Transubstantiation is the belief that communion transforms bread and wine into the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The following guest sermon was submitted by ULC minister Robert West. All ULC Ministers are invited to contribute their own sermons for consideration/publication. To submit a sermon, please email it to sermons@ulc.org.


With Easter coming up, I thought I'd share an enlightening moment I had regarding a key difference between Catholic and Protestant doctrine. 

As a Free Methodist, I grew up with a different understanding of the Holy Communion than my Catholic friends. While I always knew that the Eucharist was a sacred sacrament, I was taught to see the bread and the juice as symbolic representations of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Imagine my surprise upon learning about the Catholic belief of transubstantiation! To be honest, I was a little horrified, but also fascinated by this concept.

Transubstantiation is the belief that during the Holy Communion, the bread and juice (well, it seems for Catholics it’s actually wine) are transformed into the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ. For them, this is all facilitated through the priest's consecration of the elements, which elevates their substance while somehow leaving their outward appearance unchanged. To a Catholic, this means that they are literally consuming the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist!

My young protestant mind was blown. We worship the same God of Abraham as Catholics, we both achieve salvation through the sacrifice of His son, and I had always assumed the difference between us was like those between different protestant denominations, where it consisted in simply a different focus on agreed upon aspects of Christianity. I suppose this is still true to an extent, and while notions of purgatory and holy water were foreign to me, they were easy to understand. 

This, however, this was strange and even a bit unsettling. 

The idea of consuming Jesus’ actual body and blood, chewing the same flesh that was whipped by the Romans and swallowing the same blood that spilled down the cross; it all seemed practically sacrilegious to me at first. However, as I began to learn more about the Catholic belief, I started to appreciate the profound spiritual significance that it held for many of them.

One of the key differences between the two ways of understanding the sacrament is the role of the priest in the consecration of the elements. While protestants generally believe that anyone can lead the Eucharist, Catholics believe that only a priest, who has been ordained and has the power of consecration, can perform the necessary rites to transform the bread and wine.

For Catholics, the act of consuming the Eucharist is not just a symbolic gesture, but a way of physically connecting with Christ and receiving His grace. The more visceral aspect forces one to consider the true cost of salvation, and it is okay to be rocked out of the comfort in doing something just for the sake of ritual. It is believed that through the Communion, Catholics can participate in the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross and that they can be united with him in a deeply personal way.

While I still view the sacrament as being purely symbolic, learning about the Catholic perspective has given me a new appreciation for its significance. It has broadened my understanding of the spiritual richness and depth that faith holds for Christians of all denominations.

64 comments

  1. Robert Gagnon's Avatar Robert Gagnon

    Thank-you for explaining how seriously Catholics view "Holy" communion.

  1. Joe Stutler's Avatar Joe Stutler

    Arguing over cracker magic....🙄

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      Excellent answer.... More please

    2. Christine's Avatar Christine

      Who is? You didn't reply to someone else's comment, you replied to the sermon itself, which has no arguing in it. Was that a mistake?

  1. Sharrell Ronald Taylor's Avatar Sharrell Ronald Taylor

    Very good article and I must say I also am intrigued by this. I will have to do some research and pray

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      You might want to try doing your research just using logic, reason, and critical thought. I think you'll find that talking to something that you believe is real, but obviously isn't there, isn't going to help you in any way with your research. Just sayin', Sharrell.

      🦁♥️

      1. Sharrell Ronald Taylor's Avatar Sharrell Ronald Taylor

        I will do that but I will also pray to the God I believe to be real . And I do appreciate your honesty.

        1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

          @Sharrell Ronald Taylor Why would you pray about researching? Can't you use logic, reason, and critical thinking? But then you believe there is a God so maybe you can't.

          1. Mary Lynne Lightowler's Avatar Mary Lynne Lightowler

            I've a new paradigm in my living . . . it is to appreciate, though it might not be mine, their/another's way of doing things/seeing things. In the concept of one universal mind, with the material 'tween our ears being sending/receiving units (read Mark Gober) if I critique my brother, I'm as well harming myself. And to consider that might just be a better way to understanding. Asking for Guidance? Always. All of us are the thoughts in God's Mind, as are all things, -- answers can always be found there if we listen and hear. Blessings.

            1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

              @Mary Lynne Lightowler Not sure I agree? Are you saying people like Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, General Butt Naked, Jeffery Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and murdering Mexican/South American drug lords at the thoughts in God's minds? And so are the pastors, priest and bishops who rape women and children are also in God's mind?

              Hope you are hearing this and you are listening and realize just how horrible God is.

  1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

    Interesting take. I was raised Mormon and became Baptist when I was in my 30s. Communion is clearly symbolic. Transubstantiation is unscriptural. When Jesus instituted the act of eating the bread and drinking the wine he said in remembrance. Not as part of. He had not yet hung on the cross. He did not give them pieces of his body or drips of his blood. It was clearly bread and wine (the usual drink with a meal).

    Communion is not what saves us. Only belief and acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah is what saves us.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      I too was Mormon, and with no real supporting evidence I eventually saw the light that all of this is religious nonsense. We actually don't know what Jesus instituted for real, because all we have are stories in book that were approved by Emporer Constantine, much like the stories in the Book of Mormon, approved by Joseph Smith. 🤷🏼

      🦁♥️

      1. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

        the book of mormon...saw that on broadway. it's no charleton heston but still...

      2. David Cox's Avatar David Cox

        One of the disciples of the apostle John mentions all that was call scripture way before Constantine. His letter to Philippi...his name is Polycarp

        https://youtu.be/t6RPqi_Omg8

        1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

          Wow, John must have lived to a really old age being as Polycarp was born in AD69 and died in AD155.

          It's really odd isn't it that no contemporary historians wrote about Jesus when he was supposed to have been alive, but historians after his supposed death, decades later, loved to write about handed down stories and tales.

          My great grandmother used to tell me stories, as a child, of fairies 🧚🏻‍♀️. She truly believed in them. I wonder if they were real? 🤷🏼

          🦁♥️

          1. JaZe's Avatar JaZe

            Apparently there are a number of writings by contempories of Jesus, but they were left out of the approved texts exactly because they showed Jesus differently from what the church wanted, they were inconvenient to say the least.

          2. Lou Everett, Sr.'s Avatar Lou Everett, Sr.

            Lionheart -

            I will pray for you.

            1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

              Thank you, Lou. Does that mean you will be talking to the wall, floor, or ceiling, when you do that? Just so that I can get an impression. Thank you for your concern. 🤗

              By the way, I have it on good authority that Fairies are also not real. I'm pretty sad about that. I've read so much about them, I was hoping that what was written in books was true. 😢

              🦁♥️

              1. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

                Next thing you will be telling me that Gnomes aren't real either. At least we can all agree that Harry Potter is real.

              2. Daniel-David's Avatar Daniel-David

                Most biblical historians tell us Christians that we do not have ANY original writings of the NT. What we have are copies of copies of copies. They have been translated and interpreted down through the centuries.

                Critical historic research of recent translations will clearly indicate that each word has a CONTEXT as well as a meaning.

                Paul wrote with a sense of urgency and I doubt that he was very much, if at all, concerned about consistency. Just do some work in the Greek word: ‘ekballo.’ Or even the word SIN. It will make your head explode.

                As far the RCC and their belief concerning communion, I strongly believe that during their readings prior and after, they are addressing the issue of TRANSFORMATION.

                I DO NOT need to see or touch the elements in order to appreciate the nuance involved.

                It’s going to be easier for a camel to jump through the eye of a needle than for me to enter the Kingdom. Of course, it depends on if the Kingdom is WITHIN, AMOUNG, or still to come. Let me know! Amen!

              3. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

                It’s because you haven’t been paying your fairy tax that they won’t appear and come to serve your wishes. Just go to the same place where you register your unicorn. 😉

    2. Dr. Zerpersande, NSC's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande, NSC

      “ Only belief and acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah is what saves us.”

      Lifeguards, firemen and doctors do the real deal.

    3. James Riggle-Johnson's Avatar James Riggle-Johnson

      Colleen, but he did say take this bread, it is my body. That’s what the Catholics are getting this from. Also, the people who made this ritual up were the first Catholics, the Apostles.

    4. Victor Thomas Cypert's Avatar Victor Thomas Cypert

      It is scriptural in nature. Jesus, at the Last Supper, clearly said, "This is my body" and "This is my blood" (Matt. 26:26-30). That literal "is" is what makes it so to Catholics.

      The substance is unknowable, the quintessence, the innermost quality conveying the nature of the thing; the taste, texture, smell, and color of bread and wine are the accidents of substance. The substance is the spirit; the accidents are the flesh. The flesh will perish but the spirit does not.

      I'm not Catholic, nor am I Christian, but I took several graduate level history courses dealing with ancient and early Christian thought and the historiography of the Reformation. This is quite Biblical and very intricate--maybe too intricate for some. (I live in Alabama--I can't afford NOT to be versed in Christianity in all of its forms!)

      If you're a Christian then you accept that Jesus knew what was going to happen to him. He prayed for God the Father to let "This cup pass from me." He sweated blood in anticipation of the horrors that awaited him. How could this NOT be Biblical and yet that be Biblical?

      Don't let anti-Catholic bigotry blind you to what is a beautiful ritual. Jesus commanded his disciples to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood. Catholics do that through the Eucharist which, in their eyes, is a miraclulous event even if they can not see the literal transformation. And what is faith but the evidence of things UNSEEN and the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for?

      1. JaZe's Avatar JaZe

        Were those words really his or were they put in his mouth by wishful thinkers? There s so much manipulation in all religions!

      2. Rev. Dr. G. Waldron's Avatar Rev. Dr. G. Waldron

        Victor, what a good and relevant message that you just preached. I feel a sense of belief and kindness in you. I hope you will find your way to accept Christ. +++ AMEN

  1. Mary Jane Ellen's Avatar Mary Jane Ellen

    Taking communion with “unleavened bread and wine, or juice is symbolic. It reminds us all of Christ dying for us and solemnity of the occasion.

  1. Richard A Buckholz's Avatar Richard A Buckholz

    I asked my Episcopal minister why she chewed the body of Christ (bread).why not let it dissolve?? her response was "as long as it gets down". Bad enough she chewed with her mouth open!!

  1. P. Keith Benefiel's Avatar P. Keith Benefiel

    So, it really is ritual cannibalism?

  1. Richard James Holden's Avatar Richard James Holden

    Very interesting. Thank you

  1. Sean Nettles's Avatar Sean Nettles

    God Bless Everyone In Jesus Christ Name

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Was Jesus real then? Are you sure? I always thought he was just a name in a book.

      🦁♥️

  1. Joy's Avatar Joy

    Thank you for sharing this. I used to be Catholic and honestly never understood why they think this way. But I have no problem with those who believe. We all have our things we believe that others may not.

  1. James Riggle-Johnson's Avatar James Riggle-Johnson

    Robert, as a Catholic, I know a little of what you’re talking about and yes, it is believed that the priest has the ability to change the sacrament into the body and blood of Christ. I’ll add to that saying Catholic priest also believe that if the one performing the Eucharist is not in a state of grace, meaning the are sinful, that Transubstantiation is not possible. As we all know, there are a lot of priests who have and continue to sin. I speak of the molesters throughout the church.

    When I first became a Catholic 35 years ago, I truly believed I was receiving the body and blood of Christ, but I unfortunately have lost faith in the Church, and no longer believe or trust them. I am finding that I’ve lost faith in all organized religions because of the judgements they place on people. Today, I simply accept that I am spiritual. Despite all that I want to thank you for reminding me what my faith once meant to me.

    1. David Cox's Avatar David Cox

      James C Riggle looks like you had your faith in people...you should have had your faith in Jesus and the rest would fall into place. People will fail you but Jesus will not. People are not perfect but Jesus is. It's not about religion its about a relationship knowing him through the born again spirit that you would have when you believe.

      1. James Riggle-Johnson's Avatar James Riggle-Johnson

        Sure... that's gotta be it.

  1. Dr. Zerpersande, NSC's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande, NSC

    Sounds as if the author gained a deeper understanding of the word ‘delusional’.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    I WOULD LIKE to KNOW WHAT ALL of YOU ARE SMOKING, OR ???

  1. Rev. Howard Slayton's Avatar Rev. Howard Slayton

    No one should make fun of what somebody else believes. Beliefs are sacred and personal. It’s every individuals choice to believe or not believe, and what if anything, you do believe. In America, we are at liberty to have faith.

    Personally, I understand why Catholics believe in transubstantiation. I find a basis for this doctrine in Saint John chapter 6. But I see it as Christ’s presence comes upon the elements in a spiritual way. There is the true presence, by the spirit of Christ. But it is nothing physical, otherwise we wouldn’t see bread and wine. I believe it’s called Spiritual Consubstantiation. There are many different views on the topic.

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      @Rev. Howard Slayton How can you not make fun of what someone believes when it is so bizarre and crazy? We lock people up in psych wards with beliefs like this. You do have to admit it's crazy.

  1. Trent Gordin's Avatar Trent Gordin

    I have recently noticed another difference between Catholics and Protestants when it comes to Holy Communion...Catholicism only allow believing Catholics (and not other sects of Christianity) to partake in Communion while Protestants are more leinient and allow most anyone with the desire to believe in Christ to partake. Weird little difference between the two...

  1. Dawn Marie's Avatar Dawn Marie

    Growing up Catholic and now attending a non-denominational church, this article was spot on. Very nicely written. Thank you for contributing!!

  1. James Lynn Jones's Avatar James Lynn Jones

    Mr. Barnum was exact-"A sucker is born every minute." When people are/were desperately seeking truth, religion sold them lollipops. If you're going to blow smoke up my keester at least toss me a ham sandwich or something.

  1. Kenneth Michael Brodzik's Avatar Kenneth Michael Brodzik

    It's all in the "magic bell" they ring during the process

  1. Tom Herman's Avatar Tom Herman

    I've always been in awe of Catholicism and its teaching that free will for humans comes directly from the creator of the universe and can be traced in the Bible all the way to Adam and Eve. The power to make our own choices comes directly from that universal Creator. Making our own choices is a very personal thing because they are our own. Who are we to say one's choices are better or more correct than another's when is comes to spiritual belief or any belief for that matter.

    The ritual of the Catholic mass is some of the greatest magick I know. Imagine a ceremony literally changing bread and wine into the symbolic representation of the body and blood of Christ, pretty powerful stuff for a Catholic or any Christian to connect themselves to the almighty power of the universe. For us to say one is real and the other is not is arrogant and just promotes bigotry and discrimination.

    I think our mission as people is to promote tolerance of a person's differences and acceptance that it is okay for one's beliefs to be different than our own. As long as those beliefs do not impose restrictions or control the exercise of our own free will what is the harm?

    Transubstantiation is a powerful symbolic concept and communion for Christians is just as powerful no matter how it is manifested. Again, I would advocate that we all demonstrate tolerance of another's choices as guided by their free will. The power to choose is what separates women and men from the beasts. There is much truth in the ULC's slogan, "We are all children of the same universe."

  1. John Ball's Avatar John Ball

    Thanks for that. You did a great job of respectfully describing the Roman Catholic doctrine even though you don't believe in transubstantiation yourself. You might be surprised to learn that not all Protestants hold to your belief that the Lord's Supper is symbolic. Lutherans and Episcopalians specifically believe the person taking communion actually receives Christ's body and blood. Episcopalians believe the body and blood are received spiritually but the bread and wine remain bread and wine. Lutheran's believe Christ's body and blood are actually present "in, with, and under" the elements of bread and wine. They call this "real presence."

    1. Sandy Anne March's Avatar Sandy Anne March

      Lutherans believe as you stated because we are catholics. Small “c” catholic.

    2. Sandy Anne March's Avatar Sandy Anne March

      One of the reasons why Lutherans believe this “real presence” is because we are catholic. Small “c” catholic.

  1. Robert Alexander Coghill Jr's Avatar Robert Alexander Coghill Jr

    As an Episcopalian, we are allowed some freedom regarding our thoughts on transubstantiation. The words of the Eucharist allows multiple understandings. Why can’t Anglicans make up their minds? It goes back to our history. We broke from the Roman Catholic Church before most of the Protestant reformers ideas were fixed in the culture. Pile on to that a portion of England did not want to leave the Roman church and expressed their discontent violently. After decades of beheadings and revolts, Queen Lizzie One said, “Whatever.” King Chuck One said, “Whatever, pass me another drink.” Then the Roundheads took off Chuck’s head and had a puritan state for a few years. By the time King Chuck the Second arrived Anglicans decided to let Bishops, Priests and Congregants think their own thoughts provided they did not behead each other. Then they burned witches.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    I'm curious, are those cookies organic? 🤭 Just asking for health reasons. Also, I wonder if the wine has notes of "O" types, or "Rhesus Negative"🤔. I'd love to know what his blood grouping was.

    It would have been great to have run his DNA, but I guess the results would only have shown the mytochondrial lineage. His paternal lineage would hit a brick wall.....right? Is that why Jews go to the Wailing Wall to pray?

    🦁♥️

  1. Warren Calvin Wall's Avatar Warren Calvin Wall

    I cannot understand the vitriol towards other's beliefs. It makes no sense. It has absolutely nothing to do with you. It's none of your business. Just as your personal beliefs are none of anybody's business. I'm not a believer of any organized religion nor do I believe in any spirit in the sky myself. Even though I don't believe in any kind of "holy spirit", I also don't feel a need to denigrate those that do. ULC is supposed to be all inclusive and accepting. Not a platform for screaming at eachother that "my way is better than your way therefore your way is nonsense". If a subject has no bearing on you, personally, it's none of your business.

  1. John Casillo's Avatar John Casillo

    OH MY GOD....PLEASE HELP US ALL........REV JOHN

  1. Patti Anne Lisenbee's Avatar Patti Anne Lisenbee

    If you really look at it, it's CANNABILISM!! Would you eat the actual body and drink the actual blood of a baby, if god commanded it? Would you eat anyone else? The idea of eating something that turns into actual human flesh and blood is nauseating to say the least and revolting to say the worst.

  1. Sean Nettles's Avatar Sean Nettles

    I believe what is written in Holly Scriptures About Jesus Christ and the last supper God Bless Everyone and may you find peace I your hearts and minds

  1. revldclark's Avatar revldclark

    perhaps it would help us all to realize that the goal of many religions and sects among them are contrived to exercise control over the people. if the church and its representatives do not hold the powers of life over death then they have no control over the people “under” them. people have to be made to believe that the church makes the rules, holds power over salvation etc or people could do things like go free church and not have to have a priest to stand in the gap between them and God For me Jesus,the Christ does that for me. The church can not control my salvation or spiritual connection God gave me a mind for that. I may dress as i decide, go where I want, see the movies or read the. books i chose and pray freely without requiring any other appointed person or hierarchy to “save” and control me.

  1. Kevin John Thomas James Jude Stephen Francis Morrisroe's Avatar Kevin John Thomas James Jude Stephen Francis Morrisroe

    1) Please stop referring to the Eucharistic celebrant as priest. The three orders in the Catholic ministry are presbyterate, diaconate, and episcopate. Therefore Catholic ordained ministers are presbyters (elders), deacons, or bishops (overseers). Other than the priesthood of all the faithful/baptized, constant misuse of priest has led to the faulty theology prohibiting women from ordained ministry. 2) The celebrant, vocalizing the prayer on behalf of the entire community, does not cause the Eucharistic moment as the Eucharistic prayers invoke the Holy Spirit to descend upon the community' gifts of bread/wine in order to accomplish the transformation into the Real Presence of Christ's Eucharist body/blood. 3) Finally, it was a by-product of the Enlightenment's denial of enchantment and Mystery that led to a widespread misconception that what is merely(?) symbolic is not and cannot be real. This sense of disenchantment has contributed to an impoverishment of the human experience in which the reality of so many important human phenomena are symbolic.

    1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

      I just registered my unicorn and received a bonus alchemical bowl with a free three month subscription of transmutation incantations. I’m told that if I can recruit 3 leprechauns in the next month, I’ll become eligible to be entered in a drawing for a map to the location do the Holy Grail!

      Anyone know any leprechauns?

  1. Irene A. Behling's Avatar Irene A. Behling

    John 6:52 seemed to have similar responses.

  1. Jeries Suleiman Qaqish's Avatar Jeries Suleiman Qaqish

    I believe communion is symbolic. Jesus said "do this in remembrance of me". Catholics and even Greek orthodox do think of transubstantiation I believe such is a false humility and based on human commands and teaching. It might have an appearance of wisdom. read Colossians 2 :20-23.

  1. Bernie James Rocheleau's Avatar Bernie James Rocheleau

    I grew up Catholic and was educated on these practices and yet I never really felt it was more than symbolism. I don't want to say I actively rejected the teaching, I guess it just never made sense to me so I didn't buy in. In my 20s, a good friend who was a priest explained it to me (at my asking) and again, it just didn't sink in. Of course I also believed women should be allowed to be priests and priests should be allowed to marry but then again, so did he. Anyway, I think it takes a deep faith in Catholic teachings to both understand transubstantiation and believe it and I would guess many Catholics or former Catholics like me don't. (I turned Protestant when I got married and have had several female pastors since - all of them married.)

  1. Quinn R Amaro's Avatar Quinn R Amaro

    Okay. Pretty much each religion has it's interpretation concerning Communion. But simplicity is in the Bible. Humans complicate that simplicity. We are human beings. NOT God. God can absolve sin. Human's cannot. Why do we mimic God for what we are unable to do?

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Which god are people mimicking? There is no demonstrable evidence any of the worlds gods that people worship are real.

      🦁❤️

  1. Charles Thomas Norkus's Avatar Charles Thomas Norkus

    For the tolerant: 1. Catholics take the Scriptures literally in the three gospel accounts of “this is my body” etc. 2. They also take Jesus’ “bread of life” discourse in John 6 literally. lt’s interesting that when many of his followers could not comprehend his bizarre statements, Jesus didn’t say, “Oh, wait, let me explain.” 3. Catholics also believe Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 when he says that he received the same information from Jesus through divine revelation. Paul’s text is part of the Eucharistic ceremony during Mass. 4. lt apparently was the belief held by early 2nd century Christians as supported by the letters of Ignatius (c.AD 110) and description of an early ‘Mass’ from Justin Martyr (c.160). There is other early written evidence; those are just two of the more famous examples. 5. Apparently cannibalism was an actual charge leveled at Christians as early as the 3rd century. These dates are of written evidence; it would be reasonable to expect the belief and practice existed even earlier. 6. While it may not be obvious from Scripture, it certainly appears that from very early in their history, Christians believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 7. By the way, two nonBiblical contemporary sources for Jesus would be the Roman historian Tacitus and Jewish historian Josephus. 8. Extra credit homework: look up the 3rd cent. Christian saint Tarcisius. Why would he do that if it were only bread and wine?

    Thanks and blessings to all of you believers and nonbelievers who have exemplified the true spirit of the ULC in these posts.

  1. rebadams7's Avatar rebadams7

    As a Protestant Lutheran I have always marveled at the mystery of in with and under. I believe in Gods presence in the sacrément and try to approach the altar with reverence. Peace and grace be unto all of you R

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