Eastern Orthodox/communion terminology


Pertaining to the Eucharist, the Catholic church uses the term transubstantiation and the Lutherans use consubstantiation. Does the Orthodox have their own term and what is the difference?

Dear-in-Christ Al,

Orthodoxy generally avoids both terms. We do not try to define how it happens, we just know and trust that the bread and wine do indeed become the Body and Blood of our Lord Christ Jesus, for remission of our sins and for the healing of our souls and our bodies.

The preferred term used by the Orthodox is "mystery", which we often use instead of the word "sacrament". We are not afraid to say that we don't have it all figured out, it is still a mystery, but we know that it does happen through faith which the Apostle Paul calls "hope in things unseen" (and unexplained).

The West tends to like to have everything figured out, explained to the last detail. Orthodoxy recognizes that some things cannot be defined fully in human terms, because when you define something, you put it in a box, and God will not be contained. The difference between transubstantiation where the bread and wine is totally "replaced" by the Body and Blood" and consubstantiation where it is both bread and wine AND the Body and Blood, is ultimately meaningless. It looks and tastes like bread and wine, but we know that it is the Body and the Blood of Christ our Lord. Some would say that it is no longer bread and wine at all but miraculously only APPEARS to be bread and wine. All I know is that it is transformed, it is MORE than mere bread and wine because the Apostles have told us so according to Holy Scripture, whether or not it is bread and wine AND the Body and Blood or if it is the Body and Blood only appearing to be bread and wine.

If we were to be sacrilegious enough to take a particle of the transformed Eucharist to a laboratory, would the analysis show wheat flour, oil, yeast, and salt, or would we see human DNA? In the end, does it really matter?

Your servant,

Eastern Orthodox

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