The Simple Catholic Snapshots:
- The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is Mysterious – Even for the Average Catholic
- Some Doubters Say The Eucharist is Only A Symbol
- Catholics Believe The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ
- The Bible is Often Used to Defend Both Positions, Thus Adding to the Confusion
- We Find that the early Church Fathers Believed in the Real Presence
The Simple Catholic Truth:
In my last post on the Eucharist, I restricted the discussion to the question of why it might be so hard for some people to believe in the true presence. We concentrated on the difference between the substance and the accidents of something that exists as viewed by the modern science-centered man. In this post, however, I want to simply take a quick look at what the very early Christian pioneers thought about the Eucharist.
The group of people I will draw from are often referred to as the Church Fathers since they were dedicated to preserving and passing along the essence of Christ’s teachings to the rest of the ‘family’. The Church Fathers essentially shaped the faith and practices of the early Church to conform to the teachings of Christ Himself.
Reading the Fathers can be tedious for some so in the spirit of SimpleCatholicTruth the following lists include my edits with the major points underlined. Scan through these few examples and then pick up my closing comments below.
St. Ignatius of Antioch [Letter to the Smyrnaeans (~AD 110)]
6.1 Let no one be deceived: even the heavenly things and the glory of the angels and the rulers, both visible and invisible, ⌊unless they believe⌋ on the blood of Christ, judgment is also theirs. He who can accept this, let him accept it. Let an office puff up no one, for faith and love is everything, to which nothing is preferable. 2 But observe those who hold divisive opinions concerning the grace of Jesus Christ that came to us; how opposed they are to the mind of God. For love does not concern them, no concern for the widow, none for the orphan, none for the afflicted, none for the ones imprisoned or the ones set free, none for the hungry or the thirsty.
7.1 They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ who suffered for our sins, which the Father raised up by his goodness. Therefore those who oppose the gift of God, being disputers, they die. But it would be better for them to love, that they might also rise up. 2 It is fitting to refrain from such as these and not to speak about them ⌊privately⌋ or publicly. But consider the Prophets and especially the gospel, in which the passion has been revealed to us and the resurrection has been accomplished. But flee from divisions as the beginning of evil.
St. Justin Martyr [First Apology – Chapter 66 (~AD 150)]
And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons [Against Heresies – B4, C33 and B5, C2 (~AD 190)]
- … Moreover, how could the Lord, with any justice, if He belonged to another father, have acknowledged the bread to be His body, while He took it from that creation to which we belong, and affirmed the mixed cup to be His blood?…
- … He [Christ] has acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as His own blood, from which He bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of the creation) He has established as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.
- When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which [flesh] is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?
St. Cyril of Jerusalem [Catechetical Lectures – (~AD 350)]
- Consider therefore the Bread and the Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord’s declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggests this to you, yet let faith establish you. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been vouchsafed to you.
You can now clearly see from these few examples (there are many, many more) that the early Christians, those that walked with the Apostles, that were taught by the Apostles and their direct successors, widely believed that the consecrated Eucharist was in fact the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
So the next time you are in the adoration chapel, or better yet the next time you about to receive Communion, and you hear the words:
“The Body of Christ”, don’t be distracted by the words of modern dissenters that ignore history.
Instead, stand confident in your faith, remembering that you stand on the shoulders of the brilliant Church Fathers.
Two thousand years ago, Christ taught us the truth about His Body and Blood. It’s still true today!
p.s. [For those interested in reading more from the Church Fathers, I suggest going to New Advent by using the ‘Useful Links’ menu in the header of SimpleCatholicTruth above. At New Advent they have a special section called ‘Fathers’ in their main header.]