Concomitance: 5 Points Every Catholic Should Know

Listers, let me toss out a few questions:

How can we say the Mass is a Holy Sacrifice, but also claim Christ is not re-sacrificed? Is the Eucharistic Bread anything else but Christ’s body? ** If so, what is it and can we believe that since Christ clearly said “this is my body”?** ** What if your parish does not offer both bread and the wine, how have you not been cheated?** ** If one does not receive both bread and wine, has one not received the whole Eucharist?**

1. The Theological Problem
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is called such because it is in the form of a sacrifice. The priest1, reiterating Christ’s words at the Last Supper, states “this is my body” and “this is my blood.” However, Holy Mother Church teaches us that the bread we eat is not only Christ’s body, but is the entirety of Christ: body, blood, soul, and divinity. She also teaches us we are not re-sacrificing Christ.

2. The Question
The question: If Christ’s words only state that the bread is “my body” and the wine is “my blood,” then how can the Church teach that the bread (or wine) by itself is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ? Would not both species have to be received for “full” participation in the Eucharist to take place?

3. The Answer
The principle of concomitance addresses this dilemma. In gist, the principle states that because Christ is whole and indivisible, when his body or blood are invoked, he comes in his entirety. To separate Christ’s body or blood from the rest of him would be to re-sacrifice Christ, which is impossible. Christ died once and for all. While the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is in the form of a sacrifice, and we all participate in Christ’s single and timeless sacrifice – Christ himself is not re-sacrificed.

The Last Supper is a painting painted between 1496 to 1498 by Leonardo Da Vinci in the refectory

of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

4. The Definition
The doctrine that explains why the whole Christ is present under each Eucharistic species. Christ is indivisible, so that his body cannot be separated from his blood, his human soul, his divine nature, and his divine personality. Consequently he is wholly present in the Eucharist. But only the substance of his body is the specific effect of the first consecration at Mass; his blood, soul, divinity, and personality become present by concomitance, i.e., by the inseparable connection that they have with his body. The Church also says the “substance” of Christ’s body because its accidents, though imperceptible, are also present by same concomitance, not precisely because of the words of consecration.

In the second consecration, the conversion terminates specifically in the presence of the substance of Christ’s blood. But again by concomitance his body and entire self become present as well. (Etym. Latin concomitantia, accompaniment.)

5. The Pastoral Problem
Before Vatican II, the second species of the Eucharist – the wine – was rarely received by the laity. It was reserved for special occasions, e.g., marriage. There were many reasons for this, but the one that stands out is that dropping the bread of Christ on the floor is tragic, but it is in no way as complicated or terrifying as dropping an entire chalice of his blood. Even the slightest spatter would have to be found. Carpets, etc. would have to be torn out and burned – the slightest missed drop a complete tragedy. Since we receive all of Christ in the species of bread, it did not seem worth the risk.

However, after Vatican II it has become common to have the species of wine offered at every mass. The practice has led to the need of an army of Eucharistic Ministers to assist the priest deliver both species. Moreover, many now feel that if both species are not offered, they are somehow cheated out of a grace or honor.

Certain American dioceses have started to once again limit the Eucharist to the species of bread, and they have been met with fierce opposition – one primarily kindled in ignorance.

We need to also realize that the Mass is first and foremost a Sacrifice, and secondly a “meal.”

Listers, we are one of the most poorly catechized generations the Church has ever known. Let us stand up for the principles of our faith, share them with our brothers and sisters, and live out their beauty.