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Home > Summa Theologica > Third Part > Question 78 > Article

Question 78. The form of this sacrament

  1. What is the form of this sacrament?
  2. Is the form for the consecration of the bread appropriate?
  3. Is the form for the consecration of the blood appropriate?
  4. The power of each form
  5. The truth of the expression
  6. The comparison of the one form with the other

Article 1. Whether this is the form of this sacrament: "This is My body," and "This is the chalice of My blood"?

Objection 1. It seems that this is not the form of this sacrament: "This is My body," and, "This is the chalice of My blood." Because those words seem to belong to the form of this sacrament, wherewith Christ consecrated His body and blood. But Christ first blessed the bread which He took, and said afterwards: "Take ye and eat; this is My body" (Matthew 26:26). Therefore the whole of this seems to belong to the form of this sacrament: and the same reason holds good of the words which go with the consecration of the blood.

Objection 2. Further, Eusebius Emissenus (Pseudo-Hieron: Ep. xxix; Pseudo-Isid.: Hom. iv) says: "The invisible Priest changes visible creatures into His own body, saying: 'Take ye and eat; this is My body.'" Therefore, the whole of this seems to belong to the form of this sacrament: and the same hold good of the works appertaining to the blood.

Objection 3. Further, in the form of Baptism both the minister and his act are expressed, when it is said, "I baptize thee." But in the words set forth above there is no mention made either of the minister or of his act. Therefore the form of the sacrament is not a suitable one.

Objection 4. Further, the form of the sacrament suffices for its perfection; hence the sacrament of Baptism can be performed sometimes by pronouncing the words of the form only, omitting all the others. Therefore, if the aforesaid words be the form of this sacrament, it would seem as if this sacrament could be performed sometimes by uttering those words alone, while leaving out all the others which are said in the mass; yet this seems to be false, because, were the other words to be passed over, the said words would be taken as spoken in the person of the priest saying them, whereas the bread and wine are not changed into his body and blood. Consequently, the aforesaid words are not the form of this sacrament.

On the contrary, Ambrose says (De Sacram. iv): "The consecration is accomplished by the words and expressions of the Lord Jesus. Because, by all the other words spoken, praise is rendered to God, prayer is put up for the people, for kings, and others; but when the time comes for perfecting the sacrament, the priest uses no longer his own words, but the words of Christ. Therefore, it is Christ's words that perfect this sacrament."

I answer that, This sacrament differs from the other sacraments in two respects. First of all, in this, that this sacrament is accomplished by the consecration of the matter, while the rest are perfected in the use of the consecrated matter. Secondly, because in the other sacraments the consecration of the matter consists only in a blessing, from which the matter consecrated derives instrumentally a spiritual power, which through the priest who is an animated instrument, can pass on to inanimate instruments. But in this sacrament the consecration of the matter consists in the miraculous change of the substance, which can only be done by God; hence the minister in performing this sacrament has no other act save the pronouncing of the words. And because the form should suit the thing, therefore the form of this sacrament differs from the forms of the other sacraments in two respects. First, because the form of the other sacraments implies the use of the matter, as for instance, baptizing, or signing; but the form of this sacrament implies merely the consecration of the matter, which consists in transubstantiation, as when it is said, "This is My body," or, "This is the chalice of My blood." Secondly, because the forms of the other sacraments are pronounced in the person of the minister, whether by way of exercising an act, as when it is said, "I baptize thee," or "I confirm thee," etc.; or by way of command, as when it is said in the sacrament of order, "Take the power," etc.; or by way of entreaty, as when in the sacrament of Extreme Unction it is said, "By this anointing and our intercession," etc. But the form of this sacrament is pronounced as if Christ were speaking in person, so that it is given to be understood that the minister does nothing in perfecting this sacrament, except to pronounce the words of Christ.

Reply to Objection 1. There are many opinions on this matter. Some have said that Christ, Who had power of excellence in the sacraments, performed this sacrament without using any form of words, and that afterwards He pronounced the words under which others were to consecrate thereafter. And the words of Pope Innocent III seem to convey the same sense (De Sacr. Alt. Myst. iv), where he says: "In good sooth it can be said that Christ accomplished this sacrament by His Divine power, and subsequently expressed the form under which those who came after were to consecrate." But in opposition to this view are the words of the Gospel in which it is said that Christ "blessed," and this blessing was effected by certain words. Accordingly those words of Innocent are to be considered as expressing an opinion, rather than determining the point.

Others, again, have said that the blessing was effected by other words not known to us. But this statement cannot stand, because the blessing of the consecration is now performed by reciting the things which were then accomplished; hence, if the consecration was not performed then by these words, neither would it be now.

Accordingly, others have maintained that this blessing was effected by the same words as are used now; but that Christ spoke them twice, at first secretly, in order to consecrate, and afterwards openly, to instruct others. But even this will not hold good, because the priest in consecrating uses these words, not as spoken in secret, but as openly pronounced. Accordingly, since these words have no power except from Christ pronouncing them, it seems that Christ also consecrated by pronouncing them openly.

And therefore others said that the Evangelists did not always follow the precise order in their narrative as that in which things actually happened, as is seen from Augustine (De Consens. Evang. ii). Hence it is to be understood that the order of what took place can be expressed thus: "Taking the bread He blessed it, saying: This is My body, and then He broke it, and gave it to His disciples." But the same sense can be had even without changing the words of the Gospel; because the participle "saying" implies sequence of the words uttered with what goes before. And it is not necessary for the sequence to be understood only with respect to the last word spoken, as if Christ had just then pronounced those words, when He gave it to His disciples; but the sequence can be understood with regard to all that had gone before; so that the sense is: "While He was blessing, and breaking, and giving it to His disciples, He spoke the words, 'Take ye,'" etc.

Reply to Objection 2. In these words, "Take ye and eat," the use of the consecrated matter is indicated, which is not of the necessity of this sacrament, as stated above (Question 74, Article 7). And therefore not even these words belong to the substance of the form. Nevertheless, because the use of the consecrated matter belongs to a certain perfection of the sacrament, in the same way as operation is not the first but the second perfection of a thing, consequently, the whole perfection of this sacrament is expressed by all those words: and it was in this way that Eusebius understood that the sacrament was accomplished by those words, as to its first and second perfection.

Reply to Objection 3. In the sacrament of Baptism the minister exercises an act regarding the use of the matter, which is of the essence of the sacrament: such is not the case in this sacrament; hence there is no parallel.

Reply to Objection 4. Some have contended that this sacrament cannot be accomplished by uttering the aforesaid words, while leaving out the rest, especially the words in the Canon of the Mass. But that this is false can be seen both from Ambrose's words quoted above, as well as from the fact that the Canon of the Mass is not the same in all places or times, but various portions have been introduced by various people.

Accordingly it must be held that if the priest were to pronounce only the aforesaid words with the intention of consecrating this sacrament, this sacrament would be valid because the intention would cause these words to be understood as spoken in the person of Christ, even though the words were pronounced without those that precede. The priest, however, would sin gravely in consecrating the sacrament thus, as he would not be observing the rite of the Church. Nor does the comparison with Baptism prove anything; for it is a sacrament of necessity: whereas the lack of this sacrament can be supplied by the spiritual partaking thereof, as Augustine says (cf. 73, 3, ad 1).

Article 2. Whether this is the proper form for the consecration of the bread: "This is My body"?

Objection 1. It seems that this is not the proper form of this sacrament: "This is My body." For the effect of a sacrament ought to be expressed in its form. But the effect of the consecration of the bread is the change of the substance of the bread into the body of Christ, and this is better expressed by the word "becomes" than by "is." Therefore, in the form of the consecration we ought to say: "This becomes My body."

Objection 2. Further, Ambrose says (De Sacram. iv), "Christ's words consecrate this sacrament. What word of Christ? This word, whereby all things are made. The Lord commanded, and the heavens and earth were made. " Therefore, it would be a more proper form of this sacrament if the imperative mood were employed, so as to say: "Be this My body."

Objection 3. Further, that which is changed is implied in the subject of this phrase, just as the term of the change is implied in the predicate. But just as that into which the change is made is something determinate, for the change is into nothing else but the body of Christ, so also that which is converted is determinate, since only bread is converted into the body of Christ. Therefore, as a noun is inserted on the part of the predicate, so also should a noun be inserted in the subject, so that it be said: "This bread is My body."

Objection 4. Further, just as the term of the change is determinate in nature, because it is a body, so also is it determinate in person. Consequently, in order to determine the person, it ought to be said: "This is the body of Christ."

Objection 5. Further, nothing ought to be inserted in the form except what is substantial to it. Consequently, the conjunction "for" is improperly added in some books, since it does not belong to the substance of the form.

On the contrary, our Lord used this form in consecrating, as is evident from Matthew 26:26.

I answer that, This is the proper form for the consecration of the bread. For it was said (1) that this consecration consists in changing the substance of bread into the body of Christ. Now the form of a sacrament ought to denote what is done in the sacrament. Consequently the form for the consecration of the bread ought to signify the actual conversion of the bread into the body of Christ. And herein are three things to be considered: namely, the actual conversion, the term "whence," and the term "whereunto."

Now the conversion can be considered in two ways: first, in "becoming," secondly, in "being." But the conversion ought not to be signified in this form as in "becoming," but as in "being." First, because such conversion is not successive, as was said above (Question 75, Article 7), but instantaneous; and in such changes the "becoming" is nothing else than the "being." Secondly, because the sacramental forms bear the same relation to the signification of the sacramental effect as artificial forms to the representation of the effect of art. Now an artificial form is the likeness of the ultimate effect, on which the artist's intention is fixed;. just as the art-form in the builder's mind is principally the form of the house constructed, and secondarily of the constructing. Accordingly, in this form also the conversion ought to be expressed as in "being," to which the intention is referred.

And since the conversion is expressed in this form as in "being," it is necessary for the extremes of the conversion to be signified as they exist in the fact of conversion. But then the term "whereunto" has the proper nature of its own substance; whereas the term "whence" does not remain in its own substance, but only as to the accidents whereby it comes under the senses, and can be determined in relation to the senses. Hence the term "whence" of the conversion is conveniently expressed by the demonstrative pronoun, relative to the sensible accidents which continue; but the term "whereunto" is expressed by the noun signifying the nature of the thing which terminates the conversion, and this is Christ's entire body, and not merely His flesh; as was said above (76, 1, ad 2). Hence this form is most appropriate: "This is My body."

Reply to Objection 1. The ultimate effect of this conversion is not a "becoming" but a "being," as stated above, and consequently prominence should be given to this in the form.

Reply to Objection 2. God's word operated in the creation of things, and it is the same which operates in this consecration, yet each in different fashion: because here it operates effectively and sacramentally, that is, in virtue of its signification. And consequently the last effect of the consecration must needs be signified in this sentence by a substantive verb of the indicative mood and present time. But in the creation of things it worked merely effectively, and such efficiency is due to the command of His wisdom; and therefore in the creation of things the Lord's word is expressed by a verb in the imperative mood, as in Genesis 1:3: "Let there be light, and light was made."

Reply to Objection 3. The term "whence" does not retain the nature of its substance in the "being" of the conversion, as the term "whereunto" does. Therefore there is no parallel.

Reply to Objection 4. The pronoun "My," which implicitly points to the chief person, i.e. the person of the speaker, sufficiently indicates Christ's person, in Whose person these words are uttered, as stated above (Article 1).

Reply to Objection 5. The conjunction "for" is set in this form according to the custom of the Roman Church, who derived it from Peter the Apostle; and this on account of the sequence with the words preceding: and therefore it is not part of the form, just as the words preceding the form are not.

Article 3. Whether this is the proper form for the consecration of the wine: "This is the chalice of My blood," etc.?

Objection 1. It seems that this is not the proper form for the consecration of the wine. "This is the chalice of My blood, of the New and Eternal Testament, the Mystery of Faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins." For as the bread is changed by the power of consecration into Christ's body, so is the wine changed into Christ's blood, as is clear from what was said above (76, 1,2,3). But in the form of the consecration of the bread, the body of Christ is expressly mentioned, without any addition. Therefore in this form the blood of Christ is improperly expressed in the oblique case, and the chalice in the nominative, when it is said: "This is the chalice of My blood."

Objection 2. Further, the words spoken in the consecration of the bread are not more efficacious than those spoken in the consecration of the wine, since both are Christ's words. But directly the words are spoken--"This is My body," there is perfect consecration of the bread. Therefore, directly these other words are uttered--"This is the chalice of My blood," there is perfect consecration of the blood; and so the words which follow do not appeal to be of the substance of the form, especially since they refer to the properties of this sacrament.

Objection 3. Further, the New Testament seems to be an internal inspiration, as is evident from the Apostle quoting the words of Jeremias (31:31): "I will perfect unto the house of Israel a New Testament . . . I will give My laws into their mind" (Hebrews 8:8). But a sacrament is an outward visible act. Therefore, in the form of the sacrament the words "of the New Testament" are improperly added.

Objection 4. Further, a thing is said to be new which is near the beginning of its existence. But what is eternal has no beginning of its existence. Therefore it is incorrect to say "of the New and Eternal," because it seems to savor of a contradiction.

Objection 5. Further, occasions of error ought to be withheld from men, according to Isaiah 57:14: "Take away the stumbling blocks out of the way of My people." But some have fallen into error in thinking that Christ's body and blood are only mystically present in this sacrament. Therefore it is out of place to add "the mystery of faith."

Objection 6. Further, it was said above (73, 3, ad 3), that as Baptism is the sacrament of faith, so is the Eucharist the sacrament of charity. Consequently, in this form the word "charity" ought rather to be used than "faith."

Objection 7. Further, the whole of this sacrament, both as to body and blood, is a memorial of our Lord's Passion, according to 1 Corinthians 11:26: "As often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord." Consequently, mention ought to be made of Christ's Passion and its fruit rather in the form of the consecration of the blood, than in the form of the consecration of the body, especially since our Lord said: "This is My body, which shall be delivered up for you" (Luke 22:19).

Objection 8. Further, as was already observed (48, 2; 49, 3), Christ's Passion sufficed for all; while as to its efficacy it was profitable for many. Therefore it ought to be said: "Which shall be shed for all," or else "for many," without adding, "for you."

Objection 9. Further, the words whereby this sacrament is consecrated draw their efficacy from Christ's institution. But no Evangelist narrates that Christ spoke all these words. Therefore this is not an appropriate form for the consecration of the wine.

On the contrary, The Church, instructed by the apostles, uses this form.

I answer that, There is a twofold opinion regarding this form. Some have maintained that the words "This is the chalice of My blood" alone belong to the substance of this form, but not those words which follow. Now this seems incorrect, because the words which follow them are determinations of the predicate, that is, of Christ's blood. Consequently they belong to the integrity of the expression.

And on this account others say more accurately that all the words which follow are of the substance of the form down to the words, "As often as ye shall do this," which belong to the use of this sacrament, and consequently do not belong to the substance of the form. Hence it is that the priest pronounces all these words, under the same rite and manner, namely, holding the chalice in his hands. Moreover, in Luke 22:20, the words that follow are interposed with the preceding words: "This is the chalice, the new testament in My blood."

Consequently it must be said that all the aforesaid words belong to the substance of the form; but that by the first words, "This is the chalice of My blood," the change of the wine into blood is denoted, as explained above (Article 2) in the form for the consecration of the bread; but by the words which come after is shown the power of the blood shed in the Passion, which power works in this sacrament, and is ordained for three purposes. First and principally for securing our eternal heritage, according to Hebrews 10:19: "Having confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ"; and in order to denote this, we say, "of the New and Eternal Testament." Secondly, for justifying by grace, which is by faith according to Romans 3:25-26: "Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood . . . that He Himself may be just, and the justifier of him who is of the faith of Jesus Christ": and on this account we add, "The Mystery of Faith." Thirdly, for removing sins which are the impediments to both of these things, according to Hebrews 9:14: "The blood of Christ . . . shall cleanse our conscience from dead works," that is, from sins; and on this account, we say, "which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins."

Reply to Objection 1. The expression "This is the chalice of My blood" is a figure of speech, which can be understood in two ways. First, as a figure of metonymy; because the container is put for the contained, so that the meaning is: "This is My blood contained in the chalice"; of which mention is now made, because Christ's blood is consecrated in this sacrament, inasmuch as it is the drink of the faithful, which is not implied under the notion of blood; consequently this had to be denoted by the vessel adapted for such usage. Secondly, it can be taken by way of metaphor, so that Christ's Passion

is understood by the chalice by way of comparison, because, like a cup, it inebriates, according to Lamentations 3:15: "He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath inebriated me with wormwood": hence our Lord Himself spoke of His Passion as a chalice, when He said (Matthew 26:39): "Let this chalice pass away from Me": so that the meaning is: "This is the chalice of My Passion." This is denoted by the blood being consecrated apart from the body; because it was by the Passion that the blood was separated from the body.

Reply to Objection 2. As was said above (ad 1; 76, 2, ad 1), the blood consecrated apart expressly represents Christ's Passion, and therefore mention is made of the fruits of the Passion in the consecration of the blood rather than in that of the body, since the body is the subject of the Passion. This is also pointed out in our Lord's saying, "which shall be delivered up for you," as if to say, "which shall undergo the Passion for you."

Reply to Objection 3. A testament is the disposal of a heritage. But God disposed of a heavenly heritage to men, to be bestowed through the virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ; because, according to Hebrews 9:16: "Where there is a testament the death of the testator must of necessity come in." Now Christ's blood was exhibited to men in two ways. First of all in figure, and this belongs to the Old Testament; consequently the Apostle concludes (Hebrews 9:16): "Whereupon neither was the first indeed dedicated without blood," which is evident from this, that as related in Exodus 24:7-8, "when every" commandment of the law "had been read" by Moses, "he sprinkled all the people" saying: "This is the blood of the testament which the Lord hath enjoined unto you."

Secondly, it was shown in very truth; and this belongs to the New Testament. This is what the Apostle premises when he says (Romans 9:15): "Therefore He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of His death . . . they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance." Consequently, we say here, "The blood of the New Testament," because it is shown now not in figure but in truth; and therefore we add, "which shall be shed for you." But the internal inspiration has its origin in the power of this blood, according as we are justified by Christ's Passion.

Reply to Objection 4. This Testament is a "new one" by reason of its showing forth: yet it is called "eternal" both on account of God's eternal pre-ordination, as well as on account of the eternal heritage which is prepared by this testament. Moreover, Christ's Person is eternal, in Whose blood this testament is appointed.

Reply to Objection 5. The word "mystery" is inserted, not in order to exclude reality, but to show that the reality is hidden, because Christ's blood is in this sacrament in a hidden manner, and His Passion was dimly foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

Reply to Objection 6. It is called the "Sacrament of Faith," as being an object of faith: because by faith alone do we hold the presence of Christ's blood in this sacrament. Moreover Christ's Passion justifies by faith. Baptism is called the "Sacrament of Faith" because it is a profession of faith. This is called the "Sacrament of Charity," as being figurative and effective thereof.

Reply to Objection 7. As stated above (ad 2), the blood consecrated apart represents Christ's blood more expressively; and therefore mention is made of Christ's Passion and its fruits, in the consecration of the blood rather than in that of the body.

Reply to Objection 8. The blood of Christ's Passion has its efficacy not merely in the elect among the Jews, to whom the blood of the Old Testament was exhibited, but also in the Gentiles; nor only in priests who consecrate this sacrament, and in those others who partake of it; but likewise in those for whom it is offered. And therefore He says expressly, "for you," the Jews, "and for many," namely the Gentiles; or, "for you" who eat of it, and "for many," for whom it is offered.

Reply to Objection 9. The Evangelists did not intend to hand down the forms of the sacraments, which in the primitive Church had to be kept concealed, as Dionysius observes at the close of his book on the ecclesiastical hierarchy; their object was to write the story of Christ. Nevertheless nearly all these words can be culled from various passages of the Scriptures. Because the words, "This is the chalice," are found in Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25, while Matthew says in 26:28: "This is My blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many unto the remission of sins." The words added, namely, "eternal" and "mystery of faith," were handed down to the Church by the apostles, who received them from our Lord, according to 1 Corinthians 11:23: "I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you."

Article 4. Whether in the aforesaid words of the forms there be any created power which causes the consecration?

Objection 1. It seems that in the aforesaid words of the forms there is no created power which causes the consecration. Because Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv): "The change of the bread into Christ's body is caused solely by the power of the Holy Ghost." But the power of the Holy Ghost is uncreated. Therefore this sacrament is not caused by any created power of those words.

Objection 2. Further, miraculous works are wrought not by any created power, but solely by Divine power, as was stated in I, 110, 4. But the change of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood is a work not less miraculous than the creation of things, or than the formation of Christ's body in the womb of a virgin: which things could not be done by any created power. Therefore, neither is this sacrament consecrated by any created power of the aforesaid words.

Objection 3. Further, the aforesaid words are not simple, but composed of many; nor are they uttered simultaneously, but successively. But, as stated above (Question 75, Article 7), this change is wrought instantaneously. hence it must be done by a simple power. Therefore it is not effected by the power of those words.

On the contrary, Ambrose says (De Sacram. iv): "If there be such might in the word of the Lord Jesus that things non-existent came into being, how much more efficacious is it to make things existing to continue, and to be changed into something else? And so, what was bread before consecration is now the body of Christ after consecration, because Christ's word changes a creature into something different."

I answer that, Some have maintained that neither in the above words is there any created power for causing the transubstantiation, nor in the other forms of the sacraments, or even in the sacraments themselves, for producing the sacramental effects. This, as was shown above (62, 1), is both contrary to the teachings of the saints, and detracts from the dignity of the sacraments of the New Law. Hence, since this sacrament is of greater worth than the others, as stated above (Question 65, Article 3), the result is that there is in the words of the form of this sacrament a created power which causes the change to be wrought in it: instrumental, however, as in the other sacraments, as stated above (62, 3,4). For since these words are uttered in the person of Christ, it is from His command that they receive their instrumental power from Him, just as His other deeds and sayings derive their salutary power instrumentally, as was observed above (48, 6; 56, 1, ad 3).

Reply to Objection 1. When the bread is said to be changed into Christ's body solely by the power of the Holy Ghost, the instrumental power which lies in the form of this sacrament is not excluded: just as when we say that the smith alone makes a knife we do not deny the power of the hammer.

Reply to Objection 2. No creature can work miracles as the chief agent. yet it can do so instrumentally, just as the touch of Christ's hand healed the leper. And in this fashion Christ's words change the bread into His body. But in Christ's conception, whereby His body was fashioned, it was impossible for anything derived from His body to have the instrumental power of forming that very body. Likewise in creation there was no term wherein the instrumental action of a creature could be received. Consequently there is no comparison.

Reply to Objection 3. The aforesaid words, which work the consecration, operate sacramentally. Consequently, the converting power latent under the forms of these sacraments follows the meaning, which is terminated in the uttering of the last word. And therefore the aforesaid words have this power in the last instant of their being uttered, taken in conjunction with those uttered before. And this power is simple by reason of the thing signified, although there be composition in the words uttered outwardly.

Article 5. Whether the aforesaid expressions are true?

Objection 1. It seems that the aforesaid expressions are not true. Because when we say: "This is My body," the word "this" designates a substance. But according to what was said above (1,4, ad 3; 75, 2,7), when the pronoun "this" is spoken, the substance of the bread is still there, because the transubstantiation takes place in the last instant of pronouncing the words. But it is false to say: "Bread is Christ's body." Consequently this expression, "This is My body," is false.

Objection 2. Further, the pronoun "this" appeals to the senses. But the sensible species in this sacrament are neither Christ's body nor even its accidents. Therefore this expression, "This is My body," cannot be true.

Objection 3. Further, as was observed above (4, ad 3), these words, by their signification, effect the change of the bread into the body of Christ. But an effective cause is understood as preceding its effect. Therefore the meaning of these words is understood as preceding the change of the bread into the body of Christ. But previous to the change this expression, "This is My body," is false. Therefore the expression is to be judged as false simply; and the same reason holds good of the other phrase: "This is the chalice of My blood," etc.

On the contrary, These words are pronounced in the person of Christ, Who says of Himself (John 14:6): "I am the truth."

I answer that, There have been many opinions on this point. Some have said that in this expression, "This is My body," the word "this" implies demonstration as conceived, and not as exercised, because the whole phrase is taken materially, since it is uttered by a way of narration: for the priest relates that Christ said: "This is My body."

But such a view cannot hold good, because then these words would not be applied to the corporeal matter present, and consequently the sacrament would not be valid: for Augustine says (Tract. lxxx in Joan.): "The word is added to the element, and this becomes a sacrament." Moreover this solution ignores entirely the difficulty which this question presents: for there is still the objection in regard to the first uttering of these words by Christ; since it is evident that then they were employed, not materially, but significatively. And therefore it must be said that even when spoken by the priest they are taken significatively, and not merely materially. Nor does it matter that the priest pronounces them by way of recital, as though they were spoken by Christ, because owing to Christ's infinite power, just as through contact with His flesh the regenerative power entered not only into the waters which came into contact with Christ, but into all waters throughout the whole world and during all future ages, so likewise from Christ's uttering these words they derived their consecrating power, by whatever priest they be uttered, as if Christ present were saying them.

And therefore others have said that in this phrase the word "this" appeals, not to the senses, but to the intellect; so that the meaning is, "This is My body"--i.e. "The thing signified by 'this' is My body." But neither can this stand, because, since in the sacraments the effect is that which is signified, from such a form it would not result that Christ's body was in very truth in this sacrament, but merely as in a sign, which is heretical, as stated above (Question 85, Article 1).

Consequently, others have said that the word "this" appeals to the senses; not at the precise instant of its being uttered, but merely at the last instant thereof; as when a man says, "Now I am silent," this adverb "now" points to the instant immediately following the speech: because the sense is: "Directly these words are spoken I am silent." But neither can this hold good, because in that case the meaning of the sentence would be: "My body is My body," which the above phrase does not effect, because this was so even before the utterance of the words: hence neither does the aforesaid sentence mean this.

Consequently, then, it remains to be said, as stated above (Article 4), that this sentence possesses the power of effecting the conversion of the bread into the body of Christ. And therefore it is compared to other sentences, which have power only of signifying and not of producing, as the concept of the practical intellect, which is productive of the thing, is compared to the concept of our speculative intellect which is drawn from things. because "words are signs of concepts," as the Philosopher says (Peri Herm. i). And therefore as the concept of the practical intellect does not presuppose the thing understood, but makes it, so the truth of this expression does not presuppose the thing signified, but makes it; for such is the relation of God's word to the things made by the Word. Now this change takes place not successively, but in an instant, as stated above (Question 77, Article 7). Consequently one must understand the aforesaid expression with reference to the last instant of the words being spoken, yet not so that the subject may be understood to have stood for that which is the term of the conversion; viz. that the body of Christ is the body of Christ; nor again that the subject be understood to stand for that which it was before the conversion, namely, the bread. but for that which is commonly related to both, i.e. that which is contained in general under those species. For these words do not make the body of Christ to be the body of Christ, nor do they make the bread to be the body of Christ; but what was contained under those species, and was formerly bread, they make to be the body of Christ. And therefore expressly our Lord did not say: "This bread is My body," which would be the meaning of the second opinion; nor "This My body is My body," which would be the meaning of the third opinion: but in general: "This is My body," assigning no noun on the part of the subject, but only a pronoun, which signifies substance in common, without quality, that is, without a determinate form.

Reply to Objection 1. The term "this" points to a substance, yet without determining its proper nature, as stated above.

Reply to Objection 2. The pronoun "this" does not indicate the accidents, but the substance underlying the accidents, which at first was bread, and is afterwards the body of Christ, which body, although not informed by those accidents, is yet contained under them.

Reply to Objection 3. The meaning of this expression is, in the order of nature, understood before the thing signified, just as a cause is naturally prior to the effect; but not in order of time, because this cause has its effect with it at the same time, and this suffices for the truth of the expression.

Article 6. Whether the form of the consecration of the bread accomplishes its effect before the form of the consecration of the wine be completed?

Objection 1. It seems that the form of the consecration of the bread does not accomplish its effect until the form for the consecration of the wine be completed. For, as Christ's body begins to be in this sacrament by the consecration of the bread, so does His blood come to be there by the consecration of the wine. If, then, the words for consecrating the bread were to produce their effect before the consecration of the wine, it would follow that Christ's body would be present in this sacrament without the blood, which is improper.

Objection 2. Further, one sacrament has one completion: hence although there be three immersions in Baptism, yet the first immersion does not produce its effect until the third be completed. But all this sacrament is one, as stated above (Question 73, Article 2). Therefore the words whereby the bread is consecrated do not bring about their effect without the sacramental words whereby the wine is consecrated.

Objection 3. Further, there are several words in the form for consecrating the bread, the first of which do not secure their effect until the last be uttered, as stated above (4, ad 3). Therefore, for the same reason, neither do the words for the consecration of Christ's body produce their effect, until the words for consecrating Christ's blood are spoken.

On the contrary, Directly the words are uttered for consecrating the bread, the consecrated host is shown to the people to be adored, which would not be done if Christ's body were not there, for that would be an act of idolatry. Therefore the consecrating words of the bread produce their effect before. the words are spoken for consecrating the wine.

I answer that, Some of the earlier doctors said that these two forms, namely, for consecrating the bread and the wine, await each other's action, so that the first does not produce its effect until the second be uttered.

But this cannot stand, because, as stated above (5, ad 3), for the truth of this phrase, "This is My body," wherein the verb is in the present tense, it is required for the thing signified to be present simultaneously in time with the signification of the expression used; otherwise, if the thing signified had to be awaited for afterwards, a verb of the future tense would be employed, and not one of the present tense, so that we should not say, "This is My body," but "This will be My body." But the signification of this speech is complete directly those words are spoken. And therefore the thing signified must be present instantaneously, and such is the effect of this sacrament; otherwise it would not be a true speech. Moreover, this opinion is against the rite of the Church, which forthwith adores the body of Christ after the words are uttered.

Hence it must be said that the first form does not await the second in its action, but has its effect on the instant.

Reply to Objection 1. It is on this account that they who maintained the above opinion seem to have erred. Hence it must be understood that directly the consecration of the bread is complete, the body of Christ is indeed present by the power of the sacrament, and the blood by real concomitance; but afterwards by the consecration of the wine, conversely, the blood of Christ is there by the power of the sacrament, and the body by real concomitance, so that the entire Christ is under either species, as stated above (Question 76, Article 2).

Reply to Objection 2. This sacrament is one in perfection, as stated above (73, 2), namely, inasmuch as it is made up of two things, that is, of food and drink, each of which of itself has its own perfection; but the three immersions of Baptism are ordained to one simple effect, and therefore there is no resemblance.

Reply to Objection 3. The various words in the form for consecrating the bread constitute the truth of one speech, but the words of the different forms do not, and consequently there is no parallel.

The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas
Second and Revised Edition, 1920
Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province
Online Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol.
Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii.
APPROBATIO ORDINIS
Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L.
Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ

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