Not As It Appears
We normally use our senses to understand our world and to identify what things are. However, things aren’t always as they appear. In in philosophy, we use two important terms to differentiate between what our senses can tell us about something and what that thing actually is. The properties that are perceptible to our senses we call “accidents.” This would include things like color, taste, smell, etc.. Beyond what something looks like, we call the property that actually makes something what it is “substance.”
The terms substance and accidents are philosophical terms that are important to our understanding of the Eucharist. We start with ordinary bread and wine. After the words of consecration the substance of the bread and wine is changed while the accidents remain. What still appears to be bread and wine has been completely changed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. The Eucharist is God although it retains the accidental properties of bread and wine.
This transformation is so important and unique to the Eucharist that a new word was created to describe what happens at the consecration. “Transubstantiation” is the word used by the Church and simply means “a change in substance.” As we go forward to receive the Eucharist today, let us be mindful of this great mystery. Jesus says that whoever eats this bread will live forever. Indeed this “bread” is much more than what it appears to be.