The doctrine of Transubstantiation is the quintessential demonstration of the pagan thinking which lies at the 'heart' of 'orthodox' Christian teachings. It is reminiscent of the primitive and savage desire to eat the hearts of enemies so as to partake of their strength. One has only to consider the iconic status of images such as the 'bleeding heart' of Jesus to recognise the similarities.
This doctrine is based on a gross, literalistic interpretation of the spiritual words of the Israelite Jesus, to whom such pagan practices as eating human flesh and drinking human blood would have been abhorrent in the extreme.
And yet, this is what the Catholic Church teaches - that when one partakes of the Eucharist, one is actually eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood. It is a sickening distortion of the Israelite Passover remembrance meal and the "table of the Lord" fellowship concept.
The doctrine is based on statements made by Jesus at his last supper. (Matt 26:26-29) He identified the bread and the wine which he and his companions were eating and drinking as his "body" and "blood." The Catholic Church's interpretation directly contradicts the other teachings of Jesus. That it is an absurd interpretation can be demonstrated by reference to two examples.
The first, from the Old Testament, occurred during the days of King David: "And David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me water to drink of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three broke through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: but David would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto YHVH, and said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it." (1 Chron. 11:16-19)
David did not refuse the water because it had suddenly become blood. He refused it because it had been brought at the risk of life, and "the life of the flesh is in the blood." Jesus' words at the last supper were made in the same spirit as those of David, with the only difference being that Jesus spoke of himself.
The other example is taken from John, Chapter 6. Jesus identified himself as "bread from heaven" and told the people that "He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day." (6:54) Jesus was not recommending cannabalism - the words he spoke were "spirit and life." (6:63) The interpretation of his words is in its spirit. To eat Jesus spiritually is to partake of the Word of Eternal Life, sent as a gift from heaven. It is noteworthy that some of his disciples did not understand what his words really meant and so "went back and walked no more with him." (6:64) The misunderstanding of these disciples is essentially the same misunderstanding responsible for the doctrine of Transubstantiation. To accept this doctrine is to be chastised by Jesus, just as they were.
The apostle Paul deals with the question in 1 Cor. 10:16-21. In his dissertation he speaks of those who partake of the "table of the Lord" as being "one loaf" and "one bread." Jesus and his followers are of ONE spiritual flesh and blood. It follows logically, therefore, that if the flesh and blood of Jesus is consumed when the bread and wine of the Eucharist is consumed, then those who hold to the doctrine of Transubstantiation are actually eating themselves.
The term 'transubstantiation', with reference to the Eucharist, first made its appearance at the The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 and was 'canonised' at the Council of Trent in 1551.
In Session 13, Chapter 4 of the Council proceedings we read:
“Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation” (Denzinger-Schönmetzer, 1642).
In the Canons attached to Session 13, we read:
Canon 1. "If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist 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 in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema."
Canon 2. "If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema."
This doctrine is not merely a hangover from mediaeval thinking. At the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII stated: "I do accept entirely all that has been decided and declared at the Council of Trent." Every cardinal, bishop and priest who participated in Vatican II signed a document affirming Trent.
All that being said, what is the true significance of this memorial meal for Christians?
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." (1 Cor. 11:26)