repugnance in this that our Savior sits always at the right hand of the Father in heaven according to the natural mode of existing, and yet is in many other places sacramentally present to us in His own substance by a manner of existence which, though we can scarcely express in words, yet with our understanding illumined by faith, we can conceive and ought most firmly to believe is possible to God.
For thus all our forefathers, as many as were in the true Christ of Christ and who treated of this most holy sacrament, have most openly professed that our Redeemer instituted this wonderful sacrament at the last supper, when, after blessing the bread and wine, He testified in clear and definite words that He gives them his own body and His own blood [Matt 26:26ff; Luke 22:19f]. Since these words, recorded by the holy Evangelists and afterwards repeated by St. Paul [1 Cor 11:23ff], embody that proper and clearest meaning in which they were understood by the Fathers, it is a most contemptible action on the part of some contentious and wicked men to twist them into fictitious and imaginary tropes by which the truth of the flesh and blood of Christ is denied, contrary to the universal sense of the Church, which, as the pillar and ground of the truth [1 Tim 3:15], recognizing with a mind ever grateful and unforgetting this most excellent favor of Christ, has detested as satanical these untruths devised by impious men.
Session 13, Chapter 4
But since Christ our Redeemer declared that to be truly His own body which He offered under the form of bread, it has, therefore, always been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy council now declares it anew, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a change is brought about of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the holy Catholic Church properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation.
Session 13, Canons
Canon 1. If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema.
Canon 2. If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema.
Session 22, Chapter 1
The Institution of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
....our Lord Jesus Christ...our God and Lord, though He was by His death about to offer Himself once upon the altar of the cross to God the Father that He might there accomplish an eternal redemption [Heb 9:12], nevertheless, that His priesthood might not come to an end with His death [Heb 7:11,24], at the last supper, on the night He was betrayed, that He might leave to His beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice once to be accomplished on the cross might be re-presented, the memory therefore remain even to the end of the world, and its salutary effects applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit, declaring Himself constituted a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech, offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the form of bread and wine, and under the forms of those same things gave to the Apostles, whom He then made priests of the New Testament, that they might partake, commanding them and their successors in the priesthood by these words to do likewise: Do this in commemoration of Me [Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24f], as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught....
Session 22, Chapter 2
The Sacrifice of the Mass is Propitiatory Both for the Living and the Dead
And inasmuch as in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner the same Christ who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross, the holy council teaches that this is truly propitiatory and has this effect, that if we, contrite and penitent, with sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence, draw nigh to God, we obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid [Heb 4:16]. For, appeased by this sacrifice, the Lord grants the grace and gift of penitence and pardons even the gravest crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. The fruits of that bloody sacrifice, it is well understood, are received most abundantly through this unbloody one, so far is the latter from derogating in any way from the former. Where, according to the tradition of the Apostles, it is rightly offered not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those departed in Christ but not yet fully purified.
Session 22, Canons
Canon 1. If anyone says that in the Mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God; or that to be offered is nothing else than that Christ is given to us to eat, let him be anathema.
Canon 2. If anyone says that by those words, Do this for a commemoration of me [Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24f], Christ did not institute the Apostles priests; or did not ordain that they and other priests should offer His own body and blood, let him be anathema.
Canon 3. If anyone says that the sacrifice of the Mass is one only of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is as mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one; or that it profits him only who receives, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, let him be anathema.
MODERN ORTHODOX THEOLOGIANS ON TRANSUBSTANTIATION
From the popular work The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware [emphasis added] --
"As the words of the Epiclesis make abundantly plain, the Orthodox Church believes that after the consecration the bread and wine become in very truth the Body and Blood of Christ: they are not mere symbols, but the reality. But while Orthodoxy has always insisted on the REALITY of the change, it has never attempted to explain the MANNER of the change: the Eucharistic Prayer in the Liturgy simply uses the nuetral term metaballo, to 'turn about', to 'change', to 'alter'.
"It is true that in the seventeenth century not only individual Orthodox writers, but Orthodox councils such as that of Jerusalem in 1672, made use of the Latin term 'transubstantiation' (in Greek, metousiosis), together with the Scholastic distinction between substance and accidents. But at the same time the Fathers of Jerusalem were careful to add that the use of these terms does not constitute an explanation of the manner of the change, since this is a mystery and must always remain incomprehensible.
"Yet despite this disclaimer, many Orthodox felt that Jerusalem had committed itself too unreservedly to the terminology of Latin Scholasticism, and it is significant that when in 1838 the Russian Church issued a translation of the Acts of Jerusalem, while retaining the word transubstantiation, it carefully paraphrased the rest of the passage in such a way that the technical terms substance and accidents were not employed.
"Today a few Orthodox writers still use the word transubstantiation, but they insist on two points: first, there are many other words which can with equal legitimacy be used to describe the consecration, and, among them all, the term transubstantiation enjoys no unique or decisive authority; secondly, its use does not commit theologians to the acceptance of Aristotelian philosophical concepts." (Timothy Ware, page 283-284)
From the book Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism (1972) by the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Aksum, Methodios Fouyas [emphasis added] --
"Roman and Orthodox teach that by the words spoken in the Holy Eucharist the species of bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so that although these species have the outward qualities of bread and wine, essentially they are the Body and Blood of Christ." (Fouyas, page 187, footnote refers to Cyril of Jerusalem, Cat 22; John of Damascus, De Fide Orth 4:13; John Chrysostom, Hom 82:4 in Matt as well as the Council of Trent, Session 13)
After quoting an Anglican writer who said "Orthodox theologians do not adhere to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation..." Fouyas responds:
"This is not quite accurate, because the Orthodox Church does not reject the word 'Transubstantiation,' but it does not attach to it the materialistic meaning which is given by the Latins. The Orthodox Church uses the word 'Transubstantiation' not to define the MANNER in which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and the Blood of the Lord, but only to insist on the FACT that the Bread truly, really, and substantially becomes the very Body of the Lord and the wine the very Blood of the Lord. In this sense it is interpreted by St. John of Damascus [Holy and Immaculate Mysteries, Cap 13:7]." (Fouyas, page 188-189, footnote refers also to the Orthodox Councils of Jerusalem  and of Constantinople  -- see above)
Fouyas continues and provides several words used by the Orthodox to describe the change in the elements:
"In the same manner the majority of the Orthodox theologians used, for the idea of Transubstantiation, a Greek term drawn from the teaching of the ancient Greek Fathers; the terms used include Metousiosis, Metabole, Trope, Metapoiesis, etc, or the Slavonic Presushchestvlenie, equivalent of the Greek Metousiosis. The Slavonic word Sushchestvo corresponds not to substantia, but to ousia (essentia)." (Fouyas, page 189)
Fouyas concludes on the word Transubstantiation:
"The difference between Orthodox and Romans is this: the latter used this word to mean the special theory according to which the change is made, but the Orthodox used it to mean the FACT of the change, according to the Patristic conception." (Fouyas, page 189)
Finally, in a slightly more wordy description, from Byzantine Theology (1974) by the eminent Orthodox scholar and theologian, John Meyendorff --
"....in the Eucharist, man participates in the glorified humanity of Christ, which is not the 'essence of God,' but a humanity still consubstantial to man and available to him as food and drink....for later Byzantine theologians, the Eucharist is Christ's transfigured, life-giving, but still human, body, en-hypostasized in the Logos and penetrated with divine 'energies.' Characteristically, one never finds the category of 'essence' (ousia) used by Byzantine theologians in a Eucharistic context. They would consider a term like 'transubstantiation' (metousiosis) improper to designate the Eucharistic mystery, and generally use the concept of metabole, found in the canon of John Chrysostom, or such dynamic terms as 'trans-elementation' (metastoicheiosis) or 're-ordination' (metarrhythmisis). [Yes, many of these terms were used, including and along with Transubstantiation].
"Transubstantiation (metousiosis) appears only in the writings of the -Latinophrones- of the thirteenth century, and is nothing but a straight translation from the Latin. The first Orthodox author to use it is Gennadios Scholarios; but, in his case as well, direct Latin influence is obvious. The Eucharist is neither a symbol to be 'contemplated' from outside nor an 'essence' distinct from humanity, but Jesus Himself, the risen Lord, 'made known through the breaking of bread' (Lk 24:35); Byzantine theologians rarely speculated beyond this realistic and soteriological affirmation of the Eucharistic presence as the glorified humanity of Christ."
Meyendorff says concerning the concept of "change of substance" in the Eucharist:
"The Byzantines did not see the substance of the bread somehow changed in the Eucharistic mystery into another substance -- the Body of Christ -- but viewed this bread as the 'type' of humanity: our humanity changed into the transfigured humanity of Christ." (from Meyendorff, pages 203-205)
For more from the Church Fathers see This is My Body: Eucharist in the Early Fathers
Back to Apologetics Articles
Back to Home Page
About | Apologetics | Philosophy | Spirituality | Books | Audio | Links