From the Archives: Wycliffe Causes Controversy Over Eucharist
Although Wycliffe questioned many practices of the church of his day, his most controversial position was on transubstantiation. This was the belief that, upon the words of the priestly consecration in the Mass, the eucharistic elements of the bread and wine became the substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ while keeping the appearance of bread and wine. Typical of Wycliffe’s comments on the Eucharist were the following:
“The nature of the bread is not destroyed by what is done by the priest, it is only elevated so as to become a substance more honored. The bread while becoming by virtue of Christ’s words the body of Christ does not cease to be bread. When it has become sacramentally the body of Christ, it remains bread substantially.”
“Nobody on earth is able to see Christ in the consecrated Host with the bodily eye, but by faith.”
“This same opinion is confirmed by blessed Augustine’s statement (in Decretum): ‘What is seen is the bread and the cup which the eyes renounce; but what faith demands is that the bread is the body of Christ and the cup is his blood. These are called sacramental elements for this reason that in them one thing is seen and another is understood. What is seen has bodily appearance, what is understood has a spiritual fruit.’”
“The consecrated Host we priests make and bless is not the body of the Lord but an effectual sign of it. It is not to be understood that the body of Christ comes down from heaven to the Host consecrated in every church.”
“Some expressions in Scripture must be understood plainly and without figure, but there are others that must be understood in a figurative sense. Just as Christ calls John the Baptist Elias, and St. Paul says that Christ was a rock, and Moses in Genesis 41 ...