In my translation of a work by John of Damascus entitled Περὶ τοῦ ἀχράντου σώματος, οὗ μεταλαμβάνομεν, it is my understanding that John wrote,

Even as his body prior to the resurrection of the dead was corruptible, broken, eaten, and drunk, nevertheless, [it was] not corrupted. Then why has he not done this after the resurrection, but before the resurrection? Because the body that is incorruptible by the resurrection is neither broken, nor eaten, nor drunk. Neither does the incorruptible body possess blood, nor would it be rightly called "flesh" (σὰρξ), just as Gregory the Theologian stated in the Oration for Baptism: "Believe Christ, the Son of God, shall come again with his glorious presence to judge the living and the death. No longer flesh, yet not bodiless, of a more God-like body (for which things [God] Himself knows the reasons), so that he may also be seen by those who pierced him and remain God without passibility."

Greek text:

Ὥσπερ ἦν τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ πρὸ τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστάσεως φθαρτὸν, κλώμενον, ἐσθιόμενον καὶ πινόμενον, ἀδιάφθορον μέντοι· ἐπεὶ τίνος ἕνεκεν οὐ μετὰ τὴν ἀνάστασιν τοῦτο πεποίηκεν, ἀλλὰ πρὸ τῆς ἀναστάσεως; Ὅτι τὸ διὰ τῆς ἀναστάσεως ἄφθαρτον σῶμα οὐ κλᾶται, οὔτε ἐσθίεται, οὔτε πίνεται· οὔτε αἷμα τὸ ἄφθαρτον κέκτηται σῶμα, ἀλλ' οὔτε σὰρξ ἂν δικαίως ὀνομάζοιτο, καθώς φησιν ὁ τῆς θεολογίας ἐπώνυμος Γρηγόριος ἐν τῷ εἰς βάπτισμα λόγῳ· «Πίστευε Χριστὸν τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἥξειν πάλιν μετὰ τῆς ἐνδόξου αὐτοῦ παρουσίας κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς· οὐκέτι μὲν σάρκα, οὐκ ἀσώματον δὲ, οἷς οἶδεν αὐτὸς λόγους, θεοειδεστέρου σώματος, ἵνα καὶ ὀφθῇ ὑπὸ τῶν ἐκκεντησάντων, καὶ μείνῃ Θεὸς ἔξω παχύτητος.»

John explicitly states that the incorruptible body does not possess blood (οὔτε αἷμα τὸ ἄφθαρτον κέκτηται σῶμα). If this is true, how can Roman Catholics drink Jesus' blood during the Eucharist if indeed Jesus, presently with an incorruptible body, does not possess blood?

  • Are you asking about the nature of the Eucharist, or the nature of the incorruptible body? There is an assumption implicit in the question which is actually invalid. Commented May 28, 2013 at 13:54
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    @Andrew Leach: The question: If this is true, how can Roman Catholics drink Jesus' blood during the Eucharist if indeed Jesus, presently with an incorruptible body, does not possess blood? If you believe John of Damascus is wrong, please feel free to state why.
    – user900
    Commented May 28, 2013 at 18:39
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    Wikipedia: "In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation (in Latin, transsubstantiatio, in Greek μετουσίωσις metousiosis) is the doctrine that, in the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and the wine used in the sacrament is literally, not merely as by a sign or a figure, but in actual reality as well, changed into the substance of the Body and the Blood of Jesus..." Catholics do believe they literally drink the blood of Jesus and eat his flesh. This happens because of transubstantiation. Would you care to point out how my view of the Eucharist is faulty?
    – user900
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 0:55
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    @Andrew Leach: Please tell me how my "view of the Eucharist is wrong." As of now, all you say is that it is...you've given me no evidence of your assertion.
    – user900
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 0:57
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    This question is presented more like a trap than a sincere interest in St. John's assertion. The Eucharist is the body and blood "given up for you." It's the sacrifice of the cross made immediately present. If St. John's comments are accurate, the Eucharist is therefor the corruptible, pre-risen body of Christ. In the end, it's all a big paradox. But, if you're going to be a stickler for terminology, I think it's accurate to say the Eucharist is the incorrupt, corruptible body and blood of Christ.
    – svidgen
    Commented May 29, 2013 at 5:05

4 Answers 4


The issue is the use of the words substance and substantial, and applying a modern meaning to them.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following the doctrine expounded at the Council of Trent, says

1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."206

But just because the "substance" of the bread is changed into the "substance" of the Body, and the "substance" of the wine is changed into the "substance" of the Blood, it doesn't mean that the species of the bread has changed.

St Cyril of Jerusalem (313–386) wrote in his Catecheses, quoted by Pope Paul VI in Mysterium Fidei:

Instructed as you are in these matters, and filled with an unshakeable faith that what seems to be bread is not bread — though it tastes like it — but rather the Body of Christ; and that what seems to be wine is not wine — even though it too tastes like it — but rather the Blood of Christ … draw strength from receiving this bread as spiritual food and your soul will rejoice.

Catecheses, 22.9 [myst. 4] PG 33.1103

All the documents of the Church are written in Latin and then translated into other languages. In recent years, there has been a tendency to use Latinate words in English which are cognate with the original Latin text, even though their meaning has shifted since they were originally adopted in English. This particularly afflicts substance which came to English from Norman French, where it had already acquired a different nuance of meaning from Classical Latin. OED has, in its etymology:

physical existence, matter, (in theology) essence (all late 12th cent.)

classical Latin substantia ... underlying or essential nature ...

By the late twelfth century, substance had a meaning very close to its modern English meaning. But the Latin substantia, which is translated as substance, means something different. Thus it's wrong to impute a physicality of flesh to the bread, or of blood to the wine. But even though the bread remains in its species of bread, it nevertheless becomes, in its underlying or essential nature, the Body of Christ (perhaps it might even be said to have two natures in much the same way as Jesus himself had two natures in hypostatic union). The Church teaches transubstantiation; it does not teach transpeciation, where bread is changed into meat.

It is in this way that

The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.207

CCC 1377

The Eucharistic presence of Christ is not derived from his glorious body (which may or may not have blood): it's derived from his earthly body, which definitely was flesh and blood.

CCC 1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different."190

It is Christ's offering of his earthly self on the Cross which is united with the offering on the altar.

Now, this may not actually answer the question "Does the incorruptible body possess blood?" but that's because it answers the secondary question "How can Roman Catholics drink Jesus' blood in the Eucharist?" The Eucharist does not depend on the nature of the incorruptible body.

190 Council of Trent (1562) Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, c. 2: DS 1743; cf. Heb 9:14,27.
206 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1642; cf. Mt 26:26 ff.; Mk 14:22 ff.; Lk 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor 11:24 ff.
207 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1641.


Transubstantiation is the real change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ; but to answer this question it is important to understand that during Mass we are celebrating the same Passover meal with Christ in which he instructed us to do this.

God is not bound by time and space.

In that way, we are eating the body and drinking the blood but it is the body and blood of Christ prior to his resurrected body. We are there, at that last meal when Christ said "this is my body...this is my blood."

This is what is meant in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs #1363 and 1364: "In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands it liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present...When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present..."

Thus, whether or not a incorruptible body possesses blood makes no difference during transubstantiation nor does it affect the real body and blood we consume during Mass since we are right there with Christ and, for that matter, also with all Masses yet to be celebrated.


Regarding whether Christ's entire body—with its flesh, blood, etc.—rose in His resurrection, St. Thomas Aquinas writes (Summa Theologica III q. 54 a. 3):

Objection 1: It would seem that Christ's body did not rise entire. For flesh and blood belong to the integrity of the body: whereas Christ seems not to have had both, for it is written (1 Cor. 15:50): "Flesh and blood can not possess the kingdom of God." But Christ rose in the glory of the kingdom of God. Therefore it seems that He did not have flesh and blood.

Objection 2: Further, blood is one of the four humors. Consequently, if Christ had blood, with equal reason He also had the other humors, from which corruption is caused in animal bodies. It would follow, then, that Christ's body was corruptible, which is unseemly. Therefore Christ did not have flesh and blood.

Objection 3: Further, the body of Christ which rose, ascended to heaven. But some of His blood is kept as relics in various churches. Therefore Christ's body did not rise with the integrity of all its parts.

On the contrary, our Lord said (Lk. 24:39) while addressing His disciples after the Resurrection: "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see Me to have."

I answer that, As stated above (Article [2]), Christ's body in the Resurrection was "of the same nature, but differed in glory." Accordingly, whatever goes with the nature of a human body, was entirely in the body of Christ when He rose again. Now it is clear that flesh, bones, blood, and other such things, are of the very nature of the human body. Consequently, all these things were in Christ's body when He rose again; and this also integrally, without any diminution; otherwise it would not have been a complete resurrection, if whatever was lost by death had not been restored. Hence our Lord assured His faithful ones by saying (Mt. 10:30): "The very hairs of your head are all numbered": and (Lk. 21:18): "A hair of your head shall not perish."

But to say that Christ's body had neither flesh, nor bones, nor the other natural parts of a human body, belongs to the error of Eutyches, Bishop of Constantinople, who maintained that "our body in that glory of the resurrection will be impalpable, and more subtle than wind and air: and that our Lord, after the hearts of the disciples who handled Him were confirmed, brought back to subtlety whatever could be handled in Him" [*St. Gregory, Moral. in Job 14:56]. Now Gregory condemns this in the same book, because Christ's body was not changed after the Resurrection, according to Rm. 6:9: "Christ rising from the dead, dieth now no more." Accordingly, the very man who had said these things, himself retracted them at his death. For, if it be unbecoming for Christ to take a body of another nature in His conception, a heavenly one for instance, as Valentine asserted, it is much more unbecoming for Him at His Resurrection to resume a body of another nature, because in His Resurrection He resumed unto an everlasting life, the body which in His conception He had assumed to a mortal life.

Reply to Objection 1: Flesh and blood are not to be taken there for the nature of flesh and blood, but, either for the guilt of flesh and blood, as Gregory says [*St. Gregory, Moral. in Job 14:56], or else for the corruption of flesh and blood: because, as Augustine says (Ad Consent., De Resur. Carn.), "there will be neither corruption there, nor mortality of flesh and blood." Therefore flesh according to its substance possesses the kingdom of God, according to Lk. 24:39: "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have." But flesh, if understood as to its corruption, will not possess it; hence it is straightway added in the words of the Apostle: "Neither shall corruption possess incorruption."

Reply to Objection 2: As Augustine says in the same book: "Perchance by reason of the blood some keener critic will press us and say; If the blood was" in the body of Christ when He rose, "why not the rheum?" that is, the phlegm; "why not also the yellow gall?" that is, the gall proper; "and why not the black gall?" that is, the bile, "with which four humors the body is tempered, as medical science bears witness. But whatever anyone may add, let him take heed not to add corruption, lest he corrupt the health and purity of his own faith; because Divine power is equal to taking away such qualities as it wills from the visible and tractable body, while allowing others to remain, so that there be no defilement," i.e. of corruption, "though the features be there; motion without weariness, the power to eat, without need of food."

Reply to Objection 3: All the blood which flowed from Christ's body, belonging as it does to the integrity of human nature, rose again with His body: and the same reason holds good for all the particles which belong to the truth and integrity of human nature. But the blood preserved as relics in some churches did not flow from Christ's side, but is said to have flowed from some maltreated image of Christ.


Eucharistic wine is true blood of Christ, in a mystical sense. It is not actual, physical blood.

It is actual blood in essence, ie, in what it means - life, total self giving. Eucharist is a memory of the actual historical sacrifice, and a continuing, complete self giving of Jesus to us.

A sign is something that is not what it is showing/pointing to. A sign is worthless in it self. In this meaning, Eucharist is not a sign. In contrast to this meaning, Eucharist IS blood and body of Christ.

In this mystical meaning, your question does not apply. Ie, Catholics do not believe that Christ is continually cutting Himself daily to give us a little of his blood, so the question of weather His current body has or has no blood, in relation to Eucharist is meaningless.

Ie, the belief that Eucharist is both blood and body of Christ and bread and wine, is a mystery similar to the Trinity.

Hope this makes a bit of sense :)

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    I am not a Catholic, but this explanation seems to differ with the Council of Trent's declaration that "in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, not just mystical but literal flesh and blood.
    – Bob Black
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 18:06
  • @BobBlack: Yes, the presence is in body, blood, soul, and divinity.
    – Geremia
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 0:03

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