In our first post we surveyed some of the earliest Catholic Fathers on the meaning and understanding of the Eucharist in the early Church. Thus, the earliest Regula Fidei on the Eucharist understood it as the literal Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. Tonight we will continue in the Patristic attestation and the understanding of the Eucharist in particular.
· St. Irenaeus writes in his great Adversus haereses on the literalness of the Body and Blood of Christ in the elements of the bread and wine even pointing out the change that occurs through the Eucharistic Prayer,
"For as the bread from the earth, receiving the invocation from God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist, consisting of two elements, earthly and heavenly, so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible but have the hope of resurrection into eternity" (Ibid. 4, 18, 4).
"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 to our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh in increased and supported" (Ibid. 5, 2, 2).
Tertullian could not be clearer when he refutes Marcion's misunderstanding of the Eucharist,
"Having taken bread and having distributed it to His disciples, He made it His own Body by saying, "This is My Body" - that is, the "figure of My Body." A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there was in truth a body...Marcion did not understand how ancient is that figure of the Body of Christ, who said Himself through Jermemias: "They have devised against Me, saying, 'Come, let us throw wood unto his bread'" - the cross, of course, upon His Body." (Adversus Marcionem. 4, 40, 3).
St. Cyprian is in agreement with the Catholic understanding,
"Also in the priest Melchisedech we see the Sacrament of the Sacrifice of the Lord prefigured...And who is more a priest of the Most High God than our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when He offered sacrifice to God the Father, offered the very same which Melchisedech had offered, namely bread and wine, which is in fact His Body and Blood." (Letter of Cyprian to a Certain Cecil. 63. 4).
So real is the presence of Christ in the elements that Origen warns,
"You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence." (In Exodum homiliae. 13, 3),
And in another place Origen states,
"Formerly, in an obscure way, there was mana for food; now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the Flesh of the Word of God, as He Himself says; "My Flesh is truly food, and My Blood is truly drink (John 6:56)." (In Numeros homiliae. 7, 2).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem exclaims,
"Do not therefore, regard the Bread and the 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 the faith, not doubting that you have been deemed worth of the Body and Blood of Christ." (Catecheses. 22, 6).
Aphraates the Persian,
"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." (Demonstrationes. 12, 6).
St. Ephraim the Syrian,
"Our Lord Jesus took in His hands what in the beginning was only bread; and he blessed it, and signed it, and made it holy in the name of the Father and in the name of the Spirit...He called the bread His living Body, and did Himself fill it with Himself and the Spirit. And extending His hand. He gave them the Bread which His right hand had made holy: "Take, all of you eat of this, which my Word has made holy. Do not now regard as bread that which I have given you; but take, eat this Bread, and do not scatter the crumbs; for what I have called my Body, that it is needed. One particle from its crumbs is able to sanctify thousands and thousands...But if any doubter eat of it, for him it will be only bread...if anyone despise it or reject it or treat it with ignominy, it may be taken as a certainty that he treats with ignominy the Son, who called it and actually made it to be His Body." (Sermones. 4, 4).
One of the Cappadocian Fathers - St. Gregory of Nyssa states,
"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. From the same cause, therefore, by which the bread that was made over into that Body is made to change into divine strength, a similar result now takes place...the bread, as the Apostle says, "is consecrated by God's word and by prayer" (1 Tim 4:5)." (Oratio catechetica magna. 37).
Epiphanius of Salamis records,
"We see that the Savior took something in His hands, as it is in the Gospel, when He was reclining at the supper; and He took this, and giving thanks, He said; "This is really Me."...and none disbelieves His word. For anyone who does not believe the truth in what He says is deprived of grace and of a Savior." (Ancoratus. 57).
Theodore of Mopsuestia,
"He did not say, "This is the symbol of My Body and My Blood," (Matt 26:26, 28) teaching us not to look upon the nature of what is set before us, but that it is transformed by means of the Eucharistic action into Flesh and Blood." (Commentarii in Matthaeum. ad loc).
"So long as the prayres 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...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 set forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine - and thus is His Body confected." (Sermo ad nuper baptizatos).
St. Hilary of Poitiers,
"When we speak of the reality of Christ's nature being in us, we sould be speaking foolishly and impiously - had we not learned it from Him. For He Himself says: "My Flesh is truly Food, and my Blood is truly Drink. He that eats my Flesh and drinks My Blood will remain in Me and I in him." As to the reality of His Flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt." (De Trinitate. 8, 14).
Hence we see as the centuries pass the historical Christian understanding of the Eucharist remains like all other Catholic dogma, the same. These bishops and theologians stood fast in unison on the apostolic understanding of the Eucharist against the heretics and schismatics.
. Which can be found here - http://regulafide.blogspot.com/search/label/On%20the%20Holy%20Eucharist
. Including St. Justin Martyr, St. Ignatius and even a cry of anguish by Luther against those who reject a literal understanding of the Eucharist.