So according to Catholicism, the wafer/wine becomes Jesus' body/blood instantly when the priest says so, but when does it stop being Jesus' body/blood?

When it is chewed up, or when it is in the throat, or when it reaches the stomach, or when it passes through the intestines, or when it is evacuated out of the body? Or does it never stop being Jesus' body?


To complement Belinda’s answer, although the Church does not descend in so much detail, St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa theologiae makes the following commentary in III Pars, q. 77, a. 4, responsum.

But if the change be so great that the substance of the bread or wine would have been corrupted, then Christ's body and blood do not remain under this sacrament; and this either on the part of the qualities, as when the color, savor, and other qualities of the bread and wine are so altered as to be incompatible with the nature of bread or of wine; or else on the part of the quantity, as, for instance, if the bread be reduced to fine particles, or the wine divided into such tiny drops that the species of bread or wine no longer remain.

In other words, once the Eucharistic species suffer a change sufficiently great that they no longer have the properties of bread or wine, then the sacramental presence ceases.

Hence, in essence, for the host, the Presence remains until it has been dissolved into a paste or divided into minuscule particles; for the wine, the Presence remains until it is diluted or divided into minuscule droplets.

(That is why, for example, the priest, deacon, or acolyte uses water to purify the vessels after Communion: this action dissolves any remaining particles of the host and dilutes any remaining drops of the Precious Blood. Although minuscule particles of the Host technically do not retain the Presence, out of reverence for the Presence that was once there, care should be taken lest these fall to the floor. Thus, for example, any breaking of the host should always be done over the corporal—the white cloth on which the species are consecrated—and when Communion is given out, someone should generally hold a paten or other receptacle underneath to catch any falling hosts or particles.)

It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment after receiving Communion that the Presence ceases, but these reflections should give the general idea.


CCC #1377

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

The Eucharist remains Christ's body until it is broken down in our digestive systems.

  • @KadalikattJosephSibichan As far as when the soul “enters” the body, that is easy: at conception (i.e., when the human being begins to be an organism). It “leaves” when the body is no longer a living organism; the exact moment is harder to pinpoint, but brain death (the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity in the cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem) is an adequate sign of bodily death. (This would make a good question; i.e., “According to the Catholic Church, when does the soul enters and leaves the body?") – AthanasiusOfAlex Aug 9 '16 at 6:19
  • I wonder if there is a consensus among medical practitioners and law-makers as to when a person can be declared as dead . Think of all those applications pending disposal in courts of law , seeking permission for mercy-killing . Unless we settle this issue, we would not be able to find an answer on the time of departure of the soul from the body. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Aug 9 '16 at 7:38

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