Skip to comments.The Early Church Fathers on The Real Presence - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
Posted on 02/09/2007 2:41:02 PM PST by NYer
The Early Church Fathers believed that the Eucharist, while retaining the appearance of bread and wine, was the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Ignatius of Antioch
Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2-7:1 [A.D. 110]).
. . . and are now ready to obey your bishop and clergy with undivided minds and to share in the one common breaking of bread the medicine of immortality, and the sovereign remedy by which we escape death and live in Jesus Christ for evermore (Letter to the Ephesians 20 [A.D. 110]).
We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these, but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood) from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported) how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord and is in fact a member of him? (Against Heresies 5:2 [A.D. 189]).
Clement of Alexandria
"Eat my flesh)" [Jesus] says, "and drink my blood." The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children (The Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3 [A.D. 191]).
"And she [Wisdom] has furnished her table" [Proverbs 9:1] . . . refers to his [Christ's] honored and undefiled body and blood, which day by day are administered and offered sacrificially at the spiritual divine table, as a memorial of that first and ever-memorable table of the spiritual divine supper [i.e., the Last Supper] (Fragment from Commentary on Proverbs [A.D. 217]).
After having spoken thus [at the Last Supper], the Lord rose up from the place where he had made the Passover and had given his body as food and his blood as drink, and he went with his disciples to the place where he was to be arrested. But he ate of his own body and drank of his own blood, while he was pondering on the dead. With His own hands the Lord presented his own body to be eaten, and before he was crucified he gave his blood as drink (Treatises 12:6 [A.D. 340]).
Cyril of Jerusalem
The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]).
Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that, for they are, according to the Master's declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm. Do not judge in this matter by taste, but be fully assured by faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worthy of the body and blood of Christ. . . [Since you are] fully convinced that the apparent bread is not bread, even though it is sensible to the taste, but the body of Christ, and that the apparent wine is not wine, even though the taste would have it so. . . partake of that bread as something spiritual, and put a cheerful face on your soul (ibid 22:6,9).
When [Christ] gave the bread he did not say, "This is the symbol of my body" but, "This is my body." In the same way when he gave the cup of his blood he did not say. "This is the symbol of my blood," but, "This is my blood," for he wanted us to look upon the [Eucharistic elements] after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit not according to their nature, but receive them as they are, the body and blood of our Lord. We ought . . . not regard [the elements] merely as bread and cup) but as the body and blood of the Lord, into which they were transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit (Catechetical Homilies 5:1 [A.D. 405]).
Ambrose of Milan
Perhaps you may be saying, "I see something else; how can you assure me that I am receiving the body of Christ?" It but remains for us to prove it. And how many are the examples we might use! . . . Christ is in that sacrament, because it is the body of Christ (The Mysteries 9:50, 58 [A.D. 390]).
I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord's table, which you now look upon and of which you last night were made participants. You ought to know that you have received what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That bread which you see on the altar having been sanctified by the word of God is the body of Christ, That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ (Sermons 227 [A.D. 411]).
What you see is the bread and the chalice, that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith, yet faith does not desire instruction (ibid. 272).
In keeping with guidelines posted by the Religion Moderator, we are posting this thread (and future ones) a series on the Early Church Fathers, as a Catholic/Orthodox Caucus. Protestants are welcome to post comments but restraint from attacks, would be appreciated. This thread is posted to inform, support and defend the historic orgins of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
John 6:4,11-14 - on the eve of the Passover, Jesus performs the miracle of multiplying the loaves. This was prophesied in the Old Testament (e.g., 2 Kings4:43), and foreshadows the infinite heavenly bread which is Him.
Matt. 14:19, 15:36; Mark 6:41, 8:6; Luke 9:16 - these passages are additional accounts of the multiplication miracles. This points to the Eucharist.
Matt. 16:12 - in this verse, Jesus explains His metaphorical use of the term "bread." In John 6, He eliminates any metaphorical possibilities.
John 6:4 - Jesus is in Capernaum on the eve of Passover, and the lambs are gathered to be slaughtered and eaten. Look what He says.
John 6:35,41,48,51 - Jesus says four times "I AM the bread from heaven." It is He, Himself, the eternal bread from heaven.
John 6:27,31,49 - there is a parallel between the manna in the desert which was physically consumed, and this "new" bread which must be consumed.
John 6:51-52- then Jesus says that the bread He is referring to is His flesh. The Jews take Him literally and immediately question such a teaching. How can this man give us His flesh to eat?
John 6:53 - 58 - Jesus does not correct their literal interpretation. Instead, Jesus eliminates any metaphorical interpretations by swearing an oath and being even more literal about eating His flesh. In fact, Jesus says four times we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Catholics thus believe that Jesus makes present His body and blood in the sacrifice of the Mass. Protestants, if they are not going to become Catholic, can only argue that Jesus was somehow speaking symbolically.
John 6:23-53 - however, a symbolic interpretation is not plausible. Throughout these verses, the Greek text uses the word "phago" nine times. "Phago" literally means "to eat" or "physically consume." Like the Protestants of our day, the disciples take issue with Jesus' literal usage of "eat." So Jesus does what?
John 6:54, 56, 57, 58 - He uses an even more literal verb, translated as "trogo," which means to gnaw or chew or crunch. He increases the literalness and drives his message home. Jesus will literally give us His flesh and blood to eat. The word trogo is only used two other times in the New Testament (in Matt. 24:38 and John 13:18) and it always means to literally gnaw or chew meat. While phago might also have a spiritual application, "trogo" is never used metaphorically in Greek. So Protestants cannot find one verse in Scripture where "trogo" is used symbolically, and yet this must be their argument if they are going to deny the Catholic understanding of Jesus' words. Moreover, the Jews already knew Jesus was speaking literally even before Jesus used the word trogo when they said How can this man give us His flesh to eat? (John 6:52).
John 6:55 - to clarify further, Jesus says "For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed." This phrase can only be understood as being responsive to those who do not believe that Jesus' flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. Further, Jesus uses the word which is translated as "sarx." "Sarx" means flesh (not "soma" which means body). See, for example, John 1:13,14; 3:6; 8:15; 17:2; Matt. 16:17; 19:5; 24:22; 26:41; Mark 10:8; 13:20; 14:38; and Luke 3:6; 24:39 which provides other examples in Scripture where "sarx" means flesh. It is always literal.
John 6:55 - further, the phrases "real" food and "real" drink use the word "alethes." "Alethes" means "really" or "truly," and would only be used if there were doubts concerning the reality of Jesus' flesh and blood as being food and drink. Thus, Jesus is emphasizing the miracle of His body and blood being actual food and drink.
John 6:60 - as are many anti-Catholics today, Jesus' disciples are scandalized by these words. They even ask, "Who can 'listen' to it (much less understand it)?" To the unillumined mind, it seems grotesque.
John 6:61-63 - Jesus acknowledges their disgust. Jesus' use of the phrase "the spirit gives life" means the disciples need supernatural faith, not logic, to understand His words.
John 3:6 - Jesus often used the comparison of "spirit versus flesh" to teach about the necessity of possessing supernatural faith versus a natural understanding. In Mark 14:38 Jesus also uses the "spirit/flesh" comparison. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We must go beyond the natural to understand the supernatural. In 1 Cor. 2:14,3:3; Rom 8:5; and Gal. 5:17, Paul also uses the "spirit/flesh" comparison to teach that unspiritual people are not receiving the gift of faith. They are still "in the flesh."
John 6:63 - Protestants often argue that Jesus' use of the phrase "the spirit gives life" shows that Jesus was only speaking symbolically. However, Protestants must explain why there is not one place in Scripture where "spirit" means "symbolic." As we have seen, the use of "spirit" relates to supernatural faith. What words are spirit and life? The words that we must eat Jesus' flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life in us.
John 6:66-67 - many disciples leave Jesus, rejecting this literal interpretation that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. At this point, these disciples really thought Jesus had lost His mind. If they were wrong about the literal interpretation, why wouldn't Jesus, the Great Teacher, have corrected them? Why didn't Jesus say, "Hey, come back here, I was only speaking symbolically!"? Because they understood correctly.
Mark 4:34 - Jesus always explained to His disciples the real meanings of His teachings. He never would have let them go away with a false impression, most especially in regard to a question about eternal salvation.
John 6:37 - Jesus says He would not drive those away from Him. They understood Him correctly but would not believe.
John 3:5,11; Matt. 16:11-12 - here are some examples of Jesus correcting wrong impressions of His teaching. In the Eucharistic discourse, Jesus does not correct the scandalized disciples.
John 6:64,70 - Jesus ties the disbelief in the Real Presence of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist to Judas' betrayal. Those who don't believe in this miracle betray Him.
Psalm 27:2; Isa. 9:20; 49:26; Mic. 3:3; 2 Sam. 23:17; Rev. 16:6; 17:6, 16 - to further dispense with the Protestant claim that Jesus was only speaking symbolically, these verses demonstrate that symbolically eating body and blood is always used in a negative context of a physical assault. It always means destroying an enemy, not becoming intimately close with him. Thus, if Jesus were speaking symbolically in John 6:51-58, He would be saying to us, "He who reviles or assaults me has eternal life." This, of course, is absurd.
John 10:7 - Protestants point out that Jesus did speak metaphorically about Himself in other places in Scripture. For example, here Jesus says, "I am the door." But in this case, no one asked Jesus if He was literally made of wood. They understood him metaphorically.
John 15:1,5 - here is another example, where Jesus says, "I am the vine." Again, no one asked Jesus if He was literally a vine. In John 6, Jesus' disciples did ask about His literal speech (that this bread was His flesh which must be eaten). He confirmed that His flesh and blood were food and drink indeed. Many disciples understood Him and left Him.
Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18 Jesus says He will not drink of the fruit of the vine until He drinks it new in the kingdom. Some Protestants try to use this verse (because Jesus said fruit of the vine) to prove the wine cannot be His blood. But the Greek word for fruit is genneema which literally means that which is generated from the vine. In John 15:1,5 Jesus says I am the vine. So fruit of the vine can also mean Jesus blood. In 1 Cor. 11:26-27, Paul also used bread and the body of the Lord interchangeably in the same sentence. Also, see Matt. 3:7;12:34;23:33 for examples were genneema means birth or generation.
Rom. 14:14-18; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 1 Tim. 4:3 Protestants often argue that drinking blood and eating certain sacrificed meats were prohibited in the New Testament, so Jesus would have never commanded us to consume His body and blood. But these verses prove them wrong, showing that Paul taught all foods, even meat offered to idols, strangled, or with blood, could be consumed by the Christian if it didnt bother the brothers conscience and were consumed with thanksgiving to God.
Matt. 18:2-5 - Jesus says we must become like children, or we will not enter the kingdom of God. We must believe Jesus' words with child-like faith. Because Jesus says this bread is His flesh, we believe by faith, even though it surpasses our understanding.
Luke 1:37 - with God, nothing is impossible. If we can believe in the incredible reality of the Incarnation, we can certainly believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. God coming to us in elements He created is an extension of the awesome mystery of the Incarnation.
Matt. 26:26-28; Mark. 14:22,24; Luke 22;19-20; 1 Cor. 11:24-25 - Jesus says, this IS my body and blood. Jesus does not say, this is a symbol of my body and blood.
Matt. 26:26; Mark. 14:22; Luke 22:19-20 - the Greek phrase is "Touto estin to soma mou." This phraseology means "this is actually" or "this is really" my body and blood.
1 Cor. 11:24 - the same translation is used by Paul - "touto mou estin to soma." The statement is "this is really" my body and blood. Nowhere in Scripture does God ever declare something without making it so.
Matt. 26:26; Mark. 14:22; Luke 22:19 - to deny the 2,000 year-old Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, Protestants must argue that Jesus was really saying "this represents (not is) my body and blood." However, Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke, had over 30 words for "represent," but Jesus did not use any of them. He used the Aramaic word for "estin" which means "is."
Matt. 26:28; Mark. 14:24; Luke 22:20 - Jesus' use of "poured out" in reference to His blood also emphasizes the reality of its presence.
Exodus 24:8 - Jesus emphasizes the reality of His actual blood being present by using Moses' statement "blood of the covenant."
1 Cor. 10:16 - Paul asks the question, "the cup of blessing and the bread of which we partake, is it not an actual participation in Christ's body and blood?" Is Paul really asking because He, the divinely inspired writer, does not understand? No, of course not. Paul's questions are obviously rhetorical. This IS the actual body and blood. Further, the Greek word "koinonia" describes an actual, not symbolic participation in the body and blood.
1 Cor. 10:18 - in this verse, Paul is saying we are what we eat. We are not partners with a symbol. We are partners of the one actual body.
1 Cor. 11:23 - Paul does not explain what he has actually received directly from Christ, except in the case when he teaches about the Eucharist. Here, Paul emphasizes the importance of the Eucharist by telling us he received directly from Jesus instructions on the Eucharist which is the source and summit of the Christian faith.
1 Cor. 11:27-29 - in these verses, Paul says that eating or drinking in an unworthy manner is the equivalent of profaning (literally, murdering) the body and blood of the Lord. If this is just a symbol, we cannot be guilty of actually profaning (murdering) it. We cannot murder a symbol. Either Paul, the divinely inspired apostle of God, is imposing an unjust penalty, or the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ.
1 Cor. 11:30 - this verse alludes to the consequences of receiving the Eucharist unworthily. Receiving the actual body and blood of Jesus in mortal sin results in actual physical consequences to our bodies.
1 Cor. 11:27-30 - thus, if we partake of the Eucharist unworthily, we are guilty of literally murdering the body of Christ, and risking physical consequences to our bodies. This is overwhelming evidence for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. These are unjust penalties if the Eucharist is just a symbol.
Acts 2:42 - from the Church's inception, apostolic tradition included celebrating the Eucharist (the "breaking of the bread") to fulfill Jesus' command "do this in remembrance of me."
Acts 20:28 - Paul charges the Church elders to "feed" the Church of the Lord, that is, with the flesh and blood of Christ.
Matt. 6:11; Luke 11:3 - in the Our Father, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread, that is the bread of life, Jesus Christ.
Matt. 12:39 Jesus says no sign will be given except the sign of the prophet Jonah. While Protestants focus only on the sign of the Eucharist, this verse demonstrates that a sign can be followed by the reality (here, Jesus resurrection, which is intimately connected to the Eucharist).
Matt. 19:6 - Jesus says a husband and wife become one flesh which is consummated in the life giving union of the marital act. This union of marital love which reflects Christ's union with the Church is physical, not just spiritual. Thus, when Paul says we are a part of Christ's body (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23,30-31; Col. 1:18,24), he means that our union with Christ is physical, not just spiritual. But our union with Christ can only be physical if He is actually giving us something physical, that is Himself, which is His body and blood to consume (otherwise it is a mere spiritual union).
Luke 14:15 - blessed is he who eats this bread in the kingdom of God, on earth and in heaven.
Luke 22:19, 1 Cor. 11:24-25 - Jesus commands the apostles to "do this," that is, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice, in remembrance of Him.
Luke 24:26-35 - in the Emmaus road story, Jesus gives a homily on the Scriptures and then follows it with the celebration of the Eucharist. This is the Holy Mass, and the Church has followed this order of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist for 2,000 years.
Luke 24:30-31,35 - Jesus is known only in the breaking of bread. Luke is emphasizing that we only receive the fullness of Jesus by celebrating the Eucharistic feast of His body and blood, which is only offered in its fullness by the Catholic Church.
John 1:14 - literally, this verse teaches that the Word was made flesh and "pitched His tabernacle" among us. The Eucharist, which is the Incarnate Word of God under the appearance of bread, is stored in the tabernacles of Catholic churches around the world.
John 21:15,17 - Jesus charges Peter to "feed" His sheep, that is, with the Word of God through preaching and the Eucharist.
Acts 9:4-5; 22:8; 26:14-15 Jesus asks Saul, Why are you persecuting me? when Saul was persecuting the Church. Jesus and the Church are one body (Bridegroom and Bride), and we are one with Jesus through His flesh and blood (the Eucharist).
1 Cor. 12:13 - we "drink" of one Spirit in the Eucharist by consuming the blood of Christ eternally offered to the Father.
Heb. 10:25,29 - these verses allude to the reality that failing to meet together to celebrate the Eucharist is mortal sin. It is profaning the body and blood of the Lord.
Heb. 12:22-23 - the Eucharistic liturgy brings about full union with angels in festal gathering, the just spirits, and God Himself, which takes place in the assembly or "ecclesia" (the Church).
Heb. 12:24 - we couldn't come to Jesus' sprinkled blood if it were no longer offered by Jesus to the Father and made present for us.
2 Pet. 1:4 - we partake of His divine nature, most notably through the Eucharist - a sacred family bond where we become one.
Rev. 2:7; 22:14 - we are invited to eat of the tree of life, which is the resurrected flesh of Jesus which, before, hung on the tree.
Cannibalism!!!, they have screamed at me. No, no, no, I reply, you misunderstand. Look here, here, here, here and here... here too...
Just as you have done, NYer.
Just an FYI, not all Protestants deny teh Real Prescence, the actual body and blood of Christ...I don't. I know it is His body and blood as He told us clearly in scripture.
Thank you for all the resources. Haven't given them the time they deserve, but will someday.
Baby just figured out how to climb out of her bed, so there goes my quiet time in the afternoon. But I'll read through these all.
**Baby just figured out how to climb out of her bed, so there goes my quiet time in the afternoon.**
I remember those days. My son crawled outside and fell into some low junipers. I quizzed and quizzed his older sisters about what they had sone with their baby brother! LOL!
"I have no taste for the food that perishes nor for the pleasures of this life. I want the Bread of God which is the Flesh of Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood which is love that cannot be destroyed." +Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans 1st century
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not communion of the Blood of Christ?' Very trustworthily and awesomely does he say it. For what he is saying is this: 'What is in the cup is that which flowed from His side, and we partake of it.' He called it a cup of blessing because when we hold it in our hands that is how we praise Him in song, wondering and astonished at His indescribable Gift, blessing Him because of His having poured out this very Gift so that we might not remain in error, and not only for His having poured out It out, but also for His sharing It with all of us." +John Crysostomos, Homily 24 on the First Letter to the Corinthians 394 AD
"And your floors shall be filled with wheat, and the presses shall overflow equally with wine and oil.' . . . This has been fulfilled mystically by Christ, who gave to the people whom He had redeemed, that is, to His Church, wheat and wine and oil in a mystic manner. For the wheat is the mystery of His sacred Body; and the wine His saving Blood; and again, the oil is the sweet unguent with which those who are baptized are signed, being clothed in the armaments of the Holy Spirit." Ephraim the Syrian 4th century
"You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table. So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ.... Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine - and thus His Body is confected." +Athansius the Great 4th century
"Rightly then, do we believe that the bread consecrated by the word of God has been made over into the Body of God the Word. For that Body was, as to its potency bread; but it has been consecrated by the lodging there of the Word, who pitched His tent in the flesh." +Gregory of Nyssa 4th century
Catholic/Orthodox Caucus ping
Good for you! Again, this is a very hard doctrine for many to accept. Even in the time of our Lord, there were certain disciples who walked away. Notice that our Lord did not call them back. He didn't say 'hey, I was just drawing an analogy'; He let them leave. But it is truly His Body and Blood that has been transubstantiated by a validly ordained priest. His Presence remains in us for 15 minutes after receiving communion. This is a time for personal and introspective conversation with our Lord who has fed us. What an awesome gift!
"For My Flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed."
Chapter 6. Unbelievers in the blood of Christ shall be condemned.Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation. "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." Matthew 19:12 Let not [high] place puff any one up: for that which is worth all is faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred. But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty.
Chapter 7. Let us stand aloof from such heretics.They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that you should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils.