What Does Consubstantial Mean?

Q: What does “consubstantial” mean?

A: When the Church began using the New Translation of the Roman Missal in November of 2011, one of the changes noticed the most by members of the Church was in the Nicene Creed, where we went from proclaiming Christ as “one in being with the Father”, to being “consubstantial with the Father”.

At the Nicene Council in 325 A.D., around 300 bishops from around the world gathered to address a controversy surrounding the teachings of Arius.  Arius taught that the Son had not always existed, and had been created by the Father at some point.  The Nicene Creed was developed to profess the faith of the church, and to refute Arius’ teachings and other heresies.  The Creed introduced the Greek word ‘homoousious’, meaning “of one substance”. In Latin, this word is “consubstantialem”, and translates in English to “consubstantial”.

Why is it important to say that Jesus is of the same substance (consubstantial) with the Father, rather than “one in Being with the Father”?  Dominican Father Romanus Cessario, senior editor for Magnificat, wrote about the term in the Boston Pilot, prior to the introduction of the new translation.  He pointed out that the term “one in Being with the Father” is in fact, too vague. “Since God creates and sustains all that exists” he wrote, “everything in some sense can be said to be one in being with God.”  “Consubstantial” is, in fact, much more specific and truly professes what it is that we believe about Jesus, the Son, and his origins. That he is second person of the Holy Trinity, and not a separate being created by the Father.


As Father Cessario writes, “he is neither ‘like’ the Father nor ‘practically the same substance’ as the Father. The Eternal Son enjoys the very same substance as the Father.”  The New Translation of the Creed more accurately reflects that.

Leave a Reply