I don’t know how often any of you think of Aristotle’s 10 Categories. It was always a fun day in logic for me when the class tried to come up with the 9 accidents that with substance make up the 10. I think I enjoyed it because I didn’t do much except to tell you whether your guess was right or not, and because I was always amazed how many of them you came up with. “Relation” was the hardest one to get and almost always took a hint to name it.
The categories are not a passion of mine, so I really don’t make a habit of devoting a large quantity of time thinking about them, but every now and then when there’s not much action I spend some quality moments giving them a place in my thoughts, which can prove to give substance to a position that the Church takes or at least has some relation to one of Her teachings.
OK, I used all 10 of the categories (substance, quality, quantity, action, passion, time, place, posture (or position), habit and relation) in the above sentence which maybe even makes some sense. And I cheated on “passion” since I used it in a different sense than it has in the Categories.
I was thinking of the 10 Categories the other day when maybe I should not have been. It was at Mass and the priest told us just before Communion that one of the Eucharistic ministers could not receive a Host because she is gluten intolerant. After receiving Communion my thoughts turned to the 10 Categories. I began thinking about what Transubstantiation means and what happens and does not happen when it takes place.
The Church’s teaching on this matter (and form) seems very straight forward. At the moment of consecration, the substance of bread and the substance of wine cease to exist and the Body of Christ and His Precious Blood become present. Even though the bread and wine go out of existence, their accidents remain. Therefore, what our senses get at are the accidents of bread and wine – their taste, their feel, all their qualities and what our senses fail to fathom is the Real Presence. Faith alone tells us the truth.
I began thinking about how the Incarnation and Transubstantiation are alike and how they are different. The substance of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became present in the womb of Blessed Mother, but He did so in the form of a slave – by taking on our human nature while not diminishing His Divine Personhood. So God became flesh and dwelt among us, but He had the appearance of a man. His manhood was real, not accidental, but He was not a human person. The Incarnation is a joining of natures, human and divine, in one substantial Person Who is divine.
At Mass there is not a joining of natures into one being. There is the replacement of substances with the two natures of the One Person. Bread and wine are annihilated, that is, they go completely out of existence, and only the Divine Being is present. Yet everything that bread and wine are and do remains except exist.
It is the accident of “action” that struck me the most. Even though the substances used at Mass cease to exist, the action of their substance remains. I had never thought of this before – I always thought of appearances and perhaps taste when I thought of the accidents of the bread and wine after consecration. But whatever bread and wine do is not diminished. We all experience this in that the Host begins to dissolve upon reception – the Host acts as bread even though it is not. A subcategory of “action” would be “effects”. Therefore, whatever action bread takes upon reception will necessary have the effects of that action.
This consideration of mine was more academic than spiritual, but it did leave me with a greater appreciation of the action of God in giving us the gift of the Holy Eucharist. There is His preparation in the Old Testament from the bread and wine of Melchizedek, to the manna in the desert to the Passover and its unleavened bread and blood on the doorpost, which continues in the New Testament with His changing water into wine, His multiplication of the loaves and His teaching on His Body and Blood being real food. All of this magnificence is summarized in the Eucharist which He gives us in the humble form of bread and wine with all their accidents intact.
The wonder of God is in His power and grandeur that He combines with His delicacy and intimacy.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.