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Aster's avatar

How can Catholics believe that the wine during Holy Communion really turns into blood?

Asked by Aster (18745points) October 2nd, 2010

Catholics believe that the wine they drink during Mass turns into blood (Transubstantiation). It does not change chemical composition or the world would know it. But they still believe it’s now blood. Do you believe it can be proven to do so and if not, why not?

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69 Answers

laureth's avatar

I think it’s a spiritual thing, which is to say, it spiritually becomes the flesh and blood of Christ, and the priest can do that because he’s in good with the Big Guy, so to speak. Can it be proven? Not scientifically, but if you already believe in the rest of the Christian package (big flood, blind people healed, virgin birth, died and rose again after a long weekend, etc.), it isn’t much of a stretch to believe in transubstantiation.

From what I understand of those who hold to spiritual things being true, it’s“real,” it’s just “another kind of reality” that “can’t be proven” but is “equally as valid.” Perhaps it can be proven by someone taking communion and having a spiritual experience while doing so? (Assuming the spiritual experience isn’t caused by something else, or if it is, no one thinks to question that.)

Rarebear's avatar

It’s a question of faith, not science.

SuperMouse's avatar

I have always thought of it as a symbolic change rather than actual transubstantiation.

laureth's avatar

@SuperMouse – For Protestants, it’s symbolic. For Catholics, they’re supposed to believe it’s really real, even if 45% of them don’t know that.

Aster's avatar

@SuperMouse No; it isn’t symbolic. They say it really and truly turns into blood. Which puzzles me because it could be analyzed in a lab.

Rarebear's avatar

Catholic lore is that it is a true transformation. I’m sure there are some Catholics who believe it’s symbolic. Every religion has their quirks.

SuperMouse's avatar

I can only really speak from my experience growing up in the Catholic church and hearing the blessing over the gifts week in and week out for years and years. I have always thought of it as a symbolic change rather than actual transubstantiation.

I can also speak from experience growing up surrounded by devout members of the Catholic church and based on that I am not the least bit surprised that 45% of them (I do not consider myself Catholic anymore) would not know they are supposed to believe it is real. Judging by my familiarity with said devout Catholics I would further not be surprised if they believed that God performed a miracle by changing the water and wine into bread and body every single time a Mass was said.

rebbel's avatar

I don’t believe that many catholics believe it really turns into (the) blood (of Christ).
The host (sacramental bread) is also used in church and is to be the symbol for the body of Christ.
You are not going to tell me that (many) catholics also believe that they really eat the body of Christ?
It’s symbolic, as far as i know.

Aster's avatar

Of course, if the word Transubstantiation is “unfamiliar and arcane terminology” resulting in some Catholics now doubting as to whether it “is still a part of Catholic doctrine,” the reason is because too many pastors and religious educators have failed miserably to instruct the faithful properly concerning a term which safeguards the authentic meaning of the awesome mystery of the Eucharist. It is a shameful blot on the recent history of post-conciliar catechesis that a 1992 poll has revealed – in the words of the editor of Our Sunday Visitor – that:
“Only 30% of U.S. Catholics believe – as the Church teaches – that the Eucharist received is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine…”

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crisw's avatar

How can anyone believe that the Earth is 6000 years old? How can anyone believe that being gay is a sin? How can anyone believe that the Bible is a literal work of fact? How can anyone believe in original sin? How can anyone believe that Jesus is coming? How can anyone believe any religious belief?

The key word is believe.

Such people aren’t looking to validate their theories with facts. They “believe” they already have the “truth” in their faith and that is all they need. Like the bumper sticker says, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”

if we subject any purely religious belief to the scientific method, it will fail. There is no difference between Catholic, Ancient Greek, Norse, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Wiccan or any other mythos-based beliefs in this.

cazzie's avatar

Beggers belief….

Trillian's avatar

Read Joseph Campbell. He’s kind of a difficult read, but well worth it. Start with Creative Mythology. During the ceremony, the symbol becomes the thing. There is an entire psychological process at work here that transcends intelligence and day-to-day rationality.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’m told the wine is a focus, a medium in order for the faith to “work” in the mind of the supplicant. Ingesting the wine is supposed to put you in a mental state to be closer to accepting Christ into your body in order to be healed, be strengthened, etc. I’ve been friends with two Catholic priests, each who explained it to me this way.

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mickhock's avatar

I was brought up a Cath and got the fear of God force fed every day for all my schooling.
On leaving school i sat exams and it was confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt that i had at least half a brain.With that confirmation i duly turned my back on the Caths and their little clique .
Proof is in the Pudding

Aster's avatar

From reading the answers I now think the Catholic Church is “keeping a low profile” on this and has chosen to not discuss it.
I think they want to let it fade into the woodwork to avoid discussion and/or the risk of controversy.

chyna's avatar

I’ve always believed exactly what @SuperMouse said, it is symbolic.

Aster's avatar

The Roman Catholic priests have literally been brainwashed into thinking they are not only above the Creator. They are taught they ARE the “creator of the Creator.” They stand by this doctrine to such an extent that they have actually killed hundreds of millions of people that denied the Eucharist was Jesus Christ incarnate during the prophesied great tribulation they personally enacted upon the true church of Jesus Christ during what history “softly” refers to as the dark ages. In fact, to this day it is placed in writing by the Vatican itself that those who do deny this doctrine, or any doctrine of Rome, should be damned, persecuted, sent to the flames, or whatever, as is apparent in the following quotes.

“If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist (communion wafer) 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 a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema (accursed).

crisw's avatar

@Aster you seem to have a bit of an agenda (don’t we all)?

There is really no difference between Catholic beliefs and those of other Christians. They are all based on beliefs held with fierce tenacity due to faith- and nothing else. They are all equally unsupported by fact. You see the Catholic beliefs as ridiculous, the Catholics think the Muslims are silly, the Muslims are sure that Norse mythology is bunkum and the Norse would cut your head off for blaspheming Odin. All the same…

lillycoyote's avatar

People seem to be misunderstanding @SuperMouse‘s post. The Doctrine of Transubstantiation is the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. How many Catholics actually believe that themselves may be impossible to determine. Protestants, on the other hand, believe in consubstantiation or some sort of “sacramental union” or something almost symbolic but not quite. And certainly not that the bread and the wine actually become the body and blood of christ. I think it’s rather complicated theologically, actually and was a point of contention with the doctrines of the Catholic Church for Martin Luther and the difference between the Catholic Doctrine regarding the “sacrament” differs significantly.

lillycoyote's avatar

@crisw While I think @Aster does have a bit of an agenda, there certainly are differences between the beliefs of Catholics and other Christians. If there weren’t the world could have avoided that huge, sweeping bit of history known as The Protestant Reformation, among other bits of history. That was more than just a glitch in the timeline.

crisw's avatar

@lillycoyote

To clarify- While there are differences in the actual beliefs, I am focusing more on the typology of the beliefs. Some religious beliefs are more extreme than others, but all are based on faith rather than documentable or provable reality. And, therefore, for one sect to call the other sect’s beliefs silly is a bit hypocritical.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Maybe they believe that God makes them believe it.

everephebe's avatar

It’s funny how this little quote in the bible gets so political for churches.

“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. ”

Ok. Jesus makes some metaphor that is probably lost on the disciples, and then of course many other people. But did Jesus transubstantiate the bread and wine then? I mean is it important or relevant at all? If it’s literal, Jesus is making his disciples commit a cannibal act, and an act of vampirism- which is totally weird right? As a metaphor it “works” and as a literal meaning it’s just freaky.

So why is transubstantiation necessary, it makes the members of the church vampires and cannibals right? Would you eat your god? If so, WHY?

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Trillian's avatar

‘Too often do you sing God, the Infinite, and yet in truth you hear not the song. Would that you might listen to the song-birds, and to the leaves that forsake the branch when the wind passes by, and forget not, my friends, that these sing only when they are separated from the branch!
“Again I bid you to speak not so freely of God, who is your All, but speak rather and understand one another, neighbour unto neighbour, a god unto a god.
“For what shall feed the fledgling in the nest if the mother bird flies skyward? And what anemone in the fields shall be fulfilled unless it be husbanded by a bee from another anemone?
“It is only when you are lost in your smaller selves that you seek the sky which you call God. Would that you might find paths into your vast selves; would that you might be less idle and pave the roads!
“My mariners and my friends, it were wiser to speak less of God, whom we cannot understand, and more of each other, whom we may understand. Yet I would have you know that we are the breath and the fragrance of God. We are God, in leaf, in flower, and oftentimes in fruit.”
(Gibran, K.) (Bold emphasis mine)

everephebe's avatar

@Trillian, The prophet, a true classic. What’s it have to do with Jesus blood?

Marva's avatar

In a way, it is very true: You drink wine, digest it and some of the components of it are used in our body, also in blood.

Trillian's avatar

@everephebe It’s from The Garden of the Prophet. I bolded the especially applicable words to make a small point.

laureth's avatar

@everephebe – When I was Wiccan, we saw deity as symbolized by the God and the Goddess. The God was (or was symbolized) by the harvest, especially the grain harvest, and by the hunt and the meat that came from hunting. He is, after all, the One who lays down his life so that we might all live, yes? As such, any such foods were either symbolic of him or to be seen as a manifestation of him. Blood? Bread? Yep. I would totally eat my God, as he is food. And I can likewise see where the Christian belief takes this idea of the necessity of eating, similarly adds a spiritual aspect (who isn’t grateful for being able to eat?) and runs off with it in their own direction to some degree.

I’m not Wiccan any more, but I still see that which sustains us as being holy and sacred.

The difference in belief between “The God is the food” and “The God is symbolized by the food” seems to hinge on whether or not you’re of an animistic bent. To me, that’s a personal decision, and an interesting thing to mull over once in a while, but not worth schism or killing people over.

Trillian's avatar

@laureth GA. As an ex practitioner of Wicca I agree. One holds a reverence for that which sustains us and tries to remain mindful that it is a gift, not a right. Hence the few drops and crumbs spilled, or the bowing of the head and giving thanks.

everephebe's avatar

@laureth, Word. I think an anthropomorphic god would be less tasty for me, as opposed to a pantheistic god which be totally yummier.

Jeruba's avatar

@Aster, are you giving us your words, or are your posts in this thread excerpts from something? I don’t mean just the parts in quotes.

[Edit] Never mind. I found it. That’s one source. Here’s another.

Anyway, the Eating of The God is a much older and broader idea than Christianity.

@laureth, the Flood is Old Testament, not Christian. And also, of course, older than the Bible and not unique to the Hebrew mythology.

laureth's avatar

@Jeruba—of course, that’s all true about the Flood. But I see far more Christians than Jews going on about OT stuff, and doing things like naming their kids Noah lately.

Jeruba's avatar

You’re certainly right about who it is that beats the subject to death. I guess it’s a little button-push for me when people speak of the whole Bible as the property of the Christians.

Trillian's avatar

Yeah but Noah is a nice sounding name. Noah Wyle is at least in his early 30’s so I don’t know if it’s lately more so than anther time. And I think people name their kids names for the most part because they like the sound rather than for any relgious or other significance. I am interested in names so I always ask people, and I have never once had someone tell me they named their som Noah for the bible. Now, I did know a woman who named her four sons Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
I didn’t feel the need to ask. Likewise, if I met someone who named a child Ham, Shem or Japeth, I would suspect…..

Jeruba's avatar

@laureth is correct that Noah is newly popular in the U.S. Until 2006 it wasn’t even in the top twenty, and then it hovered at 14/15. Now it’s climbed to ninth. Before 1995 it wasn’t even in the top 100. [ Source ] But this is a digression.

Trillian's avatar

Furher digression with apoligies to the OP. I concede the point as I wasn’t invested in it so much one way or another. I did actually say “I don’t know” and I was more interested in why people chose names for their kids. I notice that nams seem to wax and wane in popularity and I wondered before if people name their kids something because a lot of others are also, or if they independently arrive at the conclusion that it wold be a good name and if this were true, if there were necessarily external contributing factors like media infuence or something else. Like after a movie comes out and within the next year or so we see an upswinig in girl babies named Arwen.
I don’t supose anyone might have a linkto a study that looks at why or how baby names are picked?

laureth's avatar

@Trillian – maybe that would make a good Fluther question. ;)

LostInParadise's avatar

Is there a passage in the Bible that explains the transubstantiation ritual? Was this intended as a replacement for animal sacrifice? The Temple, built originally by Solomon and the rebuilt after being destroyed, was a center for animal sacrifice. I know Jesus spoke of the wickedness of the Temple due to the money lenders. Might he have also opposed the main business of the temple and suggested transubstantiation as a substitute? There are Israelis who talk about rebuilding the Temple and reinstituting animal sacrifice. Good grief!

lillycoyote's avatar

@LostInParadise I’m not a believer or a theologian or a biblical scholar but I believe that the main scriptural support for the idea comes from passages describing the last supper in the Gospels.

Mark 14:22–25

22 aWhile they were eating, He took some bread, and 1after a bblessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.”
23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 And He said to them, “This is My ablood of the bcovenant, which is poured out for many.

Matthew 26:26–28

26 aWhile they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and 1bafter a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;
28 for athis is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for bmany for forgiveness of sins.

Luke 22:19–20

19 And when He had taken some bread and agiven thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is apoured out for you is the bnew covenant in My blood.

I think there is also a passage in 1st Corinthians but I go out of my way not to listen to anything that Paul says so I am not going to cite it. The Last Supper was a passover seder, I believe so, substitute for animal sacrifice? Depends on who you ask. If you want any easy answers regarding the pretzel logic that is the result of 2000 years of Christian theology, you’re not going to get it. Your best bet is to simply dismiss the whole lot of it wholesale, trying to understand it and make sense of it will only make your head spin.

Sorry about the bits of gibberish in the bible quotes. I pasted all of it in from something that fluther doesn’t seem to like.

Trillian's avatar

The last supper itself is not the substitute for animal sacrfce. That is what the crucifiction was. Before then the law required the sacrifice of a lamb, the best in the flock. The blood of the innocent was shed and “covered” your sins for that year. Jesus was outraged at not only the additional laws that the San Hedrin had concocted, making it more and more difficult to acheive purification, but the racket they had going. They had flocks of their own and the shepherds that kept their flocks, by the very nature of their occupation could not, themselves, acheive purification. In addition, they were selling the lambs to people, in a extortion tyoe of way, making profits off of them. This is why in, I believe Matthew 26 he laces into them all the way through calling them blind guides and hypocrites countless times. He says (I’m paraphrasing now, Please don’t go get a bible and correct my exact quote, I’m repeating the gist here) “The outside of the cup is polished and shining but tarnished on the inside, you stand at the doorway of heaven and not only will you yourselves not go in, you prevent others from going in as well. You love the long fringe on your robes and having the seat of honor at the tables. You love to be called master but you do not have love in your hearts. Hypocrites!
Anyway, I digress. The crucifiction was the blood of the lamb shed for all of us, for all time so that we are no longer bound by OT law. This is a new covenant. When people are saddened and say that the day of crucifiction was a day of loss they misunderstand. On the heavenly plane, there was/is a battle raging. The crucifiction was a master stroke and the forces of the adversary gnashed their teeth in rage because the power of the grave was broken by his sacrfice. And this is why we no longer need to sacrifice from our flock on a yearly basis.

LostInParadise's avatar

@lillycoyote , @Trillian Thanks for the explanations. @Aster , I hope you don’t mind that I asked for background information slightly off topic. Having been raised Jewish, this was stuff that I was totally unfamiliar with.

rooeytoo's avatar

Is there any religion out there that doesn’t include bizarre beliefs???

lillycoyote's avatar

@rooeytoo Not that I know of.

rooeytoo's avatar

@lillycoyote – there was a doco on telly recently that showed an isolated sect, I believe in New Guinea that had as its diety a large lizard which they dressed in different outfits depending on the importance of the day. Giant lizards and guys that float in the sky, ain’t it amazing!

mattbrowne's avatar

The majority of Catholic and Protestant adults (at least in Europe) think of it as a symbolic act representing a deeper meaning. A literal understanding would be irrational. Any chemistry lab can resolve the issue easily. Perhaps irrationality has some appeal because our scientific and technological world is becoming so complex that many people feel they are lost.

But irrationality isn’t only a common trait of some theists. Many atheists (perhaps even a majority) believe in the truth of the statement ‘Science can answer everything, at least in principle’ while simple first and second-order logic can prove the contradiction in this statement. Again, irrationality might have some appeal because our spirituality-deprived world and all the failed searches for meaning gives people a sad, empty feeling. And science might become the new and only ultimate big picture in our lives.

lillycoyote's avatar

@rooeytoo LOL. I kind of really like that one, if only because my inner girl child likes the idea of of deity that I can dress up. Well, o.k., it isn’t exactly a Barbie, it’s a lizard, but it’s good enough for me :-)

cookieman's avatar

All I know is that back when I was an alter boy in a catholic church, the wafers would be delivered in jumbo clear plastic bags via delivery truck every Wednesday. My fellow alter boys and I would eat them by the handful.

Meanwhile, the wine came in gallon jugs from the liquor store up the street – half of which would be resting comfortably in father Gallagher’s belly prior to mass.

I’m pretty sure very few people in my church, least of all father Gallagher, thought it was the actual body and blood of Christ.

lillycoyote's avatar

@cprevite LOL. It’s a hell of a long way between the church loading dock and the altar, metaphorically speaking, isn’t it?

Trillian's avatar

@mattbrowne Thank you. Well spoken. I see a lot of irrationality of belief in those other than Christians. And your assessment calls to mind the words of another man who has my undying respect;
Then he said: “My friends and my road-fellows, pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
“Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own winepress.
“Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
“Pity the nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet submits in its awakening.
“Pity the nation that raisesnot its voice save when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except when its neck is laid between the sword and the block.
“Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggle, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.
“Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another with trumpetings again.
“Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.
“Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.”
(Gibran, K.)

cazzie's avatar

@mattbrowne I don’t need a warm fuzzy feeling about what my ‘afterlife’ is going to be like. Science does just fine for me. I’m not trying to solve or rationalise everything.

rooeytoo's avatar

@lillycoyote – you have a weird and wonderful outlook!!! :-)

mattbrowne's avatar

@cazzie – To me a search for meaning isn’t about fuzzy feelings.

lillycoyote's avatar

@rooeytoo Thanks and certainly thanks for your kindness in having worded things in such a nice way. :-)

lillycoyote's avatar

@cazzie Your response to @mattbrowne wasn’t really a commentary on what he actually said, and in my opinion, was a response that didn’t require a whole lot more of your rational, scientific brain than the little that was necessary to get your knee to jerk and your hands to type the words. You should ask more of your mind than that.

cazzie's avatar

@lillycoyote so Mod me….

I try not to spend too much time on sisyphusian pursuits.

—edit… here’s a reference to my reference… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Sisyphus-----

Aster's avatar

The Council of Trent, in defining the “wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the wine into the blood” of Christ, added “which conversion the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation” (Denzinger 1652). after transubstantiation, the accidents of bread and wine do not inhere in any subject or substance whatever. Yet they are not make-believe they are sustained in existence by divine power. (Etym. Latin trans-, so as to change + substantia, substance: transubstantio, change of substance.)
from someone on yahoo answers.

Trillian's avatar

You know what, in Naples, Italy, every Sepember 20th I think, they honor Saint Gennarro who is the patron saint of Naples. They have a vial of his blood, and the priests take it out and if the blood liquefies, Naples will be protected for another year. If it doesn’t, Naples will have a bad year.
These people take this very seriously. They are very much vested in this belief.
I don’t believe, but then I’ve never attended the ceremony. As one could imagine, it is packed. I do not, however, feel any need to disparage them for their beliefs. It does not concern me, not does it affect me. I don’t understand why so many people waste time spinning their wheels about how other people believe or live their lives. Live and let live.

mattbrowne's avatar

@lillycoyote and @cazzie – I don’t think the search for meaning is a sisyphean pursuit, a vain struggle to accomplish or find something. Yes, when commenting on the holy communion I wasn’t talking about death or the concept of an afterlife which are different subjects. What is primary motivation in our lives? People will come up with different answers. And these answers might actually change as we go through life. Self reflection is a worthwhile endeavor. Rituals can help. The company of other people can help.

I said this before. Deprived of a deep, meaningful center, many people seek meaning in distorted or peripheral activities like materialism, greed, violence, an obsession with health and beauty, drug abuse or New Age occultism. Eventually this can lead to cynicism and despair or mere conformity. So I keep looking for different answers and I think modern forms of religions have a lot to offer. Holy communion is a wonderful ritual and there’s more to religion than many people realize. I also think that a good metaphysical and ethical framework for our lives does not necessarily depend on (organized) religion. We should tap into all sources of wisdom available.

Jeruba's avatar

Besides, Sisyphus found his meaning, teaching us that we can too. Camus’s work ends thus:

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

[ Source. I recognize this as Justin O’Brien’s translation (Knopf, 1955).]

cazzie's avatar

Yes, exactly, Jeruba. The universe without a ‘master’ is not a horrible place. Work is god. We find our own happiness.

Wine is not blood and bread is not flesh. Lovely analogy and ritual, I agree. But I’m not going to take it literally.

mattbrowne's avatar

You all know that I don’t take this literally either. But I do recognize a deeper meaning.

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