On Transubstantiation

St. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

In the exposition of the faith by the Eastern Patriarchs, it is said that the word transubstantiation is not to be taken to define the manner in which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord; for this none can understand but God; but only thus much is signified, that the bread truly, really, and substantially becomes the very true Body of the Lord, and the wine the very Blood of the Lord. In like manner John Damascene, treating of the Holy and Immaculate Mysteries of the Lord, writes thus: It is truly that Body, united with Godhead, which had its origin from the Holy Virgin; not as though that Body which ascended came down from heaven, but because the bread and wine themselves are changed into the Body and Blood of God. But if thou seekest after the manner how this is, let it suffice thee to be told that it is by the Holy Ghost; in like manner as, by the same Holy Ghost, the Lord formed flesh to himself, and in himself, from the Mother of God; nor know I aught more than this, that the Word of God is true, powerful, and almighty, but its manner of operation unsearchable. (J. Damasc. Theol. lib. iv. cap. 13, § 7.) (The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox Catholic Church, 340)



  1. Hello. What do you think about the commentary of Pope Gelagius on Eucharist?

    “The sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, which we receive, is a divine thing, because by it we are made partakers of the divine nature. ****Yet the substance or nature of the bread and wine does not cease****. And assuredly the image and the similitude of the body and blood of Christ are elebrated in the performance of the mysteries.”

    Theodoret (393-466), used the following formula:

    “The mystical symbols (bread and wine) does not abandon its nature after the consecration, ****but retain the substance***** and form in everything as before” (Dialogus, Liber II).

  2. Hello Ignatius,

    I agree with those sayings. The Fathers spoke about this ineffable Mystery in various ways and in varying degrees of precision. I like this saying from St. Irenaeus as well.

    St. Irenaeus: We offer him what is his, and so we proclaim communion and unity and profess our belief in the resurrection of flesh and spirit. Just as bread from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist, made up of two elements, one earthly and one heavenly, so also our bodies, in receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, for they have the hope of resurrection.

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