CONSUBSTANTIATION, theological term applied by Martin Luther to the actual substantial coexistence and combination of the Body and Blood of Christ with the bread and wine of communion following the eucharistic consecration of the elements. This doctrine is rejected by the Orthodox church, which holds that the bread and wine, through a mystical transformation not easily grasped by the senses, change into the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ.
The early fathers asserted this belief in their writings. Saint Ignatius (c. 35-c. 107), an apostolic father by reason of his having been a hearer of the Apostle John, speaks of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ: "They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayers, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again" (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6.2, in Jurgens, 1970, Vol. 1, p. 25). Likewise Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165) says, "For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66, in Jurgens, 1970, Vol. 1, p. 55).
Equally firm beliefs were expressed by, among others, Saint Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200), CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (c. 150-c. 215), Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220), JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (c. 374-407), and CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA (d. 444). A particularly outstanding testimony is given by Saint ATHANASIUS (c. 295-373) in his sermon to the newly baptized. "You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers of supplications and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ." And again, "Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine—and thus is His Body confected" (in Jurgens, 1970, pp. 345, 346).
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.