For those who are not aware, transubstantiation is a basic tenet of the Roman Catholic Church. It was defined by the Council of Trent in 1551 as follows:
"And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made 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; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation."
Being a sucker for intellectual punishment, I have followed up on the Christian Apologist's suggestion that I check out the "Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano" in response to my suggestion that the doctrine of transubstantiation is lunacy. Perhaps the most concise description I have found apparently comes from a book entitled This Is My Body, This Is My Blood Miracles of the Eucharist - Book I by Bob and Penny Lord:
A Basilian monk, wise in the ways of the world, but not in the ways of faith, was having a trying time with his belief in the real presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. He prayed constantly for relief from his doubts, and from the fear that he was losing his vocation. He suffered through the routine of his priesthood day after day, with these doubts gnawing at him.
The situation in the world did not help strengthen his faith. There were many heresies cropping up all the time, which kept chipping away at his faith. They were not all from outside the church either. Brother priests and bishops were victims of these heresies, and they were being spread throughout the church. This priest couldn't seem to help being more and more convinced by the logic of these heresies, especially the one concerning his particular problem, the physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
One morning, while he was having a strong attack of doubt, he began the Consecration of the Mass for the people of the town. He used the same size host which is used in the Latin Rite masses today. What he beheld as he consecrated the bread and wine caused his hands to shake, indeed his whole body. He stood for a long time with his back to the people, and then slowly turned around to them.
He said: "O fortunate witnesses to whom the Blessed God, to confound my disbelief, has wished to reveal Himself in this Most Blessed Sacrament and to render Himself visible to our eves. Come, brethren, and marvel at our God so close to us. Behold the Flesh and Blood of our most beloved Christ."
The host had turned into Flesh. The wine had turned into Blood.
The people, having witnessed the miracle for themselves, began to wail, asking for forgiveness, crying for mercy. Others began beating their breasts, confessing their sins, declaring themselves unworthy to witness such a miracle. Still others went down on their knees in respect, and thanksgiving for the gift the Lord had bestowed on them. All spread the story throughout the town and surrounding villages.
Jesus even allowed Himself to be crucified again. After the miracle, the Host was pinned down to a wooden board, so that when it dried, it would not curl up, as scabbed flesh does. So here He was again, with nails in His Body, nailed to a piece of wood.
The miracle that occurred in 700 was just the beginning. That was 1250 years ago. Had that miracle taken place, and then the flesh and blood disintegrated, as would have been normal, the miracle would have been none the less a miracle. The priest's faith had been renewed. The entire town, the whole country for that matter, became aware of the miracle. Pilgrims flocked to Lanciano to venerate the Host turned flesh. Belief in the Eucharist had been reborn. The gift from the Lord was complete.
But that's not all. The miracle is ongoing. The Host-turned-Flesh, and the Wine-turned-Blood, without the use of any form of preservative, is still present in the reliquary. In 1574 testing was done on the Flesh and Blood and an unexplainable phenomenon was discovered. The five pellets of coagulated Blood are different sizes and shapes. But any combination weighs the same as the total. In other words, 1 weighs the same as 2, 2 weigh the same as 3, and 3 weigh the same as 5.
From the very beginning, the local church accepted this miracle as a true sign from heaven, and venerated the Eucharistic Flesh and Blood in processions on its feast day, the last Sunday of October. The fame of the shrine spread throughout the region quickly, and soon all of Italy came to the Church in Pilgrimage.
Analysis of Still Existing Evidence
A pilgrim, born and baptised Catholic, shared with his convert wife, after venerating the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano, "I never believed in the physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. To me, it was strictly `in memory of Him'. Now, I truly believe that my Jesus comes alive to me personally in the Consecrated Host that I consume at Holy Mass."
On one occasion, after the priest had shown all our pilgrims the Eucharistic Miracle, he came down to the foot of the altar, and made the following observation:
"Remember, this miracle that you are witnessing now, and that you have traveled so far to witness, happens every day in every church in the world, at the consecration of the Mass."
How many tests have been made over the years, how many times Our Dear Lord Jesus allows Himself to be prodded and cut, examined under microscopes, and photographed. The most recent, an extensive scientific research done in 1970, used the most modern scientific tools available. The results of the tests are as follows:
The flesh is real flesh. The blood is real blood.
The flesh consists of the muscular tissue of the heart (myocardium)
The flesh and blood belong to the human species.
The flesh and blood have the same blood type (AB).
In the blood, there were found proteins in the same normal proportions as are found in the scro-proteic make up of fresh, normal blood.
In the blood, there were also found these minerals: Chlorides, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium.
The preservation of the flesh and of the blood, which were left in their natural state for twelve centuries (without any chemical preservatives) and exposed to the action of atmospheric and biological agents, remains an extraordinary phenomenon.
As part of this most recent investigation, the following comment was made: "Though it is alien to my task strictly speaking, I feel I should insert the following reflection into the study just completed: the clarification, which comes through in these studies, of the nature of the flesh gives little support to the hypothesis of a `fraud' perpetrated centuries ago. As a matter of fact supposing that the heart may have been taken from a cadaver, I maintain that only a hand experienced in anatomic dissection would have been able to obtain from a hollow internal organ such a uniform cut (as can still be glimpsed in the flesh)."
What the doctor, a scientist and not a theologian, is saying in simple language is that although it's not his task to speculate, it would have been difficult, next to impossible, for anyone to have cut a slice of the heart in the way that it was done. He also states that it's highly doubtful that there was any fraud involved.
Another unusual characteristic of the blood is that when liquified, it has retained the chemical properties of freshly shed blood. When we cut ourselves and stain our clothes, the chemical properties of the blood are gone within 20 minutes to a half hour. If blood is not refrigerated within an hour maximum, the composition rapidly breaks down. If blood were taken from a dead body, it would lose its qualities quickly through decay. This blood is over 1250 years old and still contains all its properties, chemicals and protein of freshly shed blood. And yet in the testing, it was determined that no preservatives of any kind were found in the blood.
This is amazing. I just have a couple questions that perhaps someone can help me with:
- The testing completed (apparently by scientists commisioned by the Vatican) is silent on the stunning "any combination weighs the same as the total" discovered in 1574. The reason why it is silent on this point is because, of course, it is total bullshit. If that finding can be clinically replicated in 2009, I will shut down this site immediately.
- After considering everything which is alleged to have occurred, I am reminded of David Hume's line of reasoning with respect to supposed miracles - see the post entitled Back to the atheist basics .... Hume on Miracles. Which is more likely in this case? A. Someone slipped in some heart tissue and blood; or B. Transubstantiation (i.e. miraculous transformation of cracker and wine into flesh and blood). I think I know where I would place my money.
- One would think that the Vatican would be very interested to have DNA testing carried out on the tissue to see if it is human and, if so, to trace the mitochondrial DNA. Oh, but they wouldn't want to do that. If the tissue was human and the DNA could be traced, we would have the means to trace the genetic origins of the person who supplied that sample back for millenia before the supposed immaculate conception. Once you start considering the implications of a modern scientific investigations of this supposed miracle, you start to see why the Roman Catholic Church is not at all anxious to go down this road.