In recent years one hears more and more frequently the expression the True Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. The use of the term raises questions, no doubt unintentionally, about the nature of Christ’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
As the doctrinal texts below show, the Church is very careful in her use of language with respect to the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. Words can say something true, but still be an inadequate expression of the whole truth. That is the case here. True Presence says something accurate, but it is an inadequate term because it doesn’t distinguish the manner in which Christ is present. Christ has a true presence in the Holy Eucharist, but also in His mystical Body, in His Scriptures, in his minister the priest, in the can in the state of grace. However, only in the Blessed Sacrament does His presence pertain to the ontological or metaphysical order, the order of real being.
This is why the Church uses the term Real Presence to uniquely distinguish His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament from His presence in other contexts. Catholics should therefore use the expression canonized by ecclesiastical usage and which alone adequately expresses the truth about the unique manner of Christ’s Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
Finally, the Church does speak of Christ’s true body and true blood (e.g. Council of Trent, Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist). In such cases, however, the use of the term body as the reality modified by true makes it clearly a metaphysical reference. True Presence lacks such clarity.
Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei (1947):
For by the “transubstantiation” of bread into the body of Christ and of wine into His blood, His body and blood are both really present …
Pope Pius XII, Humani generis (1950):
Some even say that the doctrine of transubstantiation, based on an antiquated philosophic notion of substance, should be so modified that the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist be reduced to a kind of symbolism, whereby the consecrated species would be merely efficacious signs of the spiritual presence of Christ and of His intimate union with the faithful members of His Mystical Body.