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
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
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”.