True Presence or Real Presence 


In recent years one hears more and more frequently the expression the True Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The use of the term raises questions, no doubt unintentionally, about the nature of Christ's presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

As the doctrinal texts below show, the Church is very careful in her use of language with respect to the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. Words can say something true, but still be an inadequate  expression of the whole truth. That is the case here. True Presence says something accurate, but it is an inadequate term because it doesn't distinguish the manner in which Christ is present. Christ has a true presence in the Holy Eucharist, but also in His mystical Body, in His Scriptures, in his minister the priest, in the person in the state of grace. However, only in the Blessed Sacrament does His presence pertain to the ontological or metaphysical order, the order of real being.

This is why the Church uses the term Real Presence to uniquely distinguish His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament from His presence in other contexts. Catholics should therefore use the expression canonized by ecclesiastical usage and which alone adequately expresses the truth about the unique manner of Christ's Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

Finally, the Church does speak of Christ's true body and true blood (e.g. Council of Trent, Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist). In such cases, however, the use of the term body as the reality modified by true makes it clearly a metaphysical reference. True Presence lacks such clarity.


Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei (1947):

For by the "transubstantiation" of bread into the body of Christ and of wine into His blood, His body and blood are both really present ...

Pope Pius XII, Humani generis (1950):

Some even say that the doctrine of transubstantiation, based on an antiquated philosophic notion of substance, should be so modified that the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist be reduced to a kind of symbolism, whereby the consecrated species would be merely efficacious signs of the spiritual presence of Christ and of His intimate union with the faithful members of His Mystical Body.

Pope Paul VI, Mysterium fidei (1965):

Nor is it allowable to discuss the mystery of transubstantiation without mentioning what the Council of Trent stated about the marvelous conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ, speaking rather only of what is called "transignification" and "transfinalization," ...

This presence is called "real"—by which it is not intended to exclude all other types of presence as if they could not be "real" too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present.

Pope John Paul II, Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994):

CCC 1374 The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de eucharistia (2003):

15. The sacramental re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice, crowned by the resurrection, in the Mass involves a most special presence which—in the words of Paul VI—“is called 'real' not as a way of excluding all other types of presence as if they were 'not real', but because it is a presence in the fullest sense: a substantial presence whereby Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present”.

 

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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